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WST Basel Inspiring Talks Series with Friederike von Waldenfels – Jubilee Event Recap

We Shape Tech Basel is proud to announce its one-year anniversary, a moment we celebrated mid-November with Friederike von Waldenfels as our guest. Friederike is the co-founder and CEO of SwissCommerce. She runs multiple successful online shops and platforms including reitsport.ch and fischen.ch. Her guiding principle is: moving from the fear of making mistakes to the fear of missing opportunities. Our jubilee event was a huge success full of inspiration, networking and diversity.

After welcoming our participants, board member Aileen Zumstein led the interview with Friederike. While talking about her education (business informatics) and her professional background (IBM, Goodshine, Porsche), they soon got to programming – a skill that, according to Friederike, should be taught to every child. She says: “It’s a language everyone should learn, such as English.”. Leaving tech topics, Friederike shared that she decided to become an entrepreneur during an extended stay in the hospital. It was time in her life when she thought about what really drives her. She realized that she wanted to combine her two passions: technology and horseback riding.

Friederike sold her furniture, took her money and founded reitsport.ch. How did she cope with the challenges of having her own business? Friederike answered this question by sharing a piece of advice that she once received by a friend. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster, it’s got its ups and downs. The important part is not to live through these moments in an extreme way. Her message of being humble in the good times and not being too hard on yourself during the challenging times was great advice to take home.

What makes Friederike slightly nervous is the weather, it really affects her business. People spend less time on their devices and buy noticeably less when the sun is out. A more complex problem than the weather is web giants like Amazon and Alibaba. They are becoming stronger and stronger, even in the Swiss market. While these huge platforms stand for speed and convenience, SwissCommerce focuses on specialized segments, which is how they differentiate themselves from the big players.

The digital shift is naturally also a huge topic in Friederike’s company. To optimize the working process, there is a strict no e-mail policy. All the communication and filing happen through Google and Podio. She has also learned a lot about website maintenance from one or two bad experiences that led to losses in sales. Today, Friederike and her team always have a backup page when they’re activating new websites. This allows them to take down the new page and reactivate the old one immediately when they notice any problems.

But technology is not the only innovative part of Friederike’s business, her company is including refugees by employing them. This decision shows that as an entrepreneur she is also committed to diversity and social change.

Besides these facts and many others about her life, her job and her background, during her talk we learned about some of her more personal preferences such as dogs over cats, coffee over tea (although she also likes tea), that she has no bucket list and that her mother (who has always treated her the same way as her brothers) inspires her the most.

After the truly inspiring talk with Friederike, participants used the opportunity to exchange their thoughts and network while grabbing some treats from the buffet. In the end, everyone left the event with a lot of ideas, inspiration and memorable advice. One powerful piece of advice was also the best advice Friederike has ever received, “Stay true to yourself!”.

More photos on Facebook. 

 

Verena Oberholzer

Every month, we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.

Verena Oberholzer lately co-founded witty.works in Zurich to foster inclusion and diversity in teams and companies. The years ahead she worked in consulting and NGO`s. She majored in sociology/gender studies in Berlin & Paris. Verena was born in Munich, lived several years abroad. Today she lives with her family in Zurich.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a bit about you: Where are you from? What do you do? What are your current projects?

I was born in Munich, Bavaria. My parents were political refugees who fled Bulgaria. They arrived in Germany with a single suitcase and many dreams. They wanted to start a family and bring me into a so-called free world, being able to develop and articulate my own thoughts, speak my mind and fulfill my whole “potential” without having to be afraid of an oppressive system.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

It is not important where you are from, how people think of you or judge you, as long as you are an honest, kind and upright person keeping the laws of a democratic system at heart.

The people you are surrounding yourself with, the relationships you are fostering are your roots.

How did you become interested in tech?

Both my parents were engineers. In my childhood I have seen every household appliance taken apart, often repaired and then put back together. That was a lot of a fun for me, too. It made me really curious about how things really work.

