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Interviews — 22 Mar 2022
Inspirational Women in Tech and Marketing
In the last few years, we observed many changes in the marketing and tech industry for women. Despite the challenges, the marketing field has made significant strides in diversity and gender equality. Research shows that 48% of CMOs hired in the first half of 2019 were women, a significant jump in the number of CMOs, compared to 36% in 2018 and 28% in 2017.
Without further ado, we’re celebrating inspirational, creative, and talented women who make our industry an exceptional place to work. We’ve invited our clients and interviewed some of our own team members to join us in celebrating this International Women’s Day. Our conversation shares their journeys, experiences, and challenges, offering key insights into the current state of women in marketing, technology, sales, customer service, and more.
As a self-taught marketer, Tanya understood how to drive traffic to websites by learning SEO at a young age. She worked at two mobile networks and co-founded Thord One before starting her journey at Affise, where her first challenge was as a sales manager. From there, she moved to lead the customer success team and eventually took on the role of revenue manager.
As a leader, Tanya passes on knowledge to new members, manages and helps all teams work together effectively, and finds new revenue opportunities to optimize conversion rates. “One of the biggest challenges for a woman in a leadership position in this field is that, historically, the area is perceived as a male profession,” she tells. However, women are successfully competing in the sphere and are taking on more and more leadership roles.
“Successful publicly-traded companies are much more likely to appoint female CEOs, and the percentage of women in leadership positions in marketing and technology startups is growing every year. At Affise, for example, 64% of C-level management are women. Despite all this, women sometimes have to work harder to prove that they are no worse and maybe even better than a man in the same position,” she says.
If she could give one piece of advice to women in tech, it would be to develop the skill of empathy, which women have a great prerequisite. “Books and courses on mindfulness, negotiation, and compassion provide a solid foundation for becoming the kind of team player that people want to follow. This is a career path based on empathy.”
Tanya adds, “I recommend checking out Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion, practicing mindfulness with apps like Headspace, reading Marshall Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication,” and from my current top book recommendation, Chris Voss’ “Never Split the Difference.”
Speaking about inspiration, Vera believes that “success is not only about what you achieve in your life, but also what you inspire others to do.” Vera is passionate about international economics and law, foreign languages, and, of course, higher mathematics.
She has been shaped by her years of experience. Vera studied International Economic Relations and started her career as an intern at one of the Big4 audit firms, then worked at EY-Parthenon nine years ago. Surprisingly, the most important thing she learned during these years wasn’t about finance, but about soft skills and leadership: accepting different leadership styles, the importance of communication, and constant self-development, even if she makes mistakes.
The penchant for challenges and eagerness to impact new business growth drove Vera to Affise. Managing financial reporting, cash flow, data analysis, budgeting and forecasting, tax planning and compliance, and various legal and operational matters are part of her daily responsibilities. Now, she influences Affise’s strategic development and impacts the company and its future while inspiring other women in their career journey.
“Do not be afraid, get rid of impostor syndrome, which is especially prevalent among female professionals. And giving yourself a chance to try something new is the best gift you can give yourself. The most important thing is the ability to inspire people, coach them, and be a worthy role model for them”.
Affise divided Leila’s professional life into a before and an after. At Affise, she leads the development and implementation of the human resources strategy to support the company’s overall business plan and strategic direction in succession planning and talent management.
Leila believes that confidence and giving back are the key to making a compelling female leader. “It is essential to be confident in your abilities and create a culture that values your contribution. Remember: you are trustworthy, always willing to learn about yourself and others. And above all, listen and communicate openly” she advises. Leila’s motivation lies not in the opportunity to be part of a high-growth company, but in being on the side of fantastic people that work to change this industry for the better.
Thanks to the rapid growth of SaaS, Leila sees new opportunities are opening up every day for all the women like her who want to start in a tech company. For her, the visibility of female leaders helps other women believe that they can achieve the same success and find a way to do it, and the same goes for men.
“Recognize that success and professionalism have no gender. It’s important to be confident in your abilities and consider yourself”.
Care, support, and empathy are part of Tatsiana’s personality. During her journey, she performed many other support functions: technical, project, or customer-oriented. She started as a call center agent and moved, step by step, to her current role as Head of Support at Affise.
