Look for the people supporting you and your idea. — This doesn’t mean, that you should not listen to critical feedback. But it may be of more value to you to hear critical feedback from someone that generally supports the idea. It is always good to question to ask yourself: If I adapt to the feedback of one person and apply changes to my business model or solution — will the outcome truly improve? When you cannot answer this question with yes, than there is no point to follow, even if the advice comes from an industry insider. Trust your guts, and walk your own path.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia Heim, Founder and CEO at DigiWhat.
German Claudia Heim is a game-changer in the B2B technology sphere. The founder and CEO of DigiWhat developed a software solution for the creation of high-quality B2B Case Studies. Her Berlin startup is the first to provide a standard for Case Studies, which simplifies marketing, matchmaking and lead generation efforts for tech companies, venture builders and events.
Claudia holds a diploma in Business Administration, and a decade of work experience in the IT industry, accompanying corporate on their way to digital transformation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I always was fascinated by technology. My father’s hobby was coding, and we were the first family in our neighborhood to have access to the internet. I never had dropped a thought if this is a “girls thing” or not. It felt naturally to me to be interested in tech. After university, I started my career in the IT business, which was always very international. This globally connected spirit that comes up when you work with people from all over the world fascinated and always inspired me. In the back of my mind I always aimed for starting my own business within this sphere. It was only a question about the right timing.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We empower single developers, (IT) consulting and software companies to be able to tell their stories, about what business challenges they are solving with the help of technology. Spreading this word will make it easier also for companies looking for solutions, knowing which possibilities and which expertise is out there to solve their specific business challenge. This supports innovation, collaboration and delivers approachable access to digitalization for businesses of all sizes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back at university, there was a students’ organization that took care about organizing a career fair on the campus. I was responsible for the marketing, and my task was to get awareness for the event and bring in as many students to visit the fair as possible. The challenge was that the building was a little outside of the campus. My idea was to pass out empty cups at the cafeteria with the message that at the building on the other side of the campus, they get “hot spicy fruit punch”. The problem was, planning this, we expected a snowy winter February day, but it was the first day with really nice and sunny spring weather. No one felt like having a cozy Christmas punch. Lesson learned: Marketing is not (only) about the idea — it is about timing!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Within my work, I was blessed to always have found people further ahead in their career development willing to mentor me. This helped a lot to learn quicker and being prepared for the next steps. For me personally I find a good mentor in someone who is being close in operative tasks.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
This is a very good question. DigiWhat as a solution for tech industry events provides the matchmaking tools for a crowd of exhibiting venture builders and startups. When Covid-19 hit, those tech events went online only. We are thinking tech-first, but I agree to a feedback from one of the organizers of the top German tech industry exhibition. She told me: “Yes, these are very hard times for us — but you know what? I learned that our business model ‘withstood the test of time’. People now are even more aware of the importance of a personal handshake to set up an relationship.” And she is right. Technology is great when it supports us, but it cannot fully replace our essential need of human interaction. Business relationships are, like personal ones, built on trust. Trust comes from feeling a connection, based on similar values and goals. We built the machine to find your perfect match when it comes to tech solutions. We cannot and won’t try to replace the human contact that needs to be made for successful, long-lasting business relationships.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1.) Look for the people supporting you and your idea.
This doesn’t mean, that you should not listen to critical feedback. But it may be of more value to you to hear critical feedback from someone that generally supports the idea. It is always good to question to ask yourself: If I adapt to the feedback of one person and apply changes to my business model or solution — will the outcome truly improve? When you cannot answer this question with yes, than there is no point to follow, even if the advice comes from an industry insider. Trust your guts, and walk your own path.
2.) Step back and keep a little distance
This is the best advice, but I am still on my way to be able to follow it. It is about stepping back and look from a little distance on what you are doing. The business is not you as a person, so if you get too close you lose your ability to revise things or also to nurture it for the necessary stability the people working with you need.
3.) You don’t have to smile to come across accessible
I am a very positive person, so I really like to laugh and smile, but smiling for the wrong reasons, the way girls are brought up to come across as being polite is a very “female” thing. A man in a business context would rarely smile the whole time while another person is e.g. pitching him.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I am not done with DigiWhat at all, but it is true there are already plans in line for new projects, and they will be solely focused on providing a strong social impact.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Still there is so many bias around. Not so much on the customers’ side, since the customers’ focus is on the product. But when it comes to introducing the business model and vision of DigiWhat, I am confronted with what I see as the following scenario: If a man presents, stakeholders such as investors see the vision and the opportunities. With a woman, they see the obstacles and dreams. You easily recognize the bias in conversations: ”What are you doing?” “Building up a B2B platform for Case Studies.” “Oh, something with clothing, nice….”
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
“Thrive” by Arianna Huffington had a deep impact on my business confidence. I am a mum of 2, and Sheryl Sandberg’s quote “Done is better than perfect” is my mantra to get things done. But Huffington redefined success, which provided me with comfort to walk on my own terms with my startup.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
The awareness of female role models 40+. All this women out there managing their lives, jobs, family. I feel like they lack a public voice, and most of them manage things extremely well and we can profit from their experience and learn how they managed to have a happy and fruitful life. We need to make those women visible for the young generation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Self-doubt requires a certain amount of intelligence”, by Thomas Mayer (Swiss author).
Nowadays, women are told to be bold and confident. But there is also the part of emotional intelligence, and I find self-doubt a highly positive trait that exercises self-reflection and intellect. Therefore I do not think of self-doubt as a weakness, but as a strength.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can reach DigiWhat at digiwhat.io, and myself on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/claudia-heim/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!