Most Creative People 2015

ghftFast Company / Most Creative People 2015: Ayse Ildeniz / By Sarah Kessler

Wearable tech is useless if nobody wants to wear it. That’s why Ayse Ildeniz tapped fashion label Opening Ceremony to help Intel develop the stylish MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) bracelet, which she hoped would show the fashion world that tech could be visually appealing. The MICA cuffs—which went on sale in December at Opening Ceremony and Barneys—can display text messages, Gmail alerts, and Facebook event notifications, among other things. “Our vision at Intel is to make technology subtle, to have it integrated into everyday things,” says Ildeniz. “[The MICA is a way] to tell people it doesn’t have to look geeky.”

 Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

We have an incredible research and development lab, and every time I go to their den, I come out thinking, Oh my God, I had no idea that was possible. The other thing is I think being in touch with young people. We formed a small council within our group, tapping into the university students who are the interns at Intel, and we get with them, and we get with their ideas and creativity. Every quarter we form this council, and they will give us feedback on what we’re working on and what we’re not working on. And they’re very, very bright. Their ideas always keep me on my toes.

Besides work, what I actually do is travel. I travel like crazy. I’ve been to probably 80 countries around the world. Seeing these different cultures, understanding people, chatting with them, that’s the real thing. That’s the real world. And then I start thinking, how do I make a difference or how do I be a part of what this person’s life is?

I was traveling in Ethiopia four or five years ago. (I met someone) who had this cellphone that was very cheap. And the moment I met him, this kid who was 17 years old, he was going to be my guide, he wanted to friend me on Facebook. Today, it doesn’t sound interesting, I know. But then it was mindblowing. So I had a chat with him, and said, OK, what would be the ultimate cell phone, what would you want to have, what are the problems you have? So it’s that inspiration of interacting with the people who I meet is the biggest thing that inspires me.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

First of all, I use our Basis watch. It is the perfect thing to tell me how much I slept. For my sleep monitoring. I love it.

Then after that I like to tap into a couple of really big newspaper sites out of my cellphone or tablet. TheNew York Times here, or, I’m Turkish, so I look at the Middle Eastern news and Turkish news. Read the world news. To make sure I know what’s going on in my home territory.

And then as a woman, I must tell you, I do think about what I’m going to wear.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

This is my secret, and people will call me a geek, but I actually study dead languages. I study Sumerian. I study various Indo-European languages. I’m an archaeology buff.

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, whom I met on a number of occasions. Incredibly strong, phenomenal woman. I’ll never forget this story she told. She says that after nine years as prime minister, she visited a school, and there were a bunch of schoolgirls who crowded around her, and they said, we have a question: Are you sure our country is going to be OK being run by a man?

Imagine, these girls were worried about whether a man could run a country. She’s this huge inspiration and power. Every time I talk with her, she shows me that women can do anything, humans can do anything, once they put their minds do it.

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