Verena Delius

CEO

Location: Berlin, Germany

"If you have passion for your work, you don´t really have a plan B. You know, you have to lean in, even if it is not easy at times."

A little more than three years ago, I was eight months pregnant with my second child. The company I was working for had just been sold to a German TV station, so I was looking for a new job. I met with the investors of a then-small Internet company, who offered me the position as CEO, starting just three months after the birth of my child.

I started on the 10th of September 2010, and for the first year I commuted from Hamburg (where I lived with my family) to Berlin, the location of my company: goodbeans. A few months after I joined the company, the COO and I kicked off a major pivot for goodbeans, as it was our strong belief the future of kids and games was mobile, not browser-based. I gave a TEDtalk on the pivot of the company and how we had to push ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to make it happen.

This was a very tough time, both personally and professionally. In my private life, I had two little kids (one of them tiny), who didn´t sleep very well and were living in Hamburg, while I was going back and forth from Berlin. To make matters worse, my husband had left me when the littlest one was only nine months old.

In my professional life, we were questioning everything we had done in the past and completely turning the company around. It was a high-risk move using very little cash, which was both challenging and exhausting. During this time, I lived day for day: Wake up, make a plan for the day, spend time with my boys in the mornings and evenings. Function.

Looking back it was a kind of survival mode I was in. Everyone would have understood if at that time, if I had chosen to lean out. If I had asked for some time off work. If I would have stopped functioning. But there was this deep belief that I was leading exactly the life I wanted to live and it was a matter of taking on the challenge to navigate through some difficult months rather than backing off and taking the easier way. If you have passion for your work, you don´t really have a plan B. You know, you have to lean in, even if it is not easy at times. Because you know you are doing the right thing and have real motivation and enthusiasm. That´s why I kept going.

Today I can say, it was the best decision in my life that I leaned in (till I almost fell on my face) during the last three years. Today I live in the heart of Berlin (we moved in September 2011) with my boyfriend, my sons and our English au pair. Company-wise we still have a way to go in managing our turnaround towards mobile, but we are on a very good track and have a company culture and employees we are so proud of. And personally I am a very happy, laid-back young women who knows that it will take quite a lot to knock her down. There is a saying that goes "Even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forwards" and today I laugh about the scratches I have and am happy I took the pain.