Gemic

Meet the Gems

We are a team of serious thinkers and collaborators.

Explore the methods that power our engine room

Alex Cheston

Senior Strategist

Alex Cheston

Alex is a Senior Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office. 

He believes that culture can be measured; in sales volume, likes and other digital artifacts we create every day. At Gemic, he works to quantify culture for companies ranging from CPG to consumer tech, helping business leaders parse the hype from the real opportunity. 

Alex graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in English. Prior to joining Gemic, he worked in international development through the Princeton in Africa Fellowship in Kampala, Uganda. Outside of work, Alex loves adventure sports and spends his sunny Saturdays kitesurfing in Brooklyn. 

Caroline Laidlaw

Director of Operations

Caroline Laidlaw

Caroline is Gemic’s Global Director of Operations

Results oriented and empathetic, Caroline believes that no initiative can be successful without the involvement of the people who it aims to empower. Leveraging this philosophy, she brings over 10 years of operational and project delivery experience,  managing the lifecycle of strategy and innovation projects and enabling teams to yield human-centered solutions to complex problems. 

Caroline is Prince 2 certified and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland, with a major in Psychology. Formerly at Idea Couture, she led delivery excellence initiatives, the creation and management of a Project Management Office, and the integration of project delivery and operational systems into those of the parent company post-acquisition.

Charles Halvorson

Strategist

Charles Halvorson

Charles is a Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office. 

Recognizing that the present already holds the future, Charles uses his insight as a historian to help companies discern what will be valuable tomorrow and develop winning strategies to capture that value. 

Charles received his PhD in History from Columbia University, where his research explored the translation of popular ideas about environmental value into public policy over the past half-century. Prior to joining Gemic, Charles was a visiting professor at Wesleyan University. Forever a historian, Charles loves thinking deeply with clients about change over time.

Constance Mueller-Trimbusch

Operations Lead

Constance Mueller-Trimbusch

Constance is the Operations Lead in Gemic’s Berlin office.

Dave Archer

Senior Advisor

Dave Archer

Dave is a consumer insight and market strategy expert with 32 years of experience in identifying opportunities for Procter and Gamble to launch and grow brands and businesses. He was inducted into P&G’s ‘Brand Mastery Society’ in recognition of a life-long career of brand-building. He’s guided the launch, growth and sometimes the revitalizing of dozens of household-name brands in multiple countries, categories, and market contexts.

Dave’s skills in insights and pattern recognition, honed over decades, enable him to rapidly ‘see the wood for the trees’ and highlight where to focus to maximize the value of your ideas for both you and your customers.

Dave received a first-class honors degree and MA in Human Geography from Cambridge University, and has served on the advisory boards of several US universities.

Elisabeth Bennett

Director of Strategy

Elisabeth Bennett

Elisabeth is a Director based in Gemic’s Toronto office.

A storyteller and visualizer at heart, Elisabeth believes in building bridges between business strategists, insights specialists and designers. Her passion for human understanding and delivering solutions – to healthcare industries in particular – is deeply shaped by her philosophy that good strategy is both a critical and creative endeavour; an art as much as it is a science.

Elisabeth holds a diploma in Fashion Design and a B.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology, Literary Studies and Political Science from The University of Toronto. Over the past 11 years, she’s been immersed in both brand and innovation strategy worlds, coming to Gemic from her role as Head of Strategy of the Health Team at innovation firm Idea Couture.

Jehanne Wyllie

Strategy Lead

Jehanne Wyllie

Jehanne is a Strategy Lead in Gemic’s New York office, where she also spearheads Gemic’s thought leadership.

She believes that the most impactful brands tell the most compelling stories, not just about goods, but about the future; and not just through marketing, but through a unique value logic, innovation process and exchange with everyday people. As a result, she embraces challenges that combine insight, strategy and innovation, helping to galvanize and focus growth around a clear future vision for companies in the tech, luxury, apparel and CPG space.

Jehanne graduated from Williams College with degrees in English Literature and American Studies. As a national Herchel Smith Fellow, she went on to study Anthropology at Cambridge University and apprentice at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. A quintessential millennial, she boasts several occupational past lives and stints overseas that shape her self image as “a woman who knows a little about a lot.”

