Celia FleischakerCelia Fleischaker joined PROS in 2017 and serves as its Chief Marketing Officer.

She leads all aspects of marketing, including marketing operations, product marketing, branding, corporate communications, global events, digital strategy and demand generation. Fleischaker is responsible for developing and executing strategies that build on PROS success as a leading provider of commerce solutions and driving growth in the industries it serves.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve spent 20 years or so in the B2B tech space, so I’m well-versed in the industry at this stage. My first real introduction to technology came much before that, though – with my dad insisting that I code games before I played them as a child.

I started my career in product marketing and then subsequently had the opportunity to work in field marketing and also on the corporate side of things. I was able to combine that experience in my role as CMO at Epicor. Since then, I’ve been CMO at PROS and have helped to spread the message on smarter selling in the digital economy, and I’m loving it.’

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can say hand on heart that I absolutely did, yes. But that’s not to say that everyone does or should. I’ve had a fascination with tech from a young age and I’ve carried that all the way from primary education to higher education. College is a time where people tend to sit down and have a serious think about what interests them and how this relates to their future career – and I was no different

I attended the University of Virginia for my undergrad degree. My main focus was always that I wanted to work in software development. I think it’s the logic behind software that I found so appealing. And playing a role in marketing those technological advances is always exciting to me.’

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Of course, there have been some challenges along the way but I’m lucky to have great support from my family and a good work-life balance. Earlier in my career, there was an assumption that when I came back from maternity leave, I’d want to take a reduced role. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth – that thought had never crossed my mind. Misconceptions like that need addressing and I think society is gradually getting to grips with that fact. I’d like to think this sort of assumption would not be something that today’s generation has to endure.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have had the opportunity to manage and mentor many amazing women over the years. Knowing that I was able to help them grow in their careers is what I’d consider my biggest accomplishment. I love seeing people that have worked for me grow and advance their careers – either as part of my team or in another organisation. Knowing that I may have influenced that person’s ability to grow into a VP of marketing or CMO makes me incredibly proud.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

There are a number of factors, but I think having a strong partnership with the leadership team has been vital. At PROS, I feel as though the c-suite genuinely buys into the value of marketing and takes an interest in our work. That’s not the case at all technology companies. From the CEO, to the CFO – everyone is supportive of building budget to drive important initiatives and that’s exciting to be a part of.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Whenever I have this conversation with people who are aspiring for careers in tech, I emphasise the importance of finding a mentor. Having someone in the industry that you admire and can offer career advice is incredibly beneficial. Further to that, finding a sponsor is even better – someone who knows people in the industry and how to navigate the various back channels. A mentor will provide advice and guide you. A sponsor goes a step further and really champions you.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are still barriers but I believe the corporate tech world is rapidly improving on that front – I think my time at PROS is a good example of that. The company has made a real effort to bring women into the business and works hard to ensure they have a pathway to succeed. The company’s diversity & inclusion programme has led to growth in number of women hired as well as women in management positions at the company.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I would recommend that every business starts an employee resource group (ERG). I’ve spent the past two years as executive advisor of ‘Blaze’ at PROS – a group dedicated to the professional development of women. The group is a great vehicle for women to network, make connections and to discuss issues important to them. The group partners with leadership in the organisation as well, so it’s very much a company-supported programme. I can’t recommend ERGs enough!

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

There’s got to be education for staff who are involved in the hiring process. You’d like to think that any bias in the hiring process is unconscious, but regardless, it’s important to train people on what this means and how it can impact decisions.

Once hired, women in their early to mid-careers need to be given support to help them develop so we can see that next generation of women in leadership positions.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’d have to say networking. Building that network both inside and outside of your company is something that will serve you well throughout your career. Women are shown to change companies less often than men, so getting that outsider opinion can be really beneficial. Taking the opportunity to connect with other professionals is always time well spent.