Interview with Penny Schiffer Swisscom

Filed in Businesses & Services, Career by on January 14, 2018 0 Comments

Powerhouse Event Zurich with Penny Schiffer

Interview with Penny Schiffer Swisscom

Meet the Speaker: Penny Schiffer

Penny is the dynamic woman in charge of Swisscom’s startup engagement and Pirates Hub co-working space who will conduct the Zurich Powerhouse workshop: How to Get a Corporate As Your First Customer on January 25th at the HUB.

What drew you to the technology field?

From a young age, I have always been interested in tech. As a girl, I always liked statistics and computing and wanted to learn coding so I actually went with my dad to a class to learn it. At university however, I was a psychology major and started out first founding a company providing leadership training. Eventually I realized I wanted to do something more with economics, so I went back to school and got my MBA and worked as a consultant for Accenture. My focus there was in strategic consulting and organizational transformation.

Why didn’t you start out in technology?

I think that if the times had been different, I would have done that, but engineering and technology  were very male dominated and not easy for a girl. When I was in this coding class with my dad, people didn’t know what to make of us. It was very unusual.

What inspired you to leave consulting for Swisscom?

Working at Accenture was a great experience, I really learned a lot. But, being a consultant, you’re at a company for a few months, and your advice might be very different from they’re doing, so you may never see the outcome of your work. I wanted to work at a company where I could have a more long-term influence.

What do you do in your role as Head of Swisscom’s startup engagement? Do you go out shopping for new technology to acquire?

It’s not exactly like that. It’s not as much about acquiring technology as it is finding ways to co-create and leverage technology. For example, we were looking for a mobile phone feature that would block out unwanted marketing calls and found a company that was working on the technology here in Switzerland, But the technology wasn’t ready to be implemented, so we worked with them on it and it’s now a feature of our service. We could not have developed it as quickly in-house, and it would have consumed a lot of resources.

And Pirates Hub, it’s a fun title! Tell us how it works.

Pirates Hub is a Swisscom work and event space as well as an innovation lab. Here, Swisscom employees can work on start-ups and get support from our staff – they can become so called “intrapreneurs”. We recognized that ideas can sometimes be developed faster when they’re in start-up mode and not married to a corporate identity, so this gives our employees the opportunity to do that. Once a start-up is ready, we can choose to adopt the technology or spin it off outside of the company in our Kickbox initiative .

Since the Zurich Powerhouse is a networking organization, tell us what role networking has played in your professional life?

I’ve been building my network since I left school but most actively focussing on innovation and startups in Switzerland for the last seven years. It does take a lot of time, but now I feel I have a deep network in the innovation space. I think it helps to have a focus with your networking. Initially I just joined a professional women’s group but never met any women who were in my field. So after about two years I started to go to other meetings that were more targeted to what I was looking for.  

Article Written by Jennifer Lisle

Jennifer is a Zurich-based freelance journalist who has written for The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Elle, among many others.


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