Jere Seikkala

Director of Strategy

Jere Seikkala

Jere is a Director in Gemic’s Berlin office. 

He believes that human value and business value intertwine, focusing his efforts on helping European companies align their strategy with emerging paradigms of what people truly find meaningful. Over several years at Gemic, he has duly guided business leaders across FMCG, finance, tech and luxury toward sustained growth, helping them identify and innovate around new engines of value in European, Asian and American markets.  

Jere holds a Master’s in International Relations from the London School of Economics. Prior to Gemic, he worked in a variety of fields ranging from construction and nursing, to manufacturing and foreign affairs, which trained him to intuitively connect pragmatic know-how with abstract theoretical knowledge. Wherever he is in the world, he likes to start the day with a run, soaking in all he can of the local air and culture.

Johannes Suikkanen

Founder & Chairman

Johannes Suikkanen

Johannes is the Founder and Chairman of Gemic. Based in New York, he advises executives in fashion, automotive, tech and FMCG on how to respond to cultural, structural and behavioral change.

To do this, he believes in starting with the right questions: What business are banks really in? What role do “indulgences” actually play in our lives? Where is the value in being an “iconic” brand? In helping executives arrive at the right questions, Johannes has helped top-tier companies define their markets and create meaningful value for shareholders and everyday people. 

Johannes received his Master’s degree in Business and Culture studies from Copenhagen Business School and studied at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. Besides serving as a mentor across Gemic’s professional and intellectual community, he is an avid Arctic skier.

Josef Wieland

Senior Strategist

Josef Wieland

Josef is a Senior Strategist based in our New York office.

He believes that emerging value and business opportunities are found on the fringes of what is socially acceptable. At Gemic, Josef uses his research expertise to help guide business leaders through the cultural logics and webs of meaning where value resides.

He earned a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine where he studied the intersection of global mineral markets and new age spirituality. Outside of the office, Josef will be on a bicycle tour or playing with his dog, Snax – sometimes both!

Jun Lee

Partner

Jun Lee

Jun is a Partner in Gemic’s New York Office, where he brings 20 years of experience in research and product development in communications, digital media use, automotive mobility, and home life. 

His long career has been defined by a desire to understand why people embrace, reject, and in some cases, appropriate technologies in unanticipated ways. At Gemic, this translates into a desire to help companies reimagine the ways technology might change how people work, socialize, and connect to one another. 

Jun has a Master’s degree in Design from the Institute of Design and an BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University and has lived abroad in Seoul and Copenhagen before returning to New York.

Justin Harnoss

Director of Strategy

Justin Harnoss

Justin is a Director in Gemic’s Berlin office. 

As a digital entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience developing successful business models and a former Product Owner and Agile Coach, he is passionate about translating strategy into actual products and coaching agile teams to work at their best.  

Justin holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and an MSc in International Management from Instituto de Empresa, Madrid. Before Gemic, he worked at McKinsey & Company leading strategy and innovation projects across firms such as Siemens, BMW, Deutsche Bank, and Adidas. Later he served as COO to Digital McKinsey’s Berlin Studio, growing the design and engineering team and building new technology businesses for clients from scratch. An Improvisation Theater enthusiast, Justin sometimes performs in Berlin. 

Katalin Kleemann

Director of Strategy

Katalin Kleemann

Katalin is a Director at Gemic’s New York office.

She believes that good strategy is all about helping organizations shape clear pathways towards an internally shared vision of a desirable future, based on a thorough and systemic understanding of today’s reality as well as a good dose of logic, creativity, and cultural awareness.

Katalin has 10+ years of industry experience (focused on CPG, food and beverages, consumer health and technology) and holds a Master’s degree in Communications from the University of Arts Berlin. A born and raised German and half Hungarian who has traveled extensively, while living in London and New York for most of her adult life, she has not only developed strong cultural fluency but also a rather odd accent.

