Some people stumble into the SaaS field and end up exactly where they never knew they were meant to be. Such was the case with the inspirational woman we’d like to introduce today. A leader who insists on creating a diverse environment, she’s experienced her share of gender biases — but she’s never let them silence her.
Hana entered the tech world when she joined a startup called Kontentino years ago. But what was then a small team is now a stable company that businesses turn to for social media management. And what was a wide-eyed newcomer is now a perceptive manager who guides her team with confidence.
Can you please introduce yourself, your role, and the company you work for?
My name is Hana Novakova and I am the Head of Customer Success at Kontentino. I initially joined Kontentino as a customer manager almost three years ago, when we were just a little startup of five people. Once we started to grow very rapidly and felt the need to expand the CSM team, I started managing the team of customer success managers.
At Kontentino, we build software that helps marketing agencies and their clients to collaborate smoothly when creating social media content.
Using Kontentino, creative people are able to save a lot of time that they normally have to spend on repetitive, administrative tasks, and can devote that time to creative work. The end result of our efforts is, therefore, the witty, ingenious ads you see on social media.
What inspired or led you to enter the SaaS field/tech startup world?
I wouldn’t say joining the SaaS field was ever my dream. I did my masters in Copenhagen, Denmark, majoring in urban planning. But back then, it was quite challenging to find a job in that area. So even though I had hoped to build a career in what I studied, I had to change paths… and that change led to marketing.
I first worked for a huge corporation, but that was not the place for me. Having accumulated some marketing and social media streamlining experience, I started to search for a job in this field.
Ultimately, pure coincidence led to interviewing at Kontentino. From the very first moment, I knew that this environment was meant for me, and I was meant for SaaS.
Did you study technology? Do you feel it’s important to have a tech education in order to get a job in a tech startup?
Because I myself studied urban planning and geography, I’d say that it’s not important to have a tech background in my field. However, I cannot speak for tech positions other than my own.
On the other hand, I’m an advocate of the old-school approach and I truly believe education is important. I fully support the kind of education that trains you to think independently and teaches you the importance of basic human values.
What was the biggest challenge for you when entering the tech field and how did you manage to overcome it?
Starting at Kontentino was my first real experience with SaaS and the tech business. As such, literally, everything felt extremely challenging in the beginning.
There were basically two things that prevented me from losing my mind. The first was the extremely understanding and helpful community I found in Kontentino. The second was self-education.
Fortunately, we live in a world where the majority of information is freely accessible. It’s no longer a challenge to find studying material; what’s difficult now is deciding which material you want to use.
I read an enormous amount of papers, blogs, interviews, and books. I led lots of discussions and asked many questions, and I have to say that I ended up enjoying that time a lot. It was an era of discovering the beauty of the unknown and pushing my boundaries further and further.
As Kontentino is a software intertwined with social media—one of the fastest-developing fields—we all need to stay extremely alert and sharp about the innovations and news pertinent to this field. This keeps all of us awake, so to speak.
Thinking back to your journey and how you arrived at where you are today, is there anything you’d change if you could?
I wish I’d joined SaaS and Kontentino at an earlier stage of my life. Although I started relatively early, I was by far the oldest in the whole company, which can sometimes feel strange—especially for a woman.
What piece of advice would you give to your freshman self?
Don’t be afraid to speak up! Even if you are a girl. Even if you are a young girl. Your ideas and opinions are often more relevant than those of people who speak the loudest.
Has working in a male-dominated industry/environment had a specific impact on you?
I always try not to look at men and women as two separate species. But if it’s had any impact on me, I’d say it only made me stronger. It made me feel more confident about my opinions and more determined in terms of my visions.
Have you come across any hurdles that stem from gender inequality? Were you able to overcome them?
Looking at gender inequality all around the world, I feel like the SaaS scene is doing very well in terms of respecting women.
It’s been proven that women have to make a much bigger effort to achieve the same goal as men. However, I have never experienced this phenomenon.
What I do have experience with is noticing there’s a different perception of me as a woman versus my male colleagues whenever Kontentino has a booth at a conference. There are moments when the difference in perception is very present, and it’s not always nice.
It’s kind of funny to observe how men that are truly interested in our software always choose to speak to my male colleagues, and those just seeking a little chat always choose me.
I doubt that my male colleagues have been invited for a date while selling our product at a booth, or that they’ve been invited to join someone at a spa. However, it’s these things that can make us women stronger. If you are well-aware of your qualities, situations like these cannot discredit you.
Only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice. Why do you believe working in a tech startup or SaaS is a good career path?
I believe there is no such thing as a good and a bad career path.
Working in SaaS is beautiful. It is super dynamic, extremely fast, very challenging, packed with innovations and can get crazy to a certain extent. It’s not for everyone.
I’d say it’s a great career path for those who seek immediate impact but, at the same time, are willing to face immediate changes.
It is perfect for those who are performance-driven but, at the same time, won’t go crazy if the situation is idle.
It is the perfect place for people who thrive on energy and enthusiasm, but who are able to keep it under control so they don’t burn out.
Do you see a lack of female presence at your startup? If so, how do you think this could be changed?
Not anymore. Our marketing department is made solely of women, and after recently hiring two more women to my team, we’ve made gender representation at the company even.
What do you see as the added value of having more female teammates at a tech company?
Diversity is crucial for any team. That applies to gender, age, nationality, sexual orientation or any other aspect. At Kontentino, we are very diverse across the board. However, every single person that was hired to Kontentino was hired because of their experience and skills, regardless of anything else.
How can male teammates support their female colleagues in growing professionally? And do you have the first-hand experience with this positive behavior?
I believe that everyone, regardless of gender, should respect their colleagues and always be available to help.
There are people who are better at structural thinking, some that are better at building reports, others are better at critical thinking, communication… combining and sharing all of these skills is how you come to a sophisticated result. And that’s what we are striving for.
What would you recommend to women who would like to enter the tech field?
Dear women, you are very welcome in the tech field. We are all waiting for you and promise to be very helpful to any new heroine that enters.
As for resources that may help to understand SaaS, I’d definitely recommend following Steli Efti, Sujan Patel and Nathan Latka. These are all men, and I can only hope that the bits I’ve offered in this interview will inspire some brilliant women to start working in SaaS, so I will be able to mention them in a couple of years.
As has become clear during this interview, my scope is more in sales and customer success, something that’s reflected in my reading selection. With that in mind, I recommend Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, Martin Lindstom’s Buyology, Nir Eyal’s Hooked and Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.
People working in startups are usually very busy. How do you manage your work-life balance? Do you have time for some side projects/ passion projects?
The situation right now is completely different from what it used to be, and I am very thankful for it.
I remember starting in this field and being absolutely shocked to see that my colleagues seemed to have no life, no free time and that all their time spent outside of work was spent talking and thinking about work. I realized very quickly that that’s because they love what they do, and that passion is stronger than anything else. I don’t have to tell you how contagious it was. It did not take long and I was just the same.
But for me, it’s evolved and is a bit different now. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed being swept up in work and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Yet I am glad that I now have time I can spend on running, roaming the mountains or—something I’ve recently taken up—ice bathing.
Women in SaaS initiative
Did you know that only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice and only 5% of leadership positions in technology are held by a woman? With our new initiative - Women in SaaS interviews, we want to inspire more women to join SaaS field & technology and combat prejudges connected to technology.
Every two weeks, you can look forward to interviews with inspirational ladies who decided on a career path in SaaS. In our next article, we will talk to Mariana (Solleiro) Lacerda, Director of Customer Success from noCRM.io.