Anastassia Lauterbach: Creativity is the big sister of diversity.
In the current atmosphere of the COVID-19 lockdown and amidst a growing sense of change in the way AI and traditional industrial processes function, we’re witnessing the consequences of unpreparedness. No one has a crystal ball. How we deal with our differences will make or break us. We all have a story, a memory, a history that shaped us. Non-executive director at easyJet PLC, Wirecard AG, Freight One, and the CEO of 1AU Ventures Anastassia Lauterbach can certainly attest to that.
Anastassia’s career holds a certain element of serendipity to it. Originally, she’d wanted to focus on academia and become a professor at a university. She earned two degrees, one in linguistics from the Lomonosov Moscow State University and another in clinical psychology from the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn.
“I was dealing a lot with Aphasia research,” Anastassia told Sonophilia. “It’s a condition of the brain, which stipulates that a person’s capability to speak and [use] language disappears [gradually]. By the condition of the speech, you can recognize what is going on inside of the brain. That was really 30 years ago that I was involved in this. I’m an economical migrant, so I went to Germany at the age of 20 years old and really started with nothing in a new country.”
Anastassia moves back and forth between Europe, Asia, and the United States and is well-versed in economics, telecommunications, artificial intelligence, machine learning, governance, risk, and compliance. Having gained an extensive background in management at her many previous positions, Anastassia rebranded herself in consulting with her creation of 1AU Ventures. There, she advises various technology and AI-based businesses, helping them decide what type of defense they need and who to work with to boost their cybersecurity.
“I’m very privileged to work with highly sophisticated, talented individuals. My network is very, very large,” she said. “I love working with individuals who have a lot of interests and quite a diverse educational background because I believe innovation happens on borderlines and between topics and areas, and not necessarily very deeply in one area.”
COVID-19 presents a multi-layered situation that requires us to consider certain factors moving forward, like the framework and perception around risk. In recent decades, we’ve moved from a market economy to a market society, and there’s been a huge focus on individual capabilities. Anastassia sees this changing. Communities will come to a more prominent focus due to coronavirus because of their vulnerability. They may need to diversify more and the web may need to adopt new protocols to decentralize data markets. Similarly, she believes we must get our heads around the probability of automation.
“I am not a huge believer in this slogan that robots will take our jobs… Automation is a tool to bring efficiency and make certain processes better. If a process is great and you automate the process, then you might come to the next level of greatness. Of course, you will not save businesses just with automation; you might improve or reduce certain tasks, augment them… Start with the business question: what do we want to change? What do you want to use?”
This particular period is history in the making, and a certain amount of creativity and critical thinking are key. Anastassia sees “creativity as the big sister of diversity.” Without varying perspectives and unexpected points of view, creativity is hindered.
“The more diverse people you have in the room, the better it is. The danger of COVID and of the current world is that because of travel restrictions and the fragmentation of the global economy, this diversity might get reduced. How are we going to deal with this? It’s a question mark. Of course, diversity is not just about gender or about nation; it’s about experience… Value comes from exercising leadership in a highly diverse environment where creativity might thrive.”
To this effect, Anastassia initiated an annual gathering in her home called Startups Meet Arts. This event is the culmination of a large network and deep friendships within startup and art communities around the globe. Once a year, she invites around 100 people into her house to connect and collaborate in an informal environment.
“I know for a fact that a lot of deals happened because people met in my private home, and this is my way to thank my network for inspiration and for being there for me. Frankly, I learned a lot from those people… I believe the mixture of culture and tech is a very beneficial one.”
As if this weren’t evidence enough of Anastassia’s deep love for connecting people and bringing great minds together, she also happened to be one of the first Sonophilians. She helped organize conferences and brought aboard interesting speakers. Although she’s not able to participate in Sonophilia’s activities regularly, mainly due to time constraints and her many other professional obligations, she has a deep appreciation for it. Such gatherings can give voice to the abstract concept of creativity.
“I think it’s remarkable and very helpful for people who might not necessarily be exposed to different environments and audiences… [Sonophilia] brings a certain sense of an international and interdisciplinary community, and this is what I value the most in the network.”