10 Questions for Simona Zábržová
In every post of our “10 Questions” series, we will introduce one of our colleagues who works in Soulmio, investing their energy, drive and enthusiasm. We kick off the first one with Simona Zábržová, our founder and CEO.
After finishing high school, you went to the USA. Why did you choose the United States?
I was offered a 3-month summer job while working at a Brno international trade fair as a hostess. I was 19 and felt like it was an amazing opportunity to travel the US, improve my English and get to know America from up close. I love traveling and it is also part of why I am anchored within myself in business. America gave me insight, perspective, experience, and freed me from fears that something would not work in business. In America, there is a customer for absolutely everything. And that is one of the reasons why I am able to build a global startup today. Because I learned not to be afraid of failure or competition.
Upon your return, you co-founded your own website development company. A female in IT, and you were also very young when you started in the field. Did you find it difficult to succeed in what seems to be a male-dominated field?
I was introduced to the world of IT by my ex-boyfriend who is a graphic designer, programmer and coder. I learned a lot from him. But I did not see it as a disadvantage that I was a woman in the technological environment. I enjoyed the work, I liked to learn more about the field, I trusted our services 100% and wanted to create beautiful, yet affordable web presentations for companies. I never experienced difficulties succeeding as a woman, I might have only been aware that I had less expertise but I did not mind. I was a businesswoman, not the person actually creating the web and I had enough knowledge for that. I am also very happy that Suitu, the company, which I co-founded, is still in business today and has created over a thousand company websites over the course of its existence.
What do you enjoy the most about the startup world?
The startup environment has a drive, enthusiasm, an open company culture, a desire to create innovative products and services. It is a mix of creativity, inspiration, meeting new people, diversity of opinions, personal and career growth and education. Startups have no limits. The only limits they have are in our heads. Every startup can be as big as you can dream it up, and that is what I enjoy.
The current times are very busy. Do you think that society puts more "pressure to perform" on women or men?
Both. I don't think I can judge from my position where there is more or less pressure, but what I can talk about is what is important to me to be able to face that pressure. The number one principle is anchoring yourself within yourself. Everyone should be aware of their own self-worth, trust their intuition and connect with themselves for at least a few minutes every day, whether by breath, meditation or an activity during which you can only feel yourself. If you practice this every day, you will build an excellent foundation for withstanding any outside pressure. Because it is still pressure of the society, not yours. Make your dreams come true, follow your feelings and do not succumb to coming up to the expectations of others as we often tend to do. Then, it does not matter at all if you are a man or a woman.
Admitting burnout to yourself is a difficult step that requires courage. Many people are ashamed of it, they feel like they failed. How do we find out when it is time to “pull the emergency brake”?
There are quite a few signals. Little sleep, little energy, cynicism, never-ending stress, excessive self-criticism, being fed up with everyday life, a feeling of lethargy and numbness, as well as physical illness. You have no desire to live, feel like you have lost yourself and no one understands you. You feel like an empty shell and usually you feel lonely. You close yourself up in your own world and nothing feels fulfilling. Emotional exhaustion is the key essence of burnout. However, if you connect yourself with yourself on a daily basis, you are able to self-diagnose these feelings in time.
What are, in your opinion, the qualities of a good therapist?
As in every relationship, the chemistry between the client and the therapist is essential. Even the best therapist does not necessarily have to click with every client. I know this from my own experience. I visited a therapist who had fifty amazing reviews, but she was not the right fit for me on a personal note. I did not feel like I could trust her, and she definitely did not make me feel like she could help me. I ended the therapy early. Before your visit, I would recommend trying to find out as much information as possible about the therapist's practice, I would suggest reading their articles, reviews, but eventually I would recommend putting the most emphasis on your personal feelings from each session. On the other hand, I would not suggest basing your decision on distance, price or gender.
Soulmio focuses on mental health and prevention of mental illness in companies. How exactly does it work?
Soulmio is relatively unique in that it is designed for companies and is based on a total of 4 important pillars that make up a comprehensive program. The pillars are online psychological counselling, wellbeing video diagnostics, the mental wellness program and company workshops. It aims to cover not only situations where it is actually necessary to deal with an unpleasant situation or problem, but it also intensively focuses on the prevention of conditions such as burnout, anxiety, depression and more. In terms of mental wellness, it has a great overlap into personal and professional development. It identifies, for example, how a person is perceived in the company, whether they have the competencies necessary to achieve career advancement, or areas for improvement. Soulmio builds on its online services with intensive offline workshops led by experienced psychologists.
How do you like to relax? What is your mental hygiene?
I have truly tried many different relaxation methods. I have remained true to the daily connection to myself. Every day, I spend 10-15 minutes either breathing, stretching, meditating, listening to music or just thinking about the nice things that the day has brought me. I combine this with sport, good food, friends, cooking, traveling, movies, reading and recently I have started to quite enjoy comics.
When I do not pay attention to myself for three days in a row or so, I start to feel the outside world digging into my mental wellbeing, so I quickly return to my few minutes a day and everything gets better again.
Who inspires you the most in life? Do you have any male or female role models?
I am inspired by people who follow their heart, are open, honest, intelligent and funny. I don’t have any role models because everyone is inspiring to me in one way or the other, I like human diversity and try to see light and good qualities in everyone. I keep an eye out for energy suckers, and I also dislike when something is extreme because it is often a sign of an inner imbalance. If that is the case, I do not like to stay longer than necessary in such company.
What is most important to you in life?
Being myself. Having peace and quiet in me, being healthy and living in the present. Because if you want to change the world around you, you first have to change yourself. A few years ago, I would have not completely understood the meaning of this quote by Mark Twain, I would have thought “what do you mean change myself to change others”? Today, I absolutely understand it. In order to have functioning relationships, inner balance and life of inspiration, not injustice and pains of the past, you must first work on yourself.
Forgiving everyone who hurt, disappointed or betrayed you and forgiving yourself. Only then can you find true peace and harmony. And by radiating this, you will attract the right people who will enthusiastically share this journey of yours, you will have more self-love and be overall healthier. And that’s why working on yourself is worth it.