Inspirational Woman: Diana Florescu | Board Member & Director, Wolves Summit

Diana FlorescuDiana Florescu is a leading light in the investment and start-up world in Europe.

She is a non-executive director sitting on the board of directors and advisors at Wolves Summit, bringing five years of experience in leading corporate-startup engagement programs as well as one of the largest early-stage investor company.

Her objective is to make Wolves Summit the region’s leading innovation and startup event acting as a soft-landing pad for international founders and investors that want to do business in this market and equally, as a gateway for ambitious founders looking to scale in the UK and beyond.

Founded in 2015 in Warsaw, Poland, the conference grew to become the largest tech event in Central and Eastern Europe. Wolves Summit dedicates itself to fostering deep and productive collaboration between regional and international angel investors, VC funds, corporations, and the most promising startups in CEE.

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

I started my career in startups. In the last seven years, I’ve held various marketing and sales roles working at all levels up to CxO.

I’m a board member and director at Wolves Summit, one of the largest tech conferences in Europe. I’m a founding member at Grai Ventures, a venture building studio headquartered in Romania. Formerly I led global marketing at two of the world’s largest networks of accelerators and corporate innovation companies.

Over the years I’ve specialised in building and delivering B2B marketing and strategy programmes for some of the world’s largest accelerators, tech conferences and innovation consultancies. My projects span multiple sectors including technology, gaming, media and entertainment, retail, among others. I’ve honed my global perspectives by working and living in five countries including the UK, USA, Qatar, Germany, and Romania.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I did plan the basic path by which I sought to become qualified and stay effective in my career as a marketer. However, careers do not progress in linear or predictable ways. As an entrepreneur, my career is so much more than a job: it’s a big part of my life. I launched and failed my first business when I was 19. I learned a ton from it, and then I spent a few years honing my skills as part of larger organisations knowing that it’s only a matter of time until I would start a new venture.

In the early days of my career, it was less about comparing jobs but rather taking a holistic approach to how my career fits in with my broader life ambitions. Some of the greatest changes and opportunities resulted from these practices: regularly seeking change and self-improvement, willingness to take calculated risks, empowering others, and surrounding myself with mentors and experts seeking constant feedback.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My greatest accomplishment is sitting where I am right now. I believe that life is a constant work-in-progress and that all moments, the great huge ones and the small quiet ones, all make-up who I am.

There’re a few good ones I always look back on and smile at: winning the Lloyd’s Banking People’s Choice Award with my first company, Local Spoon, having worked and lived in five different countries, Grai Ventures ranking no 1 in Google Search for “media for equity” and having our publications recognised internationally.

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

Balancing self-confidence with humility.

I left Bucharest, my home town, when I was 18 years old. I remember juggling two part-time jobs and university. I also decided early-on to join the world of startups. I’ve always valued autonomy at work and making a meaningful impact, however, the startup life could be filled with a lot of risk and uncertainty.

These early experiences and career choices taught me how to become my own best advocate; how to develop a sense of who I am, what I can do, where I’m going coupled with the ability to influence my communication, emotions and behavior on the way to getting there.

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

If you have the time (and resources) to pursue a bachelor’s or Master degree, this is a great way to begin or advance your career in tech.

As someone who has a Masters degree in Technology Entrepreneurship, I will say that my education gave me the foundations for an entrepreneurship career. I’m not a software engineer but I can work closely with a development team and “speak their language”.

It’s true that most of the learning and applicable know-how I’ve gained has been “on the job” or self-taught. Shortly after graduation I joined Startupbootcamp, one of the world’s largest networks of accelerators. I was exposed to hundreds of startups and technologies every year.

I’ve also built a support network over time and surrounded myself with people that I can trust and I can ask for help when I need it. There are many non-profit organisations and communities designed to support ambitious people to advance in their tech career such as Women Who Code, ProductTank (product owners and managers), Dribble (for designers), GrowthHackers (for growth marketers).

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

Every technology company talks about its dedication to diversity and inclusion, however, the numbers show only slight progress in this area.

The overall tech and venture capital industry needs to become more inclusive. Starting in this industry has always been biased towards those with demographic privilege. There are hundreds of overlooked candidates that could provide unparalleled value to the industry if they are supported in getting experience at leading funds or technology companies in Europe. While the pool of talented Black professionals or women in tech is wide and deep, this group lacks visibility and opportunity.

It’s encouraging to see more initiatives and funds popping up on the market to support diverse and/or underrepresented founders entering the tech market and progress through their careers. At Wolves Summit we are proud to name some of them our partners including The Female Factor, Women in Tech, Perspektywy, Women in Law.

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

Having worked at all levels up to CxO and across multiple organisations, I’ve seen how a gender-diverse board could make a huge difference to the company’s overall performance. At Wolves Summit, 60% of our employees including senior management are women. Without having a diverse representation of culture and backgrounds, organisations often will not understand the many barriers that women face.

Also, businesses pursuing gender diversity should champion successful women, and highlight female role models – setting an example for other female employees across the organisation and proving that it’s possible to get ahead.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I often listen to Women at Work – a podcast from Harvard Business Review that looks at the struggles and successes of women in the workplace. When I want to learn from some of the most successful CMOs and how they got to where they are today, I tune in to CMO Moves – a podcast hosted by Nadine Dietz, former Adweek Chief Community Officer.

I’m also part of a few communities that value diversity and inclusion in tech such as Diversity VC, a non-profit partnership, made up of interested individuals working in venture capital, who seek to increase diversity of thought in the venture industry.

Would you like to share any exciting updates or news?

I’m excited about the upcoming edition of Wolves Summit on October 19th-21st which will run both online and in-person. We’re expecting over 400 people on-site and thousands online, it will be by far our largest edition since the start of the pandemic. This year’s event includes over 15 topics including: IPO & Private Equity, Corporate Venturing, AI for Earth, Circular Economy, Technology Transfer, Embedded Finance, Manufacturing, 5G & IoT, Emerging industries, Healthcare & Sexual Wellness.

I’m particularly excited about joining ITV, Brand Capital and startup founders on a panel discussion about media for equity. The full event programme and line-up of speakers are now available on the website at https://www.wolvessummit.com/agenda-2021