Meet Svenja Dietrich, sidepreneur, anthropologist and corporate professional. She is quite literally brimming with energy and it’s infectious. Her mission, simply put, is to enable as many corporate professionals as possible to do work that matters to them. And she feels this can be accomplished by remodelling our economy and society through transforming jobs.
What inspired you to initiate the Inner Business School?
It was during an internship after school that I realised what I did not want in life! I witnessed people who had worked in the same company from 19, all the way until retirement. Some even married their colleagues, I literally couldn’t believe my future could look like this. I wanted more and I wanted things to be different. From there I went on to study business education, which led to a position in People and Organisational Consultancy, helping to transform existing work cultures. This was the beginning of my journey into helping people find work that they genuinely liked and with a purpose, whatever level of employment. However, it wasn’t enough. I soon realised that so much of what was happening, especially in large corporations, was just to ’tick boxes’. I wanted to find a way to help professionals make changes from within, without leaving their current organisation. It was from there that I founded The Inner Business School, with the true purpose to help professionals with both their personal and professional development. From personal experience I know this doesn’t require a major life change, like running to Bali to be a yoga teacher! It just has to come from within. Initially, in order to fit in with my day job, I offered online courses. However, now things have expanded and people come to me for workshops or keynotes. Generally they tend to be frustrated with the system, clear about what they don’t want, but not sure what they do want. One of my signature masterclasses dedicates a whole module to discovering what you want to do. So many people are unsure of their life values. It’s essential to establish these and then look to incorporate them into a job.
What do you want to use your voice for over time?
I feel very strongly that we need to close the pay gap. Valued and essential jobs are vastly underpaid. Last year I did a masters and am about to undertake a PhD in Anthropology where I want to focus on this very issue. I would like to run some small projects to see how we can change remuneration structures. For example, we already have a system where you can define the value of a function, however, I feel the criteria needs adjusting. For example, a highly rated job within a company can actually contain very little societal value. I would love to collaborate with the companies who define the boundaries for the collective labour agreement and reconsider the true value of work. As time goes by I aim to publish articles and podcasts to stimulate debate and raise awareness that will hopefully enforce change. The research I have done to date shows that people in well paid positions don’t want to give up their salaries. Making this transition requires a huge shift in both mind and behaviour.
What’s your drive and motivation on a daily basis?
It’s in my mission statement; to undertake work that matters. And I understand that this can appear different for everyone. I want to change the status quo within the working world across every level. We need to function on all levels and reach a state where everyone is happy within their individual role, be it the bus driver or CEO.
What change would you like to see across major industries?
I would love the big earners to look at their income and really calculate what is required for daily living. Then reconsider the amount earned for pure excess. I would like to see a set up where everyone has a stable financial situation, allowing people more space to use their talents elsewhere. Imagine a place where time and energy can be spent doing something that really matters, such as dog walking or an art class. I think if people are more fulfilled they stop looking to satisfy their needs with general consumption, which will result in a more balanced, happy and healthy society. In turn, this would translate back into better decision making within large companies, whereby society is considered as much as shareholders.
What are you most proud of?
For me it was becoming a mother. It feels so special to give birth and then help this little human grow up and find their way. Plus doing a masters while being a new mum!
In a nutshell what can we expect from your TED Talk?
I’m going to unravel the biggest paradoxes of modern-day work, and its most absurd phenomenon: bullshit jobs. Plus take a look at how we ended up in this crazy place and what can be done to create a fair and meaningful world of work.
Article: Louisa Bijker
Photo: Marjory Haringa