Meet Jeannette Gusko, PhD student in communication management and freelance PR consultant. While following the red line of strategic communications she constantly challenges herself by working in different environments and expanding her professional playing field. Up until now she has worked in academia, in big public companies and for startups in Germany, France, Spain, Australia and the USA.
Interview by Franziska Krüger, Head of Germany at 23.
Please tell us a little bit about where you’re coming from.
After my A-levels I decided to do a gap year in Australia, which to me back then was “The land of the free” meant to be discovered. When I returned to Germany I opted for Business and Communication in Berlin and École de Commerce in rural France for my bachelor’s degree. It was also during this time that I became involved with socially relevant entrepreneurial projects. I joined the organizing team of BruttoSozialPreis which helped nonprofits to professionalize their communication. A year later I got to work for Mercedes Benz in New York which helped me to gain professional insights into branding and pricing but also understand the processes and culture of a corporation. I continued working with different organizations, amongst others startups like younect and allmaxx. The red line has always been consulting and strategic communication which led me to my Masters in Leipzig and eventually to starting my PhD.
Can you tell us briefly what your PhD is about?
I research the role of strategic communication in startups. Based on a lifecycle model I look at two sensitive situations that most startups have to deal with. On the one hand I concentrate on times in which startups grow too quickly, which influences the organization on an internal transformational level. On the other hand I focus on communications addressing the financial community in terms of establishing long-term relations and investor readiness.
How do startups and science go together?
First of all I’d answer that creativity is the linking factor of both fields. I also definitely see mutual learning potential. Science is all about discovering patterns, developing models and providing them to society. My PhD project is designed to give startups an analytical framework to navigate, create room for manoeuvre and minimize risks in a sensitive decision-making process. On the other hand, in the startup community, I really value the drive, the power of networks and the great willingness to succeed.
What makes a successful startup?
If there is only a technical solution that is interesting, but doesn’t create any meaning or a real solution for a specific problem, it is not appealing to me. Innovation is about being user-centric and creating value, not about a pretty nice-to-show-around idea. I guess this is why I am passionate about design thinking approaches to tackle a problem. The more I work with startups the more I realize that success depends on what you are able to add to a community, what you add to your customers daily life, and to what extent you are able to inspire others and change perspectives.
How would you define success for yourself?
Success is a very personal matter. To me success is about establishing a balance between constantly challenging myself and taking time off to recharge and reflect. It is important for me to learn something every day and to always take a leap forward. Success is more than being successful on a professional level. Of course completing my PhD alone would be a success but I also hope to achieve something else in the near future: I want to drive organizational transformation and the way we communicate change.
What should aspiring women keep in mind to reach their goals?
Firstly it is important for women to understand that producing something relevant and being visible with it is key. Secondly strong networks and role models will always have a bigger impact than one individual alone. This is what makes Berlin Geekettes a very attractive grassroots hub for women in tech. Focus on something you are truly passionate about, don’t settle for mediocrity and follow through. To me the essence of reaching goals is dreaming big in the first place.
Follow Jeannette on Twitter @JeanneRaffut