On a broader scale I realized early on that tech changes society and the ways we live, work and interact with each other. But technical achievements, its adaption and devices are not per se democratic nor user-friendly. We have to make sure that they are.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

The ways in which we collaborate with each other are key to a transparent and inclusive organizational culture. As a communication and collaboration specialist I always worked hard to make sure employees benefit and keep agency even if their whole working environment is turned upside down.

What drives you at work?

With witty.works we are providing services and products to ensure tech companies are inclusive and diversity-friendly. During our careers we have seen over and over again, that fostering a diverse and inclusive working environment for teams leads to better, innovative more useful products and services and happier people.

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

Translating and introducing new ways of collaborating with each other in elder care. Tech is often frowned upon or at least confronted with resistance in many “social” domains. There are a lot of biases towards working with “computers” or other technical interfaces. For example: Spending time to document, inform yourself or collaborate on those interfaces is often perceived as wasting precious time that might be better spent with the people you care for – your customers. That is an important concern and I am far from judging it.

Navigating the dynamics of virtual vs real-time interaction and finding a way of creating value for the users was challenging.

Still, elder care and other sectors in health-care and assisted living need to adapt new ways of collaborating, creating and providing services.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Be bold, be brave and follow your own path. If you apply for a new job, choose your leaders wisely and make sure they are committed to your career goals.

Bettina Rotzetter

Bettina Rotzetter_Profile

Every month, we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned. 

This month role model is Bettina Rotzetter. She has been working in IT for twenty years mostly in the health sector, currently as an IT Compliance expert. Besides, she has recently started a new adventure as founder of a tech-startup.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a bit about you: Where are you from? What do you do? What are your current projects?

I’m Canadian, grew up in the great white north. I came to Switzerland in my mid-twenties for 3 months to escape the brutal cold winter months. I decided to come to Bern to discover some swiss roots.

When I first came, I started out working in a factory. Shortly after I got a job in a Swiss bank in IT and from there l moved into the health sector. I spent most of my career inside hospitals troubleshooting anything and everything related to IT in medicine and research.  Ten years ago, I moved into the University Hospital environment which I really enjoy a lot due to the international flair. The fast pace environment is super interesting and projects are challenging. But you encounter a lot of really amazing people dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives. I am currently in a small developer team in eye research. I also founded a small start-up with four friends this year.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

I was very fortunate to have been influenced by many different folks from all walks of life. I feel this is one of the greatest life teachings one could possibly get, which no one family or school could ever teach. I think this really influenced me to become a notorious optimist. There is always a bright side and it’s a matter of finding a sweet spot to help you grow and nourish your own curiosity to develop further. I think in the end you need to create yourself to be your own role model before you can be it for anyone else.

How did you become interested in tech?

I started my tech journey at a very young age. I grew up with a lot of guys around me so I was used to the male dominant environments. I got my hands down right dirty from start in the gaming scene. Also in the music scenes technology dominated early on in my life. We used to hack any equipment together, which we could get our hands on.

When I was about 15 years old, I met this amazing Canadian French woman from Quebec. She moved into my neighbourhood. Through her, I realized how important role models are. She gave me the foundation I stand on today in my tech job. Even though you may go unnoticed when you stand at the end of a line, you can learn a lot back there if you’re a really smart kid and you pay attention. I watched her one day in a public space hack around on a command line and my curiosity for tech was ignited like a sparking light. She taught me all my tech basics late nights hacking around in her setup garage which was this huge playground full of computers. We installed them, got them setup and loaded them up on a 4×4 truck. She then drove from town to town in northern rural areas in all weather conditions and taught unemployed people computer skills. This woman became the biggest role model I looked up to my entire life. Little did I know back then that the day would come where I would earn my own living from what she taught me.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

Sometimes you work on projects that are just meaningless but they are just part of business life, too. Other times you get that lucky draw in a project, which might make a difference in someone’s life. I think the meaningful projects I got to be part of was when I took someone’s kid periodically to spend a few days in my IT team and showed them what we do. I liked to pass that on to kids to see if a spark could be ignited in them or help them gain a perspective for their future.

