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Women Of The C-Suite: “If we are driving our teams with understanding and empathy, rather than judgment and even more pressure, we can support each other and make the impossible possible.” with Verena Papik

Empathy is king! As a female leader, we are under a lot of pressure. Most of the time, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure and hold ourselves to a ridiculous standard. However, I believe, no matter how perfect you are trying to be, the only thing that will genuinely drive a team is […]


Empathy is king! As a female leader, we are under a lot of pressure. Most of the time, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure and hold ourselves to a ridiculous standard. However, I believe, no matter how perfect you are trying to be, the only thing that will genuinely drive a team is empathy. If we are driving our teams with understanding and empathy, rather than judgment and even more pressure, we can support each other and make the impossible possible.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Verena Papik, a passionate marketing leader with years of experience in bringing global strategy, content and platform innovations to market. She has a proven track record of building brands and audiences, most notably driving exceptional growth for one of the world’s largest tech and entertainment startups. Now, as Chief Marketing Officer at TuneMoji, Verena is tasked with developing comprehensive business and growth strategies for the exciting and innovative “MusicGIF” platform. In only six short months under her leadership, the company has evolved from being a simple tool for creators to a fully fledged social platform — providing an opportunity for users who are sharing the same passion for pop culture to connect and engage with each other. Prior to TuneMoji, Verena sought out opportunities in China, as she was inspired by the pace and innovation of the Chinese technology market. She landed at musical.ly (now Tik Tok) in its early stages of development — joining their Shanghai office as the first European employee. She spearheaded the growth in the EU markets as the company’s Director of EMEA — opening two European offices and deploying innovative business ideas that significantly contributed to the 2017 acquisition of the company. Her dedication to the industry over the past seven years landed her a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List for Europe’s Media & Marketing landscape in 2019.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a teenager I was working as a waitress, not only to earn money but also because of the people. It has always been important to me to have an impact on people and I felt that even as a waitress, you can have an impact. You may have customers walk in with a grumpy mood, but you can have them walk out with a smile again. Once I have started working for apps and communities, I soon realized I can scale my impact on millions of peoples’ lives and essentially make their day with my product. This has driven me to passionately create and grow communities for some of the most successful start-ups.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting story that happened to me while building out the community on Tunemoji was when we launched our first community tools. We already had millions of users, but we initially couldn’t talk to them. After the launch of the tools, we were able to analyze the most successful user on our platform. Initially, we were expecting some teenager girl, perhaps a well-known influencer, behind that account. However, it turned out that the most popular user within our app was a 30-year-old mother of two that just had fun expressing herself on TuneMoji. She’s a legend now!

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?

When I met one of our users for the first time, I was so excited that I literally ran over to him, hugged him and lifted him up. I couldn’t hide how pumped I was to meet him! The user, who was quite overwhelmed and, in general, shyer in his nature, was initially taken aback by my excitement. His response was to just stood there like a block of wood- he must have thought this was very awkward. I learned from this experience that while it is always okay to get excited, sometimes you need to contain it in professional settings.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what really touched my heart was that one review we got in the AppStore. It shows that TuneMoji is more than just a platform for entertaining content and creativity. It shows that people use the concept of our product to stay in touch and to be closer together as well — regardless of age. Our purpose is to allow users to express their feelings in the most creative and non-judged way. We believe that everyone needs to express their feelings whether you are 13 years old or 73 years old — and we are glad to be able to provide them the tools. And at the same time — make their day!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

With our product, we are tapping into communities that are underserved and have the urge to express how they really feel. We are connecting like-minded people to help them and let them know that they are not alone. With our efforts, we want to lower the bar of creativity and allow any single person to express how they feel.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Empathy is king! As a female leader, we are under a lot of pressure. Most of the time, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure and hold ourselves to a ridiculous standard. However, I believe, no matter how perfect you are trying to be, the only thing that will genuinely drive a team is empathy. If we are driving our teams with understanding and empathy, rather than judgment and even more pressure, we can support each other and make the impossible possible.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Two things are very important. The first is giving responsibility away and trust. You need to allow your team members to take the lead and become leaders themselves. As a leader, you should help your team to become leaders. The second part is to set clear expectations, KPIs and goals to help them stay focused and motivated. Sometimes these things are way under-communicated in teams because we expect everyone to understand. In my experience, it is better to rather over communicate and be crystal clear, rather than assuming that everyone is on the same page.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to my many mentors and leaders I had in the past. They teach you so many things- the good and the bad, the ups and the downs and teach you how to execute or think out of the box. I am grateful to the many people along this journey and they all have impacted me in different ways.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that some of the products I worked for and am working to bring happiness to humans (users) in a scalable way. With enhancing technology and providing new opportunities or even new career paths to users, I feel we can change the world together.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t expect everyone else to think like you — we sometimes tend to assume everyone is ticking like us and has the same understanding.
  2. Give responsibility — if you want your team to feel responsible about the task, you need them to allow to take responsibility and own the execution. Grow your team members to leaders themselves.
  3. Lead by example — whatever you are doing or you are not doing, you are setting an example to your team. If you want your team to thrive harder, work harder yourself. If you want your team to communicate more often and be transparent, then do it yourself.
  4. You are a leader, but still human, and you work with humans. Your team wants to see the vulnerable side of you sometimes as well, as we all feel vulnerable sometimes. It helps to create understanding and eventually more respect as well.
  5. No one is born as a leader — when accepting a new position as a leader, it doesn’t mean that makes you a leader. It takes a lot of experience, learnings, skills, reflection, and growth to become a good leader instead of a ‘boss’.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Mental Health. In the current age of digitalization, we need to focus more on checking in on other users and build a positive and encouraging support system online altogether.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Dreams don’t come true. Goals do!” I was browsing online for motivation and felt a bit lost a decade ago, and this quote really pushed me forward since then.

I’ve always dreamed as a kid to move abroad and start a career in a foreign country with a foreign language. For a very long time, it looked like it would never happen, but only because I realized I didn’t put any action to that dream. I started drafting my dream into an actual goal, broke it down into smaller steps and finally started “executing” my dream.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Oprah Winfrey. She inspires me to thrive and work harder every single day, and she is leveraging her success to have a positive influence on so many people’s’ life. Even though wearing better shoes now, she still has her feet on the ground and remembers where she comes from. Her humble and grateful attitude is inspiring me to stay focused and concentrate and one important thing that really matters: giving back. Furthermore, I completely agree with her idea of attaining your higher self and living up to your potential. She stands out to me on her ability to empathize with others’ pain, her charity work and her hunger for impact. Oprah wants to create a better world and she knows that there is only so much one single person can do. It is inspiring to me how she uses her wisdom, strength, and power to empower her community across the globe to do good. If we’re having breakfast, I’d like to bake with her the ‘muffins that keep her going all morning’ together.

Thank you for joining us!

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