Female Tech Heroes role models #16 - Anke Horstman: 'You can only make something successful if you put dedication into it'
Nov 17, 2020 1:23:03 PM. By: Letícia Batista
Creator and manager of the largest tech website for women in the Benelux, Anke Horstman says she never thought she would dive into the tech world - and fall deeply in love with it. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and a passion for making people feel at ease around technology, Anke is a very focused entrepreneur. She believes that women should be empowered to have a good comprehension of what technology is and does.
How did you establish yourself as a tech journalist? I grew up on a farm, where my dad taught me a lot about science and nature. I loved it! But there was no focus on technology in that household, so I hadn’t known the value of tech. It was in my second internship that my interest in technology began to grow. I did an internship at a tech news site. My tasks included writing articles, news, and I also interviewed people. After my internship, I got a job at the same company. I worked there for two years, and I really loved it. I had never thought I would love technology as much as I did.
Unfortunately, in 2012, the company went bankrupt due to the economic instability at the time. I had to find something else, some other job. But it was also difficult for me because of the general financial situation. I was distraught. I was young, and I was like, "oh, I will never get another job like this!" So I thought: "maybe I should build my own website, to keep up my writing skills." So when the moment came to create my page, I knew it would have to be about technology. And there was the start of TechGirl.
Why is a website like TechGirl necessary? What was your main objective when building it? First of all, there were no platforms such as TechGirl in The Netherlands: it was the first. Maybe in English, there were some, but I did not do any research on this aspect. Of course, I wanted to inspire other women to do more with technology, but it was not the main focus at first. In the beginning, as I said, the website was a way to keep my writing skills sharp. However, as I started producing articles, the mission became more powerful. And within a year, I think, the primary objective became empowering more women to explore technology.
From my perspective, this is essential because, with technology, you have to adapt right now. If you do not, you will miss many crucial skills for the future. When you are not tuned in with technology, you might have difficult prospects. And if you can learn it at the present moment, it is easier than if you have to do it in 10 or 20 years.
How did TechGirl.nl get so succesful? I think that being the first gave me some advantages. Also, I adjust fast. It is in my nature, I guess. When plan A does not work, I always skip to plan B very quickly. And then I have a plan C, D, E… I think that my adaptability is a big part of the success. For example, when I look at the statistics on my social media channels and identify that people do not like something, I try to find the subjects that people do like. I believe that is the main part.
But there is also something else that is very important: how I bring a story to our readers. Storytelling is one of the main features of TechGirl. How to make tech feminine is one of my taglines. When I look at other big websites, I see that they write about specifications, hardware. Well, it is not something you can actually understand when you are new to technology - you do not even know what "specifications" mean. You want to know such things as, "OK, I bought an iPhone: what can I do with it? What are the quick tips and tricks I can use with my new phone?" That is where we try to make technology understandable, and I think that is the real power of TechGirl.
There have been some redesigns over the last few years. The first website I built for TechGirl was okayish, but it was more like a "playing WordPress" website. I certainly learned on the job, and that is how my skills grew. I tried a lot, I failed a lot, but I always come up, I always come back. That makes me better. To accept that you will make a lot of mistakes before it is a success is a strength. I have tried to reflect on my story over the last two years, but I do not do it a lot. I do not celebrate success often - that is typical of me. I should do it more.
How was it to grow your project internationally? It did not work out as I had imagined. I am ambitious, indeed, and TechGirl.nl has been the largest tech blog for women in The Netherlands for years, so I started to get bored. It was when I thought: "maybe I can look across the border and make something in English." So I wanted to work in cooperation with someone else. I called a person on Instagram because she did something like TechGirl but in English. I invited her to establish a partnership with me so that we could build TechGirl.com together. She happily agreed, and we started to work on the project. But we had to continue: you can only make something successful if you put dedication into it. In the end, we did not share the same mindset, and she quit.
I work with a lot of volunteers and freelancers. For TechGirl.nl, we have a team of 20 people. For TechGirl.com, we have a group of 5 people. Now I have to manage both teams. What happens is that I cannot put as much energy into TechGirl.com as I wanted to make it better and more prominent. That has been a struggle for now, but I do not give up; I always have a plan B. So It will work out. I just need to give it some time and maybe find another partner for this.
What do you like the most about your work? What makes me genuinely happy is when I can help other people. When someone says, "oh, thanks to you, I can do this, and this, and that! I never knew how to do it, but you make it look so easy!" That gives me a purpose.
What I also like is to play around with gadgets: they make technology tangible. I get a lot of them from manufacturers like Ericsson, Samsung, Apple; you name it. It is a discovery at every new feature of the gadget I have at that moment, and it brings me joy. In this sense, I am like a little kid, I guess. Attending press events is another thing that I truly enjoy, because then I see a lot of other tech journalists. It is like we speak the same language. I feel that we have the same vibe. In these events, people actually look up to me. In the beginning, it felt a little weird. They were like, "what is this young girl doing here?" because I was the only girl there every time. So they always thought I was one of the press agents. But I was one of the technology journalists. Yes, it was a strange situation, but because of that, I thought that more women should love technology. And it became a mission for me to step up into that field, which now I perceive as my home.
Do you have any words of wisdom, or advice, to aspiring females in the tech environment? Do not be afraid to fail: just try it. If you never try it, you will never get any success. And keep up the good work. Do not quit when you do not see the success in just a week or two or in a month. Keep pushing, keep doing your best, because only then you will get success in anything.
What are your next steps? Right now, I am looking at a big poster on the wall, "Roadmap to Success," where I see everything I have planned for the future. I cannot tell you about it, because it is a big project: something greater than I have ever done. But watch for TechGirl in 2021 because something big is coming up.