Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Future of Work is already here

Lynda Gratton’s excellent book The Shift- The Future of Work is Already Here paints a picture of how work will change. She is so right in saying that the change is happening already: we see how companies are in a turmoil and whole industries disappear. Many grownups face the fact that they need to start embracing new opportunities to create a future-proofed working life.


Grownups for Startups® was born because of our personal need and insight. We have realized that we need to open up our minds, build new skills and networks, and learn to create our own opportunities.


Because opportunities will be created in diverse networks and communities, by learning from each other. As Lynda Gratton says, “connectivity, collaboration and networks will be central”.

Crafting and testing new opportunities is acting like a start-up company – thinking global, exploring markets and customers, testing them, changing direction – or pivoting as they say in start-up language. The journey is as important as the destination. Start-ups collaborate and are built in teams. New careers can be best built in teams.

We invite you to join us to craft our future work together in Grownups for Startups®.


Tuija: Growing up from corporate to creating opportunities

For 15 years I lived through my childhood dream of working as expat executive, most part of it with Nokia. I was a ´power woman´ controlling my life and many others´ too. I lived and worked in exciting places like New Delhi, Singapore, Barcelona, Madrid, Budapest.

In 2009 the global recession pulled my plug out and switched off the power. For a while I tried to get my career back using all traditional job search methods. I sent applications, I had a career coach, I discussed with headhunters, tried volunteering work to network and feel relevant. Despite all this my efforts did not work out – hardly anybody hired, and I was often pigeonholed as “too experienced” and labelled as “Sales only”.


Fine. Time for testing something else.

So I decided to escape from Finland to Barcelona, my home city of early 2000´s, to seek new inspiration and networks. In Barcelona I tested different project ideas, even started writing a book (which was never finished), which kept me busy and triggered to read many books about future and creativity.

One of the books was Lynda Gratton´s The Shift – the future of work is already here. And what a book it was! Gratton´s book made me wake up to the reality: to succeed in the future I wanted to to re-tool myself to be competitive on the markets with the massive oversupply of the talent and also “become part of a Big Ideas Crowd, where we can all buzz with energy and ideas”. Lynda Gratton has inspired my thinking till today.

With this new insight I decided to get back to school but I wanted to go to a new type of school. Luckily I found one. In 2011 I enrolled in the THNK – the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership executive program to study design and innovation thinking. The THNK program was, and is, very experiential. Being one of the Founding Participants gave an opportunity to experience what it feels, and means, to build the plane when flying. For a grownup like me, until then with a strong corporate identity and thinking patterns, it was a revolutionary reframing experience – in all aspects.

The program sent me from Barcelona back to Helsinki to try another project: a startup concept development that I conducted as the accelerator project of my THNK studies. I started sensing and testing possibilities for the idea of Grownups for Startups (the name co-created with some highly creative fellow THNK participants). I had thought Helsinki and Finland would be ready for my idea but I really did not know how wrong I was.

Nevertheless, this startup – where I have prototyped myself as a grownup – has opened up so many new possibilities, networks, and experiences. I have pitched my idea to many audiences in Helsinki, and spontaneously in the Africa Startup 2.0 event in Cape Town; have worked on a project with a well-known social business Shonaquip in Cape Town; have volunteered in Slush – the biggest startup event in the Nordics -, have attended startup events in Berlin and Helsinki, have conducted a pilot for grownups in Helsinki, have mentored grownups, and so on. This may sound exciting startup life, but oh dear I have struggled with bigger and smaller things. Different types of fears (money, failure) have of course been there. But also trivial questions such as whether I will be the only grownup attending a Startup Weekend event and what is the dress code for startup events. This question is not a minor issue for a grownup woman. I think hoodies are far from elegant, on the other hand, who wants to look like a mom of the rest of the audience.

By doing all this I have invested my time and my money to re-tool myself to be an innovative connector, entrepreneur or intrapreneur, whatever the future will require. I will switch the power on.

