Julia Paulsen – Head of Marketing and Digital Sales at Aprila Bank Norway

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Early on I have learned from my entrepreneurial father that if you are staying still in today’s digital world, you are actually moving backwards as others will be moving ahead, leaving you behind. This motto has been always keeping me going and pushed me ahead.

Julia Paulsen is a Tech and data enthusiasts, author, digital expert and performance leader. Oda advisory board member. Mother of two rascals and wife of a true Viking.
Her motto is “what you can’t measure doesn’t exist” and she lives by this by continuously testing, basing decisions on data, not assumptions, and always focusing on the customer.
Pushing the Coaching Leadership further as Head of Marketing and Digital Sales at Aprila Bank, with experience from her previous roles as Head of Digital Sales and Service at DNB, Director of Digital Strategy at Telenor Digital and Brand Manager of Nordics at the ecommerce giant Zalando.
Proud to have received DNB’s most courageous leader award in the Retail Market 2019 after implementing their own way of work model and sharing the learnings in the book “WOW: Smells like team spirit. Your practical guide to agile and all that buzz“.

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

I am heading Marketing and Digital Sales in Aprila Bank in Norway.

Aprila was started because SMEs in Europe are not getting the attention and financing they need. Technology plays a crucial role in my work and in achieving our mission. Unfortunately, SMEs have not benefited from digitalization in banks and are still met with manual, paper-based processes that take weeks. We depend as societies on SMEs to create the jobs of the future, but bank lending to SMEs has steadily declined since 2008. In Aprila we do not think like a traditional bank – we were first in the world to bring financing to SMEs inside the online accounting systems they use. We build technology and prediction models to enable our common motivation to help create sustainable jobs by providing financing where others do not. We will help build the companies, the jobs, and the taxpayers of the future.

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

Early on I have learned from my entrepreneurial father that if you are staying still in today’s digital world, you are actually moving backwards as others will be moving ahead, leaving you behind. This motto has been always keeping me going and pushed me ahead.

I have always been working and had my first job as a reporter in the local newspaper for their youth segment when I was just 14 years old. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, my professional career started as a Brand Manager for ZIP fashion brand in Helsinki, Finland. It was a fantastic first “grown-up” job where I learned not only about the retail market but a lot about leadership and how to motivate and develop people working in remote locations around Finland. I loved my job, but when I reached the moment where I could turn on the auto-pilot and stopped learning, it was time to move on. London was calling and I answered.

During the UK years I continued my career in retail by heading women’s wear in Marks&Spencer, finished my Masters Degree at Kingston University in International Business Management, and learned the secrets of sales through Pareto Law’s fantastic training and tested my abilities as the Wolf of Wall Street as a Key Account Manager in Evolution Direct Marketing.

From London I moved to Berlin and helped to bring the ecommerce giant Zalando into the Nordic market as their Brand Manager. After the fantastic years in the best school of both digital and ecommerce, I had found my Viking and it was time to return to the Nordics, but not in my home-country, but to Norway where I got a role in helping their biggest telecommunications company, Telenor, in their digital transformation journey. There in my role as the Project Manager of OfferAPI, I was working closely together with an experienced team of developers and learned how to build and scale digital services through three continents and how to manage a cross-functional team and bring business people and the developers together.

After working with Telenor’s global digital strategy, I got an opportunity to work in the biggest Nordic bank, DNB, and as I had been following up closely the major development happening in the Fintech sphere, I knew this would be a great opportunity for learning and development. As the Head of the Big Tech partnerships (Facebook, Google & Microsoft) my responsibility was building and strengthening partnerships with fintech, tech startups, leading technology and industry players for the whole DNB Group. I was also the Project manager for the launch of BoligBuddy and DNB’s voice assistants on Google Assistant as part of the Google Assistant launch in Norway. After this I was honored to be chosen to lead the Digital Sales and Service team for DNB’s personal markets and we had extremely successful transformation journey together with the team of brave change makers and we showed in practice that it is possible to move fast and generate results – even inside incumbent bank 😊 For this work I received a price of the year’s brave leader in personal markets, and have written a book about the journey together with my Scrum Master, WOW: Smells like a team spirit. Your practical guide to agile and all that buzz.