Apart from those tech-projects, I got to be part of a music project, which I was asked to do for a young teenager who was terminally ill. This production was part of her final phase of her life. I produced a song that described her short life in the studio together with some of my friends. We hacked around with tracks and made some little video idea with very minimalistic equipment but it did the job. Even though we had no budget we made the most of the tech equipment we owned. This project reminded me to always stay humble.

What drives you at work?

I think my biggest motivation is always to find a new perspective to maybe make a difference and to hit that sweet spot to grow into it.

What has been the toughest challenge you’ve learnt while working in the tech scene?

I faced many challenges throughout the years but I think it’s been really challenging always being the only woman in every team. I only realized later on in my life that diverse views are only possible, if diversity is actually present in teams and these perspectives are so valuable in all forms to broaden our own horizons and grow. I also think it was difficult to outgrow my own boundaries at times in the tech field as a woman. I found myself constantly recreating myself in the field, which retrospectively was probably one of the most positive developments I had in the job, even if it was the most challenging.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

I would like to promote and advise any woman to take a path in a tech career if that lights your internal fires. Just do it! Believe in yourself and don’t feel intimidated. I would like to really promote that women who do make it to the top in tech or in any field for that matter, to help and empower other women. What I also mean with that: Teach your girls right from start at an early age they can take a rocket to the moon if that’s what they fancy. Encourage your children to follow-up on impossible visions and dreams because that’s what we need more of in our business world. Do not see things as a failure if they don’t turn out. It’s just your version 0.1 beta and you can always refactor your code.

 

Zwischen Lieben und Hassen – ein Techstudium in Südafrika

Im Rahmen meines Masterstudiums bei der FHNW in Olten habe ich die Möglichkeit ein “Semester abroad” zu studieren, was mein Freund und ich seit Anfang September nutzen. Seit drei Wochen wohnen wir in einem Apartment in Kapstadt, Südafrika. Ziel des Aufenthalt ist es, an der Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), der technischen Universität in der Provinz Westkap, unsere Masterthesis zu schreiben. An der CPUT sind jährlich rund 35’000 Studierende eingeschrieben. Darunter sind kaum Weisse – laut Statistik der Uni gehören mehr als 90% der ethnischen Gruppen “African” und “Coloured” an. Alles funktioniert hier ein bisschen anders, als wir es gewohnt sind – die ersten Eindrücke pendeln in den Extremen von “ich liebe es!” bis zu “ich hasse es!”.

Auf dem Campus springen mir sofort die vielen Frauen positiv ins Auge. An der CPUT studierten im vergangen Jahr 55% Frauen versus 45% Männer – in der Schweiz waren es nur 18% bis 24% – je nach Studie. Wir geniessen das bunte Treiben während der Mittagspause auf dem frühlingshaften Gelände. Ich lausche begeistert den unterschiedlichen Sprachen und Kulturen, welche sich problemlos untereinander verständigen können und gemeinsam Spass haben. Wow, es gibt hier 11 (elf!) offizielle Landessprachen. IsiXhosa zum Beispiel, verwendet faszinierende Klicklaute. Ich könnte stundenlang zuhören, ohne auch nur ein einziges Wort zu verstehen.

Wieder in den Gebäuden drin, bin ich schockiert über die Infrastruktur: Büros sind vergittert, einige Scheiben sind eingeschlagen und die Toiletten eine Katastrophe. Das WiFi auf dem Campus unterbricht ständig – so könnte man in der Schweiz nicht arbeiten! So sehen wir in den Classrooms und auf den Gängen nur Bücher, Kopien und Notizzettel. Am ersten Tag auf dem Flur werden wir von einem Afrikanischen Studenten angesprochen – woher wir seien will der junge Mann wissen. Das Microsoft Surface unter dem Arm meines Freundes hat uns als Ausländer verraten – die Surfaces werden nämlich in Südafrika nicht verkauft, meint der junge Mann, sichtlich neidisch.

