When one door closes, another one can open .... as long as you are knocking on it!
Your future cannot be predicted, but your future can be invented.
Steffi FeldmaNn Co-Founder of Keyp demonstrates that belief, motivation and sheer determination can take you to where you want to be!
The timing’s never right. The qualifications are never fulfilled 100%. There are always others more advanced, better educated, better off, smarter, richer or with a bigger network.
Full disclosure: I have this feeling and thoughts on a daily basis and I’m definitely not alone with it. Still, it hasn’t kept me from founding 5 companies and – amongst other things – selling one of them to a Fortune 50 Global Company. How? Let me try and figure this out while writing this article for you.
Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I was a child my answers ranged from teacher to secretary/office assistant. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought about tech, entrepreneurship or science. Well spoiler alert: this is where I ended up. ;-)
In hindsight, I think there was no fit for me in the (German) school system. The system is pretty fragmented and over the course of my teenage years, I went through all types of public schools in rural Bavaria trying to find my place.
After finishing my exams “Abitur” (equivalent to A levels), I took off to Australia to work as a teaching assistant at an indigenous school in rural Queensland. Here I taught basic computer skills to Aboriginal students and helped build a medical and first aid station in the middle of nowhere. I had hoped that a year abroad doing something completely different and so far outside my comfort zone would help me find out what I wanted to be and although I found out a lot about myself – things I never thought about before – my time abroad could never really answer the question ‘Who do I want to be?’
I came back to Germany and I had definitely changed, and the time had shifted and strengthened my mindset. I had learned what I valued in life; work and on a personal level and now I wanted to do nothing short of change the world and make it a better place. I applied for all kinds of undergrad courses and whilst I was abroad in South Africa (travelling again) I got the acceptance email from a university in Munich: BA in Electrical Engineering (focussing on renewable energy sources). I accepted it straight away and went back to Germany to start this new phase of my life.
I still have that one fear that accompanies me and that is, that as an old woman I will look back on my life and not be satisfied with what I did and what I achieved, and it is this that motivates and drives me on every day.
I told you before, I didn’t really complete school conventionally, I struggled a lot with things that were a lot easier for my fellow students but I didn’t struggle with maths and physics - this has always made sense to me. So, I finished only two of the courses during the first semester of Electrical Engineering and then quit. I felt like such a huge failure. I still remember that feeling. I don’t think you can just move on but you can overwrite it with new experiences and things you’ve achieved. I was back at square 1.
A coincidence led me to a new university’s website and I stumbled upon their BA course in International Business Communications. I applied straight away and was accepted for their upcoming semester. I was over the moon! Languages and cultural studies combined with business – jackpot! After three years it was time to graduate with the highlight: the bachelor’s thesis. I had already been accepted to Trinity College in Dublin for their International Management Master’s and was about to move out of my flat in Munich – having sold all my furniture and belongings. Then I got the letter: I failed the bachelor’s thesis.
I had to move back in with my parents, lost the place at Trinity College, had no degree, had to write a whole new thesis if I wanted to get a degree at some point and was devastated.
After a week of crying in my old room at my parents’ house, I talked to a friend who had just founded another company in Munich. A startup offering innovation consulting and development to big companies in Germany. It all sounded like a great way to distract myself and bridge the time until I could rewrite my thesis.
Well, things never turn out the way you expect. I ended up co-founding the startup and now five years later, I’m a serial tech entrepreneur and wouldn’t have it any other way! I am so proud of everything we’ve achieved as a team over the last years and sometimes I have to pinch myself when I look around and see so many people that love working at Keyp as much as we do!
We now have a second office in Zurich, Switzerland, and are about to expand to London! And I’m proud of what we work on. We provide infrastructure for digital identities with the goal to enable every user data sovereignty, especially over their own personal identity data.
I think what I want to tell you is that even if everything looks grim, you don’t see any light and have zero ideas for what you are supposed to do or become
Just do something!
It will eventually lead you to where you were meant to be all along! I could have never planned to be a founder and I wouldn’t have dared to even think that.
I am now combining all my strengths because I created the job I do myself. I work in tech, got to learn how to code (rudimentary) while doing so, speak various languages on a daily basis and talk to fascinating, brilliant people from all over the world constantly! All of this while working on a piece of technology that is the foundation offer every citizen's digital identity and the essence of our team’s values.
I’ve tried to summarize my learnings so far:
- Be confident! Don’t be intimidated – even if you feel like you can’t do it, don’t have the skills (yet) or are not ready.
- Talk to people! Talk about your fears, challenges, thoughts. You won’t believe what effect pure sincerity has on people. They start to share, too, and you’ll learn that absolutely everyone is self-conscious at times.
- Ask for help! From my experience, people are always willing to support you and help you out with a reference, recommendation or an introduction. I’m not only talking about some kind of professional network you may have on LinkedIn etc. but your own group of friends and (personal) acquaintances. You never know where this may lead you ;-)
- Start! You don’t have to know where you want to end up at or what the concrete goal is. Life happens anyway. So just get going, start what feels right and if you stay open-minded and open to change beautiful things will happen.
From a bird’s eye view, I think we’re currently living in a time of change. The world order is re-built, definitions of archetypes (managers, founders, coders etc.) are changing, people travel more, and cultures are mixing more, we have different social circles than our parents had or have (some of them only digitally for example), it’s all more diverse and yes, sometimes, people are overwhelmed by this and wish for less change and more stability leading to more conservative politics – among other things.
But don’t let them get you down!
I think this is just the last upheaval and we’re about to enter a new era. How exciting is it that we get to shape this, get to be part of it? Technology has played such a huge role in societal change and every single one of us, with every line of code, everything we do and say, gets to change it for the better!
I’d love to hear about your experiences, hear your feedback, how you see all of this, and I’m happy to answer your questions! Talk to me ;-) -> Twitter: @SteffiFeldmann
KEYP are HIRING! Keyp are looking for Backend Developers - check out the role on SheCanCode's Job Board
Steffi Feldmann is a serial tech entrepreneur based in Munich and is one of the Munich Geekettes Ambassadors She initiated a variety of projects in the area of digitalization, has worked together with many big brands over the years. Her background is both in tech and communications having studied Electrical Engineering and a BA in International Business Communications. Since 2017, she’s one of the co-founders of Keyp, the next generation identity-PaaS, based on an open and decentralized infrastructure.