For Salt’s latest Women in Tech interview, we met with Maria Raga, CEO at Depop. Depop is a global marketplace app; described as a cross between eBay and Instagram. Spanish native Maria joined the company in 2014 and has since been promoted to CEO. We caught up with her to learn more about her journey to the top, talk about diversity, advice and how to navigate and progress in your career.
The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinions and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.
- What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?
Becoming the CEO at Depop. It’s a bigger challenge compared to anything I have done before. I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on and excited to be able to continue to learn from leading Depop.
- What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
I think about this subject often. It’s important to create awareness and encourage more girls to pursue careers in tech. I can say from experience that it’s always better to have a more diverse point of view. Innovation, change and profit are more than ever being linked with diversity, and it’s a powerful tool everyone should be making use of.
- What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
It took a bit of time to open-up and feel at ease with my new role, and if everyone around me would have been male it would have been even harder. Having more diversity always helps. It can be intimidating to be the only woman in the room. When you see that everyone around you is not like you – you don’t feel as comfortable.
- What is the biggest deterrent in your opinion to women succeeding in the workplace?
Even though there has been a lot of progress on this, it’s harder to be a woman than it is to be a man in the workplace. If you are a mother it’s not easy, and you have to make tough choices if you have a family. Having more support when you have kids will empower more woman to thrive at work.
- Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in the workplace and why?
I have a combination of personal and professional mentors. Someone who really changed the way I see things is my life coach. In the past, I always thought that high-performing CEOs were the ones who work from 8 am to 10 pm and are constantly online, but he made me see that that’s not healthy. It gets to a point where you will not only burn out but also stop enjoying what you do and make irrational decisions in the process. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s important to stop, search for space to decompress and start over in order to regain focus. Quiet moments and meditation are activities I’ve integrated into my life to make sure that this space is created.
- As an employer, what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to have in place to develop the best talent?
There is a basic survey we’ve put in place here at Depop to understand what our employees feel the biggest problems are. This allows us to review what is and is not and create actionable steps towards improving. You need to really listen if you want to promote positive change. We also try to create activities that connect our employees, allowing people from different areas of the business to buddy-up and exchange ideas. It’s all very organic.
As Depop grows, we continue to implement tools that better connect us. We currently have 120 people on the team spread across offices in London, New York, LA and Milan. To keep a sense of community and closeness present in our day-to-day, we’ve implemented open spaces, social areas within the offices, Zoom (which is a very good conference system) and made sure members of the team travel to other offices frequently.
- What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
There’s a big difference between diversity inside and outside of the tech world. We still struggle to get female applicants, especially back-end developers. Hopefully, we will show the younger generations how cool it actually is to work in our industry, particularly being a developer. Changing stereotypes and promoting these roles as being something both men and women can do equally is imperative.
In the tech space, if we want to attract more women, we need to change the language used in job descriptions. Buzzwords traditionally employed by the industry may discourage some women, who will see them as a sign of a male-oriented work environment. Ensuring the language we use is gender-neutral is an important first-step.
- What is your biggest stress reliever?
Holidays! I like to get a massage occasionally but taking a proper holiday, at the very least two weeks, does it for me. I go away once in summer and once in winter – spending time with my family, enjoying different activities, reading…etc.
- Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Relax, it is all going to be ok. Looking back, I’m sure that I was told that, but I didn’t really absorb the idea until I was much older, and it’s still so hard to live by. The biggest change in me came when I became a mother. It helped me put things into perspective.
Also, one cannot learn without making mistakes along the way, so it’s important to embrace failure as part of the process. Everyone has ups and downs. You just need to know how to manage your stress levels and keep motivated in the process.
- Fun fact about you?
I’ve just started learning how to play the piano. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it forces you to have laser-focus and stop thinking about anything else. There’s no work, no kids – just you and the piano. It’s really absorbing.