Kärtu Vaikmaa

Inspirational Woman: Kärtu Vaikmaa | Chief Operating Officer, TextMagic

Kärtu Vaikmaa

TextMagic is a family business. I joined my husband, Priit (our CEO), four years ago as Chief Operating Officer.

I’m responsible for daily business operations and our fantastic marketing team. My background is in Account Management and Marketing in the creative sector, and I completed the Master’s in International Business Administration from the Estonian Business School in 2013. Working and studying was seriously hard going at times, but I’d recommend it to anyone. It was incredibly rewarding.

Working for advertising agencies put me in front of some pretty demanding clients, but it taught me a lot about having a commercial goal and understanding the hundreds of ways in which to achieve it – something that’s stood me in good stead in the SaaS industry. I think any COO needs to be intensely client-focused, and that’s what I try to be. I take nothing for granted, and I’m always looking for ways to improve our communication channels and provide a top-class customer experience. It’s a constant cycle of development.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, very early on, but then actual life happens! I’ve always had a firm understanding of what I was good at – communication and business operations – but I’ve never had a definite goal of wanting to work at a specific company, or fulfilling a certain role for the rest of my life. Opportunities present themselves along the way, and if they’re a good fit, you take them with both hands. I have two wonderful kids (6 and 11), and working in a family business has been a great help in getting the right balance between my personal life and my professional life.

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

I joined TextMagic as part of the C-suite team during a time of unprecedented expansion, and I needed to hit the ground running. I’d held senior managerial positions before, but when you become a director of a company, you suddenly realize the weight of responsibility on your shoulders. There’s nobody else to blame if things go wrong – which, thankfully, they didn’t!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a doubt, being part of the team that took TextMagic public in 2021. I’d never experienced an IPO before, so it was a learning experience from the outset – all the legal stipulations, marketing, financial due diligence, etc. It was a real headache at times, but for a good reason – a successful IPO (as ours was) provides you with the capital resources to take a company to the next level. We raised €49.5 million in investment. It was a huge achievement for everyone involved.

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

Can I cheat and pick two things? Having a fantastic product and employing good people. Unless a multinational business has those two things in their back pocket, they are going to struggle because the global market for SaaS services is so competitive.

If you have one but not the other, it shows. If we had a world-beating product but didn’t have the right team in place to support and develop it, our revenues would fall, and our customer base would dwindle. If our team was full of superstars (which it is!) but our product wasn’t solving meaningful commercial problems, then we’d struggle to sell it.

TextMagic team

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

Never stop learning. I came into the SaaS sector having had some exposure to the fundamentals of commercial technology, but there was an awful lot of industry-specific knowledge to soak up, and I loved it. Expose yourself to emerging technologies, subscribe to tech news sources, read articles, contribute to online tech communities and be innovation-focused. A year in technology is probably closer to a decade in certain other industries, and things move incredibly fast.

Other than that, it’s all about good old-fashioned common sense. If you’re thinking about changing a workflow or introducing an amendment to a product, ask yourself what impact it’ll have on your customer base. I think the tech industry is sometimes guilty of looking inwards rather than outwards. Everything you do as a SaaS business needs to funnel back into the customer experience. It’s not about patting yourself on the back for a great piece of development work, it’s about enacting meaningful change.

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

Yes, but I think the problem goes a lot deeper than gender representation in the workplace. It’s an educational issue. Entry-level tech jobs usually require a form of further or higher education as a minimum requirement, but the reality is only 10% of female graduates study a STEM subject. We need to promote and incentivize tech degrees and diplomas among teenage girls and women, and we need to emphasize the importance of IT in elementary school if we’re going to have any chance of closing the gap between men and women in the industry. Technology is magical, we just need to get our children interested in the practicalities of it – programming, systems design, etc.

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

I think that slowly but surely, we’re seeing the death of the so-called “bro culture” in the tech industry, and we need to continue eradicating it wherever and however it rears its head. It also severely inhibits a business’s ability to employ the best person for the job. If you’re limiting the amount of talent that your business can recruit and retain because you’re not doing enough to stamp out discrimination or untoward behavior, then you only have yourself to blame!

There are currently only 15% of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to speed up the pace of change for women in the industry?

It all has to start from the ground up. We need to change the way we teach technology in primary schools and promote female tech figures in the classroom. At the moment, every time a teacher gives a lesson on technology, they usually use male business people as their reference points – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc. We have to show young girls some female success stories and show that tech isn’t just something that “boys usually do”. That’s such an outdated way of looking at the world.

Give universities and higher education institutions massive incentives to enroll female students onto STEM and Computer Science degrees. Launch a huge PR campaign to highlight the benefits of working in the tech industry for any teenage girl, school, college, or university that would care to listen.

