Women in Tech – Karina Dahlke: Smiling Her Way to Success


Women in Tech | a TelecomDrive.com Initiative

A smile can change the moment, it can easily convert a negative attitude to a positive approach – and if smile comes natural to you whether it is work or professional life – you’ll be on the right path to smiling your way to success. This is the reason why Karina Dahlke is a special person.

Meet Karina Dahlke, the Head of Product Marketing for Guavus, a Thales company, providing AI-based analytics solutions to service providers worldwide. Throughout her career, she has held multiple leadership positions in high-tech marketing, global sales and business development for AI, cyber-security and networking companies.

She’s formed many valuable customer and partner relationships with service providers and large enterprises alike, resulting in multimillion-dollar revenue streams and led cross-functional international teams collaborating with engineering and product management to address key business issues. 

Personal Profile –  Living Life Full of Zest

How would you describe yourself?

I’d describe myself as self-motivated, hard-working, and easy-going at the same time.  I’m extremely committed to whatever task I take on and tend to be a perfectionist with my work, however I believe you need to find enjoyment in everything you do.  Laughter is the key. Things can and will go wrong.  No matter what the situation is, you can always find something to laugh about and that will keep you, your team and your family moving forward in a positive fashion.

What are your personal priorities?

People are my priorities: my family, my friends, my co-workers.  It is more important to me to form long lasting real relationships than to be successful in the moment.  And being present for people when they need you is a key component of that – really listening, understanding, and helping out. Integrity and faith are some of my key values.  Integrity at my home – teaching my kids the importance of doing what you know is right, even if it not the easiest thing – and integrity at work – being honest.  If I don’t know something, I will tell you I don’t know. Many mistakes are made because people are not honest enough to say that they don’t know. I believe I’ve been chosen for jobs because I was bold enough to admit that.

Please share with us some of your personal milestones and their contributions towards developing your personality?

Some of my biggest personal milestones were abroad.  I spent my junior year of college studying in Spain.  Before I left for the trip, I was told that my Spanish level was too low, and I wouldn’t be successful.  I went anyways (I can be stubborn like that) and the first few months were very difficult, both in and out of school.  Where I lived, all of the stores were very small and the groceries were behind a counter.  You had to tell the grocer what you wanted, and he would get it for you.  Time after time I would come home with the wrong food because I couldn’t make myself understood. School went much the same.  However, that just made me dig in even more and after 9 months, I was bringing home the food I actually wanted, getting great grades at school, and conversing easily with my Spanish roommates, many of whom are still my close friends today!

Another one of my personal milestones was graduating Summa Cum Laude.  In high school, I always took honors courses, but never really gave my GPA much thought.  But then I started taking AP classes and when I really studied, I was able to master the subject and get good grades.   This was a bit of an eye-opener for me.  So when I got to college, I made it a mission of mine to study hard and get A’s.  It worked.  I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 GPA and was quite proud of that accomplishment.   Both of these achievements taught me that if you put your mind to something, you can do it.

How do you see yourself as a person? What are your three qualities that have helped you grow as a person and a professional?

Tenacity (or grit, as Angela Duckworth refers to it her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance), Integrity, being true to your values and beliefs, and Openness.  I’m open to trying new things, open to failing, and open to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?

I enjoy exercising and do half-marathons and sprint triathlons.  All of these push me outside of my comfort zone, and at the start of every race I ask myself ‘why did I sign up for this again? I’m going to drown!’  But once I complete them, I feel great and do it again.  I also love hiking in the mountains and being out in nature.  I love the fresh air, the trees, lakes, rivers, etc. It all makes you slow down and reset your perspective.

Please tell us something about your family? How has been their support in terms of helping you grow professionally?

My husband and 4 boys have been very supportive of me. Working in cutting edge high-tech, the days can be long, intense and often draining; but there is also lots to do at home (homework, activities, projects, dinner, etc.). Juggling it all is extremely tricky and it would be impossible to do it all by myself, so everyone needs to chip in.  My family has been wonderful and have really stepped up.  My husband and I take turns making dinner.  Each of my boys rotates through a schedule of setting the table and doing the dishes afterwards, even my 9-year-old. We all do chores together on the weekend (albeit with fussing) to get through them faster so we have more time to relax.  Everyone pulling together as a team makes working fulltime and being a mom possible. 

Professional Profile – A Perfectionist at Work

How do you define success? What is your mantra to succeed?

