By Ole Jakob “OJ” Skjelten
They say careers rarely follow a straight path. And yet, so many people still disregard the bumps, zigzags, and detours that characterize their careers. I’ll be the first to say that all of those “disruptions” are not only to be expected—they’re critical to developing your professional life. And I’m living proof.
I started off in IT consulting. About a decade in project management gave me a ton of insight into how a company’s offerings are developed, catered to potential customers, and ultimately marketed and sold to them. But a decade can be a long time in any one industry, and I started to feel the itch to move on.
My next step was a detour from work to business school at the International Institute of Management Development (IMD). My year at IMD—this was a two-year program compressed down to one—was a pressure cooker. The sped-up timeline really made it a sink or swim proposition. The upshot was the program’s focus on personal development and overcoming seemingly impossible odds. And that’s not to mention the network of close friends I made, a support system for the unthinkable challenges IMD was preparing me to take on. Tough as it was, the pressure cooker helped me understand that I could do anything, so challenging—but rewarding—jobs were the path for me.
After getting my degree, I moved to banking in Switzerland. And with a motivation to do more than just bring in money, I focused on renewable energy, raising funds for wind and thermal energy businesses. As I look back, this was one of the most rewarding periods of my career. I got to use my knowledge and expertise in finance to bring new, sustainable energy technologies to people around the world.
But that itch—the itch for a new challenge—came back. I can’t understate how important it is, when it comes to your career, to listen to your gut. Even if you feel completely fulfilled where you are, if the voice in the back of your head is telling you that you need something new, take heed.
So that voice in my head led me to computing accessory giant Logitech. I worked on an internal venture there, which gave me the chance to flex some entrepreneurial muscle and work on something outside their normal business. We were developing the future of videoconferencing by combining some pretty advanced technology with behavioral psychology to create a real sense of human connection. It was a wonderful experience. I got to take complete ownership of all aspects of a project—I was the boss.
That meant that, like any entrepreneur, not only did I have to make some calculated gambles, but I also got the reward of truly meaningful work. And even a little taste of failure. Internal reorganization at Logitech stalled the project, though it did eventually see the light of day, going to market through our partner Framery. So even though I couldn’t personally see it through to the final product, I’m proud of having been a part of it and leading a team that shared that feeling.
All of this experience brought me to where I am today. I’m proud to say that I’ve joined Embodee as the company’s new CEO. I see this as the culmination of my past work experiences. This new role is the nexus of project management, finance, and entrepreneurship. It’s a dream of a job, bringing together the threads of my career into a cohesive whole.
Make no mistake, though. I didn’t join Embodee simply to check off a box of my career bingo card. This truly is a fascinating company, with a number of interesting challenges and opportunities ahead of it. I didn’t join Embodee to become a CEO—I became a CEO to join Embodee.
What is it that I find so appealing? Simply put, the company is solving real problems for real people. Anyone in the apparel industry knows the challenges it faces with inefficient supply chains and huge amounts of waste in a world where sustainability is moving front and center for most consumers. The transition to digital and 3D product creation promised to solve all that, but for many, the real gains have proven elusive. And these are exactly the challenges Embodee was created to solve—and is doing so with gusto!
Obviously, our technologies are at the heart of that. With apparel design and production a global affair, effective collaboration—and tools that enable it like the Embodee platform—is key. But what I also found so appealing about Embodee is the team. I now have the pleasure of working with a talented, good-natured group of people that, as a distributed team, bring diverse and interesting perspectives. The value of culture in a business is one you can only learn to treasure through experience. And at this point in my career, I know that a strong culture is worth its weight in gold. A good culture inevitably leads to people giving their all and doing the best work of their lives. That’s exactly what my new colleagues at Embodee bring to the table.
There’s another thing that makes Embodee special, though: It’s a company that understands itself, its mission, and its purpose. It understands exactly what it wants to accomplish. The challenge for me at Embodee isn’t figuring out what exactly our business is or should be; it’s figuring out how to take the company to the next level. In other words, how do we bring Embodee to the wider market—how do we take advantage of the wind at our sails and establish ourselves as the go-to solution for the industry?
I’ve got plenty of thoughts on how we’ll do that. For instance, the continued development and tighter integration of our configurator technology will open up new capabilities for our customers. And we’re working on integrations with some big names that will make a lot of our customers very happy. Long term, continuing development and delivering more and more value to Embodee customers will be the keys to our success.
I want to get Embodee into the hands of as many people as fast as possible. The feedback we’re getting from pretty much everyone who tries it out is that Embodee can really have a huge impact that isn’t limited to their businesses. It’s also improving their working lives, a response that never gets old as we give customer demos!
So in closing, let me just say that it’s a joy to be a part of the Embodee family. I’m excited by how far we’ve come and for the future ahead of us. And in case you were wondering, our founder, André Wolper, isn’t going anywhere. He’ll still play an active role and look closely after our technology. His vision brought Embodee to where it is today, and he’ll be an integral part of taking us into the future. I’m grateful to André for this opportunity and thrilled for the Embodee’s continued growth and success. Stay tuned to see what we have in store.