Current job: Founder and CEO, InnovatorsBox
Past job: United Nations, Department of State, Department of Energy, CRDF Global
Monica is the founder of InnovatorsBox, an organization that empowers leaders and organizations with creativity through workshops, strategies and toolkits.
Q. Job advice in three words?
Just do it.
Q. What inspired you to start your current career?
InnovatorsBox was a something I desperately needed. I felt stuck in my dream career, and I was tired of people telling me that it was normal to be stressed and feeling stuck. The lack of professional creativity made me risk-averse and I wanted change. Once I intentionally and actively included creativity into my life, things changed. Productivity skyrocketed, I was promoted and able to share new key insights for my clients. I found myself less stressed and more confident. I wanted to help other professionals unlock their creative potential and stop feeling stuck too. This is why I started InnovatorsBox. Since that day I have not looked back.
Q. Morning routine?
Stretch or exercise. Check my calendar. Get ready. Breakfast. Make time to read, unplug and relax for at least 5 or more minutes.
Q. How many hours of sleep do you get?
Not enough but enough to blaze through the day! I try to get 5-7 hours during the weekday and catch up over the weekend.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee?
Empathy and trust. You have to take the time to build this and in offline settings. Especially if your team is spending more time virtually and is swamped all the time, it’s important to take a step back and really check in on how everyone is doing and building a foundation of strong trust that one can rely on.
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged?
Flights. I use that time to sleep, write, reflect, and unplug.
Q. If you had to live in another city, which would it be?
Vienna, Austria or Berlin, Germany. I used to live in Europe and miss my crazy traveling and getting to know different people.
Q. Best advice you’ve received?
You are the average of the five people you spend most time with. - Jim Rohn.
Q. What can Silicon Valley teach DC?
The sheer amount of opportunities to learn, get involved and grow as an entrepreneur or in a startup. There is more willingness to try as an entrepreneur, easier access to capital and information, and stronger awareness and support to what it means to be an entrepreneur. DC is getting better at it, but access to capital is slower and conservative. It’s harder to also find mentors, information, investors and incubator support because the number of them is a lot smaller in the first place. There are a lot of events going on once you get into DC Tech but the first entry can feel tricky because you have to talk to the right people who will understand your passion versus I feel that in SV there is a more willingness to get excited about such space because of general startup culture ecosystem.
Q. What can DC teach Silicon Valley?
Diversity and community. Because the city being foremost the center for politics and international affairs, DC entrepreneurs have a higher chance of being exposed to diverse culture, information, language, community and businesses. DC Tech often entails someone from law, government, politics, food, supply chain, finance, art, design, communication, hospitality, software and technology, which permits the community to learn from one another and be more thoughtful about the diverse perspectives and opinions. We know how empathy and building a team that is diverse ethnically and mindset-wise to be the key source to what makes DC Tech unique, lasting, and enriching. This is the reason why DC is often quoted as being one of the best places for women in technology. As a result, we are a very tight-knit community and are constantly looking for ways to give back as much as grow our business. I love that most people I admire in DC Tech are the ones who wear multiple hats in which half of them are voluntary roles contributing back to the DC Tech and diversity growth. I am not sure if I see such active role of leadership in other cities.
Q. Startup to watch?
Q. Embarrassing work moment?
About to arrive at my meeting when I realized I left my laptop and my demo samples all at home, which is 30 minutes away.
Q. Which Member of Congress is most tech savvy?
So many amazing innovators in the government. Here are some making waves and bridging the gap. Some are still in the administration while some left recently but left critical impact in bridging politics, technology and empathy.