Inspirational Woman: Pavla Munzarova | Chief Financial Officer, Mews

Pavla Munzarova

Before coming to Mews, Pavla had a wealth of experience operating hotels, working for almost six years in the Mamaison Hotels & Residences group.

She worked her way up from the reception to the financial controller and thus gained a deep insight into the hotel operations fundamentals. After that, she worked in various financial and data positions in several corporations for a few years.

Pavla joined the Mews team in the fall of 2016 as the fifteenth employee and the first woman. In five years, she has built an entire finance department with 50 employees from scratch. She was present in all the investments that Mews has made so far and in all acquisitions and expansions into new markets. In addition to finance, Mews finance department is also in charge of risk management, the legal division, M&A, and business operations.

Pavla is an enthusiastic athlete. She grew up playing tennis actively and still loves to play matches. In addition, she also lifts weights – her deadlift PR is 160 kg. She can thus carry the finances of the global scaleup on her shoulders without any problems.

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

I am Chief Financial Officer of Mews – a rapidly growing hospitality tech startup. My role covers the finance, risk, business operations, corporate development and legal department.

I started my career in hospitality as a front desk agent, rising through the ranks and working at a hotel chain’s headquarters. It was here where I landed my first job in data analysis, later moving into the finance team.

I spent several years at large corporations, in various finance roles, where I learned that fast paced companies suit my working style much more. Pardon the cliché, but every day was different to the previous one and I loved the excitement this brought. I was also extremely excited about technology and automation, never truly understanding why so many jobs are reliant on manual processes, which is what led me to this great role at Mews.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never – I always took things step by step. My focus in every role was to do to the best job I could. However, my passion for automation meant I was constantly pushing for elements of the job to be automated, while looking for the next thing to improve or fix – which diversified my role incredibly. This was always extremely welcomed by my employers, and I was rewarded for this proactivity and forward-thinking attitude. This passion for automation has led me to join Mews – a company looking to digitally transform the hospitality industry, helping hotels to move to the cloud in a bid to improve both guest and employee experiences.

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

I think the biggest challenge is changing people’s mindsets. Not everyone enjoys change, but it’s crucial to improvement and progress. I love challenging the status quo and rebuilding elements of a business, which isn’t always welcomed by everyone. People often worry about change when they don’t have information on how this impacts them, or they don’t trust those making the changes.

However, maintaining good relationships with co-workers helps with this and opens that two-way trust. Once they see the change is working, their perception changes – starting with small steps can help to build this trust.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Playing a part in building the incredible finance team we’ve built at Mews in the past five years! With the added challenge of navigating a hospitality business through a pandemic, that as good as shut the industry down, has so far been the most difficult, but rewarding, experience of my life.

As I speak, there are 45 employees in the finance team but that number will no doubt have grown by the time you’re reading this. In our department, we are taking care of much more than the financial compliance – supporting the overall company-wide process, driving efficiency and growth.

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

I’d say it’s my curiosity. I can’t let stuff that I don’t know go. This curiosity has led me entering the tech and finance industries. I have a desire to know and learn as much as I can, which helps when working in a fast-paced, growing startup.

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

There’s so much great advice out there but there are three key things I’d highlight.

Firstly, read as much as you can. There are now so many great, easy to access resources to solve several business and tech problems. It’s likely someone somewhere has encountered the same problem as you at some point. However, I also wouldn’t discourage people from rolling up their sleeves and jumping into problem-solving – it’s the best way to learn.

Second, ask for feedback as often as possible. Look back at your previous reviews and examine where you’ve improved and where you can develop further. Every experience you have can be twice as helpful if you look back, take learnings from it and apply these in a structured way.

Finally, talk to people. Absorb information and advice from both co-workers and peers at other companies, or even in other industries. Find a mentor to help guide you through your career. You never know who is going to give you an interesting point of view to help you improve at your job or find a solution to a problem you’re having.

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 barriers, but I think the market is significantly more supportive than it was five years ago. I think the best advice for women today is do not give up. You’re capable of getting around these obstacles, and there’s an incredible community of supportive women to lean on for advice. If we all gave up, we’d be lowering the barrier for the next generation of women.

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

I love seeing the number of women in tech communities these days, and love how much support they’re receiving from male peers too. I think companies need to take advantage of this and ensure they’re providing opportunities and pathways for women to succeed. It helps employees do the best job possible, brings new ideas to the table and sets an example to new talent looking to join the business. The benefits are too good to not support women!

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? 

I spent a couple of years of my career being hesitant about tech  and worrying about my own abilities to work in the industry. From personal experience, I would wave a magic wand to give every woman the self-esteem to break down barriers and jump into the tech industry without any doubts.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Become part of your local tech community – there are an array of them across Europe. This doesn’t just have to be in person too, the beauty of social media means platforms such as LinkedIn can be a great source of information, education and networking opportunity.

When it comes to podcasts, I love listening to ‘Equity’ by TechCrunch, ‘The Knowledge Project’ hosted by Shane Parrish and HBR’s ‘Idea Cast’.

I also use learning platforms such as Datacamp, Harvard’s online business courses and Coursera to help brush up my knowledge on a variety of topics.