From the humble beginnings on a desk in the corner of a home, XK has come a long way in the hands of great leadership. While the success of a business is rooted in the vision and time dedicated to its growth, it is also credited to the drive of those at the wheel. When General Manager, Jyana Mareko, stepped aboard XK’s team, it stood at a modest total of 8 staff members. Fast forward to 2022, only 5 years later, and the modest bunch is now a team of 45.
“To have such valuable, fun loving leadership guiding our growth is impactful in many ways. Jyana is one of a kind. She plays an essential role in our team and truly cares about both the company’s vision and direction, and that of every single person on our team. Congratulating her for her anniversary is also a celebration of the growth she has helped XK achieve so far. As a result of the expertise of our leadership and the team that has formed under their guidance, Jyana’s 5 year anniversary truly is a celebration of company achievements as well.” Managing Director, Feris Chehade.
We asked Jyana a few questions on her 5 Year XK Anniversary to share her journey and success as a leader and woman in the construction industry. Originally from long established success as a leader in banking, her journey to XK sprouted from the inspiration of passionate entrepreneurs.
Happy 5 Years, Jyana! We look forward to many more days ahead sprinkled with your humour and passion.
An interview with Jyana Mareko
After your career in banking, what was it that attracted you to the opportunity to join XK 5 years ago?
Well… It may have been a date with destiny or that I’d had enough of wearing a pencil skirt…
After working in Shanghai with a major bank specialising in foreign exchange and international trade, I had met so many fascinating, passionate entrepreneurs and I loved their energy driven by their venture and bigger-purpose thinking.
Feeling inspired to take a different path, when I returned home I started chatting with friends and connections to explore different options, which actually landed me in a conversation with Feris!
He’d started XK a few years before and was doing well. He shared the essence of why he started XK, how he loved making a meaningful contribution to projects and the people around him. He went on to convey his vision and big-picture plan for the business, and the opportunity it would provide to make an impact in the industry, the people and communities around him.
I had little understanding of engineering and the industry at the time, however it was Feris’ passion to build a business that could make a genuine difference to others, whether clients, communities or industry, that captured my attention — coupled with the impressive success he’d had in the business already.
What do you think the greatest challenges were in moving to a start-up company?
In a large company, there are many resources – people, systems, infrastructure, support, money!
In a start-up, these typically don’t exist – so the challenge is to make things happen in a more creative way and to be more efficient and effective with the resources you do have. On top of which, working with a highly ambitious energetic entrepreneur, with 100 new ideas to be implemented, all equally valuable, important and urgent.
It’s busy and demanding, but to overcome start-up challenges you need to get your hands dirty, be creative, learn and adapt quickly, and extend outside your comfort zone.
It was half a joke, but at one stage my role description was “get sh*t done” and “sort sh*t out”. A pretty succinct summary of life in a start-up, I think!
What drives you as a leader of the operations of a successful consulting business?
I would say there are four key things for me:
- Creating and enabling great human experiences – people who love coming to work, people who love working with us, and working with those people to create spaces where people will love where they live
- Delivering a creative, clever and unique approach when it comes to leadership, development and management of a business
- Having my own personal goals and ambitions which contribute to the success of the business’ goals and ambitions
….and 4. To make my little humans at home proud.
Are there any values or perspectives that keep you focused/drive your determination in your role?
The XK values are pretty true to the values that I live by:
Excellence – I work hard and play hard (shout out to my netball and soccer gals!) and love being the best I can be. Plus, this allows me to justify my OCD perfectionism…
Curiosity – For me this is about exploring, learning, being creative, and ultimately finding a way to get something done which others haven’t been able to
Stewardship – As cliché as it sounds, this is about making a difference and leaving a legacy
Integrity – Staying true to myself, my convictions and the commitments I make
People-centric – Remembering the why of what I do: humans.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS MOST IMPORTANT TO BE A THOUGHTFUL LEADER?
I’d say mindfulness. To practice being aware and practice a people-centric focus in daily activities, decisions and communications. Also I think it’s really important to create and take moments to connect with others – regardless of if you feel like you’re “too busy”.
Who and what do you think a company’s success is dependent on?
It starts with the leaders and their alignment to the company’s vision and values… But it doesn’t stop there – it’s having the right people in the right roles, a team of people who are motivated to make a difference with their individual skills and efforts.
What is a highlight you’ve experienced in your time at XK?
When I started, we were a team of 8 and now we’re a team of 45 – and obviously with this increase, comes significant growth and transformation of the business. So there’s been frequent successes, achievements and milestones that we’ve celebrated – for example our rebrand; project awards; first time clients and project partners and referrals from existing ones; new babies – there’s been a few, including 2 for me. And yes – most of these were celebrated with a dash, dance and cheer by me through the office.
Any advice for success to share with other business passionate people out there?
Know your “why”, share your “why” and stay true to your “why”.
Stay open to learning; read, observe, listen. Let’s be honest, this is harder than it sounds, especially for someone who is starting that journey.
Stay inspired; connect with others, at ALL levels, who are positive, creative and genuine. Share and learn from them.
Otherwise, Take care of yourself. Eat plants. Sleep early. Wake up early. Exercise regularly. Breathe.
My most recent book recommendation:
Someone’s got to be the most expensive. Why not make it you? Written by Andrew Griffiths.