As a team supporting diversity and women in tech – we decided to use the International Women’s Day as an opportunity to showcase some of the best talent in the industry – and interviewed the top female Product Managers, Product Owners and SaaS founders and CEOs.

For one – to inspire other women to take up this profession, and celebrate the amazing women who have succeeded in this demanding role despite the odds – often juggling the fast-paced career with raising a young family.

Click to Tweet: International Women’s Day is coming 🌷🌷 Celebrate top female talent in #Tech with me on this day 👉 https://ctt.ac/5O1hS+ [interview with 9 successful female Product Managers, Product Owners and #SaaS founders and CEOs]

So here’s to the ladies – let’s see who the top female influencers in Product and SaaS are, why and how they decided to pursue a career in product, and what challenges they face in their everyday work:

Women in Product

  1. Ariane Klajzyngier – Senior Product Manager at Publicis Sapient – a digital business transformation company
  2. Alexandra Ciobotaru – Product Owner at Novoresume – a professional online resume builder
  3. Sophia Benhaddou – Managing Partner and Product Manager at Excelway – – online meeting facilitation tool suite
  4. Olga Springer – Product Manager / Product Owner at SentiOne – a social media listening and internet monitoring tool
  5. Carlotta Basile – Associate Product Manager at Bruel & Kjaer UK Ltd – company offering acquisition and vibration software, transducers, ear simulators, sound level meters, measurement exciters, noise mapping, and positioning systems
  6. Elizabeth Grantham – Founder and Product Owner at TheOptimal.me – subscription exercise plans for mature women
  7. Aunkita Nandi – Managing Director and Product Manager at Tier5 Technology Solutions Pvt Ltd – web development and digital marketing products
  8. Oznur Aytekin – Founder and CEO at Stealth Mode and EdHabit – education sharing platform

Women in SaaS

  1. Anna Karcz-Czajkowska Co-founder at Symu.com – a remote collaboration tool for developers and graphic designers and Showly.co – collaboration tool for marketers, virtual assistants, freelancers and digital agencies
  2. Kinga Odziemek – CEO of Brainy Bees, content marketing, social media, PR and link building agency for SaaS, tech and B2B companies.
  3. Ewelina Robaczek – CEO and founder of Vouchery.io – eCommerce Promo Automation Platform

Women in Product

According to Mind the Product, as of 2016 (we didn’t find newer data), only 35% of all Product Managers were female.

And as Hubspot’s massive 2019 survey conducted on 1011 Project Managers from 59 countries revealed, the pay gap between male and female Product Managers amounts to $50,000:

Source: HubSpot

Considering this, what is it like to be a woman in (SaaS) Product Management?

Despite the odds, the female PMs we have spoken to, are painting an optimistic picture of the profession.

Let’s see how our interviewees got into Product Management, what their average workday looks like, and what challenges they face the workplace.

Ariane Klajzyngier Senior Product Manager at Publicis Sapient – a digital business transformation company

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

After discovering the world of Digital Product in CRM & E-Commerce working for CHANEL in London, I started reading around the world of Product Management in the IT/Tech industry. British Telecom was hiring for Product Managers at the time and I thought, why not discover a new industry after having experienced the luxury & travel sector? So I ended up working in Telco, on bt.com products for a few years! And it was clear right away that Product was the right path for me. I am now in the Product Team at Publicis Sapient and absolutely loving the Consultancy world 🙂

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

My background is actually not that related to Product, which shows how open the field is to different skills. I studied Marketing & Finance in New York at Fordham University. I then worked in the Travel Industry, in Sales in the US. Following that, joining the Digital world at Chanel in Luxury was definitely an incredible eye-opening opportunity! I chose a career in Product as it’s all about problem-solving and being ‘customer obsessed’. You have to be able to think quickly on your feet, to work with all types of stakeholders and more importantly, to use your EQ to your advantage at all times. If you are a curious observer of life – constantly asking a lot of questions, questioning the norm and observing people, thinking ‘how might we solve this?’ then there’s a chance Product is for you too 🙂

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

As a ‘digital business transformation’ partner, Publicis Sapient uses the disruptive power of technology and ingenuity to help digitally enable our clients’ business in their pursuit of next. We bring a startup mindset and agile methods to both established companies and the public sector to unlock value in ways that delight their customers and improve their operational effectiveness. Here are some interesting Product case studies, scroll down 🙂 https://www.publicissapient.com/services/innovation-digital-product-management

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

Working in Product/Consultancy, it can be quite challenging to keep with everything Digital/Product-related as the digital wave constantly evolves. Especially when adapting to a new industry/sector, you have to be able to learn quickly, efficiently and confidently. One advantage is being surrounded by people from such different & diverse backgrounds – so you can never stop learning from one another!

