Maggie Zaboura

Maggie’s experience as an Armenian-Palestinian immigrant and woman in tech has taught her that having someone who believes in you can inspire you to achieve great things.

That is why she founded PR You in 2020, and it’s what the brand offers: understanding, open-mindedness, and a formula to challenge people’s opinion of themselves. PR You advocates for those individuals, and we help them to harness and vocalise their personal brand online, in the most authentic way for them.

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

When I entered the technology industry, it was predominantly male and filled with obstacles. Women held support or sales roles, and men didn’t expect women to be technically competent.

I showed flair for grasping technical details with ease and leveraged this in my sales roles. I worked hard to gain experience in sales and marketing, eventually managing sales teams for global technology companies across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

In 2007, I took a sabbatical and travelled to South-East Asia to reassess my career goals. When I returned to the UK, I founded a technology-focused PR agency called Zaboura Consultancy, despite having no relevant qualifications. I relied on my strong network, and I learned on the job. Today, Zaboura Consultancy is an award-winning team of marketing and PR professionals who create and execute integrated communication campaigns for B2B and B2C technology companies across EMEA and the US.

My success is due in large part to the support and mentorship of others who believed in me and gave me opportunities. As a result, I prioritise hiring and mentoring individuals who may lack experience but demonstrate potential. I believe that having someone who believes in you can inspire you to achieve great things.

In 2020, I founded PR You, a company that helps people build their personal brand and promote themselves through digital platforms. I believe it’s important to promote oneself without being overly self-aggrandising. I want to empower normal working people to understand the power of their personal brand, so they can take ownership of their career, rather than waiting for recognition from others. Ultimately, my goal is to help people prioritise themselves and elevate their career prospects.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all! My primary motivation at the start of my career was to earn money due to family circumstances. As a result, I worked hard and focused on achieving results early on to establish my value. My career trajectory was influenced by the support and sponsorship of people around me. I never turned down opportunities that came my way, and instead embraced every challenge that presented itself.

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

When you prove your reliability and commitment, it’s common for superiors to add to your workload and responsibilities. Consequently, I often found myself in situations where I lacked experience. To overcome these challenges, I adopted a humble approach and didn’t pretend to know everything. I remained open to learning and unafraid to ask questions, even if they were considered ‘wrong’.

Unfortunately, like many women in the tech industry, I faced frequent instances of sexism in the workplace. I had to navigate unwanted attention and prove my worth as a female professional. These challenges were prevalent when I began my career and, regrettably, are still all too common today.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are a few that I’m particularly proud of – being able to carve my own way for the last 16 years being the primary one. Also, pivoting my career from sales to PR and marketing, running my own business from scratch and then founding another during the height of COVID.

I believe that my greatest area of expertise lies in holistic thinking and the ability to identify small yet significant details that can make a big impact. This is why I was able to create something as impactful as PR You. It is disheartening to see how many people feel dissatisfied and disconnected from their professional lives, with Gallup’s findings indicating that 85% of us are unhappy in our jobs. Whether it’s us or someone we know, it’s a common issue.

Many people from older generations have found themselves stuck in unsatisfying careers due to poor decision-making when choosing a career path or lack of self-awareness and growth. Many are realising now that they aren’t doing what they truly want to do and are seeking to pivot their careers. However, it can be difficult to make such changes at a certain age, especially if their online presence does not accurately reflect their potential. For instance, a close friend of mine who was laid off during the pandemic struggled to find another job despite his expertise, because his digital profile did not match his abilities.

Younger generations are starting out seeking meaning and fulfilment in their work, but many have yet to fully understand the value of their personal brand. In every generation, there is a gap between potential and reality, and the key to bridging that gap is to leverage one’s personal brand.

Work and life should not be viewed as separate entities. Too often, people fall into the habit of treating work as “just a job”, as if it is supposed to fill waking moments with dread. The success of viral, high-performing posts on LinkedIn by honest and unique individuals proves that people crave authenticity and want to know the real person behind the job.

