After inventing, co-founding and subsequently selling the controlling stake of the hugely successful LifeTube – the biggest YouTube MCN in CEE – launched her new business indaHash, a global technology platform that connects over half a million digital influencers to brands such as L’Oreal, Coca Cola, P&G and more to conduct branded campaigns. Winner of numerous internal and external awards – given the title of EY Entrepreneur of the Year, considered to be one of the “100 Most Inspiring People” in the Polish interactive business sector, became the first woman to win the “Man of the Year” award by the MIXX awards IAB 2015 for her “outstanding contribution to interactive marketing and advertising”. Nominated for titles like “Woman in Business” and “Man of the Year – Internet” and received honorable mention for “Business Woman of the Year”.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I’ve always had an interest in the world of business and technology and I simply love organizing things and supporting people – this is how I see leadership. When I was in school I was always a leader but when I started my first job as a trainee I wasn’t so sure if I would ever be able to be a true leader at work because I knew I was missing experience. But I was very lucky to have a great leader who inspired me and I learned so much from him. Then unfortunately he decided to leave the company and as I didn’t want to work with any other manager, I knew that the only way was to become a real manager myself and build the team. At that time I was about 22 years old. It was probably a little arrogant and brave on my side but once this responsibility was given to me I put a lot of effort to be a true leader. I read a lot of books, I watched videos and asked a lot of questions to all the people who were more senior than me. And finally I built the biggest team in the agency and the team that received the biggest number of awards. But still, everyday I learn a lot about management and leadership and I know that there is still a lot ahead me.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
While working at PR agency, I was approached by a friend who was a YouTube artist to start doing managerial services for him because he was unable to do it himself. After that, I partnered with another Youtuber and co-founded a company called LifeTube, which is now one of Europe’s biggest YouTube multi-channel networks (MCN). It gives managerial services to the biggest Youtubers. I exited the business in November 2016 and focused only on the development of indaHash.
When looking to scale the business, we soon realized that there was a huge potential in mid-tier influencers who don’t have talent agents and weren’t approached by brands directly but have extremely engaged audiences. At the same time, more marketer-friendly social media platforms were coming to the foreground. Instagram in particular was image-rich and enjoying really high engagement levels. Thanks to technology, the process could also be automated – allowing for scale. Thus, indaHash.com was officially launched in January 2016.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
I learned that I should manage people’s strengths not weaknesses and that we have different pre disposals and I cannot expect the same things from different people. But how to recognize people strengths? The biggest challenge I have always had was finding the right people who will truly love what they do. Who would come to the office with joy and didn’t recognize that 8 hours passed by. That is why we also we have a quite extensive recruitment process that includes behavioral interview questions and tests like Gallup, DISC or Enneagram.
Challenges are occuring every day! In the early days of indaHash it was difficult to convince our first clients to come on board and to adjust the product to the market. We had to be patient and listen carefully to what people wanted instead of just trying to explain why we are so unique. We had to adjust our offer and work hard on the product. Within 18 months we grew from having a dozen team members to over 150 people on board in 7 countries and different time zones. It’s also tough keeping up with the growing and changing demands of running a global business. In our HQ we have people speaking over 20 different languages so as we are faced with cultural challenges, we adapt and make sure we have staff who can help us with global expansion.
As we overcome challenges everyday, we also see see new smaller new challenges that pop up. But I think this is a good thing. Challenges are what make us develop. If we try to pretend we don’t see them, they will overwhelm us and it would mean we are not moving forward, so in actuality, it means we are going backwards.
We want everyone in the company to feel really empowered and responsible for their part of the business we do together. That is why we try to keep clarity with our mission, goals and encourage people to improve our work everyday. We try to be as transparent as possible – we do bi-weekly statuses that every employee can join no matter their level, open doors and we have introduced Objective Key Results to keep clarity on our goals, KPI’s and final results. That is also why we all work on new ideas for our product, company and also management. Besides that, every few months we organize global meetings where all our heads work with an external coach. We also invest a lot in trainings and organized a Book Club – an initiative in which people order books they want to read and then share their views.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst every single day. If you analyze the worst possibilities, you’ll see that it’s not so terrible. It’s good to confront yourself with that because it makes fear disappear. Don’t be afraid of anything, have strong faith in yourself and your ability, and keep doing new things and improve on them endlessly.
