I recall her as she stood out of the crowd, among all other speakers. She was the one who caught my attention, I was completely mesmerised by her knowledge and attitude, strong and elegant at the same time.
One of the few people I would look up to and think ‘I want to follow her example’.
She kindly accepted to meet me for the interview inside the cafe of a prestigious hotel on the Strand, off Trafalgar Square.
RTC: As per every woman I have interviewed so far, my first question is all about you. Who is Maria?
Maria: That’s a broad question! Maria is a traveller, someone that never wanted to be limited by anybody or anything. At the same time I would say I am very generous, goal focused, I am the owner of a firm and I love developing people’s skills.
RTC: When did you understand it was the time for you to start your own business?
M: I founded Cherazz at 26 years old, but it was at 21 that I had an epiphany about my future and
I started calling all the companies that were doing business consultancy asking them what steps I should undertake to set up something on my own.
Back then I began my studies about leadership and psychology for business, and after few years working for someone else, I felt the urge to be independent. The fact that I am a very balanced person, has always helped me in taking care of my firm.
Some people think I am a workaholic, but I have to admit I control my work and personal life in such a balanced way that I never feel overwhelmed.
RTC: Maria, your company is now established and you work all over the globe which is exciting. Do you think success comes with a price?
M: Of course I made sacrifices to be where I am now, but when you feel that something it’s the right thing to do, you just do it.
If you want to grow your brand in order to have success you have to make some concessions, but you know that’s the right thing to do. I don’t feel I have “sacrificed” anything. I don’t deny I have desires for my personal life, but I can simultaneously work on them and not necessarily overlook my business.
RTC: At ‘Her Corner’ we often talk about clarity on our goals. Would you say your life purpose is clear to you?
M: Yes! – she laughs – I know exactly what my purpose is: to support people to be more efficient, helping them in growing professionally.
RTC: Considering that your typical clients are male CEO and Directors, have you ever been victim of gender-based discrimination?
M: To be honest, I never had a man looking down at me or treating me with disrespect because I am a woman. Perhaps, in some countries where the culture is very different from ours, I have experienced some kind of tension at first, however, it never lasted longer than few minutes.
I have never been harassed or discriminated because of my gender.
Maria is a strong leading character, a real example for our readers. I ask her what a woman should do not to be victimised.
M: The best thing one can do is to be strong enough to tell them when they are wrong and to never feel intimidated by the role or social status of someone.
RTC: Let’s talk about weakness and failures. How do you cope with your daily disappointments?
M: I will never forget what my first boss told me when I was 19 years old: ‘Maria, you cannot know all the answers. Accept it. If a client doesn’t sign the contract with us, move ahead and find the right one’. I apply his teaching every day, when something doesn’t go the way I want or I have expected, I have learnt to move on and not to be bothered by unsuccessful outcomes.
RTC: Would you say you are a competitive person?
M: If I talk about my personal life absolutely not. Actually I love living in complete harmony and balance. I love being with friends, reading books, travelling and discovering the world. Rather than competing with others I’d do it with self.
Work-wise I can be highly competitive; when dealing with my competitors I have to show them I am the best.
RTC: Maria, I will never forget when a year ago you said: ‘If you were born a leader, you will always be a leader’. What would you suggest to those who are natural leaders but don’t know it yet?
M: For many people it’s very difficult to see themselves for who they really are. If we now ask 20 people to specify what a leader is according to their opinion, each one of them would have a different point of view. The best thing one should do is to never give up on what they believe in.
RTC: Maria, thank you very much indeed for your time today. As you know the greatest part of our readers are on their 20’s, it would be interesting to know what advice would you give the twenty year old self?
M: You are your best friend. Listen to your own intuition and gut feelings, you will never go wrong.
A quick farewell with the promise to meet up soon. What an inspirational woman she is!