Demi Markogiannaki - Co-Founder of We Teach Me.

The Co-Founder of We Teach Me, Demi Markogiannaki, certainly is a powerhouse of a woman. Markogiannaki is one of 2018’s Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence and aims to ooze positivity and creativity wherever she goes. Encouraging all to try something new, whilst accepting challenges that come along the way. We Teach Me is the platform that embodies the zeitgeist we all have within us.

How do your values link to the We Team Me vision and how do you execute them in practise? 

  1. Extra Effort. We think it’s not just enough to show up. It’s putting in everything you have in your heart and your soul. To go that extra mile and make that difference whether that be for your clients or whether it is within the team.
  2. Actions Speak Louder Than Words. It’s important for us to do things and prove our worth with actions. They say talk is cheap, right. You can say anything. You can pretend to achieve 6-8 things but what we want to do is put everything into action. We have a no bullsh*t policy pretty much.
  3. Ownership. Taking ownership and being accountable. Being a part of the no bullsh*t policy. You take ownership of something until you get it done until the end.
  4. We believe in honesty.  If something happens then it’s better to stay true to not only who you are but stick to what happened. I think it’s a lot easiest to go ahead and work with people and build trusting relationships if you’re honest.
  5. People Centric. Help these people on both sides of the suppliers and small business. The issues that come up in small business is always like mayhem that you have to deal with every day. You need a lot of resilience and a lot of hard work. We understand these people and we are trying to serve them the best way possible.

That’s so true though! You have to honour your commitments and march to the beat of your own drum. I’d like to step back a little bit. I understand that you were born and raised in Greece. What initially brought you to Melbourne? 

I came here to do my master’s degree at Melbourne University. I was always a curious kid. I always wanted to travel - I have a bit of an appetite for adventure. I had no idea I would stay for 11 years. I can’t even believe it myself. I thought it was just an adventure. I will come and do my masters and I will work with people and I will make connections and I’ll have a lot of fun in the process and I will challenge myself. Then I’ll go back home which never happened. Only for holidays.

 

 I had support from back home [in terms of] finance and also emotionally. They were by my side. I struggled so much. I struggled with the language, the culture, the distance and making friends. I felt lonelier that I’ve ever felt in my life. To date I still speak to my family once a day on facetime. But talking about resilience and how this has affected my life - I cannot imagine how hard it would be for all the thousands of migrants and refugees. People around the world who have to abandon their homes. Go to a different country; not speaking the language or anything like that. Not because they want to, but because of their circumstances. I have so much respect for these people.

Let’s talk a bit about your business success. You’ve been listed as one of the Australian Financial Review’s top 100 most influential people which is absolutely incredible. What does this kind of recognition mean and represent for you? 

First, being nominated and being a part of a community of amazing women is not only the biggest honour, but one of the most humbling experiences. It’s not just the recognition, it’s an invaluable lesson that nothing is impossible. It doesn’t matter what your background is. I’m Greek. I’ve been in the country for ten years with no business experience or anything like that. So, it doesn’t matter what your background is, your religion [or] your ethnicity. We all have stories that should be celebrated and shared. Stories that transcend history, geography, gender, race. It’s our truth and it’s powerful. I think we can all fight for justice, equality and a better world.

 

When they are listening to us, then we can influence them. We can help them see a better future. I find this such a supportive community. It’s a sisterhood of amazing women that grows bigger and bigger every year and it inspires the future generations of girls to go ahead and pursue their dreams. To open their hearts and consider that everything is possible. We are free to experience all these things today because all the women in the past have fought for us. They have been through lifetimes of inequality, oppression and injustice so that we can enjoy life. I think it comes with an important responsibility to build a path for the future women and to not be scared to voice their opinions or be scared to walk at night. I’m very passionate about this and I think there’s a lot of work to be done. I cannot tell you how optimistic I am.

In terms of technology, I think it is still quite a male dominated industry. What advice do you have for younger women, or women in general, who want to break into that industry and how did you find it? 

I think with technology, and along with every male dominated industry, there is a bit of bullying behind it. That is how it comes across. There’s not that many women. Now it’s cool to follow the path that is so male dominated. It blocked a lot of women from following that and it becomes very hard and to tell them to believe in themselves.

 

"What they’re saying, what they’re thinking, what they’re believing is good enough to voice and that they are enough. Not to second guess themselves, not to be judgemental."

 

If you second guess yourself so much to the point where you don’t have a voice […]  you have to call out sexist behaviour within you work environment. It’s not a joke. Even if it’s said as a joke, it’s not a joke. It’s not funny. You know, stand up for yourself, and of course put in the hard work. Do your homework, be prepared. Respond to everything in your immediate environment with the intention to be the best version of yourself. Work hard, study hard. Put all the effort that you have in order to be able to feel secure and safe within your own skin. Don’t allow other people or other people’s opinions to put you down. Whether that be other men or other women - just stand strong. Be prepared. Anticipate the conflict and be confident in your skin.

We Teach Me inspires people to pursue their passion. Who inspires you to pursue yours? 

I think my family are key people in empowering me to pursue my dreams. It’s the way I grew up. They never discriminated between me and my brother – whatever he could do I could do. We grew up, in the most way, where we were pushed and were encouraged to do more. To pursue more, to believe in ourselves.  I think that’s very important.

 

 Bad things will happen. But what you need to do is adjust, get up and continue. Courage is like something that I really keep in my mind. I keep in mind that the previous generation are the people that helped me to do it.

 

Of course the team – and having an amazing team around you that are working hard, believe in your vision, they are there for you. They support you. They see you through the hard times and celebrate your success and cry together when bad things are happening. No one can ever, ever achieve anything without an amazing team around them. It’s the courage that will carry you through those difficult times to keep you going.

Was it always your intention to become an entrepreneur? 

No. I had no business background whatsoever. I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. I’m still learning so so much every day. You can say that you have an entrepreneurial spirit and that’s fine. But all people know what they’re doing, I think it’s more finding something that challenges you, I guess. A purpose that’s worth putting your time in and that you really love doing. The resilience and the passion for work. Finding ways to fight adversity and the courage to keep going -that’s what makes an entrepreneur. 

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