Zsuzsa Kecsmar

Zsuzsa Kecsmar is one of four co-founders of loyalty technology provider Antavo. Antavo is an Enterprise Loyalty Cloud, providing businesses with best-in-class technology to manage experience-based loyalty programmes. Clients include BMW, KFC, Kathmandu, BrewDog and LuisaViaRoma – to name just a few.

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

I started thinking about Antavo’s business plan more than 12 years ago when I was still in university and wrote my thesis for the business plan of Antavo.  My cofounder had an agency at the time that created websites, and his issue was that his happy customers did not need to come back because their products were also complete. He too wanted a business where he could continue to build on his hard work. So, together we brought on two other co-founders we knew and trusted and built the business.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Growing up I did not picture myself as an entrepreneur – it was simply something I never thought of. I did sit down and made 1-3-year plans, but never really saw beyond that. Now that I am older, I see my future life and career more clearly – what will I do in 5 years or 10 or 20.

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

Like for many businesses, the last few years have been particularly challenging – not just for the business’ development but for me personally, too. The years 2020 and 2021 in particular were important milestones in Antavo’s history. We grew to over 100 employees against a difficult backdrop caused by the pandemic, a sudden shift in shopping behaviours, and an impending inflationary crisis. It was incredibly challenging, but we remained level-headed and approached the pandemic with caution, arranging immediate remote work for all of our employees – which remains an option even to this day.

As the months passed, global trends proved loyalty technology and loyalty marketing as important tools for retaining customers and maintaining engagement during the pandemic. We signed with some of our biggest clients during this time period, helping them navigate the changing customer reality and build meaningful relationships.

The current economic downturn and financial crisis seems to pose similar challenges, but we remain steadfast in our approach. We publish an annual report, the most recent edition of which is the Global Customer Loyalty Report 2023 , which aims to be a guiding light for the loyalty market. In it, we have learned that 88.5% of respondents trust loyalty programs to help them overcome the inflation crisis and potential recession.

Facing significant unpredictable challenges like these and coming out stronger on the other side has been an incredible learning experience for my personal development as a leader.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Securing the awesome customers that we have! We often can’t talk about them publicly, because a loyalty program is part of their core business strategy and differentiation, but we service amazing brands including global fashion houses, airports, the lifestyle brand of an globally known influencer, and a crop sciences company that everyone knows.
I am proud we achieved this with the team, and delivered the company growth we needed for that.

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

One thing which I think is crucial is that your decision making process reflects your values. It is how you stay authentic, which is especially important when you’re in a leading position. If your values are clear, it also makes this process easier. Living and working according to values is a major contributor to sustainable success.

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

Be persistent, and don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars. And keep in mind that you’re allowed to rethink your plans and pivot if necessary. In my opinion, success has nothing to do with luck – it’s a testament to your commitment and your ability to adapt.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

There are so many demands on working women and businesses need to accommodate these through flexible working arrangements. Business leaders must acknowledge and send a clear message that women will be genuinely supported both in their professional and personal lives.

Technology remains a male-dominated field, but we can certainly increase the visibility of women in the sector by regularly promoting and recognising their achievements. Too often, workplace victories slip under the radar with little or no celebration – this is not only disheartening for those that have worked hard to make them happen but also misses a major opportunity to inspire and motivate others. By improving internal communication and shouting about all the wins, big and small, leaders can build a positive work environment that values and respects the contributions of all employees, regardless of gender or hours worked.

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

There are many ways to make a positive change. Redesigning job requirements and responsibilities to eliminate gender-based stereotypes is a great place to start, as well as addressing the systemic barriers that prevent women from accessing senior leadership positions and boardrooms.

Offering support for women returning to the workforce after a career break is essential.

Additionally, businesses should encourage the sponsorship and mentorship of women, alongside providing equal access to technology, tools, and resources necessary to succeed in the modern workplace.

By implementing these changes, the world of work can be reset to be more equitable, inclusive, and supportive for women, enabling them to reach their full potential and contribute to their full capacity.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

200 years ago coffee breaks were nonexistent, but today everyone knows it’s a thing. What would we need to do to make it part of a general knowledge that, for example, management teams should be diverse in terms of gender? It should be the best PR effort of our times.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It’s not a specific medium, more like an approach: treat all women as your ally. You’ll already have so many allies, just with that! Two women in tech share much more in common than two men in tech, as it’s more common for men to work in tech.