Europe, Interviews

Tereza Gagnon – Chief Sales Officer at Wultra

Take more risks, think big, ask for help, and network!

Tereza Gagnon is a business development and sales professional, currently working at Wultra, a fast-growing cybersecurity company, focused on building products that improve digital banking apps security. Before that, she worked for iconic brands IBM, PwC as well as startups. She is passionate about technology and business, ideally when both parts are orchestrated well, safe and with ultimate respect to privacy and “algorithmic transparency”. This sixth sense is based on her early youth during the communist regime “behind the iron curtain” in Central Europe, when both government control and the absence of freedom were the norm. Tereza holds a Mgr. degree in Information Science from Charles University and a Bc. in Management and Technology European from the University of Hradec Kralove. In her freetime she enjoys art, movies and visiting old castles and botanical gardens in Europe. 

In a nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

Currently, I’m the Chief Sales Officer at Wultra, a fast-growing cybersecurity company specialized in building security solutions for digital banking apps. In the past five years, Wultra gained numerous clients and built great business foundations. My current role is to drive international expansion, help launching new products and build great business partnerships. Sales is mostly about communication, collaboration, and having an open mind. These are the characteristics that fit well to women even though sales in technology is sometimes perceived to be a men’s world – and I really enjoy breaking this stereotype! Luckily, the world is also changing in this direction and parameters such as age, gender (or any other “old school” clichés) become slowly forgotten. Yet, in our country, it’s not that fast and gender pay gap is still a huge problem. According to the Women in Work Index the difference between the average wages of men and women is on average over 20% and almost 30% when we compare women and men with university education. Luckily, I see in the past years lots of successful women around in the top management positions at technology firms which shows the changing trend and courage of the women to break the glass ceiling. The technology world was always extremely attractive for me; I am still fascinated by the endless potential that technology can provide to our society. On the other hand, there are naturally many risks associated (as it was always the case throughout history) and that’s why I always look for new technology innovations which are “done right”, safe and transparent.

I started when I was still a university student and I joined an American startup, which had a branch office in Prague. Then, I moved to an iconic technology company, IBM. Few years later, I then joined PwC, which is uniquely combining technology consulting with strategy, risk and performance management.

Eventually, one year ago, I wanted to use my past experience and help grow the potential of a new brilliant company, working on disruptive technology backed by in-depth research, and that’s when I met Wultra, a technology innovation leader.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I guess it started in high school, where I was quite bored to learn “old facts” and when I started playing with our first family computer. Immediately after that, I went to study technology and management; then, the journey was all about endless learning and discovery of the new technologies…which is still continuing as of today.

I got the inspiration to move to sales during a meeting with my personal coach (Thanks Michal!:), who questioned my fear of being too kind and empathic, and that’s when I realized that he was right and how absurd it is. Now, I take it as an advantage and, “au contraire”, it represents a breath of fresh air in the business world. Sometimes we limit ourselves quite irrationally and it can be either a man or a woman thing, there is no difference.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

It’s probably when the internet became publicly available; to me, there’s nothing that compares to it…yet. I am still waiting for a proper AI or virtual reality that would be more than just an isolated “PoC”. Although the future is getting closer and closer and I’m fascinated by the advances in natural language processing and deep machine learning and algorithm training will result in new and further developed AI.

In my career, however, I believe that the best is yet to come! Today, my colleagues are currently working on the next revolution in cryptography … drum roll!! – the arrival of quantum computers that will be able to go through the strong encryption keys, which are used to protect the most secure apps. And, honestly, that’s also why I chose cybersecurity: because of the fact that, with the increasing complexity of technology, the ability to maintain bulletproof security will be the most important thing.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Friendship; this was a great idea of Salesforce and also an indisputable part of the success of this technology newcomer – the company not only jumped into the cloud with speed but also took a very good care after the new advocates – it’s professional users. I’ve never seen so many women who entered the technology world without fear once they started working with Salesforce. I have so many new friends and know so many girls diving deep into all levels of Salesforce workforce, from consultants, developers, administrators, to architects… and the energy is simply amazing!

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

There are new programs encouraging women to start a career in tech – from companies that realize that it’s a great asset to have women skilled in technology to complement the team, to non-profit organizations focused on women. In our country, the most famous nonprofit technology education hub – czechitas.cz where women can learn to code or one new initiative for “Girls-in-marketing” with a strong focus on technology. There are also many informal events for women in technology that I really enjoy supporting in my free time.

I think, it should ideally begin in grammar schools, as early as possible. I would personally love to teach kids to use technology in a smart way! I really admire and support Khan Academy as a way to provide a world‑class education for anyone, anywhere.

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

I hope it won’t be any different! That’s the ideal scenario. In the meantime, I believe that the two, sometimes isolated worlds, will be closer and both qualities will complement each other.

Which was the best decision in your career?

It’s good to have a vision, begin with small steps, and keep going!

It was just every career move I made – I’ve always had a dream and worked systematically to get there. To me, it is also very important to look for opportunities – sometimes, I see that people are hopeless or uninspired just because they are stuck “in a bubble”. It’s also good to have a vision, begin with small steps, and keep going…Then, like Ariadne’s thread, there is my love for foreign languages. This helped me to open many opportunities and I enjoy talking to people from all around the world and to learn about different cultures. It’s not a core “career thing” but, sometimes, a passion for some specific thing helps.

What advice would you give to women who want a tech career?

I have to quote your previous guests – take more risks, think big, ask for help, and network. One important thing that helped me also a lot was to feel comfortable outside of my comfort zone because its where the magic happens. So be brave to drive the change, stay empathic, respectful, and enjoy the diversity and talents of others. That’s what I tell also to my almost-adult kids (and they seem to be all right with that 😉 ).

Tereza Gagnon is a business development and sales professional, currently working at Wultra, a fast-growing cybersecurity company, focused on building products that improve digital banking apps security. Before that, she worked for iconic brands IBM, PwC as well as startups. She is passionate about technology and business, ideally when both parts are orchestrated well, safe and with ultimate respect to privacy and “algorithmic transparency”. This sixth sense is based on her early youth during the communist regime “behind the iron curtain” in Central Europe, when both government control and the absence of freedom were the norm. Tereza holds a Mgr. degree in Information Science from Charles University and a Bc. in Management and Technology European from the University of Hradec Kralove. In her freetime she enjoys art, movies and visiting old castles and botanical gardens in Europe. 

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