Monique Marrow has a goal – to change the world in this digital age, where transparency and the individual are at the centre of that universe. It’s a goal that every techpreneur aspires to reach, and one that has been pushed into the spotlight even more so recently.
Monique, however, has come closer to that purpose. She co-founded the Swiss-based non-profit The Humanised Internet, that “focuses on the notion of digital sovereignty, individual control of identity sets and ethics governance on technologies like AI and so on”. In essence, Monique works to provide digital identities to those who do not have one – such as refugees, immigrants and more – so that no one is left vulnerable to societal abuse.
A speaker at this year’s Catalyst Conference, organised by Girls In Tech Melbourne, Monique is also the former Chief Technology Officer at Cisco, where she advanced the company’s technology footprint through cutting-edge and disruptive technologies and concepts.
We catch up with Monique ahead of the Conference to learn more about her goal and what drives her.
Why do you do what you do?
We are at an inflexion point where transparency and the individual must be at the centre of the universe. There are challenges with “centralised” entities where trust is so easily given and where people are so dependent. We, however, do not have to look too far back into history to see that trust has been broken multiple times.
The trust deficit is nothing new, and neither is the polarity between centralisation and decentralisation. There are, however, multiple opportunities to address major global problems – which is positive. I believe that ethics and governance will be the new currencies for the 21st century and beyond.
Throughout your professional career, what is the one thing you believe to be true, but others rarely agree with you?
That ethics and governance are foundational properties for inclusion and business. Often individuals deprecate to a financial discussion, like ‘return on investment’. But what if the systems we know are fragmenting? Could we imagine creating new systems?
This tough process really involves turning oneself upside down and asking questions based on specific observations. The notion of cognitive bias is so very, very real and we need to be cognizant of the changes around us. We either drive the change, or we become swept up in it.
We must work to create the world we wish to have, and not the one we want to avoid.
People are still averse to failures and the thought of failing. In your experience which failure or apparent failure has set you up for success?
Failures are all about learnings, yet we think so negatively about them. Being asked to go to Asia to set up a technology team that would be responsible for 50% of the world was daunting. I never asked the question as to what would be the measure of success. I was given a very small budget with a team that one could count on one hand (all super people, tough!). It was an uphill battle from the very beginning, and it did not take too long to get swept up into the chaos of it all. Being a risk taker is fine so long as one can assess the degree of risk and its outcomes. There will always be ambiguous situations; it is about understanding the degree of ambiguity one is comfortable with without paralysis via analysis.
What is the best investment you have made for yourself?
Setting up and co-founding the Humanised Internet! Think about it – one minute I was in the private industry and the next into the world of nonprofit. The move required additional skill sets such as a shift to concrete, purposeful goals, stakeholder vs shareholder value creation, and above all a servant approach to human interactions.
Has your career been planned or a function of serendipity, and what is the role of mentors in your journey?
It’s a bit of both; allowing for randomness can be fruitful. A career path cannot be about climbing pre-defined ladders. When these ladders disappear, for whatever reason, being self-aware must be a constant. Imagine the possibilities of you and the narratives can create with a new group of individuals. That is the beauty!
Mentors have been advocates of what is possible. I also believe in reverse mentoring – this is the power of the inclusive. I do have a coach with whom I work. Mentoring must be a lifetime journey. The canvas of our individual lives is always fresh for new colours, dimensions and perspectives that can be provided by others.
Hear Monique Marrow speak at Girls In Tech Melbourne’s Catalyst Conference. Head over here to view the agenda and to purchase tickets. http://catalystmelbourne.girlsintech.org/