Shaper: Dana Denis-Smith

Dana Denis-Smith

Dana Denis-Smith was born in rural Romania before moving to London, where she studied a BSc in International History and an MSc in Political Economy at LSE. Following this, she undertook the PgDL and LPC at BPP Law School and an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management.

In 2001, Dana became a Research Analyst at IHS Global Insight and a writer/analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, which provides country, risk and industry analysis, across 200 countries globally. She joined Linklaters as a Solicitor in 2005, and was seconded to Free Representation Unit, a charity which offers representation to claimants in employment proceedings in 2007, before becoming Director and Owner of Marker Global, a research agency specialising in strategic investment advice for emerging markets.

In 2010, she became Founder and CEO of Obelisk Support; and in 2014, founded First 100 Years.

Follow Dana on Twitter @ddenissmith.

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I founded the business because a lot of talent was going to waste because the working conditions were too inflexible. So I wanted to bring back a lot of that talent and enable them to work in a different way.

I realised that the only way the operating model would work is on a huge scale, so at that point we made a decision that we had to get to five hundred within the year. Which we did.

I had no idea about the history of when women came into the profession, and yet all the time I was seeing stories about women not advancing and there were not enough women in leadership positions

I can’t claim any early entrepreneurial journey. There was no marketplace in Romania, it was Communist.

I enjoy being an inventor, so disruption wasn’t part of my motivation. I am interested in change and in progress and in changing people’s lives. That’s what excites me more than the idea of being labelled a disrupter.

It’s easy to determine who the first woman President of the Supreme Court was or who the pioneers were, but it is much more difficult to know who will be the women of the future. This is what we are looking for.

My father was an inventor and I think I learned from him that you can tweak things. You don’t have to rip everything apart for it to work better.

Changing people’s life direction and helping them achieve what they want makes me really happy.