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

I’ve always chosen companies/organisations that focus on making our environment diverse & with women at the top. Publicis Sapient, for example, has a great Women’s Leadership Network (WLN). In Product in general, and especially in the tech sector, we need more women. Recognise and embrace your uniqueness. Being a woman in general, sometimes on a team of all men, means that you are going to have a unique voice and it’s important to embrace it.

Alexandra Ciobotaru – Product Owner at Novoresume – a professional online resume builder

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

My journey in the product space started a few months back when the team at Novoresume saw the need for a product owner that would prioritise the backlog of projects and would work closely with the development team to finish updates. Right now we are focusing on multiple product solutions and we are looking forward to soon sharing updates on the existing platform.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

My background is in business and communication, but I have been passionate about technology since I started my career. Fast forward, I have been working in business development for tech start-up and scale-up for 5 years now and tackling ways to bring business value has always been among my main priorities.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

At Novoresume, I manage the product backlog for our main service, a resume building platform, as well as other development projects in progress. As we are a small team, we develop cross-departmental projects and my role includes constant communication with the different squads to prioritise the next steps in the process.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

One of the challenges in product is choosing the right priority based on the business value it ads without putting pressure on the development team. Estimating and making sure that all points of the matter have been taken into account is harder than it sounds.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

I personally do not face challenges in the environment I work in. The setup is very open and friendly and we respect each other as professionals.

Sophia Benhaddou – Managing Partner and Product Manager at Excelway online meeting facilitation tool suite

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

I was working as a Project Manager in a large IT project ( new billing ERP in a utility company ). My job was to train people on the new software and manage “the human side of change”, helping them adapt to their new way of working. On top my “official activities”, I found a passion to solve problems people were experiencing and started creating small products (mostly in VBA with Excel). I had no idea what product management was nor did I know of Design Thinking but I was somehow instinctively applying most of the principles: focusing on the problem and testing regularly new solutions to respond to it, while including the users all along. I discovered Design Thinking and Product Management while founding my first startup and have been learning and practising since then.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

My background is in Political Sciences and International Relations. I started working in an Embassy and in International Organisations… so very different from Product Management :). As I said previously, I was already doing product management without knowing it. When I started learning about PM roles, I was just so happy that there was a “frame” and methods to what I was already doing. More specifically, what I love about this role is that I can have this 360° view on a problem, express my creativity and developing empathy and humility (yes I think these last two are the most important skills of a PM!)

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

So I’m the PM and founder of Excelway. Excelway is a collaboration tool where teams can facilitate visual meetings (such as creativity workshops or any method based on a canvas) and manage projects in a single place. As a PM, my day to day job is 1) talk to potential users to understand their problems, 2) talk to existing users to make sure we respond to the problem adequately, 3) write User stories, 4) communicate with my team, 5) validate user stories, and 6) getting feedback from users once the features are launched.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

Having a 360° on a problem + the solution we offer to this problem is fascinating… but also challenging. One must be able to understand stakes in many different fields (business, design, technical) and must make decisions based on his own competences, as well as his teams. It took me some time to accept that I can’t be an expert in all the fields I cover or I take decisions on, to trust the team when someone has competence on the matter, or otherwise to just learn by myself and ask my network.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

No, I don’t think so.

 

Olga Springer Product Manager / Product Owner at SentiOne – a social media listening and internet monitoring tool

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

Thanks to being active in the scientific circle, I quickly found my first internship in IT software and technology development projects, I became Scrum Master and switched to Product Owner. Then I founded the first polish blog on product management: www.productvision.pl (which is now quite popular!).

