Interview with Katarzyna Stoltmann, WiBD Berlin Chapter Co-Director.
This is the first in a series of interviews that our EMEA lead Tina Rosario plans to conduct with the chapter directors in EMEA. It is an exciting initiative! Conducting interviews with the chapter directors will provide valuable insights and perspectives from leaders in various regions in EMEA.
I try to give them the same or at least similar feelings that I received from the Women in Big Data Munich and Women in Big Data Global (our culture). The first event of Women in Big Data that I participated in was in Munich. I was invited to be keynote (on AI and healthcare) and I really didn’t know what to expect at all. To be honest, I was even very afraid of this event. It was my very first women’s event. In the end, I got so much inspired by the very warm, kind, friendly and open atmosphere, so I decided to start a new chapter in Berlin – as there was no chapter yet and I really wished to share these incredible perceptions with women in Berlin too.
So: How do I try to inspire in Berlin? I try to implement some of the top hints for modern leadership: First of all with being enthusiastic (and realistic – aligning transparent clear goals and the progress monitoring as well as challenging it). Enthusiasm is considered as a powerful motivator. It empowers us to achieve our dreams. Expressing compliments give people positive reinforcement and they feel recognized and of course appreciated – which is extremely important and builds the team members up. I’ve also learned in (leadership) trainings that it’s very important to be at peace with oneself, as first then I can act with integrity, which is also very important to inspire all. Even though I love to talk a lot, I try to be a strong listener to capture the passions of others and I also love to share my passions with the community. It’s nothing that I think about actively, it happens naturally.
I have learned from a great leader that I have been the pleasure to work with to follow the motto “who am I to decide on it?” in the context of users or in this case of community members and participants. Therefore, in our chapter, we follow very different strategies for events’ topics finding: We ask our participants during networking time (of each event): How did they like the event and the topics as well as the agenda? Which topic would they like to learn during one of the upcoming events and which format would they prefer? One idea grow up, when talking to our great partner Meta (Regina Umbach and Sacha Nikita Kraft) during one of our events at Meta: They recommended to us “Fast Forward Training” and we have organized it together thanks to our sponsor – this time online to give the WiBD global (not only Berlin) the opportunity to prepare a vision for the next year (we did it in December).
We have been monitoring trends on the market and thus try to offer the top topics during the events as well to offer the access to the global top leaders on the topics – as we have for instance done with the event at SAP in cooperation with AWS. I was listening to a podcast of Tina Rosario (our WiBD EMEA lead) on A Data-Minded Organization and Nahia Orduña (Co-Founder of WiBD Munich) on The future of work-Tips on how to build a career in Sustainability. After the podcasts, I was dreaming about an event with these two smart and inspiring data leaders in our Berlin chapter to transfer the global knowledge to our community. And it happened! The dream came true! I couldn’t believe it: Tina Rosario arrived from Paris and Nahia from Munich, and they shared their experience with the Berlin chapter.
Latest event was an inspiration from a mentoring program. Marina Alekseeva (global mentoring and career development lead of WiBD) conducted an exciting online career coaching event. We welcomed participants from Munich, Paris, Mexico, Russia, US, and of course Berlin and Potsdam. So, with the onsite events, we try to offer global knowledge transfer to our community and with the online events, we offer the transfer globally to all WiBD chapters in the world. We also always try to tag many chapters and friends from our global network to promote them and invite them that way to the events.
