A professional soccer player, an actuary, a consulting manager. Max Palko could have become all of these, but – luckily for the Rockaway team – life led him elsewhere and finally led him to the position of investment…
“Having a plan and knowing where to start keeps me calm,” says Karin regarding her strategy for when things start getting tough at work. As COO of the Rockaway Ventures Fund, since the beginning of summer 2022 she has been in charge of keeping it running efficiently, communicating with investors and third parties, cash flow management, and reporting to investors. What does Karin do to balance out her busy schedule, and what does she value most about Rockaway? You’ll find the answers in this edition of the Insider.
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
I can’t say that some specific mistake taught me the most; I try to take something away from every mistake or failure. But it’s true that there’s one event I’ll always remember: I can’t really call it a mistake, it was more of a project that didn’t work out the way it should have, but I took it as a personal failure and it had a big impact on my mental well-being. I kept on thinking about what hadn’t worked out and why, whether we could have prevented it, and I engaged in a lot of analyzing. I think that after I came to terms with it, it gave me a certain detachment and acceptance of the fact that it’s completely normal to make mistakes, that nobody’s perfect, and that the main thing is how you approach the situation and deal with it.
Which of your skills do you work on because you consider it to be the most important in the future?
I try to work on myself constantly. I think that my advantages are a positive approach and empathy when it comes to working with people, something I try to maintain. These are properties that can make people’s day more pleasant and support teamwork.
What also helps me a lot is that I try not to take things at work personally and I always say to myself that if someone has a problem and behaves accordingly, there must be a cause – it such situations I try to find out why and discuss it if necessary. I like it when we level with each other, especially if constructive criticism is involved, we clear the air and can move on.
What inspiring book influenced you most, and why should we read it?
I can’t think of one right now and I don’t rank them, nor can I say that some specific book has influenced me, but I try to take something away from everything I read or listen to. I like podcasts, for example various interviews with people of note, each of them is interesting in some way. I listen to Proti Proudu (“Upstream”), a Forbes business podcast, as well as CzechCrunch and podcasts focused on investment and venture capital… And books? In the past year I liked Novinářky by Linda Bartošová – interviews with female journalists regarding their career progression. Even though it’s a completely different profession, it was quite inspiring. I also found We Were Always Here by Filip Titlbach, which features interviews dealing with LGBTQ issues, giving you the opportunity to see things through other people’s eyes…
How can one stay calm when things are getting crazy at work?
That’s tough sometimes. I’m a bit of a planner and when something starts “screwing up” I always need to summarize everything and write down what the next steps will be. I need to see the big picture and what the long-term goals are, while at the same time focusing on individual critical steps, one after the other, and how I can ensure the objective is achieved.
People can often see me writing something in a notepad. In this respect I’m old school, I make to-do lists, and what’s at the top has the highest priority. I then of course add more things that are “nice to have”. This calms me down: when I’ve got a plan and know where to start. And when it’s not working, rework the plan and think up something else.
Which work-related decision got you where you are today?
I can’t really say that one work-related decision got me where I am today, that’s now how it was for me. After school I joined the audit team at one of the “Big Four” because it seemed to me that I could have a look around there, see the inner workings of lots of companies and sectors, which was an excellent experience. At the same time, my portfolio was primarily made up of local companies and groups, so I was pretty sure that if I ever left it would be to a local investment group where my work would have an impact and I wouldn’t be part of one big wheel with responsibility for a narrow area of responsibilities. After a couple of years in audit, I felt I needed a change. I’d known about Rockaway for some time through the media, and about three years back my husband had audited Rockaway. Yes, it’s love in the world of audit (laughs). So I had an overall idea of what area Rockaway was active in and what the people here were like. Plus last year I encountered some references to the Rockaway Ventures Fund and I thought: “Jesus, that sounds great!” The fund’s focus interested me: investing in companies digitalizing the economy while respecting ESG criteria, and I said to myself that I had to try it. And it worked out. I was really glad, even though for me, to a certain degree, it meant completely changing fields. At the same time, looking back I see it as an excellent decision, we’ve got a great team here and things work completely differently, dynamically.
What life hack helps you most in your work?
I start doing something I least want to do, I want to always get that out of the way before noon, because that’s when I’m most productive and full of energy. Also, as I’ve already mentioned, I make lists, that’s a “fetish” of mine, I really like it (laughs). It’s simply easier to work on paper, and I’m happy when I can tick off a task. And in my spare time, sports help – exercise or dynamic yoga. That, plus a good TV series, film, book, or podcast can clear my head.