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Milda Mitkutė

Milda Mitkutė

Founder of Vinted

„You get what you give“

Milda Mitkutė, founder of one of the most famous Lithuanian start-ups Vinted is known to many. However, few know that when the amateur project started to grow into a business, Milda was filling her gaps in the knowledge at the ISM Executive MBA programme.

 

The success of a company and dictatorship are hardly compatible

​I would have hardly believed if someone in the secondary school would have told me I will be a businesswoman. I had very few traits essential to a businesswoman. That was not just my opinion but that of my peers too: one teacher said that if she had to compile a list of students who would succeed in business, you unfortunately would not be on that list. But being in business was never my dream to begin with. My ambition was to find a job where I would realize myself and where I would feel happy. However, as it happens, I and my colleague we have created an international company with 160 employees. Until then, I had no sense of what it means to be responsible for such a large team, for such a large organization. Vinted was born as a leisure project with no ambition to grow into a big business, only to eventually become a community connecting 20 million members. Leadership at Vinted is often a topic of discussion. We, managers, are constantly discussing what it means to be a good leader, how to become one, how we can help each other. Personally, I believe one of the key criteria for evaluating a leader is whether people follow her on their own or because they “have to”. To me, this is the main difference between a leader and a manager. The manager pays a salary, so I have to obey him; while the leader has an inspirational ambition that I want to help him achieve. I fail to imagine a different style of leadership in the IT sector, where competition is ruthless: the company’s long-term success and dictatorship are two mutually exclusive models. In the company, we understand it is not the money factor that motivates our people. An honest remuneration is essential, no doubt about it. The real motivation, however, lies not in financial matters, but in the possibility of finding the activity meaningful and enabling one to realise oneself. For this reason, we are primarily looking for ambitious people whose personal growth is like oxygen. Moreover, as the organization was growing, we, the managers, were perfectly aware that we cannot be everywhere and make every single decision. For this reason, we deliberately started to develop a team which would pose the right questions, which would take responsibility and make the right decisions. And here again we have understood that without giving freedom, you hardly will develop a mature team.

Shortage of time has taught us to not tolerate poor quality leisure

Striking a balance between work and family and leisure was not an easy feat to do. I am currently on maternity leave, I work little, and I do not feel bad about it – I know what’s going on in the company at the strategic level, but I’m not directly involved in the process. However, I learned to keep that balance way before maternity. What helped was my self-imposed rather strict rules for myself. Understanding that business is an important, but not the only part of my life and personality, it had to allocate time for leisure and work. There was a time when I worked almost continuously, however, with time I noticed that it reduced, rather than increased the efficiency. Paradoxically, the more you work overtime, the lower the results. Mental and physical fatigue did not help anyone. What leisure time means to me is the greatest variety possible. I choose activities through which I can learn of different aspects of my personality. That’s how things such as a book club and golf, cooking as a creative process and guided museum tours have found their way into my life. The general requirement is that it has to be interesting and enjoyable. With very little free time, one develops intolerance to poor quality leisure. The less free time one has, the better one knows what one wants do with it. If I feel that I do not like the party, I do not just stay there because “I have to”.

The studies have brought about more structural than tactical changes

I did not attend the ISM Executive MBA studies only to obtain the diploma. We had already established Vinted and I saw that it was growing from an amateur project into a business. I felt a lack of knowledge, especially in marketing for which I was responsible. So, the choice of study programme was completely based on practical needs to acquire high quality, concentrated knowledge in the shortest time possible. ISM did not disappoint me – it really increased my education standards. I could compare it with the studies at Vilnius University and Vilnius Academy of Arts, where everything is focused on the process, with a lot of inertia, lacking adaptation to market conditions. ISM’s approach to studies is much more practical. I also like the fact that the university itself is trying to grow, improve, everything is focused on the result. Obviously, not all theories are directly applicable to business. I do not think any manager starting her studies at the ISM would find it surprising, for every adult knows perfectly well that life does not follow the textbook. But the textbook is important to know. The theoretical foundation is very necessary, because it gives you the general structure, which in real life can be bypassed should it be necessary. The knowledge acquired during studies can become a burden for a young person who can naively try to follow the theoretical framework a bit too faithfully. In connection with this, I believe the Executive MBA studies are best suited for the needs of those students who already have experience in business. Currently, I have already finished 3 ISM Executive MBA modules. The studies have brought about more structural than tactical changes. My first course was marketing. Like the strategic management module, it is especially useful when one needs more knowledge or wants to double-check and find out what’s going on around the world. The leadership module, I would say, is more suitable for those who have more time and want more philosophy, to better understand themselves. I appreciate this course, for I felt thirsty for this kind of things and I really found it satisfying. I believe, however, it is not suitable for a person who is in a hurry and who is aware of her need for specific knowledge. As for each module, it would be ideal to have more time than just to attend the lectures these two days every couple of weeks. It would be great to have a couple more days to better prepare for them, and to dwell on the things learned during the class. Personally, I did not have the time, so I know that I have not really squeezed everything possible out of the studies. So instead of a wish to future students I leave them with a reminder that is very suitable for these studies: “You get what you give”.