Grete Ling

Grete Ling is Head of Growth at app marketing and analytics startup, App Radar.

Grete has an interesting story. She’s been an entrepreneur building up something new from scratch (going through the pain of “doing it all from sales to accounting to legal”) as well as managing international teams as an employee. 

She has worked with governmental trade organisations and 200+ CPG micro-businesses from 11 countries to increase their international exposure. Currently, at App Radar, she is managing the Growth team and is on a journey of growing one of the leading app marketing companies with a userbase of tens of thousands of app marketers and developer.

Grete, originally from Estonia, is a true believer in teamwork and lifelong learning, an advocate for mental health and self-growth, and a strong believer in “if you’re not embarrassed by who you were a year ago, you’re not learning enough”. Grete is also a mentor for startups at Growth Mentor. 

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

I am Head of Growth at one of Europe’s leading app marketing companies, App Radar.  My role is centred around scaling the self-serve platform used by thousands of app marketers globally. I oversee App Radar’s full funnel from building brand awareness and customer acquisition to retention and churn prevention. This involves working between customer-facing and product development teams. The best part of my role is enabling app marketers to reach their users across the world, stand out in the app store and, ultimately, make more revenue.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart so I’ve always been attracted to the tech industry and helping to build businesses. I’ve worked, studied and lived in countries such as the US, Germany, France, Austria and Estonia.

Outside of my day-to-day job, I’m an advocate for lifelong learning – my goal is to spend one hour a day learning something new – mental health and living an active lifestyle. Hiking Austrian mountains is perfect for that.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

My mum always said I would become a banker. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Although I never wrote a plan, I did have milestones in mind that I wanted to one day reach. For example, being in a leading position, working in different countries and with people across the globe.

The first step on this journey was leaving my home in Estonia and studying in Austria and in the US. This was to meet new people and give me the chance to fulfil my goal of working internationally. After my studies in the States, the choice was between starting my own businesses that I had absolutely no experience or knowledge about or taking a job at Google. I went for the unknown and never looked back.

It was painful and uncomfortable every day but it created who I am. Looking back, I would do a lot of it differently, but I wouldn’t change putting myself in an uncomfortable situation rather than going for certainty. This is something I can now understand as one of the reasons I’ve found success in tech. Taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone teaches you the most and sets you up for success.

Despite closing my startup during the pandemic, I still carry over that entrepreneurial spirit to App Radar. It really helps in a fast growing company because it means you can enjoy meeting new challenges head on.

My view is you don’t need to fully plan your career to be successful – it’s more important to have the right mindset and be open to new ideas and opportunities. For example, I didn’t know that I would fall in love with people management – but today I know that focusing on making people successful is the reason that businesses become successful.

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

I’ve faced many challenges during my journey especially as a newbie entrepreneur or as a female and foreigner in a management role. Whether it’s the foreign language, lack of contacts or industry knowledge, there’s been so many nights where I didn’t know how I’m going to overcome the challenge in front of me the next day. But the more you experience issues, the more you understand they really do never go away. Just your perception of them changes. So I’ve taught myself to see the challenges as rational as possible and to repeat that ‘action kills anxiety’. Not deciding or not acting, or postponing either of them is what turns challenges into problems and suddenly the situation gets out of control. So know yourself and have your ‘1-2-3 action list’ when a challenge occurs. There’s never an indefinite amount of options for what to do. You just gotta know how you function and how you can overcome them the easiest.

Tech companies are, by default, led and focused on product development which is at its essence a different mindset, way of working and people than what you generally find in marketing and sales. My challenges have therefore all been about understanding your audience and colleagues and how to get your message through.

To overcome these challenges, I’ve found focusing on emotional intelligence and interest in learning other people’s perspectives to be extremely helpful. You need to understand and respect the way the company/environment you’re in works and adapt to it without losing the authenticity.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

When you are part of such a fast-growing startup like App Radar, hitting goals and making career defining achievements happens almost every month!

I’m very proud of leading our strong brand (featured in CNBC, Business Insider and Forbes), consistent content production and expanding our product offering into a full app marketing platform. However, I would say my biggest achievement is running a growth team of 8 people. Seeing them develop brings a lot of joy and satisfaction.

I also think that overcoming situations that have gone wrong can be just as rewarding. We’ve fought through some really painful situations as a team. How we come together to battle back is very inspiring and has taught me a lot.

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

One key lesson I’ve learned so far is the importance of focusing on self-awareness. It’s a competitive business world and knowing how you react in certain situations or what you need to motivate yourself to go after the next milestone is increasingly important to get what you want. If I could pick a few more factors – I’d say spending time on individual growth, emotional intelligence and making sure the team comes first.

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

If you’re coming from Marketing and Sales, then understanding Product development and its processes is a must so that you’re able to speak the same language. Do everything you can to not be the roadblock but rather bridge builder between the different worlds to align faster to move things.

The tech industry by its very nature is always evolving, that means you need to keep learning. As soon as you stop you can fall behind quickly.

Unlike other industries, there’s less of a stigma around trying and failing. Startups close all the time, so you shouldn’t fear taking risks. The community is also generally very supportive.

Building a network of contacts in different tech subsectors and with people who have different roles is also a must to develop your career. You can learn from what they are doing, share experiences and also showcase what you know. It also means that if you’re currently in a position that doesn’t suit you or you’re ready for a change, your network can really help you find your next challenge.

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

For a very long time I did not think there are differences between men and women or foreigners in tech. All I saw was varying personalities. Some work better together than others. However, as my career has progressed, I now see that it really does vary between countries and companies.

Coming from Estonia, some people may have outdated notions about what a former Soviet country is really like. However, I point to the fact we’ve had a female prime minister since 2021 and many globally successful female tech entrepreneurs such as Karoli Hindriks from Jobbatical or Kristel Kruustük from Testlio. A lot of prejudice is based out of ignorance and many people don’t consciously know when they are being biassed against you. Highlighting when they are acting this way and educating them on why their preconceptions are wrong can go a long way. However, ultimately, what other people think is far less important than your own drive to be successful. The only thing one can influence or change is the person staring back at you in the mirror.

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

Having a diverse team is really important – that includes different genders, nationalities, skill-sets and personality traits. It drives innovation by providing a huge range of views and experiences. People tackle problems from different angles and that ultimately helps a company perform.

Tech companies need to be aware of how their unconscious biases can hold back women or other underrepresented groups. It may be that their recruitment practices make hiring people from different backgrounds much harder or their company culture prevents underrepresented groups from progressing in their careers. The key is to treat everyone equally. To not assume things based on someone’s background and to create a company culture that is open and inclusive. To that end, I think all companies should focus on investing in developing their people, professionally and emotionally. Self-analysis and mental health are more important than ever. This applies to everybody, not just women.

There are 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?

Ultimately, I think a big part of the problem is that many women don’t see tech as a career for them. This can be because they are discouraged from studying relevant courses at school and university, they believe that startups will be unwelcoming to them, or they think that tech is all about coding and software development. Changing this means giving women the courage, confidence and interest to get into tech. I think these three traits are the basis for achieving career success for anyone in any field.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m a fan of Reforge. Really great frameworks to use for working in SaaS, whether working in Growth, Marketing or Product.

Also a big fan of Steven Bartlett’s podcast “Diary of a CEO”. It’s not tech-specific but a fast track to build that self-awareness as the basis of any career development.

I’m also on the GrowthMentor platform available for a free chat as I’ve personally benefited many times from mentorship programs myself.