Some people want a flexible work schedule. Others need it. Such is the case with the fierce woman that commences our Women in SaaS interviews of 2021. Sticking to a path of short term goals that leave room for seizing opportunities, she is now in charge of her precious time. And she owns it.
From international relations at university to an internship at Google, Veronika has always let her curiosity take the wheel. Now, she holds ScreenCloud’s growth marketing in her hands and always makes sure that her opinions are heard—just as she hopes all women have the confidence to do.
Hi Veronika, can you please introduce yourself, your position and the company you work for?
I’ve been working at ScreenCloud, a digital signage software scale-up, for over two years now. I started as a performance marketing executive and my role has evolved into growth marketing, so I’m running a lot of experiments for quick results and stable market demand. This can be quite challenging, but it’s very fulfilling when you crack something.
My days are never the same. I not only oversee the whole budget, strategy and execution of our paid channels and PPC landing pages but also run CRO experiments, sometimes launch features, make sure we are tracking all of the important metrics and dig into data to ensure that the decisions we make are more data-driven. It is usually a very enjoyable job where I get to work with some super smart people.
What inspired or led you to enter the SaaS field/tech startup world?
I wouldn’t say I was inspired to join the SaaS or startup world initially. I was always following the latest trends and was a tech enthusiast, but I never imagined I’d end up working in the field. I actually wanted to join the international affairs scene and work for the EU or United Nations.
However, I was always seeking a new challenge and experience, even during summers during time off from university. After my second uni year, I got a marketing internship with Staffino through the LEAF organization—and that was my first encounter with the tech space.
The real turnaround point for me was a Google internship in Poland. It really exposed me to digital marketing, Google customers and the impact of well-performing paid advertisements on business. So this was my ‘aha’ moment, realizing that online marketing in the tech space would be a really cool path.
Google is a huge organization and even though it tries to have this startup feel, there are certain elements of the business that just can’t work that way. So on the one hand, I found the space and on the other hand, I realized that if I want to learn quickly and have truly hands-on experience, it will need to be a smaller company/startup. That’s how my career in the tech SaaS startup world was born.
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?
Not at all! I studied humanity subjects, International Relations and Linguistics, so nothing techy.
I don’t think it is a must to study technology or to have a tech education per se, but you definitely need to have a genuine interest and should be following what is happening in this world. Other things I think you can easily pick up when you join such a startup.
What was the biggest challenge for you when entering the tech field and how did you manage to overcome it?
Where to start? I was just thrown into the water and had to learn quickly. I think the best way is to learn by execution, so you try to do things yourself first before asking for help.
I’d say another big challenge was the overwhelming amount of different marketing tools and the lingo—which did take some time for me to crack.
People working in startups are usually very busy. How do you manage your work-life balance? Do you have time for some side/passion projects?
Working in a startup can sometimes completely overtake your life. Your work becomes your life. That is not particularly a bad thing if you take your job more like a hobby that fulfills you. Fortunately, this is the case for me. On the other hand, work-life balance can become quite blurred.
For me, there are certain important aspects when it comes to working for a startup. The startup needs to have full trust in me and thus must offer flexible working hours and the possibility of working remotely from time to time.
I am not only a woman in the tech SaaS startup space but also a woman with a chronic condition (rheumatoid arthritis). Working with a chronic condition is something that is not widely spoken about, but it encompasses sometimes hidden or even visible pain: chronic fatigue, tiredness, headaches and regular doctor checkups. Employers don’t quite yet know how to talk about this with employees and what kind of support is essential. You can read a bit more here.
That’s where the flexible working hours come in. If I feel stiff in the morning and I take more time to start functioning, nobody is going to point fingers at me. This would not be possible with a 9-5 job. Even for a healthy individual, you might be a morning person or a night owl. Why would an employer prescribe you to work certain hours if you are the most productive at different times? It does not matter when you do your tasks, just get your shit done. That’s basically all that matters.
The remote part is important when I have to travel back to Slovakia for check-ups. It is better to work for 1-2 weeks from Slovakia and get the check-ups done in the mornings.
So, to answer your question: Work-life balance is important for me in the sense of having the flexibility to do my job at the times I choose (of course, meetings are a different story).
And yes, there is always time for side projects. I think it is important to keep your skills and experience sharp.
Thinking back to your journey and how you arrived at where you are today, is there anything you’d change if you could?