This journey also made me realize that I do miss the startup world and when an opportunity came to help SMEs to get easier access to finances and everyday working life, I felt the passion calling, and said yes to my current role in Aprila. I love my work and feel that in Aprila I can bring all my learnings through the years together, follow my passion and truly make a difference.

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

WOW; that was a tough one! There has been so much happening over last decade that it is hard to choose, but if I have to pick one, then I would say it’s the way we use data today and are able to communicate with a person digitally similarly as we used to do in the physical world. I was impressed to see how in Zalando we had a click-chain already back in 2012 and could measure and optimize end-to-end customer journeys also between offline and online. My second motto for life is “What you cannot measure, doesn’t exist” and therefore I am so happy for the leap we have taken in tracking and data management through DMPs and CDPs – and bringing that insight in consumable form to the business developers and marketeers out there, who can then turn this insight into actions, testing plans and improve our customer experience further.

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

Match made in heaven 😊

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?

You cannot afford to stay still so start moving into the tech sphere now!

We need to increase share of women working in tech -> I completely agree with this statement. Therefore, I have joined the ODA Network, a network of over 10,000 members here in Norway whose mission is to increase the women’s share in tech 40% by 2025, including in top-management, through concrete actions inside the biggest employers in Norway. I have a 4 years old daughter who is as interested in building lego structures as her younger brother is and this is great! We need to get our daughters into technology early through play, education and making coding fun! Technology is not something that the IT-crowd is doing in the basement, but crucial part of everything we do. I couldn’t do my job as a marketeer if I wouldn’t understand how the marketing stack works, how to build a winning SEO strategy, conduct an A/B-test or how to choose the right content management platform. I challenge all the gals out there to think about your dream job and how technology has already or will disrupt it. Remember what my dad said; you cannot afford to stay still so start moving into the tech sphere now!

Which was the best decision in your career?

What is the worst thing that could happen? It might all fail. Yes. But as long as you learn, it’s never a failure.

When I was evaluating to move back to Finland after living 3 years in London, I got a life changing opportunity to be part of brining a new ecommerce player to the Nordics. It was a very risky choice even though the brand was very popular in Germany and central-Europe. I had a much safer 9-5 job waiting for me in Helsinki, but then my dad asked me a crucial question; “How old are you Julia?” If I would be close to my pension age, I should say yes to the safe option. But I wasn’t. I was 25 at the time and ready to jump into my next adventure. I said YES to the risky option. That ecommerce player was Zalando and the rest is history. So sometimes you must put yourself out there and take a risk, leap faith if you may and follow your gut feeling. I truly believe that the true learning and development happens when we go outside our comfort zone and push our limits. It was definitely scary to move to a new country alone, without knowing anyone with only one German word in my vocabulary; genau… But this turned out to the best move I had ever made – professionally and personally. Therefore, if you are in a situation where you feel scared to say to an opportunity, just think what is the worst thing that could happen? It might all fail. Yes. But as long as you learn, it’s never a failure.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Stay positive, keep on pushing yourself further and never take no for an answer!! And pay a bit more attention in the math lessons; yes it’s difficult but will become very handy when calculating CACs and CR% in the future😊

Julia Paulsen is a Tech and data enthusiasts, author, digital expert and performance leader. Oda advisory board member. Mother of two rascals and wife of a true Viking.
Her motto is “what you can’t measure doesn’t exist” and she lives by this by continuously testing, basing decisions on data, not assumptions, and always focusing on the customer.
Pushing the Coaching Leadership further as Head of Marketing and Digital Sales at Aprila Bank, with experience from her previous roles as Head of Digital Sales and Service at DNB, Director of Digital Strategy at Telenor Digital and Brand Manager of Nordics at the ecommerce giant Zalando.
Proud to have received DNB’s most courageous leader award in the Retail Market 2019 after implementing their own way of work model and sharing the learnings in the book “WOW: Smells like team spirit. Your practical guide to agile and all that buzz“.

See more interviews of our amazing Gals.

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