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Dame Stephanie Shirley talking at TED 2015

It was only in the last couple of years that I discovered Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley and her incredible story. From child refugee fleeing Nazi Germany to building one of the most successful tech businesses of its generation in her adopted home of England. Dame Stephanie has achieved far more in her life, despite facing far more adversity than most. And it is because of her courage and success, that she is my inspiration.

I was also fortunate enough to interview Dame Stephanie last week and, as it’s International Women’s Day, I shall be releasing snippets from that interview throughout the day here. In the mean time, here are some of my favourite quotes from our interview, as well as her incredible TED talk below. Please enjoy, and feel free to share.

Refugee Life

“We waste too much time being afraid, when what we should really fear is wasting time.”

“Knowing that I could cope with change gave me confidence and eventually, I learnt to welcome change. That was useful in my hi-tech career.”

“I think that feeling that I need to justify my own existence is as strong today as it was 75 years ago.”

“I decided very early on to make sure that my life was worthy of being saved.”


“When you are building up a company, you’ve got to give it you all and I hadn’t quite got my all because I did have family and so they were difficult years which honed me into the tough cookie that you see today.”

“It seems to work best for an entrepreneur when we find something we really care about, we focus on it, and let the money follow the pleasure we get from doing that.”

“There’s a passion involved in doing a really good, quality piece of work that’s better than you’ve done ever before. This really gives a drive to the individual. It’s what makes us human.”


“Once you’ve been given so much, you realise that you’ve been been helped but it’s now up to me to help other people.”

“The thing that I have found that really helps with depression is compassion and that is why I find that with my philanthropic work, I get just as much as I give.”

“Philanthropy isn’t about letting someone else take your money and spend it as they, rather than you, see fit. Rather, it is about putting your money to uses you believe in, and taking pleasure from the process. Your money isn’t lost, just because someone else has it. It is simply realising its potential: wealth as numbers on a bank statement transformed into wealth that enriches the world and, as a result, enriches you.”


“I’d hit that glass ceiling too often and so started to challenge the conventions of the time, even to the extent of changing my name from Stephanie to Steve in my business development letters so as to get through the door before anyone realized that he was a she.”

“You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads: They’re flat on top for being patted patronizingly.”

Who inspires you? If you are inspired by women in tech, it would be great to hear your stories here, or on Twitter. #SheInspiresMe

Writer. Founder. Interviewed 300+ founders and innovators and I’m sharing their stories here. 📚 Author x 2.

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