Learnings I´d like to share:

• Read Lynda Gratton´s book Shift – the Future of Work Is Already Here.

* My advice is: start preparing for the future of work. Transitions take time, may take 3-4 years as in my case. Sooner you start exposing yourself to new networks and possibilities, better positioned you will be in the new game of disruption.

• The best unlearning and re-tooling process for me has been to try and do several startup idea projects, with different people. In those projects you learn so much about new tools but particularly about yourself, about your thinking patterns, fears and self-limiting beliefs. A startup can be the best source for latest market insights and knowledge. And a great live course to stay curious and humble.

• Startup events are ideal places to sense new possibilities, learn about startup models, build new connections, and test stepping out of your comfort zone (particularly if you dare to pitch;).

• Trying and doing projects you gradually create a new story for yourself.

Tuija Pulkkinen, Helsinki


Patrick: from telecom Marketing Executive…

Two things happened at the same time.

On one hand, I was reorienting myself and exploring opportunities around big (telecom) data, how big data could be a source of societal innovation and I wanted to continue on that path.

At that same time my employer of those days Vodafone decided to focus on core business and cut investment in the innovation space around big data. I started looking for jobs to see whether I could drive my vision with other companies. But I soon found out that many times hiring was conservative: I would only be considered for jobs such as I had just left. I was not interested. So I did not find an employer with the right context for what I wanted to do.

So I decided to give it a go myself.

Patrick Leenheers #momo101

This was a gradual process. Sometimes we choose to, and sometimes we have to, leave our relatively secure jobs and step outside our comfort zone. If this happens say, mid-career, an event like that forces you to re-evaluate what you really want to do in life. This involves a mental shift. We may have to re-determine our direction, get (back) into the habit of setting our own goals, and learn how to find the clients / projects we wish to serve – and get paid for it. The dynamic is very different from working within a larger structure where work is just there (often too much of it) and a manager sets direction and judges performance.

Fortunately the world is full of phenomenal challenges to be solved – some close to home, some at world scale. In this transition, the process is as important as the end result. When I stepped into this mode, which I call the ‘creator mode’ I sensed the empowering feeling of taking life back into my own hands. And also it was sometimes daunting or confusing – I just did not know how the choices I was making would turn out.

I was fortunate to be on this path with a group of likeminded people, supported by a team of trainers, mentors and coaches. With this support network, I got access to the skills that I needed to learn and the network that I needed to build. And to be honest, I took there the courage to start and resilience to continue.

Learnings I´d like to share:

• It takes a bit of time. Don’t lose heart. And stay ambitious. A small team of likeminded people can have a big impact.

• When you go, go. In the boldness of the action lies the seed of success.

Patrick Leenhers, Amsterdam

Tuula: from lifelong Corporate to multiple enterprise projects

I got my first permanent job while I was still studying. 28 years later, still working for the same company I decided to leave. I did not change company – I never even thought about it – because I moved from one interesting job to another. It was a pioneering journey, it was learning by doing, constantly challenging yourself and your doings. The company was full of smart people with a ‘let’s do it’ mentality. It was a start-up long before start-ups.

Over the years the company changed, it was no longer the company I had joined. The final point was when they started offering exit packaged to employees with more than 15 years of employment – they called it a Renewal package.

I knew I was not wanted anymore, took the package and left.


What next?

First I wanted to have a break, to take care of myself, which I had neglected for years, and do things I never had had time to do. I started exercising, I attended a creative writing weekend, I devoted myself to gardening – my garden must have been surprised at such intensive care all of a sudden.

In the future I wanted to do something different, to look at the world through a different pair of glasses. My view had long been through the eyes of an international technology corporation. I wanted a larger picture of the world and the society around us. But I did not yet know what that “something else” was.

I studied social sciences at the university. I started volunteering in non-profits and learn about social enterprises, social impact and shared value. This opened up a completely new world to me. I met people I would never have met in my old circles and learned things I had no idea existed.

