Michele Malejki: Global Head, Sustainability & Social Innovation Programs, HP
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Michele Malejki to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Michele Malejki: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime. Climate change, gender equality, universal access to a quality education—none of these pressing global challenges will be solved overnight, nor by one person or organization alone. We need a more concerted effort and an intentional, cross-sectoral approach to collaboration.
Having worked for the public, private, and civil society sectors means I try to find innovative solutions and inclusive processes to achieve these ambitious goals. I truly believe that modern times call for modern approaches to philanthropy and social good. Truly sustainable impact requires more than writing a check or dropping technology in a classroom, and the ways in which we partner for social good at HP hopefully uniquely reflect that.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
MM: One of the innovative partnerships I’m most proud of is our partnership with UNICEF and the Clooney Foundation for Justice. We worked with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to enable better learning outcomes for about 3,500 Syrian refugee students in Lebanon, as well as thousands more of their Lebanese peers and teachers. We worked with the government to ensure teachers were trained on our technology before it ever entered the classroom. We surveyed teachers, students, and educators across Lebanon to ensure we were bringing solutions that truly mattered. The fact that all of this was happening during one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time created extra challenges for this program, but I am proud of what we’ve achieved and of the sustainable impact we are creating.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
MM: Developing a program that is bringing technology to schools with little electricity was certainly a challenge. Same with ensuring that teachers of all ages were comfortable, confident, and capable of using the technology and additional solutions. However, by keeping the communication lines open and inclusive, we were able to ultimately find the right fit and approach. We didn’t set out with a “one-party hero” approach. We worked with and listened to our partners and beneficiaries every step of the way, and it led to what is ultimately a successful result.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
MM: My inspiration comes from the fact that my work is never “done,” which means there is always opportunity for more growth, more learning, more connecting, and, ultimately, more innovation. We talk a lot at HP about how we can leverage technology to support and encourage lifelong learning, and I love that this resonates deeply with me and my own work experience.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
MM: Don’t be afraid to get out of your lane and broaden your perspective. I’ve worked in an investment bank, a rice field, a foundation run by a former U.S. president, and now, a tech company. Each of them led to a new experience that, ultimately, helped me to be a better innovator, and lifelong learner, today.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
MM: Inclusivity is the cornerstone of innovation.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.