I believe that everything happens for a reason, so I wouldn’t really change anything.
I’d say I never had a clear career path or ultimate goal that I was chasing. I always give myself relatively short term goals that I want to achieve within 1-2 years and leave space for opportunities. Some you accept and some you decline, but each gives you a new perspective and something to consider.
So I’d say I arrived where I am today by a mix of short term visions for myself and opportunities that came along the way. I really think you need to be flexible and open to new situations in order to find out whether you are even on a path that you enjoy.
What piece of advice would you give to your freshman self?
Don’t be afraid to fail and ask questions in the beginning.
Nobody is born perfect and nobody expects you to know everything from the very first day. Asking questions is actually perceived quite positively as you show curiosity, drive and willingness to learn and grasp things quickly.
In some cases, especially when you are a newbie, you might help the team see things from an outsider’s point of view and notice what is overlooked by people that are already too deep into it.
What sort of impact do you feel from working in a male-dominated industry/environment?
It teaches you to be more fierce in voicing your opinion and proposing new projects, tools or strategies. You need to know your facts to back up what you want and why, and to really present what impact something can have. It is sometimes more difficult to convince men or to change their perspectives, and doing so might take time. Resilience and not giving up are definitely virtues you should follow; they’ll help you really achieve what you aim for.
Have you come across any hurdles that stem from gender inequality? Were you able to overcome them?
I feel like there is a huge push towards gender equality in tech these days. However, I’d say the biggest hurdles that are still sometimes present are, for example: If a male colleague says something and then a woman says the same thing in different words, who do you think is more likely to be heard? It would be the male colleague. I’ve seen this in the past, less these days. The only way to overcome this is to be more vocal and assertive in making sure to emphasize that this idea came from you.
Another thing is mansplaining. I would say women are sometimes still perceived as less tech/business-savvy, which is just not true anymore.
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?
If you are passionate about technology but are frightened of this path out of respect for it, then don’t be. You’ll be able to keep the pace and you’ll learn to be more technical. It isn’t rocket science. :)
I like tech SaaS because it is very fast-paced and dynamic, very innovative and you can be a part of future technology or trends. That is exciting! But, it is not for everyone.
Do you see a lack of female presence at your startup? If so, how do you think this could be changed?
When I first joined, there were only a handful of women. Since then, ScreenCloud has significantly grown (both in business and people) and now, we have many more women. If you’d asked me a few weeks back, I’d say that we have a small number of women in leadership positions. But recent new hires in such positions have been women, and I’m excited to see what this new wave of female power brings to the company.
I have a dear colleague in the marketing team who has been very vocal about gender inequality, gender bias, inclusion and intersectionality. It did take some time, but I think she has really pushed for gender equality, and for the new wave that is happening now.
Just to be clear, I don’t think hiring women only for the sake of hiring women is right. It should always be based on skills and experience. But I also think that giving women the right conditions and motivating them to apply is very important.
What do you see as the added value of having more female teammates at a tech company?
I think women always bring a different vibe and perspective into the team. It is important to diversify. Sometimes, women can better relate to the customers and help the company by bringing empathy into the mix. I’d say that women’s emotional intelligence is much better than men’s. Also, I think women are very collaborative players and can bring the team together in a different way than men can.
How can male teammates support their female colleagues in growing professionally? And do you have first-hand experience with this positive behavior?
The same way as they support male colleagues. Share their experience, learn about their aspirations and create a plan on how they can reach their professional goals. Give them responsibilities, help them educate themselves in the areas in which they are either lacking or want to excel, help them get courses covered by the company, send them to conferences, etc.
If they observe that a female colleague lacks some essential skills and that’s why she is often not heard or recognized, they should offer some kind of coaching or tips and tricks on how to improve them.
Sometimes, it is as easy as praising your female colleague publicly in front of the whole company.
What would you recommend to women who would like to enter the tech field? Any educational material you’d recommend as well?
Find people in the field that inspire you and follow them on LinkedIn. Another great platform is Growthmentor, where you have tons of great women and men in marketing, business and entrepreneurship roles, all of whom are ready to jump on a call to help you with any problem. Lastly, I recently joined Lunchclub—you add some info about yourself, like your preferences, and it matches you with some great professionals from the field you are seeking.
Apart from that, if you are into marketing or growth marketing, definitely follow Growth Tribe; they have some amazing resources, courses and webinars.
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 Patricia from Exponea.