Lindsay McComas

Operations Lead

Lindsay McComas

Lindsay is Operations Lead in Gemic’s New York office, where she brings 16 years of administrative support and operations experience

Lindsay believes that a careful, yet efficient approach to Operations Management is key to cultivating a successful office culture. She brings a wealth of technical knowledge of office systems, policies, and procedures married with quick thinking, excellent customer service, and communication skills. 

Lindsay holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Susquehanna University, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Prior to Gemic, Lindsay worked for an interior design & architecture firm specializing in public libraries and cultural institutions, affording her the opportunity to learn more about service design, community engagement strategies and processes, and strategic planning practices.

Liubava Shatokhina

Senior Anthropologist

Liubava Shatokhina

Liubava is a Senior Anthropologist in Gemic’s Helsinki office. 

She believes that anthropological imagination paired with critical thinking can uniquely inform complex business decisions. Intensely curious about human behavior and the cultural factors that shape it, Liubava has worked with companies across automotive, tech, food, facility management and more to develop systemic approaches to innovation and growth. 

Liubava holds three master’s degrees, in the philosophy of culture, comparative sociology, and cultural anthropology. Before joining Gemic, Liubava worked as a researcher at the Center for Science and Technology Studies at the European University at St. Petersburg, taught social science in and outside academia, and organized art events to foster social change. She is an avid fan of art film: there is a good chance she has been to your local independent movie theater.

Mara Block

Senior Strategist

Mara Block

Mara is a Senior Strategist in Gemic’s New York office.

By uncovering what’s meaningful to consumers across different industries, she leads organizations to better business decision-making. Her work at Gemic involves two main functions: 1) immersing herself in the worlds of everyday people to explore changing relationships to things like health, money, time, identity, and technology; and 2) developing commercial strategies out of a deep understanding of the human experience. 

Before joining Gemic, Mara’s advisory work spanned projects ranging from designing an innovative operating model for a new university in an emerging market to developing a human-centric go-to-market strategy for a big data consultancy. A teacher at heart, Mara is a former professor who developed award-winning courses on anthropology and global health & health policy at Harvard University. Mara is also a flying trapeze instructor. She holds a PhD in religion and the history of medicine from Harvard and a BA in physics from the University of Redlands.

Michael Wang

Strategy Lead

Michael Wang

Michael is a Strategy Lead in Gemic’s New York office. 

He believes the most effective strategic decisions are informed equally by people and technology, individuals and systems, art and science. Michael has ten years of consulting experience and has worked across many sectors including the technology, automotive, and luxury industries. 

With a B.A. in Social Anthropology from Harvard, an M.A. in Performance Studies From NYU and a Masters of Architecture from Princeton, Michael combines the tools of social science, cultural analysis, and design in his approach to strategy and innovation. Outside of this work, Michael creates artworks that engage the systemic underpinnings of contemporary life, with a focus on the intersection of art, architecture, and ecological systems.


Minette Yao

Director of Strategy

Minette Yao

Minette is a Director in Gemic’s New York office.

She believes the way forward for culture lies in the hands of people and businesses willing to ask themselves “how does culture work, and what is our place in powering it forward?” She’s particularly interested in the physical world: the objects we interact with on a day-to-day basis and the meaning we ascribe to them. With this theory of ‘things’ in mind, she consults clients in food, packaged goods, footwear and apparel, consumer tech, healthcare, and financial services to build robust ideas and grounding principles for what businesses should do today in order to create meaningful impact on the world tomorrow.

Minette holds a Bachelors in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University, and a Masters in Material and Visual Culture from University College London. She came to New York by way of North Carolina, with pit stops in the UK, Malaysia, Tanzania, and Czech Republic. No matter which city she finds herself in, she can be found trawling new neighborhoods and streets for on-the-ground clues about what’s mundane and what’s extraordinary.

Montana Blair

Senior Strategist

Montana Blair

Montana is a Senior Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office.

Otto Utti

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Otto Utti

Otto is Gemic’s Managing Partner. 

Based in New York City, he has spent the past 15 years advising many of the world’s leading companies on innovation and corporate strategy.

