In celebration of International Women’s Day we interviewed four business women to understand what is essential for success. Demi Markogiannaki’s shares her advice.
Demi Markogiannaki possesses an internal need to help others succeed, this drive has found her a perfect home as the sales and marketing force behind WeTeachMe, an experience booking website. As one of four co-founders she has been there from the start to see what works and understands what’s key to getting a brilliant idea off the ground.
What are the top lessons you learned along the way to building a tech company?
I believe that a great company is one that listens to the customer. During the first four years of the company, as head of sales, I was the first person to go out there. I would talk to people and try to understand what their main issues and goals are, and then bring back tons of product feedback from our customers to my co-founders. We then took all that valuable information and used it to build and improve not only our product but even our business model.
I’ve also found that if you are passionate enough about what you do, no obstacle is insurmountable. For example, I love connecting with people and understanding their issues and goals. I’m driven to help those in need and I find great fulfilment in that. Whether it’s assisting someone to create a sustainable business or encouraging them to follow their passion and become great at what they do. I find it rewarding that I’m part of a world that is constantly evolving and becoming a better place to live. The main reason I’ve thrived in sales and marketing in WeTeachMe is because it’s simply the perfect role for me at this time in my life.
What can young girls do to get into the tech industry?
Whatever it is you choose to do, whether that’s to get into technology or something else altogether, and I really believe in this:
“Always try to put yourself out there, seek out people who have achieved great things and learn whatever you can from their experiences.”
I’ve found that it’s one of the best ways to learn.
When I first came here from Greece, I had no connection to the Australian reality. I’m a woman, I have an accent, I didn’t even have any background in business. In my line of work, these can be impediments if you let them. But if you are clear about your goals, you can choose to be empowered, to become more and achieve more. It can be hugely liberating to be able to have a dream and achieve it, regardless of where you came from.
Occasionally, I’ve been invited to speak at public forums, and foreign women in the audience would approach me to ask for advice and guidance, even to share their own failures and fears. I suppose they identify with my story. It’s always been inherent in me to want to help people achieve their dreams and fulfil their potential and so, experiences like these are quite heart-warming, to say the least. I’m always very open to giving advice and sharing insights from my personal and professional perspective. I talk about my life, adversities I’ve faced, how I managed to overcome them, what made me tough, what broke me, what got me up and kept me going.
Do you have a top tip for women partnering in business with others?
Across the founders and the rest of the team, we have assorted backgrounds – an equal mix of genders and different nationalities working across geographic borders. I’d like to think it’s a very typical representation of Australia as a society, where everyone is celebrated, regardless of your origins and beliefs. At the end of the day, it’s about finding A+ players that present a good match for our organisational culture, and I’m happy that we’ve been able to build a super team that have a great understanding and respect for each other.
As we are still very small, each founder has equal influence over decision making whilst being accountable for his or her respective area of work. For me, it is sales and marketing and of course, for any decision that may impact our business. Challenges are constantly there and every single day we run into a different one. What’s important is that the resilience to overcome them should not only be in the nature of the business; it must also be in ourselves as individuals and as a unit.
What can women do to make sure their ideas are heard?
I know that women sometimes can be scared to do things that they haven’t done before. I had similar issues when I first came to Australia, I remember the feeling of discomfort and the fear of failure. These are legitimate responses to difficult or unfamiliar conditions, but I realised that no one is going to punish you for working hard and making an effort. Even though occasionally you may fail to achieve great results. It happens.
With my team, I try to encourage this culture of acceptance and openness. I would get more upset if I see someone giving in to their fear, making an excuse about not taking the next step, and saying “I’m not good enough”. It’s part of our team values to challenge and help others become better people. So, I tell them, “Please go ahead and make mistakes.” There may be disappointing results at times, but the results are never as disappointing as never taking action.
Get all the answers
To learn more from other talented business women read our International Women’s Day feature or interview with Renee Gangemi. Watch out for more women’s business profiles to be featured throughout the month of March.