She’s since been a management consultant (working with both entrepreneurs and multinationals including KLM), a Hollywood executive and producer (her first movie aired on CBS) and travel expert on television and online.
Let's start off at the beginning, what is a futurist?
A futurist is a person who uses a combination of research, statistics, intuition, domain expertise, imagination, (qualitative and/or quantitative) analysis and makes (educated) predictions about the future. A futurist isn’t a fortune teller and doesn’t use a crystal ball.
How did you become one?
It was a title bestowed on me once I began delivering keynote speeches. My topics are all about the future and how to navigate from here to there.
I’ve always been interested in the future, especially as it relates to technology. My favorite show growing up was The Jetsons. Not so much the stories but all the cool stuff they imagined way back in the early 60s. (I watched it in reruns.) I have been waiting for my flying car ever since. I also love science fiction books and movies. I especially enjoy reading or watching dystopian or utopian visions of the future. I’m a big history buff too. Especially WW2. I think it’s hard to look ahead without the context of historical facts.
I have a track record of predicting consumer trends throughout my career. I’ve moved around a lot based on where I thought the trends were going. Working in consumer facing industries (Hospitality, Hollywood, Beverages) gave me first hand insight to ever changing consumer behavior. So much so that I’ve developed real expertise on topics like consumer choice, customer service, and technology adoption.
How do you keep tabs on what’s happening in the “future”?
I have always been a voracious reader. I’m like a human sponge. I love magazines. At one point, I had 50+ physical subscriptions to everything from Futurist to Fortune to Wired to Vogue to People. I also had the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today delivered daily to my home or hotel when traveling. Now I’m reading everything online. I sometimes miss the print publications, I used to discover more when I could touch and not scroll. I still get the same newspapers online and subscribe to 60+ newsletters that are curated for me based on topics and interests. And of course, I spend (too much) time on social media. That’s where I learned to cook during the pandemic. I feel constantly overwhelmed now that I have access to everything.
I believe that it’s important to be informed from multiple sources and points of view. To that end, I get out in the world. I travel. I talk to people, ask questions. Mostly my superpower is curiosity. Being curious is essential to thinking about where we’re going. It’s equal parts knowledge, wisdom and imagination.
What are your big concerns about the future?
I feel like we aren’t really paying attention to the biggest problems we are facing. We talk about them but there isn’t enough real action being taken to solve everything from climate change to the rise of fascism around the world. I get it. We as humans are trying to survive the now. The future is unknown. While we fear some of what may come: nuclear war, cyber- attacks, extreme weather, the robots taking over, it’s hard to look past what we are facing in the moment. Let’s not forget that we’re also a bit shell shocked after the global pandemic.
What innovations are getting you excited about the future?
I’m excited about the possibilities in science and medicine. The Covid-19 vaccine timeline showed us that we can ramp up when we need fast solutions. I see so much hope in CRISPR and other innovations like 3D printed organs. I’m also excited about the future of AI, machine learning, robotics, quantum computing, in helping us automate many mundane tasks. Rather than the machines taking over, I’m hopeful that new technology will improve our lives, probably in ways that we can’t even imagine. Think about life before and after smart phones. So many of the products services we take for granted today didn’t exist 15 years ago!
What should we be watching and paying attention to this week, this month, this coming year?
We should be watching the economy: Inflation, job growth, consumer confidence. Most economists agree that we are in or headed into a recession. No one knows if it will be a soft or hard landing. The economy may well determine the winners and losers in the upcoming midterm elections. And globally, the war in Ukraine will continue to have huge implications on everything from gas prices to geo politics.
What women are on your radar?
Technology: Amy Webb who is a qualitative futurist. I devour her firm’s trend “bible” every year.
Government: Finland’s PM Sanna Marin, Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson, and Denmark’s PM Mette Frederiksen. The Prime Ministers of these socially progressive Nordic countries give me hope.
Activist: Reshma Saujani for her work with Girls Who Code and Marshall Plan for Moms.
Creator: Emmy award winner Quinta Brunson who created and stars in Abbott Elementary. I worked in Hollywood and I’m so impressed with her talent.
Writer: Heather Cox Richardson who I discovered on Facebook during the pandemic. She talks about modern politics in the context of historical events. And somehow, knowing what she knows, continues to be optimistic about the future and democracy.
Hero: My mom who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer 6 months into the pandemic and inspires me daily with her fighting spirit.
What are you currently obsessed with OR one thing you highly recommend?
I’m currently obsessed with my AirTags. I started traveling again and the airlines kept “misplacing” my luggage. I now track my bags from the time I arrive at the airport until I get to baggage claim. When Air Canada left one of my bags in Toronto recently I was able to show the agent in LA that it was indeed 2,172 miles away and where it was left in the terminal.
Which work tools/courses/apps have made your life easier?
I use Headspace to meditate, Uber Eats to eat, Twitter for customer service and Hotel Tonight when I need to run away from home.
I’m building a technology platform (StashWall) to make my physical and digital life exist in one place. Right now, everything is spread out on my phone in multiple apps and it’s hard to find what I need when I need it. Here too I get to think about the future and not focus so much on what exists right now. Stay tuned.