You don’t have to be mean and tough to be respected. — It is time to change the stereotype that in order to be a strong leader, you need to be tough. I embrace that one of my strongest traits is that I am compassionate and kind. Does this make me look weak? No. I manage conflict, take charge and make solid decisions without losing who I truly am.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Venckunaite who is the Chief Innovation Officer and designer of platform performance for the new application in the construction industry called, BUILD1x. Her specialty is in platform design, synergy, and overall flow to ensure the customer experience creates engagement. She also is responsible for ensuring the company’s roadmap for the future is achieved. Her passion in business is to build technology designed to help others, and BUILD1x is her vehicle to realize that passion. She is an immigrant who moved to the US at the age of twelve, taught herself English by fourteen and went on to graduate from The University of Colorado, Boulder with two degrees. Diana is a strong woman executive leader who also cares deeply about her team and the overall success of BUILD1x.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Initially, I became hooked on technology while working at a startup building a dating app. That experience pivoted me to the technology industry rather quickly because I realized I could be a part of teams building technology, which could work to enhance and empower individuals. When I was introduced to the BUILD1x vision of not only disrupting an industry but also, more importantly, helping hard-working construction workers improve their lives, I was hooked. What I do as the Chief Innovation Officer is combine my experience in tech, platform dynamics, and leadership to design the platform in a way that gives our users, tools to finding jobs, creating stronger industry connections, getting paid faster, and ultimately gaining freedom and the respect they deserve.
Coming from a hardworking immigrant family background, I felt compelled to jump in with both feet and do all I could to make this company a huge success.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One day our CEO was having a discussion with a full stack developer on the team. They were talking about how BUILD1x will have a digital wallet system with a debit card for all users, which the partnership for had just been secured. This seems like a simple and ordinary feature for any FinTech application, but the developer became emotional. He said, “Do you realize how important this is for the users? Millions of construction workers are drastically underbanked and live on cash in a humiliating system of check cashing or standing in line to buy reloadable debit cards so they can pay their bills. Our app will change their lives.” When I heard this, I was struck by a massive sense of responsibility. It occurred to me that we are not just building a new type of platform for a specific audience. I realized at that moment we are going to change the lives of these construction workers. Then I channeled that emotion into building a five-year roadmap. I set out to discover where else we could enhance their business and their lives. I think that’s a moment all executives wish they could find. It’s a central pillar to drive my team and me through the tough challenges. Purpose is everything.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The company itself is one big project with many moving parts. BUILD1x is a very focused company solving three huge challenges in the construction space. What I love the most about it is that we are focusing on every contractor, developer, and the worker who builds everything we depend on and every home in which we live. Because of the work we do making these technological tools, we directly impact their lives as well as their family.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
A good leader leads by example and teams thrive when they look up to their leader. I learned this from my grandmother. She never made excuses. Keep in mind she lived to be ninety-seven, survived the Great Depression, WWII, and the constant invasions of our small country of Lithuania. She kept going forward, and without the crutch of excuses she persevered. I was very close to her for all of my life so this lesson resonated. For all of the women and men out there, stop making excuses for failure. Accept that you failed, own it, learn from it and keep going. When you take responsibility for your actions, you get stronger while keeping an honest eye toward your weaknesses.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Stay positive and keep team fear to a minimum. Fearful thought leads to mental distraction and potentially bad decision-making. Be clear, smart and a great listener. Collaboration takes allowing all ideas to come forward as input, but in the end, the leader needs to make a strong decision they can stand by.
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?
My grandmother was always by my side. When we immigrated to the United States, my mother had to come first because our government would not allow my grandmother and me to leave. She stayed behind to take care of me while my mother set up our new life in America. We were very poor living in a very dangerous community. Day after day grandma would protect me while teaching me how to be resilient. She just passed this year, so I find myself spending a great deal of time considering the many lessons she taught me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Being successful has provided me with a chance to reach a broader base of people. Because of BUILD1x and our platform, we get to fulfill our founder’s vision of making a profound impact on this community. So I use my success to fuel theirs.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Trust yourself. -I worked hard to get where I am today because I trusted my instincts and moved forward with confidence in workplaces that included judgment. I don’t let opinions or gossip bother me. It is a competitive world out there.
2. Actions speak louder than words. –As a leader for BUILD1x, I cannot stand when I hear the word “effort.” To me, “effort” is useless without results. So when someone tells me they are “busy” I question why they need to wear the badge of busy. The men and women who work in the construction industry get up every day, drive to a job site and build. They don’t get the luxury of “doing best effort” because in the end that house or office must be completed. Who I hire on my team are people who get to work and let their results speak for them.
3. You don’t have to be mean and tough to be respected. — It is time to change the stereotype that in order to be a strong leader, you need to be tough. I embrace that one of my strongest traits is that I am compassionate and kind. Does this make me look weak? No. I manage conflict, take charge and make solid decisions without losing who I truly am.
4. Build relationships with everyone. — I don’t care what anyone’s title is, I see everyone as people who deserve respect. We all have a job to do, so drop the obsession with a title and get results.
5. Respect yourself and treat others with respect. If you don’t respect yourself, then no one will respect you. And the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.
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. 🙂
I would inspire a movement of “fresh eyes” where we all start to see the world and people without judgment or prejudice. Innovation is all about seeing the same situation but making the solution your own. I would love to see a movement when the only opinion that matters is one you make based on facts mixed with some compassion and drive. If we all stopped acting on our false assumptions about the world, situations, and people, and instead looked at every situation with “fresh eyes” positivity would prevail.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote from an anonymous source is “the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s about what you’re made of, not the circumstances.”
At BUILD1x I am helping build a company we can all be proud of. Every company faces problems. Challenges are challenges, but what I am made of will determine how I move through those obstacles and produce a product that truly makes a positive difference in the world.
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 see this if we tag them 🙂
There are so many amazing leaders out there, so I can’t just name one. My top three big names to one day meet are:
Peter Thiel — Peter Thiel has amazing insight about disruptive and innovative technology and he seems to be a down to earth guy that invests in companies that truly want to make a difference. He has an impeccable eye for what the future holds for society.
Sheryl Palmer CEO at Taylor Morrison Homes — She is a strong female leader who treats everyone the same. Gender doesn’t matter… she does not discriminate. She empowers everyone with a passion for hard work. Shery is a true embodiment of a leader that is full of grace, poise, and strength.
Elon Musk — He has a grand vision and goals that only a few would dare to reach for, but also has a knack to surround himself with people that can make that vision come to fruition. Elon’s drive to revolutionize different segments of the economy is truly inspiring.
Originally published at medium.com