Dana Makstaller wants to see less networking and more relationship building.
We asked eight questions that reveal why she is the queen of building authentic relationships.
What were you like as a kid?
I was very similar to how I am now. Energetic, involved in a lot, very other-centric. I had friends in lots of places and spent a lot of time with my cousins growing up since I was an only child.
I always lived in multiple worlds. I was a tough defender in soccer but also very girly. Even today I have friends in lots of places and groups - my pottery group, my athletic group, friends from here and there.
I also have a very distinct memory of making mud animals in my backyard and letting them dry on rocks in our backyard garden, which is funny because now pottery is such a big part of my life.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
For a very long time in my life I was living in these dual worlds of wanting to be a professional soccer player and an interior designer. Looking at colleges I would ask about the soccer team and if they had an interior design program. Which is interesting because my entire career has been in dual worlds - the client side and the creative side.
What do you love about your role?
The thing I love the most is being able to build relationships. I love that duality of working with the client and understanding the scope and logistics but also being able to get down and dirty with the creative team. I love existing in both spaces, and being able to help create cool shit is really fun. It uses the two sides of my brain - organized relationship building and creative voice.
What do you love about working at Aras?
I love the strong feminine energy in the work that we do and the way we communicate with and work with our clients. I can be my whole self at work, and I get to work with a core team I enjoy and freelancers I love and have befriended. It doesn’t actually feel like work, it feels like I am spending my day creating something energizing and fulfilling.
What motivates you about your work? In general?
In my work - seeing it all come together. I feel like every project has that “a-ha” moment for the client and also for the team. My favorite part is seeing it come together for the client, when they are on set and finally see the vision.
In general, it is my relationships. Being a good friend, good person, and how I show up in the world and who it is impacting is really important to me. It motivates me to show up and work hard. A lot of what motivates me are the relationships I am building and the people that I am working with and for and how that impacts them. I want to make things that are beautiful and inspire others and enjoy that process along the way.
What do you do when you’re not working?
For a long time it was coaching soccer. My favorite thing that I do when I am not working is my pottery. Creating beautiful things for someone’s home fills me up a lot, as does being able to donate ten percent of my proceeds to Women Helping Women and give back. At my markets I have a sign that talks about Women Helping Women, and getting to share my past experiences of what makes me into the person I am today is really impactful.
I’d also say that my life’s work is my self-care which is what I am trying to focus on now outside of work. Trying to find a balance between being with others and being so motivated by my interactions with others while remembering to take care of myself along the way.
What advice do you have for people entering this field?
The creative field is a small world and small space we play in. I think it is super-important to go beyond networking and actually build relationships. Networking makes me cringe because it is so transactional and surface level. I think the reason I have gotten to where I am in my career is because I build relationships with people. In a small industry, the quality of the relationships you are building over the quantity, I think, helps you get further.
If you were a brand, what would your brand attributes be?
Empathetic. Relational. Energetic. Energetic in the woo-woo sense in the best way - like good vibe exchange.