Leading a Customer Success team remotely and balancing the responsibilities of a new parent like an absolute pro, this quadrilingual woman is a force to be reckoned with. Her early chaotic yet exciting startup days exposed her exceptional versatility, a quality that continues to shine bright in her daily work.
Mariana has never let borders stop her from following her own unique path. Having been working with the founders of noCRM for almost ten years, she’s currently settled in Porto, Portugal, and her role at the management software company is the delightful outcome of a long journey that started with mere “luck.”
Can you please introduce yourself, your position and the company you work for?
Hey! I’m Mariana, 34, half-Portuguese, half-Brazilian, but grew up pretty much all over the world. I’ve never lived in the same country for more than 10 years, and I speak four languages fluently (Portuguese, French, Spanish and English).
I have a 2.5-year-old boy, and I work remotely from Porto (Portugal) for You Don’t Need a CRM, the editor of the lead management software noCRM.io, as Director of Customer Success. I’ve held this position for a year but have been working with the founders for 9.5 years (first at Yoolink, then You Don’t Need a CRM).
What inspired or led you to enter the SaaS field/tech startup world?
I entered this world by “luck.” I wasn’t really looking to work in the tech industry. I’d just recently gotten my master’s in International Public Management, and I thought I would end up working for NGOs or an international organization because that was the only experience I had. Back then, I wanted to stay in Paris, but it was impossible to get a job in that sector.
One day, I was looking at job offers and saw one that really appealed to me: Account Manager for YoolinkPro, a corporate social network. I loved the job application mechanism; it was very different from others I’d seen. No cover letter required, just 200 words explaining who you are and why you are fit for the job. I had always been a people person and I sure loved social networks. Why not give it a try? I did, and that’s how I entered the SaaS/startup world, over nine years ago.
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 did not. I have a bachelor’s in Translation and Interpreting, and a master’s degree in International Public Management. I guess working in a tech startup (unless you’re applying for a job in the tech team, of course) does not require any tech education. You just need to be curious, proactive, a team-player and, of course, a tech-savvy person.
What was the biggest challenge for you when entering the tech field and how did you manage to overcome it?
I was a junior, had no idea what the for-profit world was like, and I entered it via a tech startup.
I was the fifth person to join the team and was hired to do account management. Four months after I joined, when I was just starting to feel confident enough, my manager—who worked in Sales & Marketing—left. So it was down to four people, and all of a sudden I was challenged to do sales and marketing as well… a brand new set of skills I had to learn on the spot.
It was a hell of a challenge! I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to close a deal with big French companies—until I did, after only three months! I will never forget that day.
All initial challenges were overcome with time, mainly by gaining confidence and having lots of support from the rest of the team.
Thinking back to your journey and how you arrived at where you are today, is there anything you’d change if you could?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe that life is made of choices, and all the choices you make draw your path, professionally and personally speaking. All the decisions I made brought me to where I am today: part of an awesome team and working for an amazing company with great values, doing meaningful work for our clients and with the perfect professional/personal life balance.
What piece of advice would you give to your freshman self?
If I were to give my freshman self a piece of advice, it would be the same one I give everybody who joins the team: “Write down everything new. Don’t be scared to ask questions and to fail, it’s all a part of the learning process.”
What sort of impact do you feel from working in a male-dominated industry/environment?
In my previous work experiences (of which there weren’t many), it was the exact opposite. I was surrounded by women. I could feel the support between women, but also the competition.
When I joined this team in 2011, I was the only woman for over a year, and it was a “breath of fresh air.”
Working in a male-dominated environment didn’t bother me at all. I was never considered less-than. We all supported each other, and that fierce competition didn’t exist. I guess what’s important is balance. Male and female teammates are equally important in building a multifunctional, successful team.
Have you come across any hurdles that stem from gender inequality? Were you able to overcome them?
Never. At noCRM, we’re all treated the same, we all earn according to our responsibilities, and we all have the same opportunities to grow.
Also, family time and personal growth is cherished and valued within the company, and we’re all treated equally. I was never put aside when I was pregnant, nor was I treated differently as a mother that had to leave earlier to pick up my kid from school or take him to doctors’ appointments during work hours.
Although I’m the only mother in the company (the other parents are fathers), it’s great to see that all of them are as involved as I am in their kids’ lives. Particularly this year, during the Covid pandemic lockdown, we were all facing the same difficulties with kids at home. I never felt alone, different or in a tougher position for being a woman.
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?
This is my first and single experience in SaaS, and it’s been an amazing one. I can’t speak for all SaaS companies or tech startups, but from what I have shared with other women (or men) within the tech industry, we all have the same feelings: it’s fun, it’s challenging, your opinion matters, you’re allowed to fail, you get to see the direct impact your work has in the company’s growth.
Do you see a lack of female presence at your startup? If so, how do you think this could be changed?
I don’t see a lack of female presence in the non-tech teams. It’s quite balanced.
Nevertheless, I do think we lack female presence in our tech team! I will definitely point this out internally! ????
What do you see as the added value of having more female teammates at a tech company?
I believe that it’s always positive to have a balance between men and women. We’re different in the way we think, so having a good balance can only be positive.
Essentially, for your team to be successful, you must have the right balance of men and women to cover all the characteristics that drive success.
I would say: we’re all aware that women are known to be good at multitasking (which is an excellent skill for any startup!), and many studies have already shown that women have a positive impact on companies’ success.
How can male teammates support their female colleagues in growing professionally? And do you have first-hand experience with this positive behavior?
I guess it’s the same both for men and women. The challenge is to pinpoint what you’re really good at, what you love to do, what you’re passionate about, and guide yourself towards that—whether you’re a man or a woman.
As I said, I’ve worn various hats over the years, and our CEO was great at identifying what I really enjoyed doing and was good at: being in touch with our customers, making them happy and having a successful journey with noCRM.
More than supporting exclusively female teammates, the key is to build a culture of friendliness, inclusivity and an open environment, where team members can share their ideas and insights while supported by leadership that grants ownership and confidence to the entire team.
What would you recommend to women who would like to enter the tech field? Any educational material you’d like to suggest as well?
I’d recommend that they go for it! The tech industry is HUGE, and based on what I’ve seen in these past 10 years, I can say it never gets dull, you learn new stuff every single day and you meet amazing people from all over the world. It’s enriching, challenging and there’s always room for more!
I strongly recommend to go to LinkedIn, enter groups of your interest, network, write blog posts, join discussion groups... You can easily meet passionate people with great skills always ready to share their experiences and help you grow.
If you’re into Customer Success, I can recommend:
- SuccessCoaching’s online course,
- Client Success’ webinars,
- A great (although exclusively in French) CS podcast: AM KAM gram,
- And of course, my sales tips series, of which I’m very proud.
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?
“People working in startups are usually very busy,” yes, but that doesn’t have to mean they have to work crazy hours. I start early in the morning, but every day, I leave at 5 p.m. to pick up my toddler from daycare. Sometimes there are busier moments during the year, when I need to pick up my computer at night, but I still have time to play tennis, do yoga, play with my dog and spend quality time with my 2.5 year-old. It may not always work perfectly, but most of the time it’s just a matter of organizing your schedule for the week.
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 Kinga from BrainyBees.