An interview with Nadja-Timea Scherrer, Partner and Global Strategist at plus305 on the occasion of the opening of the plus305 activities in Zurich, her hometown.
Nadja Timea-Scherrer, when did you decide to leave the corporate environment and why?
The first time was over ten years ago, when my grandfather, who had been like a father to me, was dying. I knew that if it had not been for my amazing boss, I would not have been able to be there in his last moments. People don’t tend to die on schedule, you know. I realized that I wanted to be able to live my values no matter the day or time. After all it is not like I stop being a person at work. I felt that this rigid division between work hours and private life was unnatural and not only went against my heart but also against corporate productivity and efficiency. I started by being partly self-employed while living in different countries. It took another six years until I took the leap of faith and became fully self-employed. It was when I decided to move to the US to get married to my now ex-husband.
How did you deal with the uncertainty that building your own business brings?
I have always felt that being Swiss has been a bit of a handicap when it comes to taking risks. After all we are an insurance nation and love dealing with worst-case scenarios (laughs). When I told my loved ones that I will be taking my pension fund out to become self-employed, nobody was exceptionally thrilled. Or have I even told anyone (laughs)? This risk-averse upbringing is also deeply ingrained in myself. I grew up in a single parent household where money was always scarce. You know what it was in the end that helped me? A simple conscious decision to not lead my life from a place of fear. This of course does not mean I have been fearless ever since, but I did it anyway. Security is a very misleading concept. It does not really exist apart from in our own heads. The mystic Rumi once said that “As you start out on the way, the way appears.” I have found this to be very true.
You are Swiss, but have spent time and worked in the US for quite some time now. What are the biggest differences in doing business in the US versus Switzerland?
I recently attended a tech event of the European Chambers of Commerce here in Miami and the cultural differences became so obvious once again. In the US, I always feel that people are excited about entrepreneurship. I do not see the same enthusiasm in Europeans. What I especially appreciate over here compared to Switzerland is that you do not earn your credibility mainly through your degree. If I wanted to become a baker tomorrow, I could totally make a living – as long as you have drive and deliver. I am not sure I would have ever become an entrepreneur back home, the US truly is the place of unlimited possibilities when it comes to business. What I miss about the Swiss business culture is how on time, responsive, and organized they are. Here in Miami, I am still trying to figure out which “yes” actually means “no” (laughs). I love learning from both cultures.
What does it take to be a successful female entrepreneur?
I have always had a bit of a problem with the word “successful”. I remember vividly when I told a colleague of mine that I will be leaving my "successful" corporate job to go abroad. She said: “But what if you fail?” I found this question to be really odd. I said to her: “It depends on what you are defining as failing. To me, even if I come back after two days, I feel like I was successful because I had at least tried.” The fear of failure is huge. Creating your own definition of failure can set you free.
I feel that in this masculine-oriented world, we are very quick to idealize the masculine qualities of competition and goal-orientedness. We are also regarded as unprofessional if we are emotional. Let’s brake with these old stereotypes. I have decided to lead from the heart and my intuition and it feels just right.
What can women learn from each other?
It is so important that women support each other. I have never understood all the jealousy and envy. Not that I have not felt these feelings but I decided to use them as an indicator of what I really want and thus as a drive to reach more. I personally feel the most feminine when I am around other women. There is a sense of support and nurturing that I do not find anywhere else. I feel that we sometimes isolate ourselves for no reason, hiding our vulnerability when in fact we are all going through the same ups and downs. That is why I have created an online Global Women’s Network, a safe space where we can support each other in business and life. Where we learn to take better care of ourselves, our careers, and others. Women tend to sacrifice their own wellbeing for others but it does not have to be this way. We are the most helpful when we feel great.
How do you find balance?
Through conscious breathing. When I worked for Apple in Silicon Valley, we worked very long days and the only way for me to stay centered was through my breath. We are not aware that the best tool to balance our emotions and reactions is always with us in the form of our breath. It allows us to connect our mind with our body. We are so much in our heads all the time that we feel disconnected from our bodies where all the wisdom lays. When you breath in and out of your nose, your nervous system calms down and your thoughts become less. Combined with Yin Yoga, I am in relaxation heaven. I also love disconnecting through being otally absorbed in my five senses when I cook, bake and spend time in nature. And of course none of this would matter if I did not have my loved ones and my crazy little dog Candela around me.
The Creative Boutique of multiple award-winning Founder and Creative Director Alberto Jaen from Madrid and his Swiss partner Nadja-Timea Scherrer is based in the vibrant Miami Design District and has subsidiaries in Zurich and Madrid. plus305 helps brands worldwide to do well by doing good – in a creative and intelligent way and across cultural boundaries.
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