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Adii Pienaar

Family man, seeker and learner. Revealing my inner-poet. 2X Founder: Conversio (acquired by Campaign Monitor) + WooCommerce (acquired by Automattic). Ex-Rockstar.

Ep2 - Marie Prokopets | Making a Change, Taking a Risk, and Quieting the Inner Critic


Marie Prokopets has had a “wild ride” of a career. She is the co-founder of tech startup FYI, recipient of Product Hunt’s Golden Kitty Maker of the Year award, former Diageo Director of Tequila, comedy screenplay writer, and avid meditator, crystal collector, and sage burner.

Enacting Change and Take Risks

Marie identifies one of her greatest accomplishments as making the transition from a job outside of tech, moving into the startup world, and ultimately founding FYI.  

Growing up, Marie was expected to get a Master’s degree and find a stable career. When she ended up getting a Masters in English Literature, she became the sort of “black sheep” of the family. At the time, a tech startup wasn’t even a thought that crossed her mind.

The tech startup world has a rapid nature, which means entering it requires a learning curve. Being an avid risk taker, Marie tries her best to focus on her desires, and not place barriers between herself and what she wants. She dove headfirst into this brand new world.

“I’m not one of those people that ponders if I can do something before I do it… I just do it.”

When to Make a Change

It is easy to become comfortable in a stable job, despite the fact that you’re no longer happy. This is what happened when Marie worked with Diageo. A huge change had to be made. Marie wanted to feel like a “whole person”; she wasn’t happy on a “soul level” in her current position. When the company changed hands, she decided she could leave.

“No matter what switch you’re doing, it can be really challenging. And the key thing is to almost go through and decide what’s a story and what’s reality... Most of the things that slow us down or stop us are in fact stories that our minds are creating to protect us.”

Change can be scary. Ask yourself what is this thing that I’m afraid of? Is it realistic? If you can imagine the worst case scenario, consider whether it is palatable—if what you are met with is failure, are you confident enough to bounce back, learn and grow from it?

“Our vision is so colored by whatever we have going on--whether there's fears or certain risk tolerances or judgements of yourself or something else.”

Your Inner Critic

With age, the more risk averse side of Marie’s personality has evolved and she has begun minimizing risks in everything she does. Despite this fact, she has gotten more comfortable with herself as a whole. Where she used to have a fear of what people thought of different parts of her personality, she eventually realized it’s better to be and show your whole self.

Working alongside your inner critic and knowing when to take a risk is necessary to make real change in your career and life.

Titles and labels, as well as awards, can both give and take away one’s confidence and activate that tiny inner critic in our minds.

After receiving the nomination for Product Hunt’s Maker of the Year Golden Kitty award, Marie didn’t blink an eye. She surely never expected to win. When she did, her inner critic kept telling her that she “didn’t do enough” or “should be doing more.” When the COVID-19 pandemic came around, this little voice began to make her feel she had a duty to live up to the title.

Learning as a Maker

It is important always to go into a change with a beginner’s mind, understanding that you can learn and grow, and that mistakes will happen along the way. This alleviates a great deal of pressure. The human mind doesn’t need exponential confidence to enact our innate ability to learn; anyone can do it.

The part of being a maker Marie loves is the act of creation and learning as you go: from the process, from customers, from successes and failures. When learning as a maker, you have to see the process as a success--rather than an end goal and point. As a maker you will always keep evolving your goods or products (especially in tech); it's a never ending process of learning.

The freedom to be ourselves, ask questions, make mistakes, not know something, learn, and be confident are all imperative parts of reaching one’s passion and being our whole and authentic selves.


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