Trained as a social scientist, Otto believes the most successful strategies start with a systemic understanding of how the evolution of culture, technology and human behavior gives rise to new sources of consumer value. He uses this approach to empower business leaders to proactively shape the future of their industry, rather than reacting to market conditions created by other players.  

Otto holds a Master’s degree in political economy from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor’s in political science from the University of York (UK). Having grown up and lived in five countries, he is embarrassed to admit being fluent in only two languages.

Penny Lau

Strategist

Penny Lau

Penny is a Strategist based in Hong Kong. 

She believes that we live in stories we tell ourselves, others and of our surroundings, and by making sense of these unspoken narratives reflected in our physical and non-physical environment, we can foresee the natural next steps and respond with the so-called innovations that are bound to happen. 

Penny graduated from Northwestern University with a BSc in Journalism. She has a not-so-distant past as a financial reporter in Beijing and as a field researcher going into more than 50 countries to analyze inflation data while looking for stories about people in their cultures.

Pierre Lee

Strategist

Pierre Lee

Pierre is a Strategist based in Gemic’s Toronto office.

He believes that the most impactful strategies surface the unexpected intersections of people, places, and practices. During his time at Gemic, Pierre has helped gather insights and develop strategies around the future of F&B, mobility and the creative economy – working with leading automotive and technology companies.

Pierre holds a degree in Human Geography from the University of Manchester, and a Master’s degree in Heritage & Museums from the University of Cambridge. Prior to Gemic, Pierre contributed to a book that profiled the forgotten stories of World War 1 soldiers inscribed on the Cenotaph, a war memorial in Singapore. Outside the office, Pierre can be found experimenting in the kitchen preparing for weekly supper clubs.

Rowland Hobbs

Senior Advisor

Rowland Hobbs

  • Senior Advisor

Rowland is a Senior Advisor at Gemic, advising clients on brand, growth, organizational design, marketing communication, crisis management and product strategies. 

Rowland is the co-founder of Stake, the first loyalty program to invest in renters. Working at the intersection of customer experience and social purpose, he has also created products and branded experiences for companies in banking, tech, financial services, the arts, interiors, and fashion, and been on boards of social impact funds. 

Previously, he ran design and innovation at Teneo, a CEO advisory firm, and was head of product design for Accenture North America. His work has been nominated for an Emmy and he has been recognized for design Fast Company and Forbes. Rowland holds a M.A. in philosophy from K.U. Leuven, Belgium and lives in Manhattan, New York.

Sahar Hadidimoud

Strategy Lead

Sahar Hadidimoud

Sahar is a Strategy Lead in Gemic’s Berlin office.

She believes that Futurists don’t predict “The Future”, but use foresight to describe what could and, in some cases, should happen in the future. Effectively applying foresight to robust insight, Sahar develops strategies and translates these into tangible roadmaps to help clients act today and shape their tomorrow. She has designed and led strategy and innovation projects for international clients across public, private, and third sectors, advising on everything from the future of work to philanthropic donation, consumer healthcare, payments, snacking, and the future of mobility. A strong believer that good enough isn’t, Sahar interrogates the nuances of behaviours, practices, and processes to find ways to be better, and do better.

Sahar holds a degree in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Oxford, and had lived and worked in the UK, Netherlands, Iran, Vietnam, Finland, and Germany.

Sakari Tamminen

Partner & Co-Founder

Sakari Tamminen

Sakari is Gemic’s Co-Founder. Based in the Toronto office, he helps technology companies humanize emerging technologies and reimagine the future of customer experience. 

He believes in leveraging insight from the world of biological governance, bioinformatics infrastructures and cultural theories of the non-human and technology to develop the kind of experience strategy, new business models and future scenarios that guide clients towards actionable and prosperous tomorrows. 

Sakari, holds a PhD in Social Psychology and Anthropology from Helsinki University, and a pre-doctoral degree in user-centric design from the Aalto University School of Engineering. He was formerly a Visiting Researcher at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, a Research Fellow at Austria’s Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Science and an Adjunct Professor in Anthropology at the University of Helsinki. As an active member of the academic community, Sakari continues to publish in scholarly work. 

