What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “digital technologies”?
What comes to mind is really a cliché – the interaction between the human brain and the computer, what this interaction looks like. That image has evolved over the last years. From computers being simply connected with humans to computers interacting with humans, learning from humans and invading many aspects of our lives.
How do you see technology changing the world in 10 years?
I would start by looking at how it has changed in the last 10 years. The highly disruptive effect this has had on our lives. We moved from technology enabling communication to something that sectors are converging around. In the next 10 years some of today’s basic activities may disappear – we won’t be driving cars ourselves anymore, robots will invade our homes and offices helping us with many daily chores and taking over routine tasks. This can be both liberating and unsettling. Also the next digital revolution will involve the integration of engineering/ physical sciences with digital technologies, a second chance for Europe to regain some of its lost ground from the US and China. We need to ensure we remain competitive and invest in enabling infrastructures like supercomputers, have innovation friendly regulations and good access to patient risk capital.
The new tech revolution will also bring disruption; we need to be comfortable with new technologies but also as a society we need the right safeguards to ensure technology supports us without taking our freedom and values away. There is enormous potential to improve our lives but also to harm us when technology is used for weapons or cyber crimes. Finally, one point close to my heart is that we need to close the gender divide in digital skills and STEM so that the technological changes bring about inclusive and smart growth
Three things women should invest in?
We need to invest in our own education: future oriented and ensuring that we are equipped with the right skills - lifelong learning notably investing in our own digital skills.
Invest in our live partner/personal support structures: finding the right partner who supports you is crucial. Invest in enduring relationships with family and friends, make time for human interactions.
As women we should invest our money where our values are. Think of investments in sustainable and ethical terms and make a change, help make such investments mainstream.
How would you define success?
I see success as a journey and not a destination; there will be ups and downs along the way. Success is about the path being in sync with your inner values. Your Professional and personal lives being in sync with each other being authentic
Success is also about being wholesome and true to yourself. So that in the end you can be proud of yourself.
Developing resilience and inner strengths to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities.
An embarrassing professional moment you want to share learnings from?
Happened not too long ago. This was a meeting with around 20 people around the table and 10 people linked via video-conference. A formal meeting with stakeholders: colleagues on one side and clients on the other side. Half way into the conference somebody on the phone pointed out that the camera seemed to zoom in on my chest all the time. We in the room did not see what they could see on the screen.
It took me a few moments to react. And I reacted with humor. The topic of the meeting was access to finance for women in innovation. So I said that what happened proves the point that we need more women in sensor technologies to ensure the cameras zoom on the right thing. It turned an awkward situation into a funny one. And we managed to move back to the agenda.
The lesson learnt: try humor as a way out, stay calm, focused and move on.
The biggest challenge you have faced?
Dealing with marriage and children and realizing that there is always a trade-off, and I’m not able to have it all at the same time. Setting priorities differently during different parts of my career – often, the interesting career opportunities mean travelling more/ being away from your family. When you are faced with this choice you always feel under pressure.
So there is that mental challenge to be comfortable with your life not only being about the career and to accept that other opportunities come along.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at age 25?
1. Professional advice: Follow your passion but agile and adapt to changes around you, technological, social... and how they might affect the sector you chose over the next 10 years.
2. Personal advice: Push yourself hard early on, do not hold back if you are able to - this is from the book “Lean in” book which I wish had been available earlier in my life. So: lean in, give yourself a push. And make sure you choose the right person to accompany you. At 25, do not put on the breaks but the accelerator! Conquer the world. Don’t let others – or yourself - hold you back.