I define success as giving your best effort and producing high quality work, while staying true to yourself and the people you care about; then having that work recognized by your peers, your managers, your customers, and your family and friends.

My mantra to succeed is to work hard and be myself.  When I try to be someone that I am not (too serious, too formal, etc.) it doesn’t work. I love to laugh and joke around and have fun at work. I love to get to know my co-workers and I always want to make sure to make time to do so. If I have a question, I just ask. I think you can do all that and still be successful.  Your work will speak for itself.

How has been your professional journey so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles?

I feel very lucky and blessed to have had such an interesting professional journey.  That is a what I love about working in high-tech – you are constantly challenged to learn the latest technology and improve yourself.  I’ve been very fortunate to have always had managers that believed in me and supported my career growth.  They allowed me to take technical and business training courses and gave me the opportunity to own new projects.   Some of the tech courses I took may not have applied to my exact job function at the time, but they helped me to grow my knowledge base. This learning and trust has been crucial to my success.

I started working in an international telecommunications team at N.E.T., supporting Asia Pacific and Latin America regions. From there, that I decided I wanted to live in Latin America and got a job as an Account and Product Manager at a SI & VAR in Chile focused on providing telecommunications and networking solutions. After that, I came back to the USA and worked as a Product Marketing Manager, promoting WAN solutions and working with sales and channel partners worldwide for a startup recently acquired by 3Com (later acquired by HP).  From there, I moved into Global Account Management, managing multimillion-dollar revenue streams.  After pausing my career to focus on my family, I switched to fast-paced world of cybersecurity and joined a mobile app security startup (acquired by Zimperium) doing Business Development and Product Marketing.  I currently work as the Head of Product Marketing for Guavus (acquired by Thales), an AI-based big data analytics company that solves problems and drives innovation at many of the largest service providers in the world.  I love this job because I get to combine my technical expertise and creativity and apply them to the marketing activities I lead.

When you look back in your career – what according to you can be termed as big turning points. How have these turning points helped you professionally?

One of the biggest turning points in my career was the two years in spent in Chile.  I went there to work as a high-tech Account and Product Manager selling very expensive and complex communications and networking equipment – in Spanish.  Sometimes I would leave meetings with high-level finance and IT executives not exactly sure of what we had just talked about, with a notebook full of technical questions, and a huge headache.  But I studied hard, asked a million questions of my Sales Engineers, Tech Support Engineers and vendors, and always followed up to get my clients the answers they needed.  When I started the job, I was given accounts with no sales pipeline and was overwhelmed by new technologies and a new tech language. After 2 years, I was the top salesperson.  Before I left, my customer, the 2nd largest bank in Chile, threw me a goodbye party in appreciation of what I had done for them.  That was a very good feeling. The time I spent working abroad gave me the confidence to know that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to.

What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?

Sometimes it is challenging being a woman in high-tech and I’ve had many situations where I am the only female in a meeting.   In one of my roles as a Product Marketing Manager, I walked into a room full of men to give a presentation on a complex product.  At the beginning they all had a look on their face like “What is she doing here? She is not going to tell us anything we don’t already know”.  Feeling slightly daunted, I launched into my presentation all the same, but after a few minutes they were asking for my advice and taking notes. After that visit, the sales manager called me to let me how pleased (and surprised) they were with the visit.  Our division ended up with a large PO just a few days later. I think it comes down to knowing your stuff and not letting yourself be intimidated, even if you are different from everyone else.

I have been lucky to have extremely supportive managers, leadership teams and colleagues.  However, in the past, I have had a few situations where other people took credit for my work.  At the beginning, I didn’t want to rock the boat or make anyone look bad, but as I matured in my career, I realized you do need to really clear about what you do and get credit for it and to stand up when you know that you are right.

How do you see yourself five years from now? What are some of your big goals that you want to achieve?

I’d like to continue to grow in the career path that I’m on and further my leadership skills in Marketing.  I’m responsible for all aspects of Marketing at Guavus and really enjoy what I do. I get the privilege of working with extremely smart and kind people from all areas of our company, including our product management, our senior leadership team, and many more.  I want to continue to develop my management skills, continue to learn and keep having fun.  However, all of this has to be done with a work/life balance.  It doesn’t make any sense to succeed at work at the cost of your family or friends.  Success is about finding that balance and being true to yourself!