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Follow-Up Five: Q&A With Maria Ploessl of Minnestar

Maria Ploessl

For the first time ever, applications to the Minnestar board of directors are open to the public. We touched base with Maria Ploessl, Executive Director of Minnestar, to chat about the future board members, DEI initiatives, and (fingers crossed!) an in-person Minnebar16. What makes now the right time to open up these applications to the public?

Maria Ploessl: We were inspired by our friends at Still Kickin’ who just recently did the same, and generously shared their insights. We knew that by opening up our applications we would be able to source more incredible talented candidates beyond our own social and professional circles, ultimately leading to a more equitable and transparent process. If these positions are filled by people from underrepresented communities, how do you feel that will help Minnestar create experiences that reflect more of our community?

Maria Ploessl: We especially encourage folks from underrepresented communities to apply because we know that diverse identities, backgrounds and perspectives lead to better outcomes – in business and in community. As a community building organization, we always seek to reflect a thriving and diverse MN tech ecosystem for all. Once these new members are officially welcomed to the board, what’s the first thing they’ll be working on? What does that look like in terms of Minnestar’s 2021 plans? Does Minnestar have more DEI initiatives you can briefly talk about?

Maria Ploessl: We have a number of new programming initiatives that will be launched in 2021, and as such we have some strategic needs as it pertains to marketing and fundraising. We also are undergoing some strategic work around diversity, equity and inclusion – what it means for our organization, what it means for our MN tech community, and what role we have to play. The outcomes of this are still being formulated but could include external programming that is open to the public. Lastly, with 2020 being a bust for in-person events, how has Minnestar streamlined its planning process for events in 2021? Any hopes for in-person events in the summer or fall?

Maria Ploessl: While 2020 certainly threw a wrench at all organizations in the community events space, we (like so many others) saw the importance of community and connection amidst an isolating pandemic. We pivoted to virtual, nearly tripled our events, experimented with new innovative offerings like the Minnedemo Drive-In at the MN State Fairgrounds, and actually saw an increase in our total attendance over the prior year (3,301 total attendees).

We are currently expanding our virtual offerings, and look forward to phasing in in-person events as soon as it is safe to do so. This year, we’ve scheduled Minnebar16 for the fall to have the best possible chance of an in-person opportunity.

Alex Skjong
Alex oversees the content produced for BETA, Twin Cities Startup Week, and When he’s not writing or editing, there’s a good chance he’s enjoying a refreshing brew and explaining the merits of heavy metal (of which there are many).