Meet Michelle, Garage48 Pärnu 2014 Women Special mentor!

We are doing it again! Already in October especially women are welcome to come and share their ideas, join teams and participate at week-end intensive hackathon event. Garage48 Pärnu 2014 Women Special event is organized 10-12 October together with Tech Sisters in UT Pärnu College, registration is already open! Michelle Surya will be joining the event with the support of US Embassy, she wants to share her thougths.

What would you say about yourself in 5 sentences?

I get excited about everything I do. I love to meet new people, see new places and learn about new things. I think that every meeting, every person, every instance is an opportunity to understand, to relate, and to grow as a person and as a professional. I am passionate about new technologies, early stage companies and about the teams behind them.  But most specifically, I’m interested to learn about the individual people and what motivates them.

What are your current projects related to technology?

I’m thrilled to share that I’ve just joined an incredible company that is based in Estonia founded by Kristel Viidik and Marko Kruustuk – Testlio. I’ll be leading their sales efforts from San Francisco, helping to grow their customer base and scale the business. I come from the mobile development world so this next move is a perfect fit for both my experience and my network. But what really attracts me to this company is the team. They are young, eager, hardworking people that love what they do and do it well. I believe that Team is number one – if you are lucky enough to find people that you trust and that value you, its nothing to ignore, in fact it should be celebrated. 

Most recently I was leading sales activities for Appurify, a San Francisco based startup backed by Google Ventures. On June 24, during the Keynote at Google I/O 2014, they announced the acquisition of Appurify’s mobile testing platform. Prior to Appurify, I was running enterprise accounts in North American and European territories at Crittercism. Their investors include Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Shasta Ventures and a number of others.

How did you discover and first become engaged in technology? 

Growing up in the Bay Area I was always surrounded by the largest and most innovative technology companies but it wasn’t until I was in college that I became more and more aware of how impactful the startup community was.  I stumbled into my first job while I was still in school, consulting for early stage tech companies as mobile was just evolving into what it is today. I learned so much about how to craft and shape a message, how to articulate a company’s core competency in the most effective way, and how a team should focus their energy to reach maximum success. I never missed an opportunity to talk to a founder about their idea and the lengthy stories that led them to it. This was addicting to me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What or who inspires you?

‘Who inspires me’ is the right question – people inspire me, everyone from toddlers to seniors, fancy developers to nerdy execs. Mostly the ones that are intelligent and hardworking inspire me. But first and foremost they are solid, nice, genuine individuals that rarely take life too seriously. I’m fortunate to have been inspired greatly by some that I now call my best friends. They know who they are. 

I can watch them from a distance, handle a difficult business conversation with grace and ease, then the next moment make a fool of themselves with embarrassing honesty and not lose one ounce of respect from those around them, but in turn, make us love them even more. People are attracted to that.

It isn’t just about fun and games though. I find inspiration in those that are savvy, creative, unique and not afraid to show it. We all hold these qualities and yet we’re not all brave enough to put it out there. But, why not? 

What was the most important thing that you’ve learned in the past year and how did you learn it? 

The last year has been quite a ride for me. I learned more in the last year than I have in my entire career, where do I begin… The list is long for the experiences I had and the lessons I took from them - most were amazing and some very, very tough - but I think the most important thing I remember and that I remind myself of constantly is this – This is my life, I live it for me, not for anyone else. I am smart and capable and I need to trust myself, my gut. 

When I stray away from what my core is telling me to do I find that things begin to unravel.  People will tell you that you don’t have enough experience, that you did it the wrong way, that they wouldn’t have hired you – so what. You are strong and valuable and can do anything you set your mind to. If you believe something, don’t be afraid to explore it. Let them underestimate you but don’t let them slow you down. 

Instead of living in fear that something won’t work out, get excited. Especially being in technology, every product and company is something new to this world; no one has the right answer. Get smart people in a room that you enjoy working with and have fun trying to figure it out. You may not get it right the first time, or the second or third, but learn to work and get it wrong fast, and have a good fucking time doing it.

Surround yourself with people that lift you up and allow you to be You. When you trust your team and expect great things out of them, they will, more often than not, rise to the occasion.  

What would be your message to newby female techmakers to give them a heads up or encouragement?

  • Trust yourself, do NOT live in fear. Fear nothing and get excited about everything. When something doesn’t go right, laugh at it and move on.

A number of times, when I’ve done something really well, or made a big impact, someone has asked me, ‘How did you know?’ Answer is, I didn’t. I just had to trust a gut feeling and make a conscious move toward the end goal. Those brainstorming conversations often go something like:

“Is this the best possible way?”

“I have no fucking clue.”

“Perfect. Lets do this.”

  • You are just as capable as the guy before you and the guy that comes next. Your ideas, opinions, and statements matter. Not only do they matter, they can make a difference; they can make THE difference.
  • Focus in on the goal, be clear about who your customer is, simultaneously pay attention to detail while being fully aware of the big picture, and make moves that feel right.
  • Be humble, be honest, listen to others, learn any chance you get, and persevere. I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine. It resonates with me still, every time I read it.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. “ – Steve Jobs
Contact Michelle via Twitter:  @MichelleSurya