Anastasia Siapka: “My Ambition Is To Be Active As A Social Entrepreneur.”

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Greek social entrepreneur Anastasia Siapka & founder of Geek Islands & Code it Like a Girl talks about future aims, how to bring value to people & her most memorable moment so far. Learn more:

Hello Anastasia! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Anastasia Siapka, I am a 22-year-old Law Student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In 2014 along with Maria Dermentzi we co-founded Code it Like a Girl and in 2016 Geek Islands, a two-dimensional project offering coding courses online via an e-platform and offline by visiting remote Greek islands and other in need areas.

At the same time, volunteering has been a second nature to me, thus I have dedicated lots of time and energy to AIESEC, Hult Prize Greece, TED Open Translation Project and My ambition is to be active as a social entrepreneur, for I believe empathy is now more than ever vital for our communities and everybody can contribute to social change. Twitter is the closest way to my heart right now so feel free to reach out at @AnastasiaSiap.

Describe Code it Like a Girl in 50 words or less.

Code it Like a Girl is the first organization in Greece about women in technology. Its main activity so far has been offering coding workshops to girls and women in order for them to obtain the hard skills to lead innovation and bridge the gender gap in the IT industry.

Why did you feel the need for this & decided to go with your vision?

Ever since I was a child I have been feeling an intense impulse to contribute to my community. This is why I chose to study law and this is why I have co-founded Code it Like a Girl as well as a new social startup, Geek Islands. I believe that no matter what you do, you will be judged both positively and negatively, so at least it’s better to be criticized while doing something you enjoy.

At the same time, it seems like in this fast-paced era, our dreams and aspirations change constantly and entrepreneurship is a great vehicle for those who consider themselves “multipotentialites” and wish to experiment in several fields. Career paths are not and should not be expected to be linear, so no one should be afraid to launch their own venture out of fear of failure.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

There is no typical working day for me! I am still a university student whereas I have spent a few weeks doing an internship in New York City but even when I am in Greece I often have to travel to other cities. Therefore, I try to find working places everywhere I go: I skype sometimes at midnight, I reply to emails during my commute, I work from coffee shops, friends’ houses, my mom’s laptop and of course from my student apartment. A few years before there was no way I could concentrate in any place other than my home office, but now the circumstances have somehow “obliged” me to become adaptable. What stays common though in all my workplaces is my deep appreciation for good coffee! As long as caffeine is involved, I can work it out everywhere! I spend most of my working time with my co-founder, Maria Dermentzi, with whom I have an excellent collaboration, so I am usually in good company!

7 years from now: How did your startups change the world?

Code it Like a Girl managed to spark the conversation about a subject that was invisible before in the Greek community: the underrepresentation of women in technology. Some of our graduates have used their newly gained coding skills to gain jobs, promotions or continue their studies and the majority have felt empowered and able to learn whatever they want. We gradually change the mentality of women and inspire them to be great regardless of society’s stereotypes. We envision a world where women, confident in their IT skills, will innovate and channel their creativity to ameliorate the world. They will work and excel at technological professions reducing the industry’s gender gap in this way .

Geek Islands on the other side aspires to provide egalitarian access to digital skills all over Greece, thus enhancing our impact to more underrepresented social groups.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

I measure success both in terms of quantity and quality. Specifically, I am interested in the number of experiences we have provided and in their depth. I think that a startup can understand that they have lost track when they have stopped enjoying what they do, when the vision of the company is not mutually shared by all its members any more.

At a personal level, I know I am on the right track when my actions are aligned with my values, because this is the situation where I perform at a maximum level. When this equilibrium ceases to exist, the quality of service also declines.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

I had the honor and pleasure to be selected as a fellow for the Angelopoulos – Clinton GIU Fellowship, thanks to which I received significant seed funding. Currently, I am among the winners of the CU RestartUp @ ROMANTSO competition organized by Vodafone Greece, so the Geek Islands team is being hosted in the ROMANTSO incubator.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your projects?

I think what most of the startups in Greece fear is the bureaucracy. Establishing a social enterprise in Greece and keeping track of all the paperwork and the constant legislative and tax modifications has been a true Odyssey. This is the reason why one of the first and most important steps is to find reliable and knowledgeable accountants and lawyers to partner with. Personally, my biggest challenge has been accepting the fact that “done is better than perfect” and learning how to delegate, thus learning how to embrace uncertainty. I am still working on it!

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Firstly, I keep my eyes and ears open to new trends and movements, so that I am prepared to embrace them. Secondly, I try to keep my business always improving instead of letting it rest and get drunk on its own success. It might seem obvious but the best way for a startup to succeed is by continuously asking for and evaluating customer feedback with an orientation towards customer-focused growth strategies. Ignoring our customers’ complaints or trying to find excuses for them won’t make these complaints go away!

What do you look for in team members?

Commitment and self-motivation. I hate it when people promise many things and accomplish very few. As adults we should be responsible for our actions, especially when others depend on them. I appreciate honesty and eagerness to work hard, whereas knowledge and relevant experience come second. Of course all team members will go through training in order to ensure the best possible fit in the team.

Why would a talent join your team?

If someone believes in the power of coding education and would like to offer his/her knowledge to the most remote and in need areas of Greece, I would suggest that they join Geek Islands and our new team. Our work culture is characterized by effectiveness, honesty and direct feedback, understanding and – last but not least – fun!

What was your most memorable moment so far?

My most memorable moment so far has been when I received the email announcing my nomination as a Greek delegate at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 at Stanford University. It has been a crucial recognition of my entrepreneurial zeal and I am thrilled to get immersed in Silicon Valley’s ecosystem, one of the “hottest” tech hubs right now. During the summit I aim to explore potential synergies, receiving valuable feedback and why not, meeting with President Obama!

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

To quote Churchill “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. Entrepreneurial life is indeed a roller coaster and along with the success moments there will definitely be moments of adversity. You have to view these challenges as opportunities to grow, knowing that we are all stronger than we think. Resilience is the key factor distinguishing long lasting entrepreneurs from occasional ones.

Especially, my advice to women everywhere is to be an example. Be brave. Be vocal. Sometimes all that we need is to see someone else do what we feel is impossible and to realize that it’s not as hard as it seems. We lie back in the comfort of our society and we accept what we think is already written or too hard to change. This status quo has to change and we are all capable of disrupting it.



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