Auch betreffend Zuverlässigkeit und Pünktlichkeit ist die Mentalität der Locals anders als bei uns in der Schweiz. Während dem vereinbarten Termin mit dem Professor klopft es an der Türe und eine weitere Studentin tritt ihren Termin an. Verdutzt meint er zu ihr: “Oh!… You’re here?! Do we have an appointment?” Der Folgetermin mit uns wird vom Prof kurzfristig abgesagt und wir sind umsonst zum Campus gelaufen. “Wie soll ich so meinen Terminplan einhalten?”, meckere ich ungeduldig rum. “Er hat doch just now gesagt!” Das Internet verrät mir später, dass dieser Ausdruck auch morgen oder gar nicht bedeuten kann… Paradoxerweise hege ich gleichzeitig eine grosse Begeisterung – und auch ein bisschen Neid – für diese Ruhe und Gelassenheit, welche die Südafrikaner an den Tag legen. Ich fühle hier viel weniger Stress und Hektik, was wir in der Schweiz auch gebrauchen könnten.

Neulich sitzen wir nach dem Arbeiten an der Thesis bei Burger und Bier in der Brasserie und sinnieren über unterschiedliche Möglichkeiten in Südafrika und der Schweiz. Wählen in der Schweiz so viele Männer einen technischen Beruf, wegen der tollen Infrastruktur? Oder anders formuliert, motivieren schlechte Rahmenbedingungen Frauen dazu, etwas zu verändern? Gibt es in Südafrika mehr Frauen in MINT-Studiengängen, weil die Arbeitslosenquote bei denselben tiefer ist? Ein technischer Beruf bietet mehr Sicherheit und somit auch Freiheiheit – ist das der Grund für den unterschiedlichen Frauenanteil?

Schnell wird klar, dass wir in der Schweiz so unheimlich viele Möglichkeiten haben und dass es wohl nirgends auf der Welt bessere Bedingungen gibt. “Jammern auf hohem Niveau” und “im goldenen Käfig sitzen” sind Gesprächsfetzen, die fallen. Jeder Mensch hat in der Schweiz mehr oder weniger die gleichen Voraussetzungen. Im Schweizer Bildungssystem und den Quereinsteigerprogrammen ist praktisch alles möglich.

Da sind wir wieder, in den Extremen: Ich liebe die perfekten Rahmenbedingungen in der Schweiz! Aber ich hasse es, dass sie so viel Bequemlichkeit mit sich bringt, welche uns manchmal daran hindert, etwas zu verändern.

WST Basel “Talk with tech entrepreneur Jonas Felix” Event Recap

A blog post about her experience by Ophélie Cabanero

‘An inspiring talk with tech entrepreneur Jonas Felix’ – I am curious what expects me at my first WE SHAPE TECH event. Melanie Kovacs, Founder & CEO of Master21 Academy and member of the board of WE SHAPE TECH Basel, interviews Jonas Felix, a young entrepreneur from Basel, more about him later. The evening takes place at the really cool Launchlabs in Basel, thanks to Postfinance.

A glass of prosecco in one hand, I find a spot at the top of the stairs. The interview starts with a presentation of Jonas and his amazing projects, followed by Melanie’s 10 non-tech questions so that everybody can understand including a non-techie, like me. It goes from: ‘What is the best advice you have ever received’ to ‘What is the best investment you made’ (to which he answers : ‘my wife’). Without further ado, this is what I got out of it, plus some post-interview snippets.

stage show on

The business owner/ writer/ programmer/ soon-to-be-dad Jonas Felix, started in the world of entrepreneurship at a really young age. His very first business had little to do with the world of tech though.At 9 years old, he found bags of seashells in his granddad’s basement and sold them for 1 CHF each on the streets of his village. He spent all the profits on candy! It was only later in life that he learnt about the concept of ‘saving money’. At the age of 14, he started working with computers and later at 17 he was doing some IT security stuff. His chaotic childhood woke up in him the urge to get independant and gave him the drive to thrive. He first wanted to do industrialised espionage but realised it’s easier to sell web development 😉 He liked the immediate feedback of coding.

