Life@ Elastic Spotlight | Consulting with Liselot Poppink

Want to know what life at Elastic is like? You've come to the right place. Hear from our Elasticians first hand as we highlight their stories and photos from around the world. In this Spotlight, hear from Consulting Director for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Liselot Poppink, on overcoming barriers as a woman in tech, and her views on the importance of freedom in the workplace.

What are some of the challenges that you faced being a woman working in tech?

Liselot Poppink: In the beginning nobody took me seriously. When I was in university, I thought I might become a fashion designer, but I was good in mathematics. I wanted to be independent as I had grown up in a time where women were dependent on their husbands. It was one of my teachers who stepped in to suggest that I consider computer science as an option. I didn’t know what a computer was before I started. I decided yes, I’ll do this difficult thing and pursue these new studies.

I was lonely when I was in University — I was one of only five women. I questioned myself constantly. “Should I do this?” This was at a time where there were no laptops. We had punch cards! It was a tough field of study because it was so new.

My first job after university was as a tester of integrated circuit designs and I was the only woman in a young startup. It was a really religious company and they felt that a woman should not work. I was always being asked “why are you here?” I thought my God, you hired me right? When I said things in meetings no one listened. It was like I wasn’t even there. Sometimes a man would say the same thing I’d just said and he would get a positive response. It was really difficult being ignored. I would say that any minority may have the challenge of feeling they have to prove themselves.

What led you to a career in consulting?

Liselot: Earlier on as a programmer, what I didn’t like was that I had no idea what the customer was doing with the software that I wrote. I wanted something else. So I came across ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, where I had to assess companies and how successful they were with their IT organization. I came to realize that issues are not technology based but the challenge is with the communication between the people within the company. Learning more and asking the right questions, short term and long term goals, really excited me. So, I started moving towards a consulting job and, well, I've worked within professional services ever since! 


Liselot at the Emerce Recruitment conference in Amsterdam.

How did you learn about Elastic?

Liselot: In my most recent job search, I was looking for a job that offered vision, freedom, culture, transparency, and potential for growth. I wanted all that, with a young company that has efficient leadership and a good product. I also wanted to work for a distributed company, somewhere that had hired someone from within my network. I saw my current job at Elastic posted on LinkedIn. I didn’t know anything about Elastic, but I was immediately excited by the job. I called my contact and found out how happy this person was working for Elastic. There was a phrase in the posting: “Your age is only a number. It doesn't matter if you're just out of college or your children are; we need you for what you can do.” I thought: this is so different from anything I’ve ever seen. Could they really mean it? Later, I learned that this sentiment was not only for real, but is a piece of our Source Code: {Come} As You Are.

Can you tell us a bit about your team and its mission at Elastic?

Liselot: The consulting team comes in after a sale is done. We spend the most time with customers and enable them to get the most value from our products. We are their trusted advisors and are hands-on. We work to understand their business and goals and advise on use cases to help them find solutions.

You say you spend time with the customer. Does that mean there’s lots of travel involved?

Liselot: Yes, there’s a lot of travel. Out of everyone at Elastic, I think consultants spend the most time on site with the customer. I don’t travel as much as the rest of my team — but I have quarterly meetings, regional meetings, customer visits and sometimes go with the consultants on my team to their customers for support and to see the reality of what it means to be a consultant. The expectations of my team are very high. I feel I should see what is needed by them and find out how we can improve things to make their jobs easier.

Being in a management position, how do you help your team succeed and keep them motivated?

Liselot: What’s most important in my life is freedom, and that’s what I always had and have at Elastic, and what I hope to offer my team. Management isn’t always about hovering over your employees and controlling everything. I don’t do that to my people! That’s not who I am and that’s not how I work. We all have a lot of freedom in that way at Elastic — we’re free to come up with new ideas. I’m always looking for ways to improve the work within my team. But being responsible is also part of that freedom. I am here to support them in their jobs, be happy and as energetic as I am at fifty-six!

What’s the most exciting part of your role?

Liselot: Elastic is a young company that is growing, and this is the exact right spot for me. I get a lot of energy from that. To be part of that growth and be part of the growth strategy is key for me. Elastic is a great place to be. We talk a lot about culture, transparency, and humbleness. I feel there is no macho culture. Coming from big commercial companies, I can say it’s a whole different culture.


Liselot with her family.

Though things have progressed over the years, women in tech still face challenges in the workplace. What advice would you share?

Liselot: Never give up. Be confident and challenge yourself. Dare to make mistakes and learn from it. Ask for feedback like: “What am I doing right and what can I improve?” You just have to be confident in yourself. This is also what I share with my daughter. If you want something, then you can do it. But if you don’t know what you want, then you may struggle or have a difficult time. Find things that make you happy and give you energy.

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