I can speak for TextMagic and say that all we care about is how effective a candidate is going to be at their job – man, woman, or however they self-identify – a good employee is a good employee. We’re proud to employ some truly brilliant women at TextMagic, including my fellow C-suite team member, our CMO Ioana Sima.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

‘Women in Tech’ by Tarah Wheeler is a fantastic read that has loads of tips on how to navigate the tech industry as a female – everything from salary negotiations to getting a foot in the door through interviews and advice on how women should start their own company. It’s a great resource. Try it!


Katherine Ellis

Inspirational Woman: Katherine Ellis | Chief Operating Officer, WOLF

Katherine Ellis

Katherine Ellis is Chief Operating Officer for WOLF (The World’s Online Festival), overseeing the operational structure of the business and running the app’s user group operations.

Her career in tech spans over two decades which began after graduating from Leeds University with a first-class honours degree in Mathematics.

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

I’m Katherine Ellis, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for metaverse social entertainment app, WOLF (The World’s Online Festival). Prior to joining the team nine years ago I spent just over a decade working with a variety of other tech businesses including online pharmacies and insurance companies, and other start-up companies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always worked with start-up and entrepreneurial companies as I have a real interest in seeing businesses grow and mature.  I was drawn to the tech sector because it is much more fluid and fast-changing, so you must constantly adapt, making each day different. One day I could be looking at the strategic direction of the business for the next three years, the next I could be working on the structure of our WOLFStars programme – a programme which helps our users become more professional with their audio talents and earn rewards and recognition for their efforts.

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

From a gender equality perspective, I have been lucky during my time at WOLF in that my male colleagues are supportive and respect me for the person that I am and the skills I bring to the table, therefore on the whole I have had a good experience.

From an industry perspective, this sector is incredibly fast-paced so that has always presented an interesting challenge along the way, but I see that as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Launching the WOLF proposition at the start of the pandemic in February 2020 and helping its revenues grow by millions since launch.

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

I think the opportunities and career prospects within the tech sector are fantastic. Not only is the tech sector fast-paced in terms of the development of technology but also in terms of working practices. As a whole, tech businesses were able to quickly adjust to working from home during Covid and to create flexible working practices for their teams. Therefore it gives women and in particular working mums much more opportunities to have a career that fits around their home life and families.

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

To just go for it! I am someone with a finance background – not the typical way into the industry but I absolutely love it.

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

I think the industry has changed a lot over recent years and women are becoming better represented. I see women being encouraged into tech from an early age now, which is great. Coding is now part of the curriculum at my daughters’ primary school, so children are getting the opportunity to learn basic coding skills, something that wasn’t available to me as a child.

It’s about giving the next generation the skills and encouragement to do any role that makes sectors that may have been traditionally male dominated more inclusive for females.

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

The industry needs to focus on the next generation. Businesses need to focus on making tech roles more appealing and accessible to young women leaving school or starting further education.  Something we’re keen to do more of at WOLF.

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?

As women we should be calling out discrimination and ensuring that women and men have equal rights.  We work hard at WOLF to ensure that we are creating family-friendly policies so both female and male colleagues can create an efficient and effective work-life balance.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

LinkedIn is definitely the best resource for me!


Inspirational Woman: Dora Ziambra | Chief Operating Officer, Azimo

Dora Ziambra

I started out as a derivatives trader in Chicago, built my own options trading business in Germany, worked in international banking in London and Frankfurt, and joined a start-up advisory in Africa. Along the way, I worked for the likes of ECB, Deutsche Börse and PayPal.

I have worked for Azimo for the past seven years and been part of its journey from an ambitious scale-up to a global cross-border payments company.

Azimo is now a  leading  digital money transfer service with offices in London and Krakow. The company’s mission is to make it cheaper and easier for people to share money around the world. Currently, customers can send money in over 60 currencies to more than 200 countries and territories using Azimo’s award-winning app and website.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I would be lying if I said yes. I have planned my career within organisations but I have also made lateral  and even outside the sector moves - change is good.

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

Every job/career/day has its challenges and can motivate us as human beings. It has at times been a challenge to have people make assumptions about me based on my gender/appearance but I have managed to defy those assumptions. I was also challenged when I no longer liked the sector I was working in (trading/capital markets) and wanted a change.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Life and careers are long - highlighting an achievement would be short-sighted. Most achievements tend to be more important at the time they happen and in their given context.

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

Grit - learning to deal with setbacks, picking up and trying again.

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

Be flexible and always be learning. The tech sector is very fast-moving - whatever was the new thing a year ago is probably obsolete today!

