Popforms Leader Of The Week is a feature on our blog where we highlight an outstanding leader and share their insights on leadership, career, and being awesome at your job.
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Martina Welke believes that strong human relationships form the basis for a full, happy life, and this belief fuels her drive to create better opportunities for people to connect through Zealyst. Martina serves on the board of Seattle’s Women in Technology and as a Global Shaper in the World Economic Forum, both of which align with her passion for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. Martina enjoys running, yoga, dinner parties, and playing tug with her dog Xela- not necessarily in that order.
What’s your job title?
Cofounder & CEO, Zealyst
What do you actually do every day?
My days are spent primarily talking to current and prospective customers, partners, advisors and investors with the goal of improving and growing our business. I also spend a significant portion of each day working with our team on our product and adapting our strategy as we learn.
In ten words or less, what is your leadership philosophy?
Believe in people. Be compassionate when there are mistakes.
What company besides your own has an amazing culture? What do you like about it?
TinyPulse does a great job of keeping everyone connected to their customers and the meaning behind their work. At a startup it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day chaos and lose sight of the vision and heart of your company. TinyPulse’s founder, David Niu, has done several creative things to remind his employees of the positive impact they’re making on their customers and encourages everyone to take pride in their work.
What are the key qualities (in order of importance) that you look for in a great hire?
Perseverance – demonstrated ability to stay focused and committed when times are tough
Honesty- especially about the things that are difficult to discuss
Levity- we take fun very seriously
If you had to give career advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say?
I would tell myself to stop comparing myself to others and to get out of the “should” trap. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I “should” be doing and what success “should” look like. It ultimately slowed me down and made it harder to take the risks necessary to discover what I love doing- which looks nothing like what I imagined it would.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
I had dinner with a dear friend who is making some very difficult decisions about his company. I was blown away by his candor, and we both ended up sharing stories about some of the hardest moments we’ve experienced as founders. I’m always inspired by that kind of vulnerability- especially from leaders who face a lot of pressure to portray an infallible image. It’s so crucial to share our struggles in startups and build healthy, trusted support networks to lean on and learn from.
What were you like growing up?
I was called a tomboy from a very young age- always playing outside in the dirt and getting into mischief. I was also a voracious reader and loved to get lost in the many worlds books opened up for me. I enjoyed pulling pranks, especially on my little sister (sorry Monica!). To this day, April 1st is one of my favorite days of the year.
In your mind, what does it take for someone to be crazy successful?
A very strong internal compass, determination, and a nourishing community. Self-awareness and a clear sense of core values is key to success because of all the pressures leaders face and the scope of influence their decisions often have. Determination is crucial to being able to persevere through tough time- of which there will be many. Community is absolutely imperative. No one has ever achieved remarkable success alone.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Stay in choice. An executive coach introduced me to this concept during a time when I felt totally overwhelmed by my responsibilities and demands on my time. She pointed out that I was acting as if life was happening to me rather than actively asserting my agency and ability to change my circumstances. Reframing that experience fundamentally changed the way I approach my business and my personal life.
It eventually helped me to make some important changes (e.g. becoming more intentional about the obligations I agreed to and becoming comfortable saying “no”), and made me a much happier person.
What’s one of your favorite techniques for getting things done?
Exercise followed by bursts of focused activity. I usually get my best ideas when I’m running, and I’m always amazed by how much I can accomplish in the first couple of hours after I run.
Favorite books about career or business?
The Shift From One to Many – Chrismon Nofsinge
Give and Take – Adam Grant
Transitions – William Bridges
What does the most valuable person on your team do differently from anyone else?
This might be cheating a bit, but I don’t think there is a single most valuable person on our team. We each bring very different types of value and diverse perspectives to the table, which I think is exactly what make us effective.
What’s the coolest part of your job?
Constantly meeting creative people who believe they can make a positive impact in the world and are taking action, not waiting for an invitation or permission.
More Martina Welke:
Where do you live/work?
We’re based out of WeWork in South Lake Union.