At StartUp Terminal, we believe our diversity is our strength. As International Woman’s Day grows near, we celebrate the achievements of women around the world.
To kick off our celebration, we’ve asked Seattle-based Maria Dykstra, Co-founder and CMO of TreDigital, a few questions on her experience achieving success in the corporate world, and what advice she has for women globally.
ST: Please tell us briefly about you.
Maria: I moved to the US from Russia right after receiving my MBA at 22. My first job involved saying “thank you for calling Microsoft Product support” 100+ times a day. When I found a job at Microsoft Advertising, it was love at first sight. I stayed there for nearly 14 years working with top brands and helping grow the nascent ad business to a $1B in revenue.
In 2012 I left Microsoft to open a Digital Marketing Agency. I had no entrepreneurial experience or a backup plan and did not know where to start. Over time TreDigital, the agency I co-founded, grew from a 2-people consulting firm into a global team supporting clients on 4 continents. Our business model has been featured in several publications, including Entrepreneur.com.
ST: Who is a woman that inspires you the most and why?
Maria: Throughout my career, I’ve been surrounded by a strong network of fascinating female leaders. So, it is hard to just pick one.
But if I had to choose, it would be my grandmother. She was the most powerful role model in my life. Having gone through many hardships (the Russian Revolution, World War II, the famine, and personal tragedies) she never lost her spirit and drive. She was a true pioneer of female empowerment in the former Soviet Union: rising through the male-dominated ranks to become one of the few female department leaders at the pre-war factory.
When most young girls grow up listening to fairy tales, I still remember falling asleep to her real-life fascinating stories of survival and courage.
ST: How are you celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day?
Maria: Honoring International Women’s Day is a long-standing tradition in Russia. I was thrilled to see it turning into a meaningful movement in the last 10-15 years.
Just like in the previous years, I will be participating in several online panels and conferences that showcase women in tech and their achievements.
ST: What is the most important message you want to send out to all the women around the world on this occasion?
Maria: Believe in yourself. Be brave. Take on new challenges. Do not let anyone stop you.
ST: What according to you is ‘women empowerment’?
Maria: It means creating a safe, supporting, encouraging community. A community where everyone feels equally comfortable sharing their achievements and fears, where no one is being judged no matter how different they are or how much their beliefs deviate from “the norm”. A community where everyone is inspired to grow, learn and pursue their talents.
ST: What would you say are the main challenges facing women at present globally?
Maria: While the US is facing its gender gap issues, the rest of the world (especially, the developing countries) is still years behind. According to USAID, around the world, 62 million girls are not in school. Millions more are fighting to stay there. The key need is providing little girls with access to education and showing them that they have a voice and teaching them self-esteem. Allowing them to make career choices based on their unique abilities rather than gender biases or cultural stereotypes.
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