All this time I looked and applied for jobs both profit and non-profit – very selectively though, because the number of companies I wanted to work for was not large. This was also something I had to relearn – last time I applied for a job was years and years ago. And I soon found out that job hunting is not one of my favourites, I do not like pushing myself onto the market by listing and formulating my competences and skills, guessing what the employer really prefers.

I was not lucky, nobody wanted me. I heard that if you are over 45 you are not considered.

What now?

When I met my friend and colleague Tuija we often discussed about work, how to find work and what work will be in the future. When Tuija told about her Grownups for Startups project I was convinced– the thinking around the future of work, the start-up attitude and the idea encouraging other grownups hit me in the head. I realized that I have had the luxury of enjoying a lifelong career in one single corporate.

This is something I will not have in the future – nor will many other, either. But this new world of work will open up completely new opportunities. I have a huge opportunity to pick and choose: do projects, develop new skills, do as much as I prefer.

Learnings I’d like to share:

• Try things, do things you’ve not done before.

• Learn by doing. Volunteering is a good way to learn new tools and test what you like and what you dislike. And you will find new friends and colleagues

• Make your own decisions.This is about your life – not your friends’, not your husband’s or wife’s, not your coaches life.

Tuula Angervuo, Helsinki

Susan: from Lawyer and Nonprofit Director to Healthcare Startup

I lost my job. Yes, I can say that now, but what a shock to have had a very successful career path from attorney to business development executive finally culminating in a leadership role at a non-profit member based organization with high visibility and access to CEOs. Then one day it was gone, but I was no longer a 25 or even 35 year old able to bounce back and land multiple offers, the job search and work landscape had changed and somehow I was vaguely aware but unprepared. Yes, I was a true believer that if you work hard, produce, contribute and grow in each position, you will be rewarded. Oh it ain’t so.

Susan'S Story

I realized at 49 that I had to remake myself and open my eyes to the new world of possibilities and new game. I had to create my future and job opportunities. I had to create a place for my rich and varied skills that seemed at times like a patchwork quilt, beautiful pieces added over the years. I wondered could I apply these skills to becoming a real innovator and entrepreneur. I am a fox not a hedgehog and wondered where I might fit in, would I fit in. Self-employment did not attract or resonate for me, I wanted a team, a learning environment and a creative space to grow while making a social impact, leaving my small mark on the planet.

I lost my job, but not my mojo, although it did seem to disappear for a while. But instead of starting the traditional job search to find another stable position (as if there are any), I regrouped and took inventory. I reflected and took time to consider my options and also see that some doors were closed. As my mom used to say one door closes, a window opens up, you just have to look for it. So like the long line of strong Cape Verdean women in my family, I took up arms for battle to fight for the next opportunity. I decided not to re-write my CV and machine gun it out to every contact but to enroll in a healthcare innovation program and join a team of young millennials and work on developing an innovative solution for a local children’s hospital in Barcelona.

Am I scared about my future? Hell yeah. Do I have any regrets? Hell no! Do I believe that I will be a successful grownup in the startup world, maybe, but the journey has been the reward.

I lost my job. Say it out loud, embrace the fear to release it so you can open your eyes to new possibilities. Is the startup world the right place for everyone, no.

Can we grownups make a difference, contribute and add to the diversity of the startup world? Yes.

So take a few steps:

• Get a good career strategist/coach and do the work. Figure out what makes you tick. Invest in yourself, it will be the best money spent.

• Put a financial plan in place if you have not done so already. Read up on taking control of your finances , have the cushion in place to tide you over so you have space to explore. Remember Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. You need financial freedom to explore your dreams.

• Get out of your comfort zone, talk to people outside your close network to get real feedback. If you read one single book, then pick Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra. The book offers advice for us grownups who have invested in a career path and want to make a change.

Good luck

Susan M. Feitoza, Barcelona