Lena Marie Glaser

Lena Marie Glaser (Contemporary European Studies 2013) is founder of Basically Innovative, a consultancy company based in Vienna that is passionate about developing our understanding of the future of work.

Lena stood in front of a brick wall with her arms crossed.

Image credit: Elodie Grethen

Lena's story

Lena graduated with an MA in Contemporary European Studies in 2014. After initially working in the Law profession, she founded her own think tank in 2017. Basically Innovative works within companies, public institutions, universities, media and the arts to create more sustainable workplaces that retain talents and prioritise wellbeing at work. Lena has also released her first book, Arbeit auf Augenhöhe - New Work Revolution, advocating for working environments that promote empathy, trust and openness.

What made you choose Sussex?

It’s a leading and progressive university close to the seaside in Brighton with an impressive campus and international community.

What led you to start your own company?

After working for many years as a legal advisor in a traditional work environment, I decided one day to finally quit my safe but exhausting job. I followed my inner voice that told me: “there is more for you that better fits your interests, skills and personality”, and I founded my own think tank, Basically Innovative. It’s a Future Lab, consultancy and media company based in Vienna.

What advice or suggestions would you give to anyone considering venturing into less secure forms of employment or self-employment?

  • Talk to people you trust who are self-employed and ask them about their honest experiences, fears, and joy.
  • It's important to know yourself and your needs very well. You have to ask yourself: “Is self-employment really my goal, does it fit with my personality? Or am I just unhappy with my current job?”
  • Self-employment comes with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. What helped me was doing it step by step: start to develop your idea, test it, learn from your failures. Don’t shy away from asking for help and advice.
  • Look out for programmes and organisations that support young entrepreneurs.
Lena Marie Glaser reading from her book in front of an audience sitting on chairs. There are lots of books behind Lena.

Image credit: Marko Laitinen

What challenges have you encountered in your career, and what advice do you have for maintaining a work/life balance?

Quitting a safe job to become an entrepreneur meant saying goodbye to the safe environment I was used to. I was forced to think about myself, to set boundaries, to learn to say 'no' and to gather a close circle of trusted people around me that want the best for me. I also had to learn that it's ok to fail and learn from it.

My advice is:

  • Don't forget to maintain your friendships.
  • Invest time in your personal interests. I love my work, but I also need my breaks.
  • Allow yourself to take lots of breaks. Walking along the seaside is a great way to take a break and was my favourite thing to do in Brighton.

Do you think more change will come from changing practices in traditional workplaces (such as offices), or by creating new spaces and different forms of labour?

In my work as a consultant, I often observe that companies think that if they offer new spaces and flexible hours, they will automatically attract and retain employees. This is great but that is not enough. A cultural transformation is necessary; not only physical aspects, but also employee wellbeing – such as the need for community and emotional connection – is important. I emphasise the increasing importance of participation and the right of employees to have a say in order to create a meaningful working environment.

I can see a power shift: the younger generation, Gen Z, are asking for better jobs."

What brings you hope that better ways of working are developing?

More and more companies have understood that they need to change in order to attract and retain young talent. I can see a power shift: the younger generation, Gen Z, are asking for better jobs. They choose wisely who they want to work for. Companies are forced to rethink and become better employers.

Lena Marie Glaser sat speaking at a panel with a microphone in her hand. Her book is stood up beside her.

Lena speaking at the Kommunale Zukunftsgespräche Panel. Image credit: Erich Marschik

What networking tip would you give to Sussex students?

Visit as many events as possible in Brighton and London, especially outside of your own faculty or class, such as conferences, exhibitions and meet-ups. It will help you get to know a variety of interesting people and open up your horizons.

What would be the soundtrack to your time at Sussex?

A playlist of fresh new music. I used to love visiting The Great Escape, Brighton’s great showcase music festival.

Favourite place in the world?

The seaside – looking into the free ocean.

What advice would you give to recent Sussex graduates?

Be creative and open when it comes to career choices. Trust your inner voice and don't listen to the expectations of others.

Lena is among thousands of inspiring alumni on Sussex Connect. Join now to seek mentoring and industry advice and get a head start on your career.

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