This year the Women Techmakers Vienna event took place at the Vienna University of Technology on 10th March and I had the chance to listen the Keynote Kaitlyn Chang gave.
Kaitlyn has spent 10 years in the Samsung Group, most recently as Managing Director of its in-house creative agency, Cheil Worldwide, overseeing operations in Austria & Switzerland. She has received more than 45 international creative and innovation awards, including Cannes Lions, Clios and Webbys. Based in Vienna since 2012, she serves multiple roles as Head of Strategy & Innovation at Kobza and the Hungry Eyes (Kobza Media Group), Vice President and Founding Member of Women of Vienna, Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Lemmings I/O, and recently as co-founder and COO of e-commerce tech start-up, Sellvus.
Inspired by the courage she gave everyone through her speech, I met her in person for an interview. We met for lunch at an old Viennese coffeehouse where she warmly greeted me with her high energy.
“Doing projects well and running a company well are two drastically different things.”
To begin, I asked her how she decided to take the entrepreneurial path. She said that her experience in big corporations was a key trigger. “I learned so much from during my time in the Austrian branch office of the ad agency at Samsung, as it was my first time running an entire company. Doing projects well and running a company well are two drastically different things. At the time, I had a lot of difficulties and I basically ended my time there, deciding to close down the branch office and getting a severe burnout as a result.”
She repeatedly pointed out the importance of not giving up and starting from small pieces again, to build small networks that would grow and come together. “I started volunteering in organizations and consulting for small start-ups, where I learned a ton about actually being in one. I started an MBA, and through that met amazing colleagues, mentors and professors.”
“You can never get it ‘right,’ especially if you, as a woman, place the judging standards outside of yourself. The male-dominant society is still not used to ambitious women.”
Engaged by her motivation, my next question was on dealing with demotivation by people’s comments around her as a career women. She simply said, “Those comments do not deserve any consideration, period. I realized this throughout my career. When I was first here in Austria, my male bosses at headquarters kept telling me that I shouldn’t be too soft and friendly to my employees and clients. I learned over time, but then I was labeled as the hysteric, bitchy, woman boss. Pretty contradictory, right?
You can never get it ‘right,’ especially if you, as a woman, place the judging standards outside of yourself. The male-dominant society is still not used to ambitious women and there is always an excuse to talk them down. If you believe what you’re doing is right for you, comments shouldn’t matter anymore.”
However, she also mentioned another point in terms of women’s mindset towards start-ups. “My MBA thesis is on female employees in start-ups, trying to understand why they have such a low female employee ratio, when it is supposed to be the most innovative and forward-thinking industry of all. There seem to be many, mainly external, factors, but I see people who have ideas and the desire to do something on their own but can’t really jump ship right away. In my point of view, starting to work for start-ups gives you the experience and know-how, and acts as a great courage-builder. You don’t have to found the start-up yourself to work in one. Think of Sheryl Sandberg for example. She is not a named founder of Facebook but has a key role in the company. You can always be the person who has the right skills to grow a start-up too.”
For anyone trying to start their own business, Kaitlyn had some tools and events to recommend.
“I would recommend the Wirtschaftsagentur (Vienna Business Agency) workshops for Finance & Start-ups. Many are in English and for free. There are a lot of conferences these days. Cherry-pick and invest in a few big, high-quality and relevant ones, rather than going to ten small ones. When you’re at the conference, absorb as much as you can, go up to the speakers afterwards to ask further questions and connect. I also find Udemy online courses helpful, you can learn important skills there, for reasonable prices. To stay informed, Quartz newsletters, Handelsblatt newsletters and DerStandard’s Instagram stories, are all easily digestible.”
Lastly, she gave tips and tricks to stay motivated in our routines. She reminded that when you start doing multiple small projects, as she recommends, there will be a phase as a ‘beginner planner’, when you will be too optimistic about the time and won’t get it all done. It is a learning process. “In the beginning I often needed 4 hours for the tasks which I’d only planned 2 hours for. Now I am more realistic, and I plan my calendar 2 weeks in advance.”
“The more you create, the more likely that luck will get drawn to you.”
Although cliché, it is no secret that we sometimes wonder the role luck plays in success. She believes that luck is the consequence of your hard work and effort. “I think of luck as a huge transparent jellyfish that glides through the wind all the time. With every small attempt and reach-out and effort, you create an ‘opportunity hook’ that might be able to catch the giant jellyfish. That’s why the more you create, the more likely that luck will get drawn to you.”
picture credits: pixabay