Marketing specialist, activist, author of the blog Mano Amerika (My America)
I would like Lithuanian identity to be associated first of all with the fundamental human traits: tolerance, openness, warmth and respect to other ways of living.Diana Plačiakienė
THE ALCHEMY OF IDENTITIES
You have been living in San Francisco for almost two decades. What does being Lithuanian mean to you?
I don’t think there is one invariable answer. Most probably every one of us has our own understanding of what it means to be Lithuanian. Yes, it does entail the language, the culture and the citizenship, and all of these terms can be seen from an individual’s perspective. Is it the language in which Donelaitis wrote, or the one our parents spoke, or the one we use in the 21st century with a perfunctory Anglicism in almost every sentence? Each period of history has its own dynamics and its own ways of influencing language, culture, even citizenship. The sense of citizenship itself is probably mostly symbolic to those who are at the moment living abroad, but it also allows us to maintain a very important emotional connection. To have the citizenship of the country where you were born, grew up, worked and to whose wealth you keep contributing is a fundamental birthright. I think we tend to give slightly too much importance to the concept of being Lithuanian, looking for a single and very special definition. Language, culture and citizenship are important to every nation’s survival, so I don’t think this makes us special. I would like Lithuanian identity to be associated first of all with the fundamental human traits: tolerance, openness, warmth and respect to other ways of living. We can also talk about Lithuanian heritage in a broad sense. Everyone inherits a unique relationship with Lithuania, be it the nature or a yard next to a block of flats, the historical city centre, the culinary culture and the day-to-day habits.
What has life in America taught you?
First of all, tolerance to a different opinion, age, skin colour, language and point of view. I have probably also learned to take us less seriously (here we are, such a small but brave nation, we won our independence back and we are heroes). Frankly, this fact is important to no one but us. What matters more to others is what kind of people, employees, friends and colleagues we are. I think I’ve gained the courage to try out more things both in my personal and professional life, I’ve learned not to be afraid of failure or being misunderstood. People are much more tolerant to mistakes here, you’re even encouraged to make them – after all, this is the only way we can grow and learn. I’ve learned to pay more attention to content, not form, which is overrated in Lithuania. I think sometimes that in chasing a beautiful façade we forget the essence.
Silicon Valley and San Francisco: how do they differ and what do they have in common?
I don’t think they can be compared. San Francisco is one of the most outstanding cities in the USA with a huge intellectual and cultural capital, famous for its varied political, social and cultural movements. Sure, high technologies are also important here – such world-famous companies as Salesforce, Airbnb, Uber and Twitter are based here. Silicon Valley is not a town, it’s more of a cultural phenomenon – an ecosystem of start-ups and innovations clustered around the University of Stanford, where innovation and business sense are promoted. This is now where such globally renowned companies as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, etc. started. In several towns around the University of Stanford that belong to the district of Santa Clara you find the densest concentration of high-tech companies in the world. But it’s not a single city with a golden gate that bears the title Silicon Valley.
Your driving force and the people you look up to. What is it? Who are they?
There are many and they are different and the list keeps changing. In the field of marketing I mostly follow Seth Godin, because he doesn’t keep discussing traditional marketing with ten or more unquestionable rules; instead he analyses the ever-changing needs of consumers. I admire the many women leaders who work in various fields because the matters of women’s leadership and participation in business matter a great deal to me. People I look up to are not necessarily well-known names, in fact most often they are my friends or people I’m constantly in touch with, people who support me, inspire me and give me a nudge when I need one. But even the most inspiring people mean nothing if you have no inner drive or curiosity.
What is your America?
I started writing my blog in order to be able to answer this question and tell people about this country through different people’s stories, because America is different to everyone, it doesn’t fit one definition. If you talk about my America, to be precise the state of California where I live, it differs a lot from other US states in the social, cultural and the ethnic sense. It’s the state with the greatest cultural variety, the widest gastronomic choice and the most opportunities for professional development and a career. Here you also find the toughest competition, the highest population density and the most expensive real estate.