As a Product Owner at SumUp, it’s possible to make an impact on over a million businesses on a daily basis. One of these product owners is Antoniya Ditsova, who is based in our office in Sofia, Bulgaria.
We met her as part of our interview series surround International Women’s Day. In her own words, she discusses how her field is all about solving problems and creating and building the right solutions for the customers.
A talk among other things about being a leader, Jacinda Ardern (note: Prime Minister of New Zealand) and about the culture of learning.
The FinTech industry is not famous for being an attractive field of work for women. What made you choose to work at SumUp?
I chose SumUp, not the industry itself, and so I happen to be in a FinTech. FinTech is a complex industry but not a scary one, and our company culture and vision for the future make it exciting.
I was inspired by the people I met during the interviews, and still today this is a fact. The SumUp culture is amazing. It puts you in a constant state of “What can we do better together?" and such an experience is very rewarding. I see tangible results of my work every day, which is not very common today. It was awesome when on my way to the last SumUp party the taxi driver handed me one of our terminals to pay by card.
What would you change for the advantage of women all over the world?
Do you know those music shows where the judges do not see the candidates and so can only base their assessment on the singer's voice? That is what I would change. Women should be judged for our work based on our work and results. Women should be able to sit at the front, to finish their sentences, and not be judged for pursuing a typically male-dominated education or profession.
If you could meet an impactful person, who would you meet and what would you talk about?
I want to meet Jacinda Ardern and Roger Federer. :) Jacinda Ardern for being the youngest female Prime Minister in the world and for proving wrong the outdated notion that women cannot have both motherhood and career, and Federer for being not just a preternatural athlete but also for working hard to improve the life prospects of poor children. Both are so influential with the example they set.
I used to get a lot of inspiration from popular icons and role models, however lately I come to admire people with whom I have personal contact and I know their struggles and accomplishments. They are great examples of wholeheartedness, courage, and dedication.
What can you suggest to every woman?
Find your support community, find your tribe. Whether it’s a mom’s group or a professional community related to your field of work, these support networks will hear you, give you another perspective, or inspire you to take action. You will get all the books, shows, events, etc. ideas there, maybe even a mentor, and a safety net of peers and potential partners to pick brains, test ideas, and get past any blockers you may feel.
What advice do you want to give to your fellow female co-worker?
Don’t hold back. Appreciate the strengths you bring to the table, know what you lack, seek feedback and learn. Many times what holds you back is a lack of confidence. You cannot be an expert in everything so learn to be open to exploring, testing ideas, iterating, and adapting. Even if this is not the culture you face, bring a culture of constant learning and feedback.
A strength you are proud of?
A wise man once told me that my biggest strength is my vulnerability although I still struggle to embrace it and let myself be seen as vulnerable. When it comes to competencies, I guess it’s my ability to juggle many things at once without losing focus. I tend to put my creativity, soul, time and the best efforts into everything I do.
What do you like about your leading position?
My position is leading in the sense that through my work with a team of awesome dedicated people, we can make a real impact on our customers and their businesses. I like that I can focus on identifying opportunities or solving problems and acting on them. There’s a lot of room for innovation and invention in product management.
In your opinion, which qualities are most important as a leader?
While there’s not an easy answer to this question, I think that leadership starts with caring about the people you work with, trying to find what motivates them, and with that in mind, supporting their personal and professional growth. One of the Kanban principles which has stuck in my mind is that we need to encourage acts of leadership at all levels. Leaders need to foster a culture where change, tolerance of failure and understanding are embraced.
Thank you for the interesting insights in being a leader at SumUp, Antoniya!