Sam Chen

Senior Strategist

Sam Chen

Sam is a Senior Strategist in Gemic’s Berlin office. 

She believes in tackling growth and innovation challenges by bridging human-centric thinking and business analysis, and her work at Gemic focuses primarily on consulting consumer goods, retail, technology and finance companies. A world citizen, who grew up in Shanghai before living and studying across the US and Europe, Sam also translates her deep understanding of various cultures to help clients carve out a winning position in global markets. 

Sam holds a Master’s degree in international political economy from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor’s in economics from Emory University. Before Gemic, Sam worked with Mythic Films in Los Angeles, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Beijing, and McKinsey & Company in Shanghai. A city dweller who enjoys getting out of her comfort zone, she surmounted her first monster hiking challenge last summer on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Sofia Lesur Kastelein

Strategist

Sofia Lesur Kastelein

Sofia is a Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office.

She believes that the best decision-making is attuned to socio-historical context and attentive to on-the-ground experiences. Starting from the premise that “the economy” is inseparable from social and cultural life, Sofia develops an understanding of how norms vary across time and space to help clients rethink the practices we take for granted and imagine future directions.

Sofia holds a Master’s in Social Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in History, both from the London School of Economics. Prior to joining Gemic, Sofia carried out research for Doctors Without Borders and the Mexican Embassy in London, worked in the heritage sector and was a translator for small trade unions. Outside of Gemic, she can be found enjoying long conversations over a home-cooked meal.

Stuart Montgomery

Strategist

Stuart Montgomery

Stuart is a Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office. 

Stuart brings the belief that strong foresight marries a fine-grain understanding of human behavior with a macro-understanding of the systems in which they exist. Combining his research background in cognitive science and anthropology, in topics ranging from the aesthetics of urban farming to algorithmic transparency, Stuart works with clients to develop their understanding of everyday human behavior and the actors that shape it. 

He graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Cognitive and Brain Sciences and Anthropology, with a concentration in the anthropology of science and technology. Prior to Gemic, he worked in the non-profit sector in housing reform and legal advocacy

Sufyan Dabbous

Strategist

Sufyan Dabbous

Sufyan is a Strategist based in Gemic’s New York office.

He believes that successful innovation hinges on a strong diagnosis of the phenomena that shape people’s lives. Beginning with his academic research into published quantitative analyses of the socio-economic impacts of corruption & globalization, Sufyan has honed an ability to measure and interpret the impact of these phenomena on future opportunities for companies ranging from PepsiCo to Procter & Gamble.

Sufyan graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. Prior to Gemic, Sufyan worked on the capital markets side of the New York real estate industry and for an AI-enabled knowledge network in Hong Kong. In addition to a stint in Hong Kong, he has lived in Cairo, Beirut, Philadelphia and London. When not in the office, he can be found running on the streets of the Lower East Side.

XingJian Li

Strategist

XingJian Li

XingJian is a Strategist in Gemic’s New York office. 

She strives to understand how context shapes people — and how people shape their contexts. XingJian believes people are not only “consumers,” “users,” or “humans,” but actors embedded in cultural norms, economic systems, and social structures. She brings contextualized strategy to clients across industries and geographies: from commercial trucks in the U.S. to menstrual care in China, XingJian approaches every question with rigor, empathy, and imagination. 

XingJian graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Before Gemic, she served as the Executive Director for a gender and racial justice nonprofit, and worked at McKinsey & Company in New York. She has lived in four countries and likes to host potlucks.

Zach Safford

Strategy Lead

Zach Safford

Zach is a Strategy Lead who oversees Gemic’s West coast operations. 

He believes that the best strategy is born out of a simple formula: the right conversation, with the right people, at the right time. Zach was Gemic’s first full time employee in New York and has played a key role in building out Gemic’s retail, CPG, and automotive practice. 

He has an MSc in Design Ethnography from the University of Dundee in Scotland and a BA in History and Theater from Williams. Outside of work, Zach runs an upcycling side hustle with his wife and is an avid hiker and camper.