To incite personal growth, there must be alignment between who one is and what one does every day. It’s about helping individuals get in touch with themselves and achieve more inspiring things. Personally, I have found more meaning in my life by dedicating my time to helping others create a better life for themselves, solving real problems by outsourcing the tasks they find challenging. The highlight of my day is sitting in our brand discovery sessions and witnessing individuals experience those “aha” moments about themselves and their personal brands. In the future, I hope to expand our services to offer free assistance to less privileged individuals seeking to navigate life in this way.

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

Growing up in the UK as a child of immigrants made me feel like an outsider, and I spent years putting myself down in an attempt to fit in. My diverse background has always fuelled my desire for inclusivity. It’s a natural inclination of mine, and I believe it’s a trait anyone can possess, though not everyone may agree. This experience gave me a keen awareness that people don’t always reveal their true selves from the start. It also honed my ability to connect with almost anyone and recognise qualities and potential in individuals that others might overlook.

My curiosity about people and the world around me has always been a driving force. I focus on a person’s essence and possibilities rather than their past experiences or background. When choosing people to work with, it’s about finding the right fit for the right reasons, believing in them, and offering them the opportunities and autonomy to prove themselves. I invest in their growth, and this approach has helped me to build a diverse and inclusive community. Every team member is unique and none joined with traditional experience or training, but today they are all thriving and crafting meaningful careers.

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

I didn’t go to an Ivy League business school, but I learned from people that did: leverage your network and ask as many people as you can for as much help as possible.

Also, never stop learning from everyone and everything around you and stay humble in order to facilitate this mindset. Always give people a chance to embrace their unique selves and capabilities and be a part of the next lesson you learn or impart.

Do not assume that people are aware of or are following your achievements, either. Self-promotion must be a constant effort on the part of every individual, and it can be done in a humble way through your digital channels.

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

Diversity and inclusion infrastructure is still not robust enough. One of the primary issues is the lack of resources designed to support women in balancing their professional and personal responsibilities or to help diverse women to feel represented within organisations, especially at the highest tiers.

However, I don’t believe there is any barrier that women cannot overcome, and there has never been a better time for that to happen. It is incredibly interesting that the majority of our PR You clients are women, committed to leveraging their personal brands in order to demonstrate unique value and attract more fruitful opportunities.

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

Diversity and inclusion efforts need to be much more realistic, more flexible, and more practical, with a robust framework that enables measurement. Currently, it is still simply a tick-box activity for many organisations and not one that is truly audited. I want to see more uniformity, and best practices – like the outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts implemented at Salesforce, for example – applied across the board, in every FTSE 500 company.

Every organisation needs to be working creatively to retain the best people and avoid losing them once they reach the top. One way to accomplish this is to invest in people in terms of promoting their profiles, by offering solutions such as PR You to employees. These efforts breed loyalty and make it clear to all that the organisation is more focused on wholeheartedly developing career paths than it is fearful of increasing the visibility of talent to its competitors.

A 2020 study by McKinsey & Company demonstrates the positive impact of diversity and inclusivity on the bottom line for corporations. According to the study, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their executive teams were 36% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. Similarly, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. These findings suggest that embracing diversity and inclusivity can have a significant positive impact on a company’s financial performance.

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?

I want to see more young girls passionate about a career in STEM. Many still view the topics as dry, cerebral, and boring, rather than as integral to our everyday lives and careers. I would wave the wand to make STEM more interesting and accessible to these young girls. I think this is changing every day and I see a lot of exciting progress in this area.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Having a solid personal development program is a fundamental part of your mental health and wellbeing. It is one thing to have a program of study and even a plan for your career, but quite another to maintain motivation along that path. Life gets tough and when we experience self-doubt or lack of motivation, it is essential to make time to focus on that wellbeing.

Blinkist is a favourite app of mine, that has made such a difference in the way I think and create. It allows you to access and digest various resources in a very manageable way and get the latest thinking around challenging topics. It’s vital to remain aware of what is happening in the world and how it impacts what you do each day, so keep connected to the news, too – without getting overwhelmed by it all!