Nowadays he does different things :

  • His current focus is Sidekicks, the online marketing ninjas, where they empower businesses to be successful online, with ads, social medias, content, analytics, processes, customer interaction, etc.
  • On the side, he has a SaS startup fossilo.com, where they want to help people to archive web content.
  • To share what he learnt, he founded a coding school for programmers who want to learn Javascript: letsboot.com.
  • Also he is part of the initiative Powercoders Basel where they teach refugees to code and help them find an internship after the course.
  • Last but not least : he writes fiction books like Ayden’s choice that I can’t wait to read! More goodness here : nelevonlanthen.com

When Jonas is not working, he likes to go skydiving or swimming. He spends 30 to 60 min per day learning about new things like innovation in science but also marketing, finances and machine learning, mostly watching Youtube und reading Medium articles.

When asked ‘What would you do with a 1 Million $?’ he replied : ‘Not much different, a lot of projects need time rather than more money’. He believes that it’s not about adding more things but about reducing and doing less. As a business owner he tries to always rethink things to go towards something that makes sense for everybody (his team, clients and business partners).

If he could meet anybody, he would want to meet JFK and ask him about the political system or an Egyptian Queen to know how pyramides were built.

In 5 years from now, he sees himself being a part-time-stay-at-home-Dad, coding more himself as well as writing more.

A couple interesting quotes and advices I took home :

  • A quote from Steve Jobs : ‘Real artists ship’
  • You have to be faster than the stream to decide where you are going.
  • There are 2 kinds of people in the world : the doers and the non-doers. BE A DOER !

As well as a couple of good books, in addition to the books written by Jonas :

While part of the magic happened during the interview and the Q&A session, the other big highlight of the evening is during the apéro, not only because of the delicious food sponsored by Adobe but because everyone shares about their own work/ life/ passion and we had the chance to ask more questions to Jonas.

I go home feeling energized, inspired and grateful for those kinds of outside-the-box-thinkers & visionnairy communities.

Thank you WE SHAPE TECH, I will be back for more!

 

WST BERN «Leistung & Sport» – Recap

 

ein Erfahrungsbericht von Dominique Wirth

«Leistung & Sport» – das Motto des dritten Events von We Shape Tech, an dem ich teilnehme. Ich bin gespannt, was mich erwartet. Sicher wird es ganz anders als etwa an dem Abend zum Thema «Passion» oder am Sommerevent, wo wir uns als Barkeeper versuchen durften. Auch Vorstandsmitglied Brigitte Hulliger sagt bei der Begrüssung: «So einen Anlass hat es bei We Shape Tech noch nie gegeben!»

Ich finde, gerade deswegen passt das Thema so gut hier her. Klar, We Shape Tech ist ein Netzwerk für Frauen in der IT Branche. Aber eben nicht nur: Männer sind willkommene Eventteilnehmer und es dreht sich auch nicht immer alles um IT. We Shape Tech will Diversität fördern. Warum nicht auch bei der Wahl des Mottos? Es funktioniert: Neben bekannten Gesichtern lockt das Thema viele Neugierige, die zum ersten mal an einem WST-Event dabei sind, in die Cafeteria der DV Bern AG.

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Nach Brigitte begrüsst uns Xaver Weibel im Namen der DV Bern, dem Host und Sponsor des heutigen Abends. Als Xaver sich vorstellt wird klar, wie es zum heutigen Motto gekommen ist: Er ist einerseits als Mitglied der Geschäftsleitung der DV Bern ein IT Mensch, andererseits aber auch ein leidenschaftlicher Sportler. Besonders der Stabhochsprung hat ihn schon früh fasziniert. Xaver erzählt uns, wie er die Entwicklung dieses Sports von der «Männer-Sache» zu einer populären Sportart für Frauen miterlebt hat. Stabhochsprung ist übrigens erst seit 2000 eine olympische Disziplin für Frauen. Wer sich schon so lange für diesen Sport interessiert wie Xaver, kommt nicht umhin, die Karriere des heutigen Gastes mitzuverfolgen: Nicole Büchler hält mit 4.78 Meter den Schweizer Rekord im Stabhochsprung und wurde bereits drei Mal zur Schweizer Leichtathletin des Jahres gewählt.

