Meet Petra Kis-Herczegh, Senior Solution Engineer, Yext

Petra Kis-Herczegh

I’m Petra Kis-Herczegh (she/they), I grew up in Budapest and I’ve been living in the UK for the past 8 years. Growing up, I never really bought into the idea to choose one career. For a long time, I wanted to be an actor, mainly because it seemed like something that I wouldn’t be able to get bored of. I also considered fashion design, wedding planning and opening a cake shop, while majoring in maths and art history in high school. I’m currently a Solution Engineer with an SEO focus at Yext, and I do public speaking at conferences. I previously spoke at BrightonSEO and in July I’m presenting at MozCon. What I love about my role is that it brings together a great mix of technical, creative and people skills

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I think as with many of us in tech, a lot of the jobs haven’t been around for a huge amount of time, and I certainly wasn’t aware of a lot of the tech roles and opportunities while growing up, and even while studying. So personally, I’m more focused on the skills I’m interested in learning, rather than having an actual career plan.

My growth mindset is to focus on developing the skills that I enjoy doing because they will naturally lead me to the career opportunities that suit me best.

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

I’m sure we all have, and I’d say I’m actually someone who seeks out career challenges, because they help me learn and grow.

My first challenge of course, was to move to a country – the UK- where I didn’t really speak the language. I worked in hospitality while doing a full-time master’s in digital marketing because I wanted to develop skills both in analysing and understanding data as well as learning more about human behaviour.

After that, I always applied for jobs based on what I felt my potential was rather than my experience, which meant that I had a very fast learning curve. I don’t think I ever got a job where I actually met the job criteria in terms of ‘years of experience’ and it was always my skillset, mindset and potential that I got hired for.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve been very proud to be a speaker at conferences for the past few years. I had the chance to share insights on some great industry events including the Women in Tech SEO meetup, the BrightonSEO conference and webinars and Botify’s Crawl2Convert customer summit. Currently, I’m very excited to be speaking at MozCon in July which is an amazing international SEO conference for digital marketers in Seattle.

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

It’s really hard to pinpoint just one thing. I have an amazing support network of friends, family and communities, like the Tech SEO Women, which has been crucial for me. I had an amazing mentor, Chris Simmance who’s now also a friend who helped guide me when I wanted to start public speaking. I also have a very driven personality which means I have always been willing to take risks, make mistakes to learn from them and move on.

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

I have two things I’d like to mention here. The first is to build meaningful relationships. I’m highlighting this because in my experience, it’s often forgotten that the people element is just as important in the tech field as it is in any other industry. Find a mentor, a community, a coach, ideally all of the above as they will not only support and guide you in different ways, but by joining a community and giving back, you’ll make real invaluable relationships that will help move you into the right direction.

The second one is to improve your self-awareness. Again, it might not feel too specific to the technology industry, but that is why I think it’s even more important to mention. In tech specifically, building your knowledge of yourself can help you understand when and how you can be the most efficient, what’s your way of learning and improving your skills and how you can build meaningful relationships that last. These skills also play a huge part in preventing burn-out which is often a drawback of fast-paced industries like tech.

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

It’s less about whether I believe it or not, it’s a fact that there certainly are. According to Technation ‘77% of tech director roles are fulfilled by men’, Presales is only 16.5-18% women (US and EMEA) and that is because these jobs are still designed for men.

Caroline Criado-Perez wrote an amazing book called Invisible Women that, among many other aspects, highlights some of the problems on how tech jobs are still very much created for men. This is not surprising when we look at the gender split in leadership.

In order to overcome barriers we need to look at where issues originate from. Leadership teams that are predominantly men have to be challenged and asked to do better. Saying that ‘we don’t have enough diverse applicants’ cannot be an excuse. That’s a fault of leadership not putting in enough effort and energy to attract and find diverse talent.

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

I think the first and most important thing they can do is to listen to women and educate themselves. There’s no shortage of research, resources and communities out there, waiting to be engaged with.

Dedicate time, money and resources within the company to bring in external experts (who aren’t men) to review job descriptions, perks and company policies, and drive cultural changes that are inclusive.

There are currently only 21 per cent 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?

And not to mention that number is even more shocking when we consider the gender split in leadership.

It is again, very difficult to pinpoint just one thing I would do because it is such a complex issue, deeply rooted in problems within our society. I think one crucial thing is to improve empathy, especially in leadership. I say this because empathetic leaders are in charge to drive change and would also require other leaders to have empathy which would certainly be a positive thing.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I highly recommend Caroline Criado-Perez’ book called Invisible Women. I’d also recommend  joining communities, empowering each other and to research studies on gender split in your field. As an SEO and Presales professional, I’m part of two main communities. The Women in Tech SEO community, that’s full of brilliant women in the industry ready to help, support and celebrate each other. They also organise conferences, virtual meetups and mentorship programs, and there’s a very engaged slack and facebook group.

I’m also part of PreSales Collective and follow their WISE (Women in Solution Excellence) channel and events.