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

My cousin (PM at that time) inspired me when I chose my studies – he said that in new technologies is the future and many possibilities. I graduated from the Gdańsk University of Technology with a master degree in Informatics.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

SentiOne is a Conversational AI Platform. We develop technology providing state-of-the-art customer service automation based on social listening and data analytics. Every day we work with over 350 brands on 30+ markets including Procter&Gamble, Unilever, Beiersdorf, Tesco, Starcom, Mindshare, Mediacom or Saatchi&Saatchi and many others. We help global and local brands: – automate their customer service using AI, – collect real-time consumer insights, – control their online reputation, – improve online customer care. As Head of Product, I lead 5 people cross-functional product team and work closely with the management team on product strategy. I am responsible for the Product Roadmap and I execute it in cooperation with all development teams.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

The biggest challenge is to create products that effectively solve customer needs and to achieve a product-market-fit. Technology can be used in many ways and create millions of products, but the key is to understand the market and the needs of customers. Only with this knowledge can you focus on building what is important and makes a difference.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

Not really yet. I am expecting my first baby now, but I hope I will manage to effectively combine work with private life, and my team will support me at that time. I really appreciate that SentiOne offers flexible hours and option to work remotely when needed.

Carlotta Basile Associate Product Manager at Bruel & Kjaer UK Ltd – company offering acquisition and vibration software, transducers, ear simulators, sound level meters, measurement exciters, noise mapping, and positioning systems

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

I have always been interested in Product (mainly physical) and I have thought that this would be the natural step to move forward my career after few years in marketing to better understand the thinking process from start to finish.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

It was a natural progression starting with my studies in Business Administration and Marketing through my work in consumer goods and B2B industry after.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

I have recently joined Canon to work on the B2B printing line and so I still need to find my feet

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

As a Product Manager, I believe that the biggest challenge is managing the different expectations from and within the business, dealing with a variety of stakeholders and evangelising the product focusing on customer-centricity.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

I think I have been lucky to always find friendly environments where gender has not been an issue. However, in my previous experiences, the number of women was lower than men.

Elizabeth Grantham – Founder and Product Owner at TheOptimal.me – subscription exercise plans for mature women

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

I realised the need for TheOptimal.me and decided to create it! Becoming a product owner was never my intention.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

I have spent over 30 years in marketing/advertising. Getting involved in tech and product development has been an accidental detour.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

I am the founder of FireFinch and TheOptimal.me. I am still running my ad agency, but over the past 2 years or so, Optimal has taken up a massive chunk of my time, and on any given day I work on issues across the board from content, to UX, analytics, marketing, PR, sales, etc – the full 360.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

A lack of time! Working on the UX for our target audience – 50+ – has also been challenging. Constantly simplifying so that every bit of UX is familiar and really easy to navigate for many users that are not digital natives is almost at odds with where the developers want to build towards. Comms and getting the team on the same page as we develop is often challenging – especially as we’re all in different geographies, and often speak different languages. The other big challenge is putting aside my need for perfection before something is released.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

Initially, almost every (male) supplier/developer I discussed my idea with – even though much younger and with half the experience, proceeded to tell me what my product should be and how I should approach it. Beyond infuriating and insulting. Especially when their end result might have been me as a client… But I didn’t give up and found a great team that is respectful and always take our insights on board.

Aunkita Nandi – Managing Director and Product Manager at Tier5 Technology Solutions Pvt Ltd – web development and digital marketing products

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner in SaaS?

Technology is what interests me because I believe I can solve many problems using tech. So instead of building it for other clients, I decided to have my own products so that I can build it up as I want to.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

I have completed my university degree in computer science. I always wanted to be my own boss so that I can have people work on my ideas.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

We have 9 products in the market and currently working on 4 products which mainly help other businesses to automate their daily process. Also working on a product which helps to find leads over Facebook. My day to day job is to manage the whole development team, planning for the new features, marketing for the products.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

I find it difficult to hire smart engineers based on our standards we follow over here. Plus, we have a very open culture in our company so most of the people find it difficult to cope.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

Being a woman in India I find it challenging to prove my worth to everyone. But eventually, I have proven it with my work.

