60 seconds with: Nora Khaldi

Business, Editor's Choice, Interviews | Mon 27 Feb | Author – Business & Finance Dr Nora Khaldi

Founder and CSO at Nuritas Nora Khaldi takes the Business & Finance 60-second challenge.


Q. What was your first job?

I’ve had many enjoyable jobs. The one that taught me a lot was a summer job I had during my first year in college where I had to create new ways of marketing mobile phones to the public. This was right before everyone had a cell phone.

During those summer months, I had to identify many big retail and restaurant chains and create deals with them whereby they would create a customer loyalty scheme based on the customer receiving a reduction on the purchase of a new mobile.

It taught me a lot in terms of the scepticism companies have towards new models and how much negotiation can go into one deal. It also taught me to look for the early adopters first and the rest will usually follow. As I was aiming for huge chains as well, it taught me to really aim high.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Achievements are relative, I set goals every month and once something is achieved it is quickly replaced with another goal.

I think we can never settle and say we have achieved everything, in science there’s always the next problem to solve.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one businessperson for the day, who would it be and why?

I like my shoes! If I have to choose a person though it would be Albert Einstein. I know he doesn’t fit the usual definition of ‘businessperson’, but he was an incredible inventor and thinking differently is absolutely key in business. Indeed, I would like to experience how he saw the world, as it must be very different to how most of humanity sees the world.

Another person I really respect is Abraham Lincoln. On numerous occasions, he lost everything and decided to keep pushing forward. Those moments in life where you feel like everything is against you are tough but being able to pick yourself up and go against the odds to make things go in your favour are incredibly important. Being in his shoes in those days would be great.

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?

Balance and happiness.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Be brave, be bold and follow your passion.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

Motivating myself – my personal motivation is my vision to improve the lives of billions of people and making sure that the small steps that lead to it are well built and thought through. I also love problem solving and challenging environments as I’m at my best in these environments.

Motivating staff – I always encourage my staff to better themselves. My job as their mentor is to ensure that one day they’ll become the great scientists that they are meant to be.

I find honesty to be very important as well. You always have to be straight forward if you feel someone is losing their way, you need to help them back on the right path.

The other thing is to let them know that it is okay to make mistakes. We are all human; we will all make them. What matters is that they make sure to learn from their mistakes.

A more light-hearted way to motivate our team is competition. Scientists are extremely competitive so I like to create small teams and set up races for different types of science and innovation projects.

Q. How do you relax?

I’m like everyone else, juggling a career with family and friends. If I have a few hours to myself I enjoy nothing more than drawing, painting, or dancing.

Q. What’s your motto?

Never give up or settle for less.

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of your business?

Our goal is to improve the lives of billions of people. To do so we have to find the most dedicated, inspired and passionate people for our team.

Scientists are extremely competitive so I like to create small teams and set up races for different types of science and innovation projects

WOMAN OF THE DECADE

Nora Khaldi is the founder and chief scientific officer at Nuritas.

Her ambition is to disrupt the status quo in areas that have been void of technology by introducing new ways of thinking, big data and new algorithms.

Khaldi has led international research teams around the world, in both academic and industrial settings, and was the first scientist to show gene transfer between multi-cellular species, which had occurred naturally millions of years ago. This groundbreaking finding put into question many of the phylogenetic methods currently in use today.

She was also the first to show that fungal species could exchange chemicals to outcompete other species.

Khaldi also recently received the ‘Woman of the Decade in Business and Leadership’ award at the Women Economic Forum EU event in The Hague on in January.