August 3, 2020
Tl;dr because nobody has time these days:
This site is still very much a work in progress, but it will soon have all the things you’d expect: a little more info, some videos of my talks, some press, and a blog. A blog? Yes, a blog. But what do you need a blog for? “I never took a straight path nowhere,” raps Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent and, since I’m not in the music or TV business, writing is my tool of choice to share some of my experiences along that winding path from snarky German blogger to Silicon Valley executive.
A blog might seem hopelessly old-school, almost romantic even in the day and age of ubiquitous social media. But Twitter doesn’t have enough space, my photos aren’t polished enough for Instagram, and my dancing is too bad for TikTok. The beauty of the internet is that it provides the space and the tools for creators of all kinds, and this is my space (do not insert MySpace jokes, we like to keep our age a secret around here). I’m looking forward to inspiring conversations with you, a community of people who care about building better products and better workplaces.
So leave your email above if you’re interested and I’ll keep you posted.
And if you do have another minute, please read on:
Writing has always been a big part of my career, or rather of who I am and how I make sense of my experiences. Though I remain firmly in the Dorothy Parker camp: “I hate writing, I love having written.”
My first blog, started under a pseudonym and with the help of red wine one late night in 2002, became an accidental but important catalyst for my career. When I started out as the digital editor in chief of the WAZ MediaGroup (now Funke MediaGroup) in 2006, I was very determined to continue my blog as my own personal platform in my own voice.
But it soon became apparent that the demands of my work – rethinking local journalism for the digital age and building a new, digital only media brand for the most populous region of Germany – left me with little time for personal writing. And it also became apparent that my role, as the first woman in a senior leadership position at that traditional media company, came with an extra serving of public scrutiny, which made it hard to draw a clean line between my personal opinion and my work. Eventually I stopped blogging in 2007, and limited my writing to a weekly column examining the intersection of technology and society – a topic that has been central to what I do since my earliest days on the web in 1994.
When I left the WAZ to take over as the CEO of Spiegel Online in early 2010, then the biggest German language news website, I left my column behind, along with the digital newsroom I had built over the course of four years. But I was still working in journalism, still had ample opportunity to seed ideas for reporting, and still felt very much part of the daily conversations in the newsroom. And I could build products that gave journalists, videographers, designers, and data scientists a better platform to tell the stories that really mattered.
In 2016, I left the media industry behind altogether, moved to Silicon Valley, and started working as Mozilla’s Chief Innovation Officer. This was exactly the opportunity I had been longing for: taking a big personal risk to have impact at a larger scale, at a company I deeply care about, coupled with a very steep learning curve. Many of the personal and professional skills I had acquired translated well into my new field (some of them translated quite literally from German into English, conveniently). I have learned so much about leadership and building global, very diverse teams, about the deep and sometimes hidden cultural differences between Europe and the US, especially when it comes to building and using technology, about open source and corporate culture, about remote work and good communication, and so much more.
But again there was not much time to write about anything. Instead I shared as much as I could in public talks and private conversations. And there were plenty of jokes on Twitter about needing my own blog again. Strictly speaking there still isn’t much more time in my day, but the global pandemic has totally eliminated my frequent travel and offered an opportunity for more introspection. I finally couldn’t resist the siren song of my own blog any longer.
Expect little polish and a heavy dose of vulnerability and humour. And always remember: I do read the comments on the internet.
(And before I run off to yet another Zoom call, I want to thank all of you who have pushed and encouraged me to finally write more again, especially my colleagues Justin O’Kelly and Alex Klepel, and my fabulous coach Angie McArthur. And a very big thank you goes to Marcel Maffai for the beautiful photo and to Chris Hayes for the web development. The very unfinished state of this site is entirely my fault, not his.)