Ahead of a very challenging area, Tatsiana says affiliate marketing, fortunately, has responded well to the industry. “This industry brings people together. All market participants, regardless of position or the business side – a client or service – are playing their supporting roles,” she says.
Tatsiana manages support strategy and performance, operations, staffing, and issue management. From her professional experience, a gender-responsive approach and gender equality are key values in technology and IT; they open new fields of action for women. “Technology is the world we live in now. Its global expansion provides almost limitless opportunities for career growth, professional and personal development for individuals, no matter their identity,” she notes.
Analytical skills, marketing knowledge, communication, and negotiating with people are her primary skills. With a background in economics and finance, Anna worked for major banks – subsidiaries of international groups in Ukraine (Raiffeisen, BNP) – and for an investment company for more than 10 years.
Anna noticed that the IT industry was growing incredibly fast by the time, and that it could be interesting for her to join this dynamic universe. Anna started working as a sales manager and enjoyed seeing the results, namely the impact on business performance. “I fell in love with SaaS and sales,” Anna says.
After all these years, she says working in sales led to exhaustion and loss of energy due to the “daily hustle” of chasing and being responsible for the outcome. For that reason, she urges others to always remember victories and successes to have self-confidence.
Anna believes it is essential to emphasize the role of women as much as men. “I’m in favor of equal rights and equal responsibilities for all. In my opinion, women have more responsibilities in today’s situation because they are responsible for many areas at the same time – work, family, and children who can study from home online,” she points out.
“I advise you to draw energy in communication with positive people and colleagues, training and professional development, which always gives new strength and helps to reach a new level.”
Pinky is a Sales Manager at Affise, who has been on top of performance from the last several quarters. “I have achieved this with an intense work and with the guidance of Krish (my boss),” she says. Pinky started working with the SMS marketing industry in 2013 as an account manager. She joined Affise in November of 2017 after finding out about it from a friend.
Today, she said that she is happy working with a SaaS company. Pinky believes technical knowledge and negotiation skills are essential for a woman (or man) who would like to work in a SaaS company, and they help in the daily routine. “I start my day with a cup of tea. Then, at 9:30 am, my office work begins with seeing the marketing lead and chatting. Then I proceed with my searching, helping my teammates, doing agreement work, creating the trial, and so on”.
Pinky takes inspiration from other women in the industry, especially Vineeta Singh, the co-founder of Sugar Cosmetics. Pinky sees excellent growth opportunities, waiting not only for women but for every company or employee mature enough to understand what a client is looking for in the future.
Tatiana Sobolevskaya, Head of Customer Success
The technology industry always attracted Tatiana, even in a different field of industrial engineering. Excitement about technological advances and the success of companies led her to research tech in general and find something that suited her personality, background, and interests.
Tatiana found Affise, a company she could identify with from the start. “I noticed there were always women represented at the executive level at Affise, which impressed me after spending many years in an all-male environment. It felt like a completely different world, where ideas of equality were spread and implemented much faster.”
For her, tech companies were among the first to understand that diversity is not just democracy or politics but a way to create better, safer, and simply bigger products. However, she points out that while the tech industry is ahead of other sectors, there is still a long way to find a middle ground. After working for many years in this area, Tatiana says, “Keep doing what you think is good. Outstanding leaders never say no to a talented person.”
Programming is a kind of natural talent for Katrin, she believes. Katrin loves bikes and computers, a passion that started in her childhood, despite being almost no computer science at her time in school. “At the end of school, I started preparatory courses at the university, where we were taught to program and, according to my feelings, I was able to do it well”.
Katrin began her career at a web studio, where she has made websites for several customers. At her first job, each employee took a long time to get promoted, but she quickly became the project leader. She could do a lot and learn a lot there, and, as a result, her extensive knowledge has led Katrin to Affise.
Thinking about the tech industry, Katrin reflects: “There are quite a few women in IT. However, there were only girls at my first job: one frontend and three backend programmers, including myself. But I think it was more of an exception. In my later experience, there were one or two girls around me and many, many guys. And actually, it’s quite strange, because I have never met any obstacles for myself to enter and stay in this field. Nor any discrimination. Although at least once I heard from a male colleague that he was impressed that a girl could work so well.”
