Written by: Dean Hua

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photo of mariaI virtually met Maria Sipka- the Director of Online Communities of Xing.com about 7 months ago online. We exchanged a few emails here and there. I remember one of the first emails that she signed off on. In her closing she said that she hoped we would meetup in person someday. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that because she lives on the other side of the world and I’m here in Washington DC. What are the chances of that happening?

Apparently the chances are pretty good because it came true last week as she was in town for business. We got the chance to meet up on a cloudy Monday for sushi. I have to say, this is one of the most fascinating young entrepreneurs that I’ve met in a while. I’ve met alot of successful entrpereneurs but most of them tend to fall over the age of 40. Maria is only a couple years older than I and she has accomplished quite a bit in her young life. We sat down for lunch and talked about quite a few subjects.

I’ll list in bullet form what I took out from the several hours we spent over lunch.

  • she started her first business while the most of us were still in collge studying. She’s part of the former YEO (Young Entrepreneurs Organization), which is now the EO. She did some travel for a couple years where she just went around and interviewed and met up with other young entrepreneurs to learn of their stories. How cool is that? You can just travel the world, meeting and mingling with other successful young entrepreneurs.
  • Apparently, pole dancing lessons and parties, is big business for the womens market. Any female entrpereneurs interested?
  • Her company, Xing.com, is doing some great stuff and has awesome company culture.
  • She’s very adventurous and high energy. I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as peppy or cheerful, but just someone who has alot of energy.
  • I knew she had a huge interests in social software and online communities but the girl blew me away with the various discussions we had at lunch. The level of strategic thought that she puts into online communities is amazing. I’m known to be rather cerebral and methodical but Maria takes it to another level. She’s able to take various disciplines from across the business world, disect them, and re-package them as it relates to online communities and how they will move forward.
  • With respect to online communities, our virtual identity will play a very critical role in this new age of the internet. It’s important that we learn how to have one that conveys credibilitity for those who come across our profile..
  • Our success is contingent on the books we read and the people we meet. Actually, I already knew that as a successful businessman once told me that a long time ago. But it was a bit surreal to have met another person who believed in the same philosophy. And believe me, Maria reads alot of books and meets alot of people.
  • There is no better time than now to be young and an entrepreneur. I had talked to a good business friend, Leesa Barnes [podcasting consulant] , the other day. Like Maria, she’s only a couple years older than I. I was telling Leesa that as old as we may feel sometimes, we are still young relative to most entrepreneurs. As Maria sat there and shared me her stories, I just couldn’t help but think about how lucky and blessed people like her, Leesa, and other business friends such as Jared Goralnick and Sunny Cervantes are. We have these wonderful opportunities coming our way and we’re learning to achieve independence at such a young age. While our friends are out there still partying the night away, we are toiling and honing our crafts in the hopes of a better tomorrow. It’s always awesome to surround ourselves with successful people but it’s just a bit more sweet to know that we are similar not only in status but in age as well. It makes a world of a difference. It really helps to strengthen the connection as well.

As mentioned over our follow up email, she tended to talk more than I did. For those not in the know, I tend to be a bit reserved. An extroverted introvert, if you will. I try to break out of it and be more extroverted but it’s hard when you grow up that way. I told her that I didn’t mind if she talked more than I did. There are those who talk alot and have nothing to say. And then there are those who talk but always have something to say. Maria is the latter and not the former.

I’ve been involved with various social networking sites and online communities for business people over the past several years. I’ve met fascinating people from all over the world because of these sites. But I always tell people that it’s just not the same unless you meet offline. I’m glad to have met this adventurous Aussie offline. I’ve always found Australians to be very endearing people. There are the more obvious Australian celebrities such as Russel Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Steve Irwin, Keith Urban, Kate Blanchett, and Hugh Jackman. And then there those that I’ve met from the online business community such as Kevin Barrett and Des Walsh. Like these two guys, Maria didn’t dissapoint either. It’s really amazing how adventurous Australians can be. Must be the outback,eh?

One of these days, Maria will have to teach me how to develop that wonderful accent that she and Des has. But for the time being, I’ve been working on this one phrase that she says frequently to me, but with an Aussie accent. I’m still working on the little nuances and I hope to perfect it the next time we see each other. And based on our last conversation, it’ll be pretty soon 🙂


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  1. …So the first question I asked Dean was:

    “have you ever met anybody in person from openBC/XING?” I was surprised to hear that I was the first person!

    Now being an adventurous person, I suggested that we go for a walk and we’ll eventually find a coffee shop to sit and chat. After all, we were in the middle of a city. Well…we almost ended up in the local forest if it wasn’t for Dean stopping and saying that “I don’t think there’s any coffee shops down here”…

    In the 10th year of my business I decided that I would travel the world, meet inspiring people and find a way to make a difference…

    Dean – you’re one of those inspiring people I’ve been fortunate to meet along the way. We both spend a good portion of our days in virtual communities and your ‘digital identity’ would have to be a perfect representation of how somebody should present themselves. A super cool photograph that’s immediately likeable, fun and approachable. More importantly the groups that you ‘play’ in and moderate give one a sense of belonging and willingness to play too. You’re never too controversial or opinionated to the point that one would be irritated but rather you spark discussion and lure people to come back time and again.

    I was curious and fascinated to meet the ‘Dean Hua’ who had become a virtual friend in such a short period of time. And YES! You were somewhat different in person than the Dean in my head. Gentle. Reserved. Inquisitive. Kind and REAL!!! I find myself now flipping between two representations and think it will take some time to re-adjust.

    They say that you always remember a person for how they made you feel.

    Dean – you leave people feeling validated and listened too. You rock! and I feel we’re on this adventure together.

    🙂 Maria

  2. I was dragged here by one of Dean’s threads there as XING and it fascinates me to read about how two of the most interesting and helpful creatures in XING can meet and create abundance over a coffee. I must say it is enlighting and entertaining. Someday I would like to meet either or both of you in China.

  3. Hi Willie,
    It wasn’t coffee that we met over, it was sushi and we almost got lost into the woods to find it. Both of us creatures thank you for the compliment 🙂

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