Joanna DrabentI’m Joanna Drabent, the CEO & co-founder of Prowly PR Software.

My background is in public relations and I managed her own agency, where the idea of Prowly was born. In autumn of 2020, Prowly was acquired by Semrush, an online visibility and content marketing platform that specialises in deriving data insights from online search trends.

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

I co-founded Prowly in May 2013, because during my time in PR, I never understood why our industry was slow to embrace new technology or avoided doing so altogether. My colleague and Prowly co-founder Sebastian and I decided to build a tool that would both make my PR job easier, and achieve the same results for many more PR pros around the world.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always been interested in “linking the dots” – looking for correlations between different people, events, problems – and finding connections that make sense. I would say another major driver of my career has been my need to learn new things and find new paths. Prowly is my first startup. I wasn’t sure if the industry was ready to embrace the tech, but I was confident that Prowly was a solution based on real needs. Fortunately, my dream has become a reality.

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

I have found that sometimes building trust can be more complex than it seems. For instance, motherhood is unfortunately still viewed as a negative when aiming to excel as an industry leader. I have two children, and in fact, I found out about my first pregnancy halfway through Prowly’s first big investment round negotiation process. I felt I had to convince investors of my ability to harmonise the roles of CEO with motherhood. In my experience, the best way to manage that challenge is through confidence in your own actions and trust in the people around you.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Although I am incredibly proud of the deal for Prowly to be acquired by Semrush, what my co-founder Sebastian Przyborowski and I are most proud of is building a great team that enabled the two companies to join forces. We invested heavily in creating an excellent culture and have managed to grow together in a direction that has opened doors for opportunities like this.

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

The most difficult aspect of running a tech startup is that it is a never-ending race against time. The unique start-up environment has taught me to not be afraid to fail, because every failure brings new knowledge.

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

Yes, there are still barriers for women working in tech and my personal approach is that ‘mindset is essential’. I learned entrepreneurship from my dad, who developed his own business and supported my sister and me, celebrating each of our successes. It was from him that I learned to always try to see the world only through the prism of possibilities, not limitations.

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

Companies need to empower their female employees. The reality is that the women in these companies usually don’t need instructions – they just need the courage and space to implement their ideas. We should be constantly encouraging the women we work with to not be afraid to reach for the unreachable and learn from that experience.

Currently, only 17 per cent of the tech workforce is made up of women. What is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Diversity is a strength for any company, and a workplace that’s open, free, creative, bold, safe and relaxed accelerates change. We are a people-first, democratically managed organization, our common denominator is tolerance, honesty and being friendly for each other. I believe if diversity was valued as highly as knowledge and experience, then change would naturally follow.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Always surround yourself with people who are better than you – having inspiring people around you is a priceless resource.

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