Holding a leader’s position at an information technology company while being a mother and also finding time for self-fulfillment—is this possible? Apparently, yes. And the perfect example is the managing director of language technology company Tilde IT, Renata Špukienė, whom her colleagues recognize as a leader. She talks about her career path, female leadership, and inspiration in everyday life.
How many years have you held the director’s position at the language technology company Tilde IT? How did your career develop?
In 2006, I started working as a freelance editor without any knowledge of localization. Within 2 months I became a localization project manager. The experience was new to me, but I enjoyed this new job—new challenges, processes, new technologies, and the team. Each day was a little bit different and far from boring, with different clients and demands, and lots to learn. After a few years, in 2008, I became head of the localization department. This was a step forward that brought many more surprises into my life.
The new position required increased attentiveness, effort, and experience, but the achievements also gave more satisfaction and a belief that nothing was impossible. In 2011, I was offered the director’s position. It was a tremendous leap forward, which also gave me lots of invaluable experience, but also meant more work and the increased responsibility of managing a larger team. Autumn will mark ten years of my work as a managing director of Tilde IT.
What’s your secret to great leadership?
"Actually, I don’t have any secrets. The only thing worth mentioning is that no one can be a leader without a team. A team you can count on and that trusts you. Anything is possible with a team who knows that you trust them and that you listen."
Are any personal traits undesirable in this position? How do you deal with them?
I would like to change one thing. I’m still learning to avoid excessively controlling the team’s work; I don’t want to be a “controller”.
If I’m doing a task myself or supervising, I want to know every detail about it. This is just to be sure that everything is done correctly, mistakes aren’t left unresolved, all of the work is done, and everything is planned in detail and finished. This requires a lot of time and effort. However, as a director, it isn’t always possible to find the time; also, it isn’t always necessary because reliable team members can take care of such tasks. How do I deal with it? The best way is to put together a reliable team!
Women and men are seen differently in the technology sector and leadership positions. Are there differences between male and female leadership?
In recent years, a woman’s place in the world of technology and female leadership have been topics of countless discussions. We are witnessing globally that more women are entering top-level positions, and today it is no longer as surprising as it would have been 10 years ago. This is a good sign that society’s attitude towards female leaders is changing.
"When it comes to the differences between female and male leadership, I think that a leader should not be defined by their gender. Both men and women can be equally good leaders. I think that personality, appropriate effort, and attitude towards the job make a leader."
Why are female leaders beneficial to organizations?
Well, it all comes down to the organization and the team. Some teams might benefit more from a female leader, while others from a male. The main goal of a leader is to achieve the greatest results together with the team rather than individually.
"Because of their nature, female leaders tend to seek a sense of community and harmony at work; they are more empathetic and know how to listen and quickly understand the problem. They are thought to be better teamwork planners because of this. Still, I want to reiterate that gender is not as important as the personality and personal attitude towards your work."
Do you have any advice on how to encourage other women to take leadership positions?
There are three main things that they’ll need. First, self-confidence. Believe in yourself and your work. This will encourage you to take risks without the fear of mistakes. Mistakes teach us and encourage us to try harder in the future.
Secondly, the ability and willingness to help others. Leadership is not just about skill development and successful business. On the contrary—it’s continuous work with people and your team; a chance to hear, help, and support them. And thirdly, your own vision. You have to know exactly what you want to achieve and why. Another simple thing to remember is that leaders cannot exist without their team. The success of a leader depends on the success of the entire team.
The Covid-19 crisis has affected each of us. Was it hard for you to adapt? How do you motivate your employees to work remotely?
Now, during the second quarantine, I can say that the first quarantine was easier. It was shorter, happened in spring, and there was more sunshine and optimism. The second quarantine is harder, longer, happening in the cold season and there is less hope of it ending soon. But it wasn’t too difficult to adapt to the conditions of working from home, neither in the first nor the second quarantine.
Working in the office or remotely is not very different since most tasks are done on the computer, such as writing e-mails, answering questions, delegating tasks to co-workers, or preparing reports. Just a few processes have changed: it is not always easy or convenient to get information quickly to make a decision—you need to write instead of personally talking to your colleague. I prefer talking to writing, which is why I dislike remote work. I also greatly miss my colleagues and the usual chats on coffee breaks at the office where we would discuss daily news.
During the first quarantine, we decided to keep our tradition of coffee break conversations: each colleague prepared a cup of coffee and joined remotely at an agreed time; we shared our personal stories and discussed everyday issues and what we had discovered about the quarantine. We are also trying to keep this tradition during the second quarantine so that we can see each other’s faces, albeit on our screens, help our colleagues, and maintain a positive common attitude, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
Where do you find the energy for your everyday life, work, and family?
I have many hobbies that I could talk about indefinitely. A small personal ritual that has never changed in my life is to start the day with a cup of strong hot coffee that I sip while looking at the changing seasons through my window. It helps me prepare for the day.
I love swimming. Twice a week, in the mornings, I go (i.e. I used to go before quarantine) to special swimming training that prepares me for long-distance swimming. When swimming, the focus is on the rhythm, technique, and breathing. The water washes away all the negative thoughts and gives me a sense of lightness and freedom. At this point, I can easily swim a distance of 2 km.
My family and I also have lots of different rituals and hobbies. When we got a dog, our weekends changed a lot. Every weekend, no matter the weather, we get up early and take long walks of 10 to 15 km in the forest with our dog. It helps us to wind down after a busy week. Frequent walks in the forest also allow one to see the changing seasons in nature. After four years of such walks I can already distinguish the voices of the most common birds living in Lithuanian forests.
Our family’s other hobby is sailing in the summer and mountain skiing in the winter. We love to sail and ski with our friends’ families. We have sailed the Baltic Sea, the Polish Masurian Lakes, and a few times in Croatia and Greece. This is the best way to spend the holiday—visiting new places, tasting local food, experiencing new things, and meeting wonderful people.
"Once quarantine is over or everyone is vaccinated, we dream of yacht sailing around the islands in the Seychelles or Malaysia. And who knows—maybe one day we’ll decide to sail around the world."
I am a member of the international Postcrossing community. Postcrossing is the exchange of postcards around the world. I’ve been doing this for years and would love to have at least one postcard from every country in the world.
I have another new hobby: last year, encouraged by my friends, I started learning Italian, which I find extremely beautiful like Italy itself—a country I could visit on holiday twice or more each year.
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