Re-posted from Forbes.
There are few people I’ve met in my career that have more energy and endurance than I do. Ekaterina Walter is one of those rare people. In fact, when describing Ekaterina to people before they meet her I often say: “Imagine me, only with more energy, minus the caffeine, from Russia, holding an international MBA, successful at being a mom and a wife… oh, and add in a penchant for rhinestone-studded clothing.”
Ekaterina has been a mentor, a client and a soundboard for me over the years and is so focused on being the change (the ratio) that we all see in the world, I had to sit down with her and get her to share with the world the insights and inspiration I’ve had to myself all these years.
Name: Ekaterina Walter
Hometown: Grew up in Krasnodar, Russia
Current City: Portland, Oregon
Employer & Job Title: Intel; Social Media Strategist
Educational Background: BA in Marketing/Management/Finance; Global MBA from Thunderbird; Project Management Professional (PMP) certification
Previous Work Experience: Accenture, Wells Fargo Investments, Wedbush Morgan Securities
LB: What drives you? What motivates you to get out of bed, stay late and / or work on the weekends?
EW: New challenges. The opportunity to be a pioneer, to create something from scratch in an unchartered territory. Desire to achieve excellence every day. Learning something new constantly. Help people be the best they can be.
LB: On your website, you express, “I love doing webinars because this is an opportunity for me to share my experiences with the world and hopefully contribute to someone’s success.” What experiences do you find most valuable to share?
EW: Anything people are interested in hearing really. I believe in sharing what we learn as none of us can be experts in everything. And if we have an opportunity to share some great lessons we learned along the way, it is also our responsibility to do so. In social specifically I noticed there is a severe lack of concrete dos and don’ts, how-tos, and tips/tricks. So I try to focus on concrete lessons and what works and doesn’t work for a specific topic based on my experience. I test a lot and take risks every now and then to see how we might potentially approach things differently and I think these are the things my fellow marketers like to hear about. It is hard to be a pioneer, sometimes people are just looking for the tried and the true.
LB: Did you have any female role models / mentors when growing up?
EW: My mother and grandmother were my role models when I was growing up.
I worship my grandmother, she is a truly an amazing woman who lived through both war and hunger and never lost her zest for life and her positive attitude. She is one of the most patient and hard working people I know. If anyone comes close to sainthood, it’s her. I watched her forgive those who attempted to damage her reputation with elegant ease and yet turn into a tigress when her family was threatened. She insisted on getting an education at the age of 17. She married my grandfather at the age of 19, a marriage that lasted over 50 years. She had an amazing career and everywhere she went she was loved and admired. She worked hard her whole life and never complained.
I admire my mother because she sacrificed a lot to raise my sister and me in a privileged environment (and by ‘privileged’ I don’t mean ‘money’). We didn’t have much when we were growing up, but my parents both knew that sending us to one of the best schools would give us a huge advantage in life. They both worked full time (and then some), but they insisted on investing everything they had into our education. I learned different languages at a young age – one of the advantages that allowed me to reach the successes I enjoy now.
LB: Do you currently have any female role models / mentors?
EW: There are mentors that bring different perspectives: the ones within your company and the ones outside. I don’t currently have a consistent female mentor outside of Intel… I wonder if Sheryl Sandberg is available… However, I am grateful for the chance to talk to my former manager Jane Price once a quarter to tap into her vast experience at Intel as well as get her perspective on work and life balance. In addition, I am truly fortunate in that my current manager, Becky Brown, is an advocate and a mentor of mine. I regularly connect with other accomplished women and use every chance I get to learn from them, as well as share my experiences in hope that it can help them accomplish their dreams.
LB: What key personal characteristics do you see in yourself that you’ve found especially critical in achieving success?
EW: Daring to dream. Confidence. Knowing that nothing is truly impossible if you really want to achieve something. Innate curiosity and infinite desire to learn. Being open to new challenges and not being afraid to take advantage of opportunities (no matter how big and scary they may be at times). Ability to adapt and change.
LB: What values are you committed to?
EW: Excellence. Family. Passion. Curiosity. Innovation. Integrity. Diversity. Generosity.
LB: What, if any, distinct traits have you seen fellow female coworkers bring to the workplace?
EW: I don’t like to generalize because not all men are the same. The same goes for women. But looking back at working with both sexes, I would say two traits especially stand out in women based on my experience.