Oznur Aytekin – Founder and CEO at Stealth Mode and EdHabit, education sharing platform

Onzur

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner? *

I am an accidental product manager, entrepreneur, and a ceo. 🙂 After spending 20 years in the US, I have moved overseas and was inundated by requests to give talks around Product Management and Entrepreneurship. Initially I gave talks anytime I was asked but it just was not scalable. As I was trying to come up with ways to create a bigger impact, I have noticed that there is plenty of learning content out there, but it’s really hard to discover the best. To solve that need, we have created Edhabit (www.edhabit.com ), the social learning curation platform. Think Pinterest for Learning for Product Management, Technology & Marketing.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

My background is in Management Science & Engineering. I have worked in data science, analytics and product roles. I would get really passionate about a problem and I would try to bring all the people, processes, and pieces together to solve that. That is what I love doing and that is what I do.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

Edhabit is a platform where people can curate and bookmark, learning content on a variety of business topics (including product management), follow influencers and peers and add their own recommendations, rate content, etc. We want to be the ultimate resource to identify and social bookmark the best Product Management, Marketing and Technology resources. Relevancy and recency is super important in technology so we rely on our users for discovery, rating feedback on learning.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

I have heard a VC one quote there is a difference between “having a vision” and “having visions!” and that is what they try to distinguish when they are considering startup investments. This is also true for Product Managers. You have to believe in something that does not exist yet and you need to get everyone else to see what you see and act on it so it becomes a reality.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

There are challenges in PM and entrepreneurship, wish I could do A/B testing and tell you which challenges particular to being a woman 🙂

Women in SaaS

Anna Karcz-Czajkowska – Co-founder at Symu.com – a remote collaboration tool for developers and graphic designers and Showly.co – collaboration tool for marketers, virtual assistants, freelancers and digital agencies

1. How did you end up becoming working in SaaS?

Since 2013, together with my husband Adam Czajkowski, I have been working on an IT company- software house JCD.pl, specialized in designing and implementing web/mobile applications and services. In 2013 we noticed that our team devote a lot of time to communicate with the client: reporting and discussing corrections and comments to graphic designs. So we started working on for a remote collaboration tool – Symu.co. It enables users to upload a project, get feedback from the client directly on a project and manage all comments in one place. Symu has nearly 200,000 users from over 50 countries. And we are currently entering the market with a new SaaS product: Showly.co, which has a similar function – it facilitates constructive communication on the designer-client line, but is primarily addressed to marketers, virtual assistants, freelancers and digital agencies.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

I studied psychology and started my career in the marketing department of one of the largest Polish startups at that time. I worked at an international public relations agency, then at the university as a lecturer and finally – head of communication of one of the university departments. However, it was the development of our two companies with my husband Adam, that taught me the most about business, customers and product.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

Working on a product requires the involvement of many skills and combining many roles. It differs – depending on the product development phase: market research, recruitment, team management, PR, marketing, business development or business analysis. Over the past year, I have focused mainly on research: I have conducted countless conversations (In-depth Interviews) with the target group, analyzed insights, looking for problems and solutions – to propose a product which is best suited to their needs.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

Currently – for me it’s combining the role of the mother of two (4 and 1.5 years old). The work on the product itself is characterised by high variability of plans, situations, requirements and the already mentioned switching between roles of marketer, business analyst, researcher etc. If you add the duties and difficulties resulting from the role of an entrepreneur-mother, it becomes a real roller coaster 😉

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

The problems result naturally from the fact of having a family – although my wonderful husband and business partner supports me in absolutely every possible way, the burden of difficulties resulting from being a parent does not always spread perfectly in half. However, every day we work out new strategies that allow us to enjoy both the fact of working together on business and creating a happy family.

Kinga Odziemek – CEO of Brainy Bees, content marketing, social media, PR and link building agency for SaaS, tech and B2B companies.

1. How did you end up working with SaaS?

In the past, I was working in marketing agencies that provided all the services in the World. I have learned a lot, but I was a bit tired of doing everything instead of specializing in just one field.

Then I went freelance. I started helping some B2B companies, agencies and SaaS businesses, but I was still into B2C too. I remember reading Aaron Ross’s book, “From Impossible To Inevitable”, in which he wrote about nailing your niche. A lightning bolt hit me and I had an idea for my career instantly.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

As I mentioned above, I have worked in marketing agencies, and also for one of the marketing branches of Cambridge University for some time. I loved the whole experience and I think they all developed me greatly. But I really enjoyed working with B2B/SaaS a lot since I could see the effects of my hard work. My clients were growing, they were satisfied with my services, and I was always the one to adopt the latest updates. I always had that GH+ blood type flowing through my veins. Growth Hacking is an inevitability if you want to outperform your competitors, and I figured out that I am actually pretty good at it. I set up my SaaS agency in August 2018, and we work with SaaS businesses from all over the World. I have not expected that, but I love every single bit of it.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

Long story short: we help SaaS businesses grow with smart content marketing and PR. My day as a CEO is not just 9-5, and I am still very much involved in task execution. I write, distribute and manage, plus I am the one who needs to adjust to various work requirements as the lead person.