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Wir kommen zum Hauptprogrammpunkt des heutigen Abends und zwei junge Frauen mit völlig unterschiedlichen Lebensentwürfen stehen nun im Mittelpunkt: Nicole, die Leistungssportlerin, Trainerin und werdende Mami stellt sich den Fragen von Brigitte, Unternehmerin in der IT und Vorstandsmitglied von We Shape Tech Bern. Genau so verschieden wie die Beiden waren wohl auch die Motive der Besucher, an diesem WST-Event teilzunehmen. Aber ob man nun trotz oder gerade wegen des Themas «Sport» gekommen ist: Das locker und witzig geführte Gespräch, die Fragen aus den verschiedensten Themenbereichen und die ausgesprochen sympathische Art von Nicole zieht alle Anwesenden sofort in den Bann.

Nach Gemeinsamkeiten muss man eben doch nicht lange suchen. Und auch wenn ich selbst mit dem Leistungssport nichts am Hut habe: Ich erkenne mich in vielen Situationen wieder, von denen Nicole erzählt.

Zum Beispiel die Beschreibung der ersten Kontakte und Versuche im Stabhochsprung erinnern mich an eigene Erlebnisse. Wie etwas Neues mein Interesse weckt und ich das lernen möchte. Ich aber dann erstmal wie der Esel am Berg stehe und in kleinen Schritten und mit Beharrlichkeit an eine neue Herausforderung herangehen muss.

Wenn Nicole erzählt, wie es ist, die eigene Trainerin zu sein, erkennen sich sicher viele der Anwesenden wieder. Die Freude über gewonnene Selbstständigkeit und Freiheit kann schnell von Unsicherheiten verdrängt werden. Bin ich auf dem richtigen Weg? Mache ich Fehler, die ich selbst nicht erkenne? Diese Zweifel kennen sicher viele von uns. Und leider können wir nicht immer gut damit umgehen. Aber Nicole fasziniert mit ihrer gelassenen und ruhigen Art, Unbekanntes auf sich zukommen zu lassen, positiv und mutig zu bleiben. Davon will ich mich inspirieren lassen und ich werde sicher oft an den heutigen Abend denken, wenn ich eine Portion Mut oder Gelassenheit gebrauchen kann!

Brigitte ist mit ihren Fragen durch, aber die Gäste wollen auch noch alles Mögliche von Nicole wissen. Offensichtlich bin ich nicht die Einzige, die von Nicoles Gelassenheit beeindruckt ist: Jemand fragt, ob denn ihr Mann auch so entspannt dem Unbekannten entgegenschaue?

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Auch die «Techies» im Publikum haben Fragen. Ob Nicole sich schon einmal überlegt habe, die Technik beim Sport mit technischen Mitteln zu analysieren? «Ja, auf jeden Fall! Leider ist unsere Sportart zu unpopulär, als dass in diesem Bereich viel investiert wird», «Ach, da kann man auch ganz einfache Sachen machen….». Vielleicht wurde dieses spannende Thema später vertieft? Das Apéro im Anschluss bot sicherlich die ideale Gelegenheit, um solche Ideen zu besprechen.

 

Ich selber freue mich, bekannte Gesichter von früheren Anlässen wieder zu sehen und neue Kontakte zu knüpfen. Ganz im Sinne der Diversität plaudere ich mit verschiedenen Menschen über verschiedene Themen und lasse bei einem Glas Weisswein und vielen leckeren Häppchen (merci DV Bern) den Abend ausklingen. Ein herzliches Dankeschön an alle, die diesen inspirierenden Event möglich gemacht haben! Ich bin gespannt, was mich am nächsten WST-Event in Bern erwartet!