At Central Working, we’re passionate about promoting female entrepreneurship, encouraging more women to step forward and become leaders in their organisations, and their communities. Which is why we launched our ‘Inspirational Women’ series, all about celebrating and sharing the stories of our female entrepreneurs and leaders, and the networks or organisations that they run.
In this month's Inspirational Women series, we’re focusing on Alexandra Grigore, the co-founder of Simprints. A Romanian native, she moved to the UK to study Chemical Engineering and planned to work within the field of Nanotechnologies. However, she could quickly see that the tech she was working on wouldn’t help people in need fast enough for her, so she helped to found the charity, Simprints.
Who are you, and what’s your business?
I'm the co-founder and Chief Production Officer at Simprints and have been here since the beginning, so about five years. Simprints is a non-profit tech company that works in international development, in the technology for development (tech4dev) field. We built a finger-scanning device that allows NGOs and Governments in developing countries to identify the people they're serving, particularly in countries where there is no unique identification. There are currently around 1.1 billion people without any form of ID who struggle to access essential services, like healthcare and finance, reliably.
Why are you passionate about your role?
I always wanted my work to benefit those most in need, so our mission statement suits my personality perfectly. We aim to transform the way we fight global poverty, making sure that those most in need have first access. This is where my passion comes from, as we’re trying to make a positive impact on society. Technology can do a lot of good for developing countries, whereas here in the West it's more debatable.
What is your background?
I’m originally from Romania and moved to England about six years ago. I studied Chemical Engineering, did my Masters in Germany and finally my PhD in Nanotechnology at Cambridge. I originally wanted to pursue a career in academia or at the cutting edge of science and technology, particularly Nanotechnology. However, after working more and more in that field, I realised much of the initial technology that will go to the market from these sectors would be serving the Western market first and require costly equipment. I wanted to focus on something that had a more immediate impact on developing countries.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
We have grown fast in the last year, and finding the right people is a big challenge. We're putting a lot of resources and effort into finding the people who have the right mix of skill and passion, but it’s a difficult task. We were lucky, we found 30+ amazing individuals, but we had to hire from all over the world.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman?
The biggest challenge I face is hiring women in science and technology. Being from Romania, I see more of a lack of diversity here than back home. In the UK it's tough to find women, and we haven’t hired a single female engineer yet, but we're trying to be actively looking as much as possible. We need more platforms, advocacy, and for recruitment agencies to recommend the best ways to go about hiring women.
What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
We were starting Simprints then, so I would tell myself to be more patient, however in some aspects if I hadn’t been as pushy we might not be here today. We wanted to make things fast, and we were quite naive, we could have been more realistic about what we could achieve and have more appropriate time frames. We should have looked at it as more of a marathon rather than a sprint, and planned more in the long term.
Who inspires you?
Stephanie Yung inspires me, as she was one of my mentors and currently sits on the Simprints board of advisors. She’s the Director of Design at a company called Smart Design based in New York. She’s been advising us on design elements, branding strategy, and also my personal development. She inspires me because she’s a strong woman with a pragmatic approach and direct communication.