Interviews

Nora Stolz – Entrepreneur, Innovation Consultant & Inspirational Speaker

Meet Nora Stolz – entrepreneur, innovation consultant, inspirational speaker and coach. We spoke to Nora about tech, her journey and her role models. Enjoy reading.

Can you give us three adjectives that come to mind when you hear the word technology?

Innovative, fast, life-enhancing.

What role does technology play in your everyday life?

I am definitely a digital native but at the same time an advanced model, where I know when to use technology and when to use IRL. I am a massive fan of personal contact, nothing beats speaking with people in person – ideally in one room but over phone or video call is the next best option. In one room though creates the opportunity for people to bond and create a stronger network, it also fosters innovative thinking as it encourages less ‘linear – agenda – driven’ meetings.

Personally, I am a big fan of technology and within my circle, I am certainly more on the early adopter side – but at the same time I am very much aware and mindful to only use technology when it serves and supports the intended action. Not everything that you can do through technology is better through technology. And sometimes it’s the combination of using the digital and the analog.

Tell us a bit about your journey? How did you get to where you are now?

I am from a small village in the Black Forest area [Germany] but I knew early on that I wanted to see the world. In 2001 I left Germany and the instant messenger at the time was called ‘a fax machine’. Getting the chance to travel, study and work in five different countries, I feel very privileged and it gave me a unique chance to immerse myself in a different culture. The technology was very handy to stay in touch with family, friends & the new network and being able to move from one country to another also makes you realize how consumer technology and government services differ widely. You notice which country has invested early on and followed a digital strategy and moving into a less digital country can be a bit of a culture shock.

While I do remember signing up to Facebook in Oct 2006 – I also remember quickly coming up with a rule to not check it during the day as I noticed already a negative impact on my focus and study for my Masters at Grenoble GGSB.

After two Masters’ degrees in England and France, I joined the JPMorgan Private Bank in Geneva; and again used technology to find my first place in London where I moved in December 2007. That was a very different time – we traded using a fax machine! I remember a colleague recommeding me to use a platform called ‘Gumtree’ to find a flatshare in my new elected home. I used the platform and 10 years later the founder is actually now part of my circle of friends. Technology can certainly bring people together but it can also bring them apart.

Please finish this sentence: I have failed in …. and these were my learnings…

I have ‘failed’ in traditional terms so often, but from a personal level, I have only gained. My personal mantra is ‘The harder I fall, the higher I bounce’. It’s my innate ability to constantly reinvent myself, learning new things, saying ‘yes’ to the unknown and enjoying meeting new people. I recently read somewhere:

Your level of success, will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.

Having positive role models certainly helps. A mindset to know that life is rarely linear and the conscious awareness that many things we do, the rules we follow might come more from society (societal norms that we assume to be true) and might not have anything to do with the person we actually want to be. True success for me means to have ‘freedom of thought’. Freedom of thought, time to play and to think – white space – that’s how companies can create an engaging and innovative work culture. And diversity plays a big role in that. 

What are three tech trends you see happening in the next 5 years?

Voice! Gosh I love, love voice. Having very poor eyesight myself I am very passionate about seeing voice advance to a level that can give people the freedom and autonomy, but I am also looking forward to seeing voice in more areas of life and technology that has been based on text-based interaction.

AR/VR: big big fan since I first tested it a year ago in Silicon Valley. I see there is a huge opportunity from an education point of view and to create empathy – of course, any technology can be misused, so we need to be mindful and long-term effects of wearing VR glasses are not yet known. A friend of mine is Engineering Director at Facebook in that space and I love to brainstorm with her on how to make it a safer and more enriching experience for the user. The technology is still in a very infant state.

And finally: I hope – and HOPE in capitals – that regulators will look into the big technology players who are dominating the technology sector. We know from history, that dominance creates less quality, less innovation and we need innovation. Again, recently I came across the concept of ‘emotional pollution’ – which is a concept explaining how the over-use of social media can create long-term damaging effects. We had warnings on cigarette packs for years… just saying.

What has been a moment of fame this week?

My biggest joy is to connect like-minded women IRL. So I set up the WomenBreakfastClub – a networking initiative for like-minded women across the world to connect and talk business, not babies. Nothing against babies – but there are already enough networks out there for that. The WBC is really there to provide a curated networking experience and connect women. I support that through the use of a LinkedIn Group and we host regular networking breakfasts IRL. One just happened this morning and the energy is always amazing. I’d love to build this up more and bring the concept into companies. These networking initiatives are so powerful and create an encouraging and inspiring atmosphere and foster innovation.

Who’s your superhero aka ‘Shero‘?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I was watching the documentary about her life and her legacy last year when I was in Washington D.C. Very special! I love the fact that we can tap into the wisdom and grace of older women. I’d love to see more in the media and in politics in fact.

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Her leadership is top of mind at the moment. I’d love her to run for world president.

Any fempreneur out there: Every single woman that puts her heart and soul into a brainchild is my heroine. There is something about entrepreneurs and how they connect, but we all know funding stats show that women have it much much harder. It’s important we realize and pro-actively invest in women-led innovation as, otherwise, the long-term effect is that products & services that improve women’s lives will be far behind (even further from today) than products & services designed by men. Best example: a chair in a board room or corporate meeting room. I am not the lightest woman out here but with 55kg I cannot push the chair down with my weight – so the concept of sitting in an oversized chair with my feet dangling not reaching the floor is alive and kicking. Companies invest in developing female leaders – more soft skills etc. Perhaps it would simply help giving women equal opportunities (NOT the same) – so she can feel comfortable as she makes a point in a meeting. We not only want to SEAT at the table, we WANT a seat that fits and supports us when we articulate our point of view.

If you travel back in time and then into the future, what advice would you give your 23-year-old self and your 75-year-old self?

Wow, super tough question… 23 year old: Study Neuroscience or something that combines business & software development. My 75 year old self:

Your impact is measured in how many people you inspired to become their best version.

Nora is an entrepreneur, a female leadership coach and motivational speaker, focusing on female empowerment and career recalibration. In the past five years, Nora has supported women in different stages of their career to raise to their full potential. Prior to her entrepreneurial journey, Nora gained international business expertise in Strategy, Product Development & Innovation roles at BlackRock, PIMCO, Morgan Stanley & J.P. Morgan in London and Geneva.

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