Diplomacy and caring. What some might call ‘being soft’ I call ‘finding the common ground.’ Being tough and demanding has its place, but it is through true diplomacy and caring about the other party at the table that you see the creative solutions to a problem and reach new successes. Also, women sometimes are better at taking their own ego out of the equation.
The ability to successfully juggle multiple projects. Today women are adept at taking care of their families and their household while working full-time.
LB: Did you make assumptions when you first started your career that subsequently proved to be wrong? What sort of insights did you gain?
EW: Early in my career, ‘result-orientation’ to me meant achieving the best results possible by any means possible. I realized that sometimes this approach can damage relationships along the way. There is nothing more important than relationships you build in life and respect you show for people who work hand in hand with you towards the same goals. I learned that sometimes taking the time to create synergies within your team and among your stakeholders will pay off in the long-run and will have an even bigger impact than you had ever hoped for.
LB: What do you like most about what you do?
EW: I get to paint the blank canvas. Nothing can be more exciting than that…well, except, of course, extreme sports and I am not much into that.
Social media is new, it is in some ways different from the traditional way we approached marketing. We get to pave the way for our brand and it is truly exciting – a lot of opportunities to be the leader and, most importantly, to connect with our customers around the world in a more personal way.
LB: How do you inspire the people you work with?
EW: By encouraging them to follow their dreams and thinking big. Women especially don’t give themselves enough credit, they don’t think they have what it takes to get there and a lot of the time they do. Sometimes a little encouragement and a gentle nudge is all they need. It is truly rewarding to see that the little extra confidence can bring every success.
By sharing my knowledge and personal experiences. What may seem trivial to you may turn out to be inspiring and helpful to others.
LB: Have you ever encountered the “Glass Ceiling”? Was it possible to overcome it? How?
EW: Glass ceiling, no. But I certainly remember the time when my accomplishments weren’t getting enough visibility, which stalled my career. And the main reason was the lack of consistent management; changing 5 managers in 2 years isn’t exactly helpful in moving you forward. When you don’t have a manager who has seen you in action over a period of time, who cares and is there for the long haul, and who is also your advocate, it is difficult to get the right level of visibility and credit. Having strong professional support system around you (several levels of management above you, mentors, key stakeholders/partners, etc) is essential for your success.
LB: In an interview with my Co-Founder Jesse Thomas, on Forbes, you remarked that you “don’t separate your personal life from [your] professional life [on social media] because that’s just it–my life.” Do you believe that social media will continue to change the way we think about the separation of work and play? Essentially, do you think that others will adopt your mindset?
EW: Everyone is different. Personally, I can’t compartmentalize my passions. I adore my family and I love what I do, it is all a part of me. I am just one person and I have one authentic voice and this voice is based on my passions, my values, both my personal and professional experiences. I can’t separate that. And why would I want to? I think social media helped bring out our individuality, our authenticity, helped us not be afraid of being just a little bit more personal and open.
LB: How do you manage work/life balance? Do you find this balance more difficult as a woman and a mother?
EW: I don’t manage it well. I find it extremely hard to truly balance the two. I love what I do and I spend most of my time doing it. I also love my family and treasure my time with them.
Being a mother is hard, especially if you had your child later in life. By then you are used to your routine and appreciate your freedom. Having a child changes everything. Motherhood is beautiful, chaotic, fantastic and scary at the same time. But I firmly believe that if you are happy, your child will be as well. I want to set an example for my daughter; I want her to be confident and to learn to make choices and/or sacrifices on her own terms.
Some may disagree, but I came to realize that there is no such thing as perfect balance if you both love your family and want to excel in your career. And that’s okay! At the end of the day I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment at work and treasure being with my family at home – both make me whole and content. My life is full of chaos, uncertainty, successes and failures and I enjoy every minute of my journey.
LB: What three pieces of advice would you offer young women looking to create a career similar to yours?
- Be confident in everything you do. And reach for the stars! Don’t let fear or doubt stop you. Nothing is impossible if you tackle your dream one step at a time.
- Don’t stop being curious – about everything!
- Follow your passion. You have to be passionate about what you do – that is when you are at your best!
To keep in touch with Ekaterina, follow her @Ekaterina.
Tags: balance, becky brown, change the ratio, ekaterina walter, equality, ForbesWoman, gender, Glass Ceiling, intel, jane price, JESS3, jesse thomas, leslie bradshaw, role model, sheryl sandberg, socialmedia, webinar, women