For April's HANX Woman of The Month we had the immense pleasure of sitting down with the wonderful Dr Kate Stone, founder of the innovative Novalia, a company which brings technology and data to life with a very human touch. Read on to get Dr Kate Stone's take on her intriguing world, where science meets creativity, being a kindness ninja and the future of sexual wellness.
You have a PhD in Physics from Cambridge University and you’re a Creative Scientist, having worked on experiences for brands such as IKEA which combine technology and an element of fun. How did you progress into this line of work?
I think my whole life I have secretly been a creative, or at least somehow I seem to be a mix of both sides. I never seemed to have a way to express myself creatively, I can’t draw, sing or play an instrument. What I have learnt is that being creative is using what is around you and using the skills you have to express a feeling or an idea. I’ve spent most of the last decade building a technology platform, but more importantly I worked with my team to build tools that a creative person (which is any person) can use to express themselves through something they build or create without the need for any technical skills. This has empowered myself and more importantly other people to create multimodal brand experiences that are engaging, shareable and lots of fun. One of my favourites was the music wall we built at SXSW in Austin, Texas for Budlight that triggered curated musical content when you touch some crazy artwork, for a minute you feel like you are a music producer. This is what I call being a creative scientist.
You’re a big believer that your environment strongly influencers your thought process, and that you use your surroundings to think. What role do people play in this process?
I do believe that everything around us is an extension of our mind, your ‘inner mind’ is in your head/ body and your ‘outer mind’ is your environment and everything in it. When you connect your inner and outer minds through your senses it creates your full mind making you mindful. When we connect with the people around us our minds overlap, we are inextricably a part of each other, the thoughts we have and subsequent actions are dependent on the company we keep. Curating our environment and the people in it is extremely important not just for ourselves but for the people around us too. We are all each other. Your mindset is made up largely of your environment and the characters in it, if you want to change your mind or someone else then curate that environments and the company you keep appropriately.
You’re unapologetically yourself, what advice do you wish you could tell your 20 year old self?
There would have a to be a serious conversation I think! For as long as I can remember I have always been ashamed of who I am, I spent most of my life worried that if anyone knew who I really felt I was then I would not be able to go on. What I have learnt is that what I thought was my greatest weakness is actually my greatest strength! Who I am is the best thing I have going for me, I’m better at being me than anyone else in the world! What I have also come to realise is that my greatest fear is regret, I’m terrified of getting to a point in my life when I can no longer do the things I was always to scared to do for fear of what people might think. The fear of regret became so strong that it now drives me to do anything and be anything I feel I am and should do. I would tell my 20 year old self ‘it’s going to be ok, just open the door and step outside, nothing out there is as scary as hiding away behind a door’. I believe that the most basic human need is hope, if you have nothing but hope you have possibility of everything, if you have everything but no hope then it can seem impossible to go on. At 40 I told myself I have to do things I knew at 30 I was too scared to do at 20, its never too late. I do things now that are beyond any dreams I could have had.
You talk about being a kindness ninja in one of your Ted Talks, how do you maintain such a calm and collected state of mind in the face of adversity?
The scientist part of me analyses every situation, when you see that the most effective way forward is to be kind and try to understand why other people have harmed you then how can you even consider following any other path? Like everyone else I have a short term reaction in a minute that is emotional and full of anger; that is our spirt. Then, on reflection I consider what has really happened, by who, what those people were thinking and how to connect with them; that is my soul. This enabled me to have a soulful response rather than spirited one and fortunately achieve everything I could have wished to, and in the process become friends with some of the people I could have so easily hated. When you see this as the most effective way, how can you follow any other path? You just have to step away for a minute, let your spirit calm down and give your soul some space.
How do you make time and care for your Mental Health?
As I strongly believe our environment is half of our mind then taking care of my mental health is largely about curating my outer mind. Spending time on my own in nature is hugely important too me, I love hiking and camping, as often as I can I pack my backpack and hike into a forest and up a mountain, tie my hammock between a few trees and spend the night out there, preferably in the depths of winter on the edge of cliff to wake up to a beautiful sunrise. Being with friends and family is hugely important too, talking time to talk to each other and share some food. This last year my daughter and I have learnt to ski, although at nearly 50 (she is 19) its a little too late to learn but I persevered and finally can throw myself down the mountain and enjoy the rush and endorphin release, outdoor sports are a great way to take care of our mental health along with time being comfortable to be alone; the goal is to become your own best friend on any adventure.
What makes you feel empowered?
I feel empowered when I feel that I have the freedom and ability to express myself. Wether that is to do the work I do, go on stage and give a talk about my thoughts, work with children in a school, sleep on top of a mountain in the middle of winter, or even just to leave my home and walk down the street free from fear.
What would you like to see more of from the sexual wellness industry?
We need to talk, and we need to have a conversation. I will admit that sexual wellness is something I am too shy to talk about and was quite concerned about the questions I was going to be asked in this interview! We need to see more conversations that help break the taboos. We need to feel that talking about sex is as normal as talking about, well, the birds and the bees.
How do you think HANX can implement impactful change in the world?
Doing more of what you do, stimulating conversation and shining light in the darkness.