For example, we have some clients from countries where they work on Sundays instead of Fridays, so I started working on Sundays, too.

What helped me was to divide my workday into intervals: 6:00-8:00, 10:00-15:00, 16:00-18:00, and 20:00-22:00, which helps me stay productive and relatively sane.

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

Combining too many ideas with a lack of time. Because we do what we do – we hack content marketing and PR – new ideas come in a heartbeat, and then you are just wondering when on Earth you are going to be able to implement them. Once you do though, you are too excited to fall asleep. I have this really often, since we have amazing clients who are very open to experimentation. Sometimes I think we don’t work in an office but in a kind of lab or incubator of newborn ideas.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

The SaaS industry is wonderful, so global and multicultural that stereotypes don’t really exist. What’s more, it encourages women to show their real power. For example, I was chosen to be a City Leader of SaaStock Local. There were more people interested in being a CL but a woman was selected.

To spice things up: my team consists entirely of women (not that this is a requirement, they just ticked all of the boxes!). Some companies, especially in the past in Poland, could not believe that “girls like us” could handle technical topics or promote advanced SaaS. But we knew we could, and so we did.

As a female CEO, I may be considered to be a very vulnerable one: but this only makes me stronger. I don’t want to be treated better than men: I want to be treated equally well.

 

Ewelina Robaczek – CEO and founder of Vouchery.io – eCommerce Promo Automation Platform

Ewelina Robaczek

1. How did you end up becoming a product manager/ product owner?

I was working at Rocket Internet in Berlin as a CRM Manager. My team was supporting Rocket’s ventures across the globe in email marketing and automated email campaigns. At some point, we’ve started building more complex automated Customer Journeys, eg. Abandoned Cart retargeting emails or Wishlist retargeting and adding more Customer personalization to it. That was 2013, so there’s wasn’t any tools that could handle real-time Customer data enrichment and personalization – most of the recommendation systems were not agile enough to meet the needs of email personalization. We decided to build the tool ourselves and I became very passionate about – I’d gather results from each campaign, collect feedback from Marketers and think of improvements we could add to increase the ROI of campaigns and customer satisfaction. Once a senior colleague responsible for that left, I’ve been asked to become a Product Owner of the tool and oversee the development.

2. What is your background? What made you decide to pursue this career path?

I studied International Business. Upon joining Rocket Internet, I became very passionate about building products that improve people’s lives.

3. Tell us a bit about the products you’re working on and your day to day job

My current product, Vouchery.io, is a marketing platform to automate personalized e-commerce promotions like coupons, discounts, referral and loyalty programs. Our programmable API timely triggers the most relevant promotion at every step of the customer journey, whether it’s an apology voucher, a special occasion promo or an appreciation gift for being an engaged follower. Our mission is to help brands leverage contextual incentives to build long-lasting consumer relationships. Apart from leading the Product, I’m also the company’s CEO, so my daily responsibilities vary a lot. First thing on the morning I’m always checking for Customer’s requests – we have Customers all over the globe so before I wake up there’s already a backlog waiting. I’m always trying to be close to them, it’s incredibly important for me to listen to their feedback or use case’s ideas on a daily basis – having a Slack community always helps. Once I’m done with it, I’m checking in with our CTO and Product Manager (my cofounder) and we do a daily standup (product update). On the afternoon, often deciding priorities, having demo calls with potential customers and making sure we have money in the bank 🙂

4. What are the biggest challenges you face in your daily work?

One of the biggest challenges is definitely dealing with communicating the timelines to Customers and stakeholders. It’s often hard to balance what’s best for the Customer and the timeline that’s best and manageable for the team.

5. Are there any particular challenges that you face as a woman in this environment?

There’s nothing specific I experienced as a Product Person, but I feel like a lack of women in Product has a huge impact on the Products we use and buy as a society.