Vera Sprothen is a German-Australian journalist and economist who worked for the Wall Street Journal before becoming a published author. Vera considers herself a writer, but says that her title changes depending on who you ask. At the moment, she is also an editor, storyteller, author, surf instructor, surf lifesaver and Mother.
What path has your career taken?
Journalist is the label I’ve worn for most of my life. I used to be the classical reporter, roaming the streets for a good story. When I was 17, I started as a rookie at the local newspaper in my hometown in Germany. My weapons were a typewriter, a notebook and a pen. And my curiosity. Google didn’t exist back then, so if you wanted information, you had to venture out and meet people: vain politicians, corrupt real estate developers, prisoners, fashion designers, dog breeders. I loved it. Learning about the world – and getting paid for it.
My Dad thought journalism wouldn’t make a good career, so I became a political economist. But I never worked as one. I was hooked on words instead. I worked for lifestyle magazines, for newswires, for a radio station, as a foreign correspondent in Australia and as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, America’s largest daily newspaper. When I left that job a few years ago, journalism had burnt me out. The whole industry has changed so much amid a surge in free online news. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of desperation in traditional media. But demand for good stories and clear writing is still as alive as ever. There’s a need for people who can make complex ideas digestible for the layman. That’s what I do.
What brought you/brings you to Amsterdam?
I just published a book that I wrote with my former colleague, Nicoló Andreula, and thought Amsterdam would be the perfect place to launch it because of the buzzing startup and freelance economy here. Did you know that only about every third person in the Netherlands still has one of those traditional permanent full-time jobs? Our book talks about this trend and our increasingly messy lives, where everything is getting automated, digitalised and ready to pop. We say “home is where the Wi-Fi is”, we share more than we own and our boss is an algorithm. But unlike our parents we have no clear idea how to make it to retirement. We say we go with the flow, but the truth is: we’re all over the place, unsure about the future. Our book is a survival guide for our generation, the “Flow Generation”. How will we earn money tomorrow? What do we need to learn to stay afloat in a world where everything changes in a blink? Will we ever afford our own home? Our book has answers.
How long have you stayed at Zoku, and what were your thoughts?
I stayed for a day and loved it. It’s unlike any other co-working space I’ve seen. It felt more like a boutique hotel. I spent hours snug in an armchair with my laptop near the fireplace. We had a bit of a brainstorming session with fresh peppermint tea, while someone played guitar in the background and the kitchen staff cranked up the pizza oven. I mean, how much more relaxed can it get? And interestingly, when your body and mind relax, that’s usually when you have your best ideas.
What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?
Oh, come on, you know I’m biased. Obviously, I’m recommending “Flow Generation” a lot, simply because it contains so many inspiring stories of people who figure out how to manage the great uncertainty of life and find their own way – as freelancers, job jugglers, solopreneurs and career changers.
Another great book I’d recommend is “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It will get you to drop your fears and be creative for the sake of creativity itself.
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
Keep going. Stop paying so much attention to what others are doing. Stop comparing yourself.
Has your time at Zoku helped you in business or in life? If so, how?
Both. Because it offered me a space where I could feel comfortable, recharge and connect with new people in a city I was only visiting for a weekend.
If you could pick one project to work on for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh, that’s tricky. I’m not a make-a-decision-forever-and-ever person. I actually enjoy the fact that we are always changing and that life is a big collection of many different moments, events, people and projects that all leave a mark on you and help you grow in ways you never imagined. Trying to control life is like trying to nail custard to a wall.
What does home mean to you?
Home is where the ocean is.