Women in Business Q&A: Grete Eliassen, Director of Marketing, Wickr
Grete was born and raised in Rochester Minnesota. As an American-Norwegian freestyle skier, she won the bronze medal Slopestyle at the 2011 Winter X Games XV in Aspen, Colorado. She has won 6 medals at the Winter X Games in slopestyle and halfpipe events including back to back gold medals in 2005 and 2006. After competing in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Grete turned to another passion of hers – the security space – joining the Wickr team as head of marketing efforts for the company. Since joining the company, she has already managed her first campaign working with Iggy Azalea to cameo the Wickr app in Iggy’s latest music video, Black Widow. Grete works closely with founder Nico Sell to continue to create a safe and private place for all people to communicate on their encrypted, self-destructing messaging app.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
To this day, I have always forged my own path, unafraid of taking risks or of how other people perceive me. Even at a young age, I was always extremely outgoing and excited to try new things. As the only girl willing to ski with the boys in my hometown of Salt Lake City, I constantly took charge by leading the pack off of ski jumps and pushing everyone outside of their comfort zones.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Wickr?
I started skiing when I was two years old and I become a professional skier when I was 17 (the first year I was paid to ski). I have been working with companies ranging from local ski resorts to global power-houses like Red Bull and Ernst & Young ever since. When a company hires me, they know they are getting both an athlete and someone who can help achieve overall business goals. My transition into working with Wickr has been seamless due to my previous experience promoting various brands and organizations. One of the most exciting things about working with Wickr is that I have a real hand at conveying the brand’s value to a mainstream audience. I have long dreamt of being a part of an organization that is making a difference in the world and now it is my reality.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your time at Wickr?
One of the many highlights of working for Wickr is being able to work closely with all the employees in a collaborative start-up environment and seeing how the company has grown in a very short amount of time. I love being able to work on projects I’m passionate about and being hands-on for the whole process.
One of the challenges has been figuring out the best way to present the importance of encryption to children. It’s a difficult technology to convey because it is such an incredible, yet complicated tool. As part of my work with Wickr, I had the opportunity to attend r00tz Asylum this year – one of the coolest events I’ve ever participated in – both in the ski and non-ski world. It’s an incredible event, dedicated to teaching kids around the world how to love being white-hat (good) hackers. I came away with some interesting ideas on how to further translate the value of Wickr to a young audience.
How has Wickr changed the technology industry?
Wickr has opened my eyes to the digital footprint we each leave while using many of today’s popular apps and social networking services – and why today’s society needs a simple and secure way to maintain privacy. Wickr CEO and co-founder, Nico Sell, originally created the company to provide her daughters with a tool that would allow them to communicate safely and anonymously while maintaining control of how the information is shared and how long it’s available. Today, Wickr is being used by people from all backgrounds, from spies and human rights activists, to celebrities and royalty, as a safe form of communication. In the future, kids will ask us, “You mean, you sent someone a message but everyone could read it?”
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My life has always been put into three different categories: fun, family and work. You can’t have any of them without the other. I try to dedicate an equal amount of time for all three. If I am working a lot without much time off, I make sure to carve out “me time” to stay refreshed. You can always work very hard, but you need to be mindful and acknowledge when to take a break as well. When I ski, people always expect me to be skiing all the time, but I found that I perform at my best if I make sure to take time off beforehand to spend time with my family and friends.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think it’s important for women to be outspoken and voice their thoughts and opinions – even if they go against the grain. The more we speak up, the more we can all collaborate to come up with more effective ways to move the needle for our companies.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had a lot of great mentors throughout my ski career, personal life and in business. My favorite mentors have been who have been able to transition from one great job to the next.
After becoming involved with the Women’s Sport’s Foundation I have been introduced to hundreds of inspirational women including former No.1 pro tennis player, Billie Jean King. If you do not know the story behind her, watch “The Battle of The Sexes.” Even though she has accomplished so much in her lifetime, she never stops. And I hope to be like her one day where I never give up the fight.
I admire Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza because she has been able to transition easily from her professional career as an athlete, to her next act as an ESPN sportscaster -while maintaining the role of a mom.
What do you want Wickr to accomplish in the next five years?
In the next five years, I’d ideally like to see everyone around the globe communicating via encryption – no matter what device they’re using. I’d also like to see Wickr evolve beyond a messaging platform and expand into other areas. I’m excited to continue empowering people to share and control their own content in new ways – easily and securely.