Gemma Milne refers to herself as a “Scottish creative science nerd obsessed with tech, design, Irn Bru and pi”. A Freelance Journalist and Podcaster, Gemma writes for The Guardian, the BBC, Singularity Hub, The Drum, Adweek, Imperica & Ogilvydo, covering science, tech, culture and politics.
This superstar is also co-founder of Science: Disrupt – an organisation connecting the innovators, iconoclasts & entrepreneurs intent on creating change in science. Science: Disrupt produces podcasts, events and editorial, and has brought together a large community (both on and off-line) of brilliant thinkers and doers. They focus on biotech, energy, space, health, advanced computing and changing the way academic research is done.
An international speaker with a knack for captivating an audience, Gemma has delivered keynotes at SXSW, TEDx, WPP Stream, Cannes Lions and Dubai Lynx. As if that isn’t enough to keep this go-getter busy, she also with the World Economic Forum as one of their Global Shapers, and is an Expert Advisor for the European Commission, specialising in health, biotech, energy, advanced computing and space.
Gemma is on the Innovation Jury for SXSW and is a Judge for the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
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List the following in order of importance: Money, fame, power, fulfilment, creativity, success, Love.
Fulfilment, love, success, creativity, money, fame, power
What do you feel is the most overrated professional virtue?
The ‘Client is always right’ mentality is not always effective.
What do you feel makes a person interesting?
When they really care about something and can convey their passion and viewpoints in such a way that allows you to see into their world.
What do you feel makes a person boring?
A lack of interest in anything, too much small talk and no real opinions.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Bouncing back after being made redundant.
When you look at your career trajectory, what is the word that comes to mind?
Share tour best networking tip.
Find what’s interesting about the person you’re talking to – not what’s useful or what’s linked to your work, but what’s interesting. Ask them what they’re passionate about and why. It’ll make for a better conversation and a much more meaningful, long-term relationship.
What was your biggest career failure and what did you learn from it?
I’m really struggling with an answer to this one. I don’t think it’s because I’m one of those people who can reframe failure to be a positive, but then looking back, anything that maybe felt like a failure at the time has always worked out to be for the best. My mum’s serious repetition of ‘if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be’ over the years means I tend to move on pretty quickly from any kind of rejection or mistake. Maybe my biggest failure is not feeling the failure long enough, and moving on to something else too fast – but I love what I do now, and any kind of failure in the past has only led me here, which doesn’t sound like a failure to me.
What are the five traits you feel will elevate someone from a manager to a leader?
Empathy, vision, naive optimism, bringing others up with them, strong opinions
What is your definition of innovative?
Doing something an order of magnitude better, with an order of magnitude less effort, money, or environmental damage.
What is your greatest luxury?
When I genuinely feel like it’s ok to switch off and read a book, paint, go hang out with friends, have a bath, etc. Too often, my ‘me-time’ is plagued with guilt for not working, so it’s luxurious when I don’t feel that obligation.
Who inspires you the most and why?
Previous versions of myself – all the ‘best bits’ of Gemma over the years. That amalgamated person is someone I can genuinely aspire to be (again), and aspiring to be like her doesn’t make me hate who I am right now, as…well…she *is* me.
What is the best career advice you were ever given?
Before my first shift as a kitchen porter at our local village restaurant at the age of 14, my mum said to me: “Remember that the task you are trying to do is never the most important task.” It makes me calm down when I’m getting frustrated at other people not working fast enough, not replying to my emails, not being as passionate as I am about something, and reminds me to have perspective about what will be on their minds and stop them from giving me their attention.
What’s the best career advice you can give us now?
Don’t do your time – there’s a whole culture of staying in a job for at least 3 years in order to ‘do your time’ in the role, before moving up or on. I think that’s totally crazy – a job is not a prison sentence. If it’s not right, move on. Employers really don’t care about your tenure in a previous place if you can prove why you’re perfect for what they need you to do.