By sharing the twists and turns of her career in tech, Eva Poppe, Chief Growth Officer at Zerolight is the perfect example of a role model for young girls looking to enter STEM careers. We sat down with Eva to gain a greater understanding of how she came to the position she’s in now, and to understand how we can encourage more girls to join the tech industry.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career, specifically your time at Unity Technologies and now moving to Zerolight?
Who I am now was certainly massively impacted by being lucky enough to have lived and worked in different countries like Germany, the US, Spain, the Netherlands and now the UK. I emerged in other cultures by learning and speaking the languages and building life-long relationships. It’s an eye-opening and humbling experience. You gain some excellent skills along the way: it makes you adaptable, empathetic, and more self-conscious - professionally and personally.
These impactful experiences lead me to want to give back, and I do that in my function as Co-Chair of the Cultural Vistas Alumni Council.
The reason why I lived, worked and immersed myself across Europe was driven by my innate curiosity, which also led me to be working in leadership roles for tech companies. I joined Unity 3 years ago as a Sales leader, coming from Oracle because I was fascinated by the technological and creative revolution Unity is at the forefront of, with Realtime 3D. Everything in the world you can imagine can be done virtually in real-time in 2D, 3D, AR and VR. This passion for tech and understanding that the sky's the limit is my driver and motivation.
I am now joining ZeroLight as a Chief Growth Officer for the same reason – my inquisitiveness and passion for tech. ZeroLight has some extraordinary use cases in the automotive space. We can be an incredibly valuable partner in the transition to the new era of how to sell and position cars in the market. Fun Fact: just like Unity, Zerolight originated from Games. Coincidence?!
What do you enjoy most about your role as a Sales Leader?
Even if that might sound a bit cliché (I’ll take the risk): My main driver has always been our customers, their businesses and their satisfaction. I understand Sales as a partnership with our customers. We want to be the solution to their problems and ensure they are successful in what they do. To achieve that, I have always created meaningful connections with customers, especially with the team, colleagues, and partners. As human beings, we need to feel connected and work together towards one common goal (customers who appreciate what we do for them). I could mention the leadership principles from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos or the Unity Values or Hubspot's values – they all have the following standards in common – how to get the best out of people: by hearing them out, by being respectful, by creating an environment of best intentions, by putting the customer in the heart of your actions, by encouraging risk-taking with control. Together we can have an impact – it’s exciting and inspiring, and everyone grows with it.
What has been the proudest moment in your career to date?
My proudest moments have always been the people who progress, and if I was enabling them to get where they wanted to be. THAT makes me incredibly proud.
I am proud when customers come back and say “thank you!”, because that means we have done everything right. And yes, of course, I was very proud when I got in all of my previous roles the awards of being the best of the squad. I work extremely hard and with immense passion.
I also have to mention that I was incredibly proud when no one else believed in me and I had to fight for a customer project which brought the company millions. Yes, I got satisfaction from that!
What advice would you give to women looking to advance their careers in the sales and/or tech sectors?
Be bold. Women tend to be overly (and unnecessarily) humble – don’t get me wrong, being humble is a great trait. But at times, it’s a good thing to be proud of your achievements and share them loudly and widely, because no one else will do it for you.
Let your manager know your career aspirations and have your plan ready. Don’t wait for anyone to do it for you. You are the one in the driver’s seat for your professional life.
I also found it tremendously helpful to get myself a mentor or two. A mentor can support your goals in different ways, so strive for guidance from as many skillful people from diverse industries as possible. Identify the challenges you want to overcome, and then find the best professional with whom you can tackle this challenge. Explore all of their advice and then test it. In short: Go out there and get yourself an incredible mentor.
Network and network A LOT. Human beings want to be connected. Networking and connecting with other people contribute to our social wellbeing and lead to using others as a sounding board for ideas. It helps us meet people at all professional levels, boosting your confidence.
What can they do to make themselves stand out?
There are a couple of ways on how to stand out:
- If you have the chance to take on a particular strategic project which fits your interest and your ambition, try to volunteer for it and make yourself visible to other leaders by showcasing the results to a broader audience.
- Use Linkedin or social media to position yourself and your ambitions. Practical tools to do self-marketing and networking. “Perception is reality” – Lee Atwater.
- Master the art of storytelling. Females are hard workers and do-ers. We are not educated to brag about it but to deliver. And then we hope it gets seen.
Summarising: Be self-aware, act strategically, do the work and get the credit.
What can and should be done to make tech a more inclusive sector for women?
Studies show that the female work representation in the more prominent tech companies was 24% in 2021.
It’s growing every year by 0.5–1% point, and honestly, an adaptation that is way too slow and fills me with sadness. The question, though, goes more profound. It starts with the basics looking at increasing encouragement for females to specialise in that field already when it comes to choosing what to study, how companies recruit, are job descriptions written inclusively? And how do companies ensure to retain and promote females in an equal way? More transparency is needed when it comes to promotions and pay.
The effort to be an inclusive company for women needs to be an overall committed company strategy. It needs to be a systematic approach and tracked on all levels. Some companies already understood that flexibility like remote or hybrid work would need to be a standard, just like support programmes (i.e. childcare support or additional paid family caring leave) to attract female talent. We still have a long way to go, but the benefits of a more diverse, inclusive, and higher-performing workforce are worth it.