Keren Pakes

Keren Pakes is the Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Bright Data and the General Manager of The Bright Initiative.

As a former award-winning BBC News journalist, Keren covered top news and current affairs stories that characterized that period and led the news, political and social agenda at that time.

After almost 14 years with the BBC, Keren left to pursue marketing senior leadership roles in the technology space.

Today, Keren focuses her efforts on expanding the reach and impact of The Bright Initiative, an organization that uses web data to drive change across the globe.

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

I’m a storyteller at heart. I think that describes me best and defines my career even better. I believe that the power of one word can make a profound difference and impact.

Whether it is in leading a country, a business or family, words carry huge power!

I started my career in journalism as a very naïve professional, thinking that revealing the truth was a way to drive positive change. My first journalistic job was working for Italy’s main TV channel, where I basically had the editorial freedom to initiate and produce stories across the Middle East. Then, wanting to make a bigger impact, I subsequently moved to the BBC Middle East office, where I covered a variety of news developments and current affairs topics across multiple areas. I worked in the most challenging countries for journalists and women journalists in particular. In late 2011, I decided to move to the business sector, where I have been holding senior leadership roles in B2B/B2C tech marketing, brand and communications till today.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In short, always and till today, I may not plan several years ahead but I do plan my next steps all the time. I think doing so is important, as it provides me with the required focus to ensure that I truly accomplish what I set out to do. For me, it has always been about making an impact and letting that impact develop my career. I like to see and feel my impact.

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

Of course, and many. There are too many to list. What seemed to always help me in resolving any challenge or even conflict is sticking to my personal and professional values. The more I stick to reaching the right professional outcome, the easier the challenge gets. Yes, there are things that have come easy to me, but there are many achievements that came after overcoming huge challenges and obstacles.  It’s important to be confident in what you are trying to reach, and the rest will eventually fall into the right place. Sticking to what you know is the right course of action, even if you have to pay a huge price to get there.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Honestly, I haven’t had any big “aha” moments. I have probably had many smaller achievements that have made a huge impact on me over the years.

I think that knowing who I am as a people manager is, today, at the top of my list of achievements. I believe you can manage with compassion and care and still be respected and followed – probably more so than just throwing commands and tasks into the air.

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

Persistence – 100%. If you think in the short term, you will probably achieve results. However, from my experience, if you set bigger goals for yourself – ones that take courage and persistence – the gain is so much greater, and the results make it worth all the effort. Most people know how to talk big but when it comes to achieving these huge goals, they tell themselves excuses. Most goals are achievable, they just take the right approach and a lot of persistence.

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

Based on my experience, working in start-ups allows you to take on many more roles and learn a lot more than working in established corporate-like companies. I think this direction immensely contributed to my personal and professional growth. I got exposed to so much more by working in smaller companies than in larger companies. In start-ups, there is a person per role, which has basically meant being exposed to the heart of tech rather than just sitting on the sidelines.

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

Unfortunately, yes, there are still barriers, whether it is the fact that this market space is dominated by men, which can deter women from approaching it, or that sometimes women don’t feel that they have an equal say in such tech companies, to the point that they are sometimes left behind. I think it is still a challenge but a challenge that we can overcome with success.

The key to it all is confidence – women shouldn’t feel like they have to prove that they belong anywhere. People belong where they wish to belong regardless of whether they are women or men. If you wish to pursue a career in tech, make sure you love tech and love the speed of tech first and then make it happen for yourself. People tend to fear challenges – I say bring them on.

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

I’m all for the right person for the right job no matter who they are. I think that sometimes companies need to be a lot more open-minded and actively look for those candidates who may be a little less brave or hidden from the eye but can just be the right woman for the right job. In addition, women tend to communicate differently than men, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just different – so I would advise any company to practice an open-minded approach throughout the entire cycle, from recruitment to management.

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?

Remove the fear factor from all women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I am a great believer in meeting people in person. Till this day, I reach out to the people I value and try to meet them in person. I learn from each person and expand my network – this has always worked for me. You never know, the next big career move or idea may be just a meeting away.