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

There are barriers for women in most sectors but in my view, it stems from lack of critical mass. The more women that work in a sector and succeed, the more will be interested in joining and the more “acceptable”and common it will be.

There is currently only 17 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?

More women need to choose STEM as their discipline early on during their education to then increase the pipeline of female candidates for tech jobs. Companies should be mindful of creating inclusive environments for women, including and not limited to career development, flexible working hours and open culture.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Sharon Miles featured

Inspirational Woman: Sharon Miles | Chief Operating Officer, Chip

Sharon Miles

I’ve been working in financial services for over 20 years and I’ve spent the vast majority of my career so far in large multinational corporates.

I originally started out as an auditor with Arthur Andersen, then worked in GE Capital in the Insurance business and the Life and Pension businesses specialising in Lean Six Sigma, Programme Delivery and Operations. After that, I worked in Barclays both in the retail bank and wealth management businesses, delivering large scale programmes of change. More recently, I was the Transformation and Customer Service Director at LeasePlan UK, and then, I moved into fintech, joining Deposit Solutions as the Innovation Director for the launch of its UK business.
I joined Chip, one of the UK’s fastest growing fintechs, in 2019 as the COO. Chip uses AI to save up money for you and get you better returns, all automatically.
As the COO, I’m directly responsible for looking after Operations, Customer Service, and People teams, as well as ensuring that delivery across all aspects of the business and our partners happens in the most effective way.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did once when I was trying to decide what to do at University, choosing a degree that would allow me to make the most of the professional accountancy exams.
However, since then I have not sat down to plan my career and have been much more fluid in my career decisions and choices.

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

Absolutely. I've faced many career challenges; some of them good and some tough.
For example, working through the crisis of 2008 was very challenging as the business was resizing and many roles were being made redundant. I had to be flexible to ensure I stayed in the business – this approach felt very uncomfortable at the time, but in the long run paid off, because when business did pick back up I was in prime position for the new opportunities that were offered.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

That is a really tricky question. I have had individual achievements, which were all amazing. For example, winning top awards in the US with GE Capital, or smashing our targets with my team at Barclays.Having said that, I think I actually get the greatest sense of achievement seeing the teams I lead be successful or seeing people in my teams being promoted and seeing them flourish.

If I had to pick one team achievement, I would pick Chip. Over the last year, the growth the team and the business have achieved together is just amazing - Chips's user base doubled, deposits grew 110%, our team tripled, and, most recently, we closed a record-breaking crowdfunding round.

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

I think a major factor is taking the time to look back. Work life can be very busy, and when you achieve a target or, say, a delivery takes place, it can often be almost anti-climactic as you are already on to the next thing or sorting out current issues of the day.
Only when you take stock and look back can you realise just how much has happened or been achieved. Also I would say, don’t worry about the small things. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but keeping the “real” goal front and centre is key to not getting distracted by all the little things.

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

Technology covers so many areas that I would say try not to limit yourself to one aspect too soon. It is a sector that is constantly evolving, so even if you have a niche or a specialism, it can become outdated fairly quickly. Stay flexible in what you would like to achieve in your tech career – make success multi-dimensional so that you can see success in your career through many different roles.

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 but I do not think they are limited to the technology sector. As a working mum of 2 school-age children, the practicalities of life can make it very difficult to juggle everything and not have parenting or work guilt. Women who chose to work for whatever reason whilst also supporting family are their own worst enemies – we should stop thinking we can do everything perfectly. We can’t and that’s ok, we are still very valued in the workplace and at home. If we can break our own mental barriers on this and believe we are good enough, that would be a very big step…although to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I get this right myself all the time!

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

As with other sectors, more needs to be done around flexible working practices. The technology sector by its very nature should be leading the charge on this. As we have seen through the Covid pandemic, remote working has leapfrogged many years forward. We need to embrace this more flexible, blending approach to working that allows more women and men to juggle home and work.

I also believe tech employers need to do more to recognise where roles are not required full-time and actually advertise them as variable hours. I rarely see a role advertised as 4 days a week, when in reality it could be.
More also needs to be done in the education sector. Technology is still seen as a male orientated sector for no real reason that I can see, apart from maybe video games (that are being designed for and played by men). These are huge generalisations, I know, but that is the reality of what puts some women off when it comes to joining the sector.

There is currently only 17% 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 would make tech a core part of the national curriculum up to at least GCSE level. It is still not part of the mandatory core GCSEs, which I believe it should be.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Innovate Finance hold great events and conferences, which I personally have always found useful. I’m also part of the Gamechangers network, which is all about women empowering others and being brave enough to ask the network when they need help and what they want help with.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.