Seema Khinda Johnson is the Co-Founder and COO of Nuggets.
Nuggets is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone – not even Nuggets.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’ve worked for a variety of companies including Skype and Microsoft, and gathered a lot of strategic experience leading teams and delivering large-scale commercialization, products, and projects. In 2016 I co-founded Nuggets, where I’m now the COO.
Nuggets is an ecommerce payments and ID platform that stores personal and payment data securely in the blockchain. That means you can pay, log in or verify your identity without having to share your data with anyone – including Nuggets itself.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not exactly – my career has grown fairly organically. I began as a production coordinator at a digital agency, managing technical and creative teams, and progressed into leading and managing delivery and operations. After that, I found myself building larger teams, and leading product and go-to-market for global businesses and start-ups.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
There have certainly been a few! The speed of the blockchain industry and how quickly the technology moves is something I haven’t experienced before. Additionally an ongoing challenge is hiring the best people and finding the right talent for the company to grow and scale to meet demand.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think it’s a great thing. Role models are essential to just about everything in life, and business is no exception. A good mentor does so many things. As well as sharing skills and expertise, they demonstrate the power of a positive attitude, showing as much as telling you how to progress. They have to be people who take a real personal interest in the mentoring relationship, giving guidance and constructive feedback all along the way. And they need to be goal-oriented, I think: setting and meeting goals for themselves and their mentee, personally and professionally.
Sponsors are just as important. Carla Harris gave a fantastic Ted talk on this topic – tearing apart the idea of a ‘lone wolf’ meritocracy, where individuals can get ahead by working hard. Instead, relationships should be forged with a sponsor, who will make your voice heard in meetings and have your back!
What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?
There’s definite momentum, but it’s going to take some time to see a more balanced playing field in tech. It’s a traditionally male-dominated industry, but given its immense role in the digital age, it’s critical that we reverse that trend. As a blockchain proponent, I’m of the strong opinion that the technology can be used for greater inclusion around the world.
I’d love to see more VC money made accessible to women leading great projects, so more female-driven startups can succeed. We need more female leaders and role models, not only in blockchain, but also in the wider tech industry. We need to raise their profile, to inspire girls and young women to pursue STEM subjects as a springboard into these industries. We need as many women interested in this industry as possible.
How would you encourage more young girls and women into a career in STEM?
I think there are three aspects to this. First, learning. These days anyone with a web connection can access years’ worth of educational materials – from webinars and books to technical papers – catering to every part of the learning curve. And this is such a nascent space – now is the time to dive in.
Then there’s support. We need to support each other by sharing learnings. Things move incredibly fast in this space, and we’re all experiencing different facets of blockchain technology.
And lastly, getting involved. Hackathons, meetups and social media are great ways to interact with other people involved in every area of blockchain. I’d strongly recommend attending meetups to connect with like-minded people. There are innumerable fields in each of the STEM disciplines, so it’s important for all women to explore them and discover their passions.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I think my work with Nuggets has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life. Given how new the technology is, it’s largely unchartered territory, and there are few precedents for tackling problems that arise. That said, the sense of satisfaction you get from finding a solution is unparalleled! We’ve come incredibly far already, receiving a number of awards and forging some hugely significant partnerships.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
There are so many answers to both of those! Nuggets is evolving into a movement for good: we really want to change the way companies hold and manage data. Across the world, we’re all forced to share a host of sensitive, valuable information just to make purchases or use services. That means sacrificing privacy and security. It’s something we’ve been conditioned to do over recent years, but it can’t go on. This model is fundamentally broken.
I’m so proud to be part of a project that gives people control back over their personal data. But I want to do much more. That’s why, at Nuggets,, we will always give a portion of transaction fees to charity. Of course we want to grow – but we want good causes to grow with us too.