I work in tech, but do not know how to code. I hire people who know how to execute my ideas through technology. My biggest piece of advice is be a risk taker and know that you can run a business, even if you don’t know how to physically create the product. Being a business owner, you have the ability to hire people who know how to turn the wheels – so hire smart.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
That you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. As a business owner, the hiring process is so important…you shouldn’t rush it. We have a very thorough recruitment process to make sure we are making the right hire for specific positions.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I pride myself in making indaHash a really fun place to work with an amazing culture. Whether it’s an impromptu pizza party or throwing a unicorn-themed bash in the office, I believe that you can mix business with pleasure, and this helps blow of steam and the stress of the day. Obviously, I work around the clock since I am running a global business in over seven different countries and timezones, but I also make sure to not look at my phone during dinner time with my family and take time for myself such as yoga, etc.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think women need to be unafraid to speak up and take risks in the workplace. We are equal to men in every way (except for the fact that we can bear children), so it’s important to always remember this and assert yourself. That’s the best way to get noticed.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
Honestly, I’m not sure women need encouragement because we can do anything. We are lucky to live in a moment where our voices are being heard loud and clear. If you have an idea, talk to people that know how to execute it if you do not. There are so many women’s social clubs and groups that you can join nowadays and these women are your biggest supporters. It’s all about women helping other women.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship is a huge factor for both my professional and personal life. I’ve been working with my mentor for over 2 years now and he has helped me strike a wonderful balance in my life. He also helps me to think outside the box and to challenge myself all the time. I also utilize him a lot for workshops with my leadership team. He’s added so much value to my career, and I want my employees to gain the same learnings and thought-provoking experiences that he’s given me.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Susan Wojcicki: She is one of the first employees of YouTube and was responsible in monetizing the platform through a partnership with Google. I’m so impressed with her ability to take charge and transform it into the money making machine it is today. Plus, has 5 children, so the fact that she is running the biggest video sharing platform while being a mom is so inspirational to me.
Sheryl Sandberg: I love her sharp thoughts about leadership and how she combines it with her private and family life. I respect that she is not afraid to share the difficulties that she has faced because it’s what makes her the strong leader that she is today. I also really love her book Plan B – it really impressed me and I’d recommend it to any female leader.
Monika Zochowska, founder of Glov (http://glov.eu/): She is a personal friend of mine that I admire because she built an international business from Poland. She made a really innovative product that removes makeup with only water, no chemicals or harsh ingredients. It’s not an easy thing to start a global business from Poland, but she managed to do it with great success. She’s amazing in terms of business and has a very warm, positive attitude and great passion for what she does.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Personally, I plan to do the Quigong course. Wisdom Healing Qigong is an ancient practice for health, healing and wellbeing. I also want to continue and advance my yoga practice. personal healing, practicing yoga
On a professional level, we have a strong mission to transform influencers into the new publishers and want to be the lead of this change. We believe that influencers are taking over the media and want our name to be associated with this disruption of the industry. We also want to improve our product, make our influencers and clients happy with our services, and continue to expand into new markets.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Hire slowly, fire fast. Type A people attract Type A people, while Type B people attract Type C people. As an entrepreneur running a tech business, I always try to find Type A people to keep the engine moving smoothly.
Plan ahead. For me, good planning has been the key to success. Very often, urgent things come up and it’s easy to focus on them and get distracted from our main objectives. I’ve learned that urgent things are usually the easiest to resolve, but careful planning and strategic thinking is what brought us to another level, and these things are almost never urgent. Focus on your long term strategy.
Always be straightforward and keep things simple for yourself and everyone else on your team. Never overthink and overcomplicate things. Your employees will appreciate this type of leadership, and having this mentality will make your life much easier.