First of all, for us, a community is not a group of people. For us to create a community means a longer process as we perceive it as building a huge team and thus a relationship, that as all relationships must be built and maintained. Thereby, it’s important to keep in mind that we all are just humans and luckily, we all are different, and we have to respect it. And exactly this diversity makes it very exciting. So, there are many aspects and steps to consider while creating a community: inclusivity and openness – at our community EVERYONE is welcome (therefore, we very often ask men to be also invited speakers at our events) – the more different cultures and professional backgrounds the more exciting, kindness – it’s important that EVERYONE and EVERY participant of an event feels very warm welcomed and feels special, respect – we respect opinions and wishes of all and it’s important that everyone feels respected, trust and safety – it’s important to create a safe space to everyone. For instance, we know that not everyone uses LinkedIn, therefore we invite our community to the events via LinkedIn, Eventbrite, e-mail addresses and of course privately. We always ask our community for feedback so they know that they can shape the great Women in Big Data Berlin team. A very important aspect is also the continuity: We all are very busy but it’s important to take the time and to communicate and meet up on a regular basis – like with friends or family. And thus, we try to offer different kinds of events regularly to give the chance to our community to meet again and it’s wonderful to see how many friends come again and again.
It’s also very wonderful to see teenagers or families at our events – it feels so special. We had once a daughter of a speaker, who found at our event a place for her next girls’ day. It felt so incredible to see that we can also support our younger community. So, we mean it very from the bottom of our hearts: EVERYONE is very welcome at our events.
Last but not least, we ask our friends on LinkedIn to follow our website to keep updated.
Our speakers and we try to be very creative. So, for instance at the event at Meta, our community had the chance to use metaverse – so cool and futuristic – thank you very much to Regina and Nik. In addition, we got a tour into the magic offices of Meta. At our event at SAP, our community got the chance to play around with state-of-the-art dashboards. Our speaker used menti – to make the talk as interactive as possible, which was an amazing success. We have a partnership with stackstream, where we also had our online event. We are supporting the Women+ in Data and AI festival (a full day of tech talks and a night of techno parties). We have the pleasure to have a very talented communication leader, Aliya Boranbayeva. She creates very nice recap videos to keep the events in best memories. After almost all events, videos or pictures are created to allow our community to remember the event.
Aliya had the great idea to start an interview series with role models, where we introduce inspiring women in big data to our community. The idea is to promote the great women and of course to inspire our community by their stories. During events, we sometimes have awards, like books. Due to support for other initiatives, we have for instance free tickets for our community. We usually also hyperlink our community, our sister chapters to make them visible to the world. Of course, if someone doesn’t like it, we respect it. We also like and re-share the content of our community and of all chapters to spread their word and support them. During the events, we try to connect the people together to introduce the new team members to give them the opportunity to speak in person with experts and maybe to get e. g. professional promotion or a new position.
I met Oksana Rasskazova, the co-founder and co-director of Women in Big Data Berlin, at Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft six years ago, where we worked on our doctoral theses. I knew that she would like to get into the business tech world and after I got inspired in Munich, I thought a network building would be also a great opportunity for Oksana (and that she also would like to find a company, which is similar to starting a network). Thus, I asked her to co-find the network with me. Luckily, she said “yes”. Oksana and I met Aliya at one of our events at Meta: She asked us if we need support and we said “yes, especially in communication”. Luckily, she is an international communication consultant – very interested in data storytelling. In that way, we gained Aliya as our communication lead. Diana found our job advertisement at our LinkedIn website and just contacted me. She also drives our communication – together with Aliya. So, also the way we build our team is very different, what is also very exciting.
I am pretty structured. My previous colleagues always said that I build structure into structure – this is indeed true. Luckily, Oksana is it too. So, we have implemented the scrum methodology into our chapter. We work in sprints, where a sprint has three weeks. At the beginning of the year, we create an annual plan / goals and in the middle of the year we adjust it. As a core team, we work very closely together, have our communication chat and exchange ideas on a regular basis (not only during the meetings). On LinkedIn, we share updates regularly – at least once a week. The interviews appear monthly. In person events are at least quarterly and in addition we have online events and mentorship programs (in cooperation with the global team). Seeing that we have created a true global community within one year, the community is happy and getting feedback that the events were supportive (like the above with girls’ day) is always so much motivating me to keep going to support others on their development path. So, the community is the reason for me to keep going – even on very busy days. Being a part of the women in big data global is such a pleasure for us and transferring the knowledge from all over the world to Berlin is making me extremely happy. As I am a very positive person, I always try to at least share the positive energy with the community.