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Women on Top in Tech – Marija Butkovic, Co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella & Women of Wearables

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Today’s interview is with Marija Butkovic. Marija Butkovic is a business, PR and marketing consultant who has worked across a range of projects in different industry sectors, including legal, journalism, IoT, tech and fashion.

She is a co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella – a wearable tech startup behind the
world’s smartest fashion tech umbrella, and Women of Wearables – an initiative that
supports, connects and empowers women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and
VR/AR. In both businesses, she also performs the role of a digital marketer and PR
strategist.

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What makes you do what you do?

I always wanted to create an impact, not only for myself and people I’m close with but for a much bigger community. It took me some time to find a perfect project/idea that clicks all the boxes, but then again, nothing is perfect, it only has to be perfect for us, right? Entrepreneurship was a way to go for me. It allows me to be creative which is a must-have in anything I do, whilst bringing diversity in my everyday life. I would say that anyone who has the itch to challenge a status quo and change things, needs to try his or hers luck as an entrepreneur. I honestly believe that our future can and will be changed by entrepreneurs.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I started my professional journey as a lawyer and wasn’t involved in the tech industry at all for many years. In 2013 I became a startup mentor in one of Croatian startup incubators as well as a tech journalist. This allowed me to gradually switch from more traditional legal background to a tech one. As many entrepreneurs, I never felt strong enough to take a plunge and leave my day job for something less stable and risky. And then I moved to London (2014). My team and I set up our business Kisha and created world’s first smart fashion tech umbrella which got me into the world of the wearable tech industry. At that point, I was hooked and I knew my journey is definitely set to be entrepreneurial one. While working in Kisha, I soon realized how wearable tech industry suffers from a lack of women, not only female founders, but also product and UX designers, smart textile designers, and entrepreneurs in general. At this point, my co-founder Michelle Hua and I decided to change something which was the very reason we founded Women of Wearables (or just WoW). Women of Wearables aims to inspire, support and connect women in wearables, IoT, fashion tech and AR/VR industries. We are not only building a community of women in these industries and connecting them with each other, but we are also offering support, mentorship, workshops and visibility.  So far, the interest has been overwhelming with women from India, US, UK, Canada, UK and many other countries in Europe and Asia.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

In full honesty, I somehow cannot imagine myself working only on one single project at the moment. 9-5 working hours was never my thing. Yes, this means that as a startup founder you have to be prepared for endless to-do lists, wearing multiple hats, as well as many sleepless nights, but it goes with the territory and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I never got the chance to have one, but I do have people I admire too. An inspirational woman like Dr. Sue Black here in UK, who is an amazing woman and a role model; and Jenny Lee, one of the most respected and valuable self-made tech investors in China. And then, there are everyday people I meet in the tech community in London that are best examples how persistence and focus can get you anywhere you want.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

First of all, you have to be prepared for endless learning. Learning never stops. Reading a lot, talking to more experienced people in the industry, and sometimes learning from other people’s mistakes, is what makes me and my team evolve and grow. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people in Kisha, who not only have been my coworkers but my friends. Same goes for Women of Wearables, Michelle (my co-founder) and Rachael (our assistant) are people I couldn’t imagine to be without in my professional life at the moment. I think it’s really important to work with people that make you a better person. I know it’s not always the case, but I honestly think that you should like and respect people you work with as much as possible. It goes without saying for co-founders. Only then you’ll be able to transfer that work and company culture to other people you bring into your team.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Consciously, as much as I can. Wearables industry is still men dominant sector, which is a general reflection of the male to female ratio in tech. Wearable tech teams are very often run by men, they hire male designers and developers, and implement technology that is most appealing to men. What this means is that ultimately they’re not addressing a huge chunk of their potential customers – women. This is why In Kisha, our Head of Design is a woman on purpose. Companies should be interested in building a community with an equal amount of female employees as male. That starts with the kind of company culture you foster. The other issue is that people don’t always know where to look to find female talent. Throughout the hiring process, companies need to be careful not to discriminate anyone, including men, but there are female tech groups that ought to be approached as part of the hiring strategy. Technology corporations and conference organizers have a duty to ensure there is a diverse range of speakers (including men, women and people from different backgrounds) to allow equality and opportunities for everyone. Although we are the women-in-tech organization, we welcome everyone into our community as participants and speakers, because this problem cannot be solved without everyone participating. We also need more female role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. So I’m hopeful that we won’t need as many women-in-tech groups in the future because gender equality will have been reached. Same goes for diversity in general.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Be professional, kind and compassionate, and ask others for same. And stay humble.

Advice for others?

In 2017, Women of Wearables will deliver workshops in London and Manchester to girls between the ages of 11-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter STEM by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product. Only by collaboration and education can we empower more women to participate in tech. Our aim is to create opportunities for women in this industry to connect with each other and help ensure not only their businesses and ideas succeed, but for the wearables industry to succeed.


To learn more about Women of Wearables, please see http://www.womenofwearables.com/.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Entrepreneurship

Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.

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About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Chrissa McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Patientory

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Chrissa McFarlane is the Founder and CEO of Patientory, a patient-centered enterprise solution on the blockchain to store, secure and access healthcare information in real-time. She is a leader and an entrepreneur with a passion for creating cutting-edge healthcare products that transform the face of healthcare delivery in the United States of America and abroad.

What makes you do what you do?
I am passionate about helping people, especially when it comes to their healthcare. This is my daily motivation for pushing forward in one of the most challenging industries to innovate.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Through my networks and maintaining a strong advisory board, I am able to make an impact.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I took on the role and decided to start this startup primary to follow my passion and be an inspiration for other women who are seeking to start their own business.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have multiple mentors. I met them through my networks.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
Through introductions and after speaking with them I saw a character alignment that prompted me to ask them to by my mentor.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Through one on one meetings, and team building.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity because a diversity of thought breeds success in the workplace. It is important to have different lenses of thought to be represented. Our company is a representation of the people we serve.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
A great leader in healthcare is equipped to serve the people. Unlike many other industries, healthcare is centered around sustaining the health of the human being. You certainly need to encompass a passion for seeing individuals live and lead healthy lifestyles.

Advice for others?
In building emerging technology, education is always key to success.

Our first Inaugural Blockchain Healthcare Summit will take place on May 31st in Atlanta, GA where we will discuss the current state of blockchain projects and opportunities for the future.


If you’d like to get in touch with Chrissa McFarlane, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrissamcfarlane/

To learn more about Patientory, please click here.

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