SHE STARTED IT: INTERVIEW WITH UNUMONDO LADIES
On Tuesday, October 3, unumondo, Ladies Inside, KOSMOS, and She Started It will host the screening of the documentary She Started It, followed by a panel and networking. The documentary is a feature length film on women tech entrepreneurs. It highlights successful role models for young women and is first documentary to go behind the scenes of running a tech startup as a young woman. It explores the cultural roots of female underrepresentation in entrepreneurship and exposes the obstacles women face as they become entrepreneurs.
I am Melani and I’ve just recently joined unumondo as Communications Manager. The upcoming event gave me a good opportunity to sit down with Larissa Hämisegger (Founder of unumondo & panel speaker at the event) and Emilia Siravo (Head of Product, unumondo) to discuss their experiences as entrepreneurs in Zurich and why the company co-organizes this event.
WHY ARE YOU ORGANIZING THIS EVENT?
Emilia: At unumondo, our pillars are ‘Learn. Enjoy. Belong.’ This film screening, panel discussion and apero provide exactly that – a place to learn from others, a place to have fun and a place to find a sense of belonging.
Larissa: Yes, especially the sense of belonging is an important one. As an entrepreneur it is important for me to be surrounded by inspiring and like-minded people – and especially also amongst other female entrepreneurs, almost like a sisterhood that boosts each other. With the event we want to support other women in connecting with other women, to find and provide inspiration.
TALKING ABOUT FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE STARTUP WORLD AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR?
Emilia: Prior to working for unumondo, I worked in the reinsurance sector for 8 years and then in education for another 7. Both careers were very intense but still somehow quite structured. Working for a startup has been completely different from my experience in the corporate world but surprisingly similar to my experience as a new mom.
When my son was born, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I even needed several tutorials to get the ‘changing the diaper’ thing right. While I felt completely overwhelmed, I also felt exhilarated. I had to figure out so many things for myself and solve short-term problems in ways that wouldn’t negatively impact long-term results (i.e. giving my toddler a lollypop would certainly stop his temper tantrum now, but would likely lead to bigger issues later).
When I began at unumondo earlier this year, the parallels to motherhood were clear. It was chaotic but creative. It was unstructured but somehow worked out in the end. There were some sleepless nights but the idea behind the company gave me the energy to keep going.
Larissa: I love Emilia’s story and how she translates her motherhood into other situations – that’s why companies should realize the huge value those badass moms would bring to work, especially also part time. But that’s a whole other story we can talk about another day!
My story is quite different. I worked in startups right after my business studies and never saw myself in the corporate world, as I question every little detail and try to find sense in it. I definitely learned a lot in all the companies I worked for and don’t regret anything. However, the company cultures never really matched my value system. So I decided early on that at some point I will create my own company and hopefully one where all employees feel they belong. I love that nothing is set in stone, that with everything we do we try to solve some kind of a problem or create value. We don’t do anything that we do not see any value in. That’s what drives me the most.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR KEY LEARNING POINTS?
Emilia: It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before, but communication is the key. Just when things seem clear, make sure to ask again and listen even more carefully.
Larissa: phu soo many. I definitely agree with communication. I would also say that it’s an incredible school in general. I learn every day, technical stuff but also about myself.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES/STRUGGLES?
Emilia: I am not sure if I really had ‘struggles’. I love being challenged with new problems everyday – that’s what keeps it fun and interesting.
Larissa: And again I agree with Emilia. I decided not to struggle (anymore!). Some challenges are really tough but struggling would not bring me anywhere. Before Emilia joined, I had to decide everything myself, every little detail. That was very demanding and energy draining. I suddenly craved to be told what to do. I am also a person in need of harmony, so I like to talk everything out, which does not mean at all that I agree with everything. I think it’s a good trait, but until it’s not talked out it keeps me up at night.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN OR EVEN YOUNG GIRLS OUT THERE WHO DREAM OF ONE DAY STARTING THEIR OWN COMPANY?
Emilia: You really can do anything you set your mind to. Dream big, work hard and be resilient.
Larissa: Yep, literally everything is possible! Print that into your entire being! You can always find reasons why you should not do something, that also means that you will never get anywhere. I don’t say it’s easy. Start with little things that push you out of your comfort zone and get excited about learning and developing, about getting to know yourself and your thoughts, about stalking your fears and overcoming them.