Interview: Meri Sørgaard (29), Digital Marketing Manager at StartupLab, An Incubator for Tech Entrepreneurs in Norway
Meri Sørgaard (29) is the Digital Marketing Manager at StartupLab, a Norwegian launch pad for tech entrepreneurs with alumni companies like Kahoot, ReMarkable, Zwipe and Huddly. Besides technology, networking is the heart of operations at StartupLab, which might be the reason why this job ended up being a perfect fit for Meri.
After starting her career in educational science, Meri became the head of social media at a renowned digital agency at only 24, and can pride herself on being one of the very first industry experts. Her career journey is testimony that hard work and excellent networking skills can get you ahead of the game, and get you there fast.
First of all, how did you start your day today?
I overslept this morning! I live at my dad’s house at the moment because my fiancé and I are renovating our house. I skipped out on breakfast and showering and went straight to the office after applying some dry shampoo to my hair. I really needed that extra hour of sleep today.
Where and doing what do you feel most inspired?
I think it’s when I get to play around with new digital and creative tools. It makes me forget about time, and that’s my definition of doing something that inspires me. I forget about time when I cook and take photos too, which are some of my favorite hobbies.
How did you get to where you are today?
Many people have actually asked me this before, so I’ve had some time to reflect on it. I believe I got here by saying yes to things that trigger a particular feeling. And also by approaching things that make me feel that way. Sometimes, opportunities are given to me, and other times I discover things that inspire and motivate me.
What are your biggest professional insecurities and how do you overcome them?
I have so many insecurities, it’s not even funny. I’m afraid that I’m too intense for some people, and I often don’t realize this until I reflect on the situation later. I can also be too spontaneous and want things to happen immediately – afterwards I tend to beat myself up for not thoroughly thinking a decision through.
Sometimes, when I’m surrounded by a lot of men at work, I get this feeling of almost letting other women down by not “sticking out” enough, or not taking the lead in certain situations. To overcome my insecurities, I talk to my friends, and they make me realise that it’s not as big of a deal as I made it out to be. I´m also the person telling others to not overthink these situations, so I’m trying to get better at taking my own advice.
What is the best and worst thing about your job/career?
The best thing is that I feel incredibly lucky to get to work with something that I think is so much fun, and that inspires me every day. And also that I´m not tied down to one particular industry; I can change industry if I need a new challenge, and I can easily develop my skills if I want to do something different.
The worst part must be when people tell me things like: “but, you’re so good at Facebook”. It makes me feel like they’re narrowing my skill set to being about one particular social media platform (which is becoming totally outdated, in my opinion). This happens both privately and at work, often because people don’t understand the scope of what I do. I think a lot of us working with digital media deserve more credit for what we actually do professionally.
How do you pick yourself up and keep going when you feel discouraged?
I start doing research for new things. If I´m feeling really down, I try to look at my situation from an objective point of view, which can be difficult. It helps to ask myself: “Am I just feeling like shit right now, or have I been feeling like this for a long time?”. Either or, I try to focus on doing things that I like doing. And if I feel passive and uninspired in my work situation, I know that it’s time to put myself out there and try something I haven’t done before. Oh, and yoga!
Tell us about something you’re really proud of in your career and/or your greatest achievement (don’t be shy):
I think my career is my greatest achievement. I don’t want to pick out one particular thing, because it’s all the little things added together that has brought me to where I am today. And I’m proud of not taking the traditional route. I love that I started out in educational science and ended up working with technology and marketing. I think there will be a lot more people changing their paths into different industries like mine in the future.
Name any woman (past or present) whom you admire and look up to and please tell us why:
There are so many! I would like to mention Berit Svendsen, who was still working at Telenor when I worked at Appear.in. It’s just everything about her; she is a great example of a smart, bold female leader. She’s just being herself, and she doesn’t seem to dwell on things too much.
And, I have to mention my current manager, Lauga Oskarsdottir, who used to work at United Influencers. I have had this ‘semi-female-founder-crush’ on her since forever. It’s super cool to be able to work with someone who you have admired for a long time.
And lastly, Ingvild Moen. She uses her platform to tell other people’s stories, and to make others shine. And she’s also one of the main reasons why I am where I am today. She recommended me once when I was only 22 years old, and I’m really thankful.
What do Scandinavian women need more of? Less of?
More confidence in our own definitions of stuff, like feminism. It’s your right as a woman to define what it means to you. What does a “good female leader” mean to you? More girl power, less semantics. And less “flink pike” (good girl) syndrome.
Name three qualities you admire in other women:
Warmth, being adventurous and inclusion.
If you have one, what is your personal or professional motto?
Say yes to more opportunities!
When, where and doing what do you feel the furthest away from your comfort zone?
Probably doing a lot of things. But I hate when people start randomly quizzing me about years and dates I should know. Obviously, I know when the World Wars started and ended. Or any type of question testing knowledge for the sole purpose of making others feel insecure and uncomfortable. And name dropping, like “don’t you know this or this person?”. They’re suppression techniques, and I´m so thrown off by them that I don’t know what to do with myself.
Tell us one thing that people would be surprised to know about you:
I am a very open person, so I tell people everything. But maybe that I used to work at Oslo Reptile Zoo. And that I loved roquefort cheese from the age of 3.
And finally, do you have any advice, big or small, to all the ambitious women out there wanting to head for their dream career?
Never stop. And allow yourself a de-route to figure out your end goal.
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]