For this edition of our Women in SaaS bi-weekly interviews, we spoke to a true master of her craft. You can find her giving lectures on product management at Tartu University, mentoring startups or coaching aspiring professionals in the field—all while leading her own team.
Jaana Metsamaa joined Pipedrive three years ago, coming in with an already deep-rooted passion for the dynamic world of startups. With her master’s in both information technology and engineering, she knows what she’s doing. Now, she’s here to help others bring their own dreams to fruition.
Hi Jaana, can you please introduce yourself, your role and the company you work for?
I joined Pipedrive, a leading CRM for sales teams, as a Product Manager (PM) almost three years ago. Today, I am the Lead PM for Pipedrive’s product platform. This means that our team is responsible for tools and solutions that enable other product teams to build consistent solutions. In essence, my team is working on Lego pieces other teams can build their solutions from. These Lego pieces include security, billing, identity management and a user experience framework.
What inspired or led you to enter the SaaS field/tech startup world?
I’ve worked in startups across various industries. My first job as a developer was at a mobile app development agency. Almost everything that I know today about product management and leading teams I learned during my five years in the mobile payments company Fortumo (successful exit by Boku in 2020 for 41 million USD). After that, I lived in Singapore, where I worked for a global travel booking startup as Head of Product.
What led me down this path is the fast-paced nature and constant challenges that come with working at startups. It is never boring, and no two days are identical. In terms of Pipedrive’s culture, in particular, I really value how anyone’s ideas can come out on top, regardless of their position in the company.
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?
I have a BS in computer science and two master’s degrees—one in information technology and the other in engineering (cybersecurity). My education has helped me to be successful in my job, but it is definitely not essential to have a tech background when you work in a startup. As long as you are willing to learn and are open-minded, you can achieve anything. You just need to have the will.
What was the biggest challenge for you when entering the tech field and how did you manage to overcome it?
When I started my bachelor studies, most students already had some kind of experience in IT. They had been programming since their teenage years. I entered the program with no experience. Still, I was admitted because the school probably saw that I had what it takes to become an engineer. In moments of self-doubt, I always reminded myself that doctors also don’t know much about medicine when they start their studies, so I ignored my insecurities and went for it.
Thinking back to your journey and how you arrived at where you are today, is there anything you’d change if you could?
In essence, I don’t believe in regretting things. I probably could have paced myself a bit more at the beginning of my career. Focusing too much on work when I was younger taught me a valuable lesson. I know how to protect myself from becoming burned out, and I have gained quite good work-life integration skills and know-how to keep myself mentally healthy.
I have been in this world throughout my entire adulthood. I am just being myself. I do what I like. As Pipedrive’s new CEO Raj Sabhlok says, you can only be successful if you are doing what you love. I agree with that 100%.
What piece of advice would you give to your freshman self?
There is more to student life than studying.
I am very thankful to my parents for supporting me when I was a student. I was able to focus 100% of my efforts on my studies, without having to worry about money. But when looking back, I probably took it a bit too seriously and could have enjoyed everything that comes with being a student more.
Have you come across any hurdles that stem from gender inequality? Were you able to overcome them?
We know that women apply for a job when they believe that they meet 10/10 of the criteria listed within the given job ad. Men apply when they cover more or less 6/10. It is plausible that I have fallen into this trap too, and not applied for jobs because I thought that I wasn’t good enough for the job. But in general, I feel mindful about myself and know what I am capable of and what skills I have. I hope I haven’t missed any opportunities because of this common mindset.
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?
No one should choose any area for their studies or career because it is trendy. I picked technology as a good career path because I love it.
Do you see a lack of female presence at your startup? If so, how do you think this could be changed? What do you see as the added value of having more female teammates at a tech company?
Research has shown that any kind of diversity has a lot of positive impact on a company’s success. Diverse teams make decisions faster, lead to better financial performance and are more innovative. So we should not focus only on gender, but all kinds of diversity—having team members from different nationalities, age groups, races and cultural backgrounds.
I always try to keep this in mind with my team. Currently, I have six people on my team from five nationalities; three of them are female and three male.
How can male teammates support their female colleagues in growing professionally? And do you have the first-hand experience with this positive behaviour?
All people, no matter which gender, should notice their colleagues’ potential and share experiences to help them grow. But yes, minorities might need a bit more encouragement in using their potential and taking advantage of the opportunities that they encounter.
What would you recommend to women who would like to enter the tech field? Can you also recommend any educational/reading material?
I have been giving lectures on product management at Tartu University for a few years now and have been mentoring startups and coaching aspiring PMs. I hope that my conscious efforts to be a good role model and to share my experiences inspire my students of any gender to consider a career in tech.
Sheryl Sandberg’s confidence-boosting oldtimer, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has been inspiring for me throughout my career.
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?
I have a principle that if I am working at 6 pm, I have failed. I am consciously not working after hours to make room for tennis, photography, life, piano or cooking. I also have a small infosec startup, Alfred, that aims to innovate infosec the way Pipedrive did with sales 10 years ago. I am quite proud of it, as we made it to the Top 5 at the largest competition of business ideas in Estonia in 2020.
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 Hana Novakova, Head of Customer Success from Kontentino.