Daria Suvorova, founder of WAA Podcast & Community
For her Women Authors of Achievement (WAA) podcast, founder Daria Suvorova meets some of the most successful women of our time. In August 2022, Daria Suvorova was accepted into the Project Future Network with the WAA Podcast.
Daria, your Women Authors of Achievement Podcast (WAA) started as a networking dinner series for women in Berlin. During the pandemic, you launched the podcast and just released your 50th episode. What was your motivation for starting the podcast?
I am a deeply curious person and I have always enjoyed organizing dinners. The first dinner started with just twelve women - I've always been about the conversations in a comfortable atmosphere and the connections that have grown out of them. In an intimate format like dinner, it's easy to share knowledge and experiences with each other. It worked so well that twelve women grew into a community of about 200 women in a short period of time. Through Corona, I was then no longer able to gather the inspiring women around one table. I was looking for a conversational environment to learn and share their stories. From that, the WAA podcast was born. Instead of a roundtable, it's now one-to-one conversations in the studio, which I really enjoy. I can devote myself completely to an interview partner. Our conversations are not about pure achievement or classic stories of advancement, but about turning points in life - I look for the winding paths that have led women to where they are today.
You hear so many life stories and career paths every day - what impresses you the most?
Every interview partner impresses me anew! No two stories are the same, that's what makes it so exciting. And I love asking questions. My interview partners are very reflective and have taken their lives into their own hands. You could also say: they don't follow life, life follows them and their decisions. Sometimes this results in surprising twists and turns. My current guest Vera Futorjanski, for example, CEO & Founder of Veritas Partners, was a professional tango dancer in her first career. She then went into the founder:inside industry and led various company launches for Rocket Internet as Head of Communications. Now she is an investor who is building a community for female founders. In conversations like these, I'm naturally interested in: Why this change? How did she get to where she is now? During the conversation, one of the things we came up with was Jane Fonda, who was not only an actress, but also a political activist and aerobics icon. Combining so many roles in one life is much less questioned today.
There are a few podcasts dedicated to women, careers, and female empowerment. What makes your podcast different?
If I had to highlight something, it would be my intention to give a platform to female role models. We still don't have enough of those. Also, there are still far too few female voices in the podcast space. But at the same time, I don't focus on the gender issue in my conversations. I don't ask how it feels to run a business as a woman or start a business as a woman. We talk about accomplishments, success stories, but also the difficult times my guests have had. Some have literally moved mountains, but don't yet get the outside validation and recognition for it that they deserve. These are women who have already achieved a lot in their lives and celebrated great successes - of whatever nature. This goes deeper. When my interviewees come to me to reflect on their lives and their work, I'm incredibly grateful for the huge leap of faith they give me at that moment. That is the most important thing for me: the trust, the honesty, the openness.
You talk to female investors, social entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers from all over the world - how do you coordinate the recordings?
I emphasize the personal conversation, which means I invite my interview partners to a studio in Kreuzberg - that's where all the recordings take place. Being physically present is important for me to build a connection. Successful women have busy schedules, but the moment we go into a screened studio, they are completely in the here and now and there are no outside distractions. Some work in two locations, for example in Berlin and London, or visit from Vienna, like Female Founders Nina Wöss and Lisa-Marie Fassl. If they are then on site in Berlin, I take advantage of the opportunity.
What feedback do your listeners give you?
Many are often surprised by the (re)paths and hurdles that the interviewees have taken. They see the successful woman, but not the work behind it. Because nothing is as perfect or easy as it looks at first glance. My female interviewees have traveled very long distances to be where they are today. They have made mistakes, failed, and gotten back up again. If it inspires listeners to dare more themselves and - like them - not be discouraged by setbacks, then we've accomplished a lot with our podcast. We want a good atmosphere in which to share knowledge and inspiration.
What career tips have you personally internalized for yourself?
My father always had a guiding principle that he gave me early on: "There is neither "young" nor "old", the only categories that count are "smart" or "un-smart". I take that to heart, because you're never too young or too old for anything. Why should we let ourselves be limited by standards like age? Even as a founder:in, you are never too old - although that is a widespread prejudice. Conversely, you often hear that someone is too young to take on a leadership position. In my opinion, at the end of the day it's about you as a person and whether you have the passion, the courage and the skills for it. My professional career has not taken a very straight path itself. I was a tennis player and spent most of my life in the United States. Later, I moved to Berlin, worked in legal consulting and then started to discover the startup scene for myself. Now, as host of my podcast, I get to meet impressive women in all their diversity.
How do you perceive the female entrepreneur scene in Berlin? What does it need to strengthen it further?
Berlin is a city where you can turn any idea into reality - and it's no surprise that the city was once again voted the number 1 startup hub in Europe according to Startup Heatmap Europe 2022. People here are open, they trust your ambition and want to support you. Ideas are not immediately put down. On top of that, the city attracts a lot of creatives, and in a community with other creatives, something new always comes up. But what I also notice in the survey here is that there is still some catching up to do when it comes to diversity and female founders. According to the Startup Heatmap, the number of female startups has fallen by 0.2 percent in recent years! So I think female founders here continue to need increased visibility and also the structures that enable them to start up - whether that's special networks, programs or offers with better childcare or parental leave. The platforms that we have can be further expanded and strengthened. I myself love living here and love the city and am happy to continuously meet great female founders and entrepreneurs.
How is your own Berlin network and how did your collaboration with Projekt Zukunft come about?
In a word? Multifaceted. I'm a curious person and I'm interested in people from all different backgrounds. I regularly put myself in situations outside my comfort zone and constantly challenge myself to meet new people with different opinions than mine. Perhaps the best way to sum this up is "cultural curiosity." In Berlin, there are some bubbles that many of us are in, whether that's the startup bubble or the media bubble. In order to break up these bubbles and provide for more exchange, networks like the ones that come about through Project Future are very important. We benefit from the many subsets with Projekt Zukunft, because it is, after all, considered a driver of digital transformation and the promotion of innovation and networking of the digital, media and creative industries in Berlin. At WAA Podcast, we lend a digital platform to women from these fields in particular, making their stories, messages and career paths heard. The podcast aims to grow their stage, but not just appeal to women. New collaborations also bring together different communities and that brings increased visibility for female role models.