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Profile: Marta Margolis, Chief Commercial Officer, Atheneum

Women in Tech: “Be humble and never stop learning”

Dominik Mohilo
women in tech

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Marta Margolis, Chief Commercial Officer of Atheneum.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Marta Margolis, Chief Commercial Officer of Atheneum.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Marta Margolis, Chief Commercial Officer, Atheneum

Marta Margolis has been Chief Commercial Officer of the Research-as-a-Service Platform women in techAtheneum since 2012. In this function, she is responsible for the management of the client business and the cooperation building of the expert network. Atheneum functions as the “AirBnB of consulting” and uses cloud technology to connect leading industry experts and specialists to customers around the world via the platform developed in-house. The Berlin start-up received a successful investment of 10 million euros at the beginning of 2019. Diversity is a top priority at Atheneum: The international locations employ 195 people from 38 countries, with women accounting for 50 percent.

Marta Margolis, born in Poland and mother of two, looks back on several years of professional experience in the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and founded a B2B service company, which she successfully resold.

When did you become interested in technology?

I have always had a fundamental interest in technology. With time and new professional opportunities, my passion for tech topics has also grown. I think that a certain affinity for important disruptive technologies is simply part of being successful in certain areas today. Technologies are a key growth driver, both in terms of achieving one’s own goals and in building successful companies. The entire Atheneum business model is based on technology, without which we could not have built a global leader.

During my studies in Finance & Banking at the University of Lodz in Poland, I launched my first start-up, a B2B services company. I managed the start-up for three years and later successfully sold it to one of my clients to join McKinsey. There I started as an intern and rose to the position of manager. In total, I spent more than six years at McKinsey – with a break for my MBA degree at the global business school INSEAD in France and Singapore. During this time I also worked on an exciting pro bono project with Prof. Muhammad Yunus, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for Microfinance. After a long time at McKinsey, I felt like a career change.

When I received the job offer from Atheneum in 2012 and met Mathias Wengeler, I decided to leave the classic management consultancy. I was attracted by the opportunity to develop Atheneum from a small but ambitious start-up to a fast-growing company with a global presence. And I was immediately convinced by the great team around Mathias!

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My parents were always my greatest heroes – and they are also my role models. They were born in communist Poland and used the political turnaround years to start a career as entrepreneurs. For both of them it was a crazy time with many ups and downs, but in the end they were able to hold their own as successful real estate developers and people of the highest integrity.

Research has proven that girls’ and boys’ brains are similarly structured and they have the same mathematical skills – yet girls believe that boys are superior to them in mathematics from the age of six.

A day in Marta’s life

I am Chief Revenue Officer at the international expert network Atheneum and thus one of three managing directors. Our mission is to use technology to provide our customers with access to in-depth expert knowledge. The ever-changing global markets require fast access to up-to-date and meaningful knowledge. Our cloud-based Research-as-a-Service (RaaS) model addresses this need: through Atheneum’s platform, our clients quickly and reliably receive the latest insights from the world’s top experts and industry leaders.

There is no classic standard day for me. I love the wide variety of customers and industries I deal with. From FMCG and financial services to life sciences and healthcare, everything is there. My job benefits from the internationality and diversity of our company: more than 200 employees from almost 40 different countries work for us at ten locations around the world. The interplay of internal and external topics also makes the work very varied. And as a mother of two small children, I know no boredom in my private life either.

I have already achieved some successes, but I am convinced that the best is yet to come. I am proud to do something that gives me great satisfaction. And I am happy to help my team members grow with the company every day and develop their full potential.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

One could even ask across the board: Why are there so few women in the STEM disciplines? Research has proven that girls’ and boys’ brains are similarly structured and they have the same mathematical skills – yet girls believe that boys are superior to them in mathematics from the age of six.

Stereotypes start at a very early age. It is up to everyone, but also to society as a whole, to change these ways of thinking.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

Diversity is always enriching. Women make up about 50 percent of the population, so with more women in the STEM disciplines we would have more solutions and products that really meet the needs of the entire population – and not just half of them.

We are already seeing the results of the diversity debate – I am anything but pessimistic – but the World Economic Forum estimates that with the current progress it could take another 202 years to close the economic gender gap worldwide. If we want to speed up this process, we should look at the countries that are world leaders in this respect, such as Iceland or Scandinavian countries.

You should never lose faith in yourself and keep on learning because this is the only way you can achieve your professional goals.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

As in any male-dominated field, women in the tech industry are judged not only on their performance but also on their gender and appearance – unfortunately. For this reason, building credibility as an expert requires much more effort. And of course there is the gender pay gap, which is still significant in the tech industry.

There are always obstacles. At McKinsey we have always consciously avoided this word and tried to formulate it as challenges that can be addressed. My main advice is: don’t be your own obstacle. Believe in yourself, but be humble and never stop learning.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

Quite simple: Networking, networking, networking! Building and maintaining a professional network is enormously important for your career. Contact with companies where you would like to work can be very helpful.

You should never lose faith in yourself and keep on learning because this is the only way you can achieve your professional goals.

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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