Turning Pain and Pressure Into Power as a Leader with Maranda Dziekonski

In this episode of the B2B Leadership podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Maranda Dziekonski, Chief Customer Officer at Swiftly.
In this episode...

0:55 - Maranda's background - Maranda explains her role at Swiftly.
2:51 - Keeping perspective - How does Maranda advise people to handle the minutiae of day-to-day work?
7:44 - A trip back in time - How did Maranda get into her first leadership position?
10:49 - Environmental exposure - How big of an influence did Maranda's environment play in her early leadership?
15:14 - Introduction to the working world- How did Maranda transition from taking care of her family to going to work?
22:04 - Maranda's son - Did he ever attend any of Maranda's classes when she was in school?
26:38 - From Michigan to San Francisco - How did the transition across the country and into the tech scene happen?
32:25 - Getting buy-in - Buy-in is critical to have early on before driving big change.
37:23 - Maranda's advice to herself - What advice would Maranda give to her younger self?

Connect with Maranda Dziekonski:

Learn more about Swiftly at

Learn more about your own leadership style at:

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Life challenges are inevitable. So it's up to you to decide how you're going to deal with it.

In this episode, Maranda chose to turn her pain and pressure into power to overcome her life challenges.

How did she do it?

Read more to find out.

Maranda's background

Maranda Dziekonski is the Chief Customer Officer at Swiftly, a big data platform that powers public transit.

Swiftly has a very strong mission. They believe in equity and accessibility for all.

Maranda connects with its mission at a personal level. Being part of a company doing something that's making a real difference in the world helps when things are difficult, as it reminds you that in the bigger picture, you're making a much bigger impact. And that helps you get through the more difficult and challenging times.

Keeping perspective

How do you keep in mind the bigger picture perspective that gets lost easily in the minutiae of day-to-day work?

Maranda says you need to stay close to your customers and to the customer of your customers. Dig deep into who you're serving, and try to remind yourself of that every day. Think about how you're impacting them. Be a customer of your own tools. It puts things into perspective that when you're stressed out, it brings you back to that perspective that keeps you moving forward.

Also, be personally aligned with the work that you're doing and the work that your company does. Make sure to find a product or service that you really believe in that you can stand behind, leaders that you want to link arms with, and people that you want to support and work with every day. And the rest will just fall into place.

A trip back in time

How did Maranda get into her first leadership position?

Maranda started her leadership career when she was just a few years old. Her mother had struggled with severe mental illness her entire life, so Maranda had to be the leader in their relationship ever since she was a kid. She had to lead their relationship and help guide her mother to what she knew they needed to do even as a young child.

When she was four years old, her mother gave birth to her younger brother. So she had to take on another role where she became the protector of her little brother and her mother.

At a very young age, Maranda always felt the sense of responsibility of making sure that everyone was taken care of and that they were doing the things they needed to do to survive.

Environmental exposure

How big of an influence did Maranda's environment play in her early leadership?

Maranda was exposed to big responsibilities at such a young age and it has shaped who she is today.

One of the biggest outcomes of it is she has no fear of failing. She does things in a very methodical way to see the potential areas of risk but she's not afraid to take chances and to take the leap. This has really served her well in companies where she takes chances on things that normally, people who are averse to risk wouldn't take.

Being able to go with the flow with no fear of failing and just make a decision and move is a very important leadership skill set along with the ability to see the potential areas of risk ahead to prepare and plan for them.

Introduction to the working world

How did Maranda transition from taking care of her family to going to work?

Maranda started working when she was 14. She started working in restaurants where she had her first management role. She also worked in a local factory and in a call center where she had her first chance to really see what it could be like to work in a professional environment.

When she was 19, she got married and moved to Mexico where she took on a really big role that she was highly underqualified for. Again, she was not afraid of failure so she just jumped into the role.

That big role helped her start her real career because she learned a lot on the job. Ultimately, her marriage did not work out so she came back to the United States while four months pregnant. And that's when the real work started. Maranda knew she was going to be a single mom who didn't have a lot of support from her family. However, she wasn't willing to settle for a life as a single mother working in a factory.

That's when she landed a job at LyondellBasell. She worked there full time and also went to school in the evening while she had her son with her. She worked so hard to be able to manage her job, her school, and her son at the same time.

She was also fortunate to have had wonderful and lovely people who have helped her in so many ways. These experiences drive her to give back to the community because she feels like it's her responsibility to help those who are in the same situation as she was before.

Maranda's son

Did Maranda's son ever attend any of her classes when she was in school?

Yes. Maranda had some really awesome professors that if she couldn't find a babysitter, her son in a car seat would be in the back of the classroom, and he would just sleep.

Her son went with her quite a bit to school and the professors were just cool about it. She tried not to make it a habit though. But if she had to, she could bring him in.

So if you are thinking about going back to school, it is obtainable. Just figure it out because the bigger picture is more important.

A lot of people usually get stuck in trying to figure things out. They don't pause enough to take a look at where they've been.

People need to pause and recognize those moments where they've been and celebrate that. Appreciate what you've done and you will have a completely different perspective on how to handle some that you're going through or something you might go through.

You may not know what's going to happen but know that you will get to where you want to be and it will be okay.

From Michigan to San Francisco

How did the transition across the country and into the tech scene happen?

Maranda wanted more opportunities for her son. Her son is mixed-race and she wanted him to grow up in an area that gave him examples of folks doing amazing things and of different races, backgrounds, and religions. That's why she decided to move to San Francisco all the way from Michigan. Fortunately, everything worked out for both of them.

She actually didn't know how it was going to work out before moving here. She just knew that she had to do this. Her son even hated her when they initially moved here. But keeping the bigger purpose perspective in mind helped. It is the key thing.

But sometimes, from a leadership perspective, even if you have a bigger vision, it's not going to get the reception that you think.

So when you're making changes in your organization, you have to find a way to get buy-in early and buy in often. Getting buy-in is so crucial because if you don't have that buy-in, it's just going to make that journey very difficult.

Getting buy-in

Buy-in is critical to have early on before driving big change. But how do you go about getting buy-in?

Maranda is always looking and trying to learn from previous mistakes. One of the biggest things she tried to do to get buy-in is start with the problem statement instead of starting with the solution.

Start with the problem statement and start with something that helps your team get their thoughts out so you can hear their perspectives. Make it as collaborative as possible. And then go from there. It will significantly change how you collaborate with your teams to solve problems.

As a leader, you are the facilitator of solving problems. You can solve problems yourself but you can facilitate people to come together to solve the problem. It also takes the pressure off of you if you do that as a leader.

Maranda recalled that somebody told her before that if you are the type of leader that goes in with the problem statement, the resolution, and all of that, if any of that fails, it's on you. But if you're the type of leader that goes in and collaborates to try to figure out the problem statement and the resolution, you are linked arms with your team.

If it goes wrong, it's on everyone. The possibility of finger-pointing doesn't exist. Then together, you figure out what you did wrong. You pick it up and you learn from it. Then you move forward.

Maranda's advice to herself

What advice would Maranda give to her younger self?

Maranda would tell herself to move to California quicker because the weather is better and it's her home.

She would also tell herself to learn how to adapt her communication style to the audience that she's working with and the individuals. Because communication styles don't map across the globe. So you have to think about where people are coming from and try to meet them where they are as early and as often as you can.

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