Not only did we take a look inside Affise, but we also interviewed our clients, female leaders who run exciting projects in technology and partner marketing.
Determination leads Georgina‘s path. While studying accounting, she realized that she could not relate to the field and decided to drop out of university and emigrate to Israel. Her first job there was as a cleaner, not for too long. Then the opportunity arose to be hired to work in an affiliate network thanks to Georgina’s English accent.
Taking her manager’s advice, she started looking into industry terms like ‘affiliate networks’ and ‘CPA’. “I was so determined to learn this industry that I would stay up nights memorizing data so that when my boss asked questions like “What is the CPM or CPA?”, I always knew the answer,” Georgina says.
At 21, Georgina led a media-buying team of 15 people; almost all of them were men –and older. “That’s where all the fun started 12 years ago,” she recalls. Georgina discovered Affise about five years ago. At the time, she was paying ridiculously high CPMs for traffic on other platforms until one of her colleagues advised her to look at Affise.
“Since then, I have continued with Affise because it’s the most cost-effective and efficient platform in the industry, mostly when working with SSPs and MMPs who advertise directly. Especially since Affise offers the ability to run VTA and CTA at the same time, which helps us with probabilistic attribution. This was a game-changer for us,” Georgina says. All the flexibility in managing campaigns has helped her greatly in her daily work.
When asked how she sees the future of women in tech and marketing, Georgina says that while the percentage of women in tech companies is much higher than it was a decade ago, we still have a long way to go.
“I want to continue to challenge the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon and get other women to fight for their position in the business. That means asking for more and not settling for OK. It means pushing for the leadership positions and salaries that are well-deserved. I expect the percentage to match up a lot more over the next few years.”
Srishti Khandelwal, Co-founder of Cloven Media
Srishti discovered the affiliate marketing industry during her technical BA in electronics and communications. In her final year, she started working on her company, Cloven Media. At the time, she was in doubt about whether to take the business forward or pursue other job opportunities. She chose the first option and then started looking into which platform works best. This search has brought Cloven Media to Affise.
Srishti has been working in the marketing field and points out it is a pretty competitive industry. “I think the biggest challenge for women in marketing is that people accept you as someone who is not good with the analytical side and is only good at meeting and greeting clients. I have seen clients flirt just because you are a woman, and that always implies that we do not take our work that seriously,” Srishti says.
She believes the spotlight should not be based on gender but on merit and effort. The distinction between men and women working together harms productivity, so neither gender should receive special treatment.
Jane has vast experience across the digital marketing mix with various brands. She started her career at the agency side in an entry-level position. Jane had to rely on her knowledge, instincts, and Google. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone new to the marketing industry. But it was a good learning experience that gave me confidence in my ability to learn on the job and be confident in my decision-making, especially when pitching ideas to clients,” she says.
Later, Jane decided it was time to launch an agency herself with two co-founders, once again taking another big challenge, learning how to run a business and deliver client campaigns while managing the finances and trying to make a profit. During this year, Jane’s most significant achievement was a result of the scariest decision she has ever made: change the structure of the business and solely focus on being experts in one discipline. JBH has hit the most significant revenue milestone three years later, and the team has tripled in size – all during the pandemic.
Today, Jane is at the front line of JBH, the largest specialist Digital PR agency in the UK. Her team of over 30 people is dedicated to delivering innovative PR campaigns and winning industry awards across SEO, PR, and content marketing. Although the PR and SEO industries have many challenges, Jane loves the pace it moves at and that the community is pushing hard for women, diversity, and inclusivity to open up more opportunities for all. “The best advice I’ve ever received was to trust my instincts and not to let fear hold you back. If something feels right, do it, and don’t be scared to make (calculated) bold moves,” she shares.
There is no doubt that women have gained more space in the labor market, but there is still a need to break down many prejudices. Even on the path to building a gender-neutral workplace, inequality still exists, especially when it comes to the technology industry. According to research from 2021 that heard from around 1,000 women, one in three women working in the tech field say they experience gender bias at their workplace.
One initiative that has been making news and supporting is #BreakTheBias, which aims to break down prejudices. Join in, cross your arms, and show your solidarity by posing and sharing it to encourage more people to create an inclusive world. Learn more about the initiative here: #BreakTheBias.
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