CEO and Co-founder, PBT EU
Ivanka Vassileva is CEO and co-founder of systems integration specialist PBT EU, offering customised solutions to the broadcast, media, and AV language services industries. Products include the EXEcutor™ broadcast server line, subtitling platform SubtitleNEXT, and Profuz Digital’s business process management system LAPIS.
Ivanka is also co-founder of development company Profuz Digital and has grown both companies into competitive global entities that propel women into leadership roles.
Highly regarded for her integrity and passionate commitment to client service, Ivanka is one of many dynamic successful women leading the change in the technology sector.
The IABM Journal had the chance to get Ivanka’s perspective on how organisations in the industry can advocate for women, and men, in tech, resulting in attracting the best people to create a thriving culture that encourages and motivates.
She believes that tech is a fantastic industry for women and will improve if more women are working in engineering, development, and sales roles.
Work hard, stay humble, be kind: the secrets of a successful tech leader
What do you love about your work?
I love to get stuck in early concerning complex issues that arise in our industry, and to have a solution ready before the rest of the market even realises the need for it. We evolve our products continuously to meet a variety of challenges. In my line of work, I make a concerted effort to get up to speed with new technologies fast, which I find energising.
What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career in your industry?
I would advise them to be confident in their skills, to work hard and further develop them, but to be patient, as success doesn’t come in a day. Women have a lot of soft skills which can complement their knowledge. With perseverance, this combination can make them advance quickly in their career, even in this industry. In the media localization area, we see a lot of successful women and many hard-working successful professionals that are highly respected for what they do.
Tell us about a favourite book/show/podcast or film and why/how it inspires you.
I find historical books about people of integrity and of successful people inspiring. We can learn a lot from our predecessors and bring continuity to their work from our perspective and in our era. I prefer to watch movies revealing various characters and emotions humans can demonstrate in unexpected situations. It makes me believe that with all our weaknesses we can still be strong when required.
Where do you find support and inspiration? How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?
I enjoy travelling and discovering new places, meeting different people, and understanding new cultures.
What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?
A good leader is empathetic and a good listener. It’s important for leaders to strive to create an environment where people can be at their best. I also believe that good leaders have to lead by example and proactively follow the same rules and principles they expect from their fellows.
When it comes to leadership, aggressiveness is overrated. You don’t have to be aggressive to be a good leader, but you do have to be dynamic.
What’s the most effective way for women in IT media Tech to help other women in tech succeed?
Generally, representation of women as leaders is low. However, considering that research shows that companies with female leaders have reaped many benefits, this should help to change things. Women are regarded as effective leaders, especially with respect to employee engagement, collaboration, and customer insights. Diversity in management and on corporate boards helps to deliver better financial results for shareholders, companies, and in turn, customers too.
Advocating for women in their professional lives and pointing out how great they are to someone else is a great thing to do. It is great to be confident of one’s talents and skills but boasting about your achievements does not always sit well with many people. It is always positive to highlight when someone has achieved something – encouragement goes a long way and helps boost people’s morale and also helps to promote them within the industry to others.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
From a young age, my parents instilled the importance of believing you can be whoever you want to be. This belief gave me a great deal of self-confidence. If you try to learn as much as you can, listen carefully and work diligently, you can be successful in whatever you set out to achieve.
How has your previous employment experience aided your success at PBT EU?
As I started out in my career, I learned more about the company’s clients’ business. This results in trusted relationships being established and shows you have an interest in how everything ties together. I was also working much harder than the rest of my colleagues and invested a lot of time in self-education. I wanted to know everything about the products we were offering, the clients’ profiles, the business culture, the market fit, and I wanted to get the full picture and to be competent in everything I committed myself to doing.
What have the highlights and challenges been so far at PBT EU throughout your career there?
We started out as a regional company specialising in PlayBox products, and soon understood that in order to be remarkable and independent, it was important to expand our portfolio, broaden our horizons across the globe and provide clients with a full range of reliable products and services that deliver results and meet specific requirements. It was challenging but also exciting to build a successful team from excellent high calibre professional individuals with various backgrounds and experiences. The hard work and effort resulted in a highly productive and motivating environment where everyone contributes. We also enjoy what we do. When we think of innovative ideas to improve clients’ working lives, this sparks fresh enthusiasm, and our clients feel that too. It’s a rewarding process to know we are playing a role in solving our clients’ challenges.
Which other female and male leaders do you admire and why?
I have the same level of respect for everyone who is a respectable professional, if they put their heart into what they do.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Do not be afraid to take risks. Understand the potential benefits and consequences and make a decision. If the decision is a win-win, ensure it is everyone’s success too. If it is not, learn from it, and move forward.
A CEO’s job is 24/7 so I have to balance priorities while staying focused on our strategic goals. It’s important to be able to step back though to re-set your perspective from time to time. I also believe very strongly in giving back to the community, and I am a passionate supporter of women’s health.
How has the Covid-19 Pandemic changed your clients’ working lives and have you got products that adapt to the situation for remote working for example?
The pandemic forced a large proportion of the broadcast workforce to work remotely. It’s vital to be flexible at all times, to be able to offer integrated web-based multi-channel functionalities to ensure that customers can continue to operate their broadcasts without interruption.
Many of our clients that primarily work with freelancers in the translation and subtitling sector, worked remotely long before the Covid-19 pandemic though. However, other clients such as universities and production companies have had to adapt to virtual or online models where we have been able to assist through our flexible and adaptable technologies that enable remote working.
We are in the fortunate position to support educational organisations with SubtitleNEXT licenses for remote working.
Portugal’s Jornal do Centro chose our Profuz LAPIS system to centralise their management processes and help manage news content, by providing journalists with access to all their content at all times from anywhere in the world.
What do you want PBT EU to accomplish in this year for 2021 after you bucked the trend with a successful 2020 despite the pandemic?
I am immensely proud that PBT EU is a client-focused team with a broad global footprint. As a result, our customers’ ongoing achievements fuels our success which makes for the solid relationships we value. In return we provide customers with vital tools to stay on top. We forewarn our clients that they need to be prepared not to leave upgrades too