Originally from Ukraine, our Head of Sales, Margarita Zvezda, sat down with us to discuss her work at CyanoGuard, how she balances motherhood with her career and her approach to sales.
1. To kick things off, could you tell us a bit about your career background and current role?
I started my career in strategic consulting and then moved to the metals and mining sector. Since quite a few mining and metals companies have their trading desks here in Switzerland, I was transferred to one of them in 2007. In 2009, I decided to pursue my MBA degree at IMD Lausanne since "Swiss" means high quality. After that, I worked at another metals and mining company until the end of 2015, when my son was born. I later worked for an industrial non-profit and then joined CyanoGuard in 2020 because I wanted to move back to the commodity-related business. While I didn't have experience with gold, I did have experience with steel and vanadium, which are similar in many aspects.
I wanted to work for a startup because I viewed it as a personal challenge. I used to work for big multinational companies in the past, and when your team achieves success in such environment, you cannot always be sure which part of it was the results of your efforts, and which one is because of the strong brand you represent in the market.. With a startup, that's different. You not only have a small, family-like team, but everyone pulls their weight to achieve an ambitious goal, and you only see the outcome which is directly tied to the work you’ve done.
I'm passionate about building things up from scratch. Whether it's a team or department, I always aimed to create something that functioned like a clock. At CyanoGuard, I'm building up the sales organization from scratch, and it's not always easy, but it's exciting. I'm living out my dream of creating something from the ground up, that functions and runs efficiently.
2. What motivates you?
I have to believe in the product and the company's values. It also helps when the people around me share the same values and are also committed to reaching the same goal. Integrity is fundamental to me, and, like all humans, I value appreciation. With a small team, our efforts are noticed more but also appreciated more, and it drives me to continue reaching for better results.
3. Why do you enjoy selling CyanoGuard’s technology to customers?
CyanoGuard allows gold mines to improve their results and to do it in a simple way. I'm a very numerical person, and CyanoGuard technology allows not only to improve operational efficiency, but also to easily quantify these improvements. So when I learned about CyanoGuard's technology, I was very passionate about contributing to its’ wide implementation to improve processes, to quantify and apply data techniques for optimizing gold processing. The buyer should never be kept in the dark about the potential impact of the technology they're investing in. Even during a pilot phase, tons of money shouldn't be invested in something that isn't good enough. This is often the problem with mining and mineral companies because technologies are often capital intensive, and the implementation can be very complicated. As a result, if not done correctly, you can have plenty of issues. With CyanoGuard, it's different. You can try our product without primary implementation setups or massive capital investments. With our plug-and-play solution, you can quickly implement it into your processes or even remove it. But I'm sure after testing our solution the latter won't be considered.
4. How do you describe your sales approach?
We are very honest and transparent. This value of being honest and transparent is dominant in everything. From our product to the way we approach customers, we always aim to give transparent results. This makes my job easy since I don't have to sell something that people put money into and hope it works. With our pilot program, they can try our product for one month for a small fee and only after they see the results and are convinced by them should they buy our product. I understand our customer's pain points, and it helps me find common grounds with our buyers.
5. What do you find is the most rewarding about being in sales?
You meet a lot of new and interesting people from whom you can learn a lot.
6. What is your most outstanding professional achievement?
Leaving behind team's that function as a clock. I like to ensure that my teams are very efficient, motivated, and united. I'd like to become replaceable so that everything can function without me and any issues.
7. I know you're also a mother. How do you balance motherhood and a full-time job?
The older the child, the easier it gets. My son is five now, and I aim to use the time we have together to build our relationship and show him he's loved. I know that COVID-19 made things difficult for businesses, but it also allowed us to get more time with our kids, and not having to commute only adds to that, so there are some things to be grateful for during Corona times.
8. Does raising kids teach you any skills that you can use in the workplace?
Yes, plenty of things! The most important thing for me is patience. It's never been my strength, but with kids, you have to be patient to achieve the results you want. You also learn to understand the root causes of behaviors. This also applies to business. You shouldn't look at the symptoms or problems on the surface but understand the root causes. If there's a particular problem that repeats itself, you shouldn't just use a quick fix or punish people. Instead, understand the mistake, why it happened, and what’s the core issue behind this. I am also finding more reasons to celebrate intermediary victories. Kids help teach you to celebrate every day and find reasons to be happy.
9. What is an essential piece of advice you have for mothers who are pursuing a career?
Don't have long-term plans. It might sound strange, but whether it's your first baby or not, it's hard to predict how your life will change after a baby is born. If you have career aspirations, be patient. The right time and opportunity will come. I think this is especially important for women whose careers are vital to them. Stop self-criticism, learn to be kinder towards yourself, listen to yourself, and start new things at the right time. Do what feels right to you and not what society says. Also, don't forget to ask for help. Motherhood and your career are two significant roles where you need to learn how to delegate your tasks and how to pick your battles properly.
10. What quote do you like to live by?
Per Aspera ad Astra – which is Latin meaning "through hardships to the stars."
Don't let obstacles stop you, and always aim higher. Goals will vary depending on the stage in your life that you're in. Learn to appreciate the movement of life. It's not just about an end goal but the journey to it. Life moves, so move. If you find yourself in a situation or circumstance that isn't pleasant, just look up and take in a new perspective. Ask yourself, "Will this thing that worries me now affect me in 10 years?" In many cases, the answer is no, so just appreciate how things move and go with the flow. Do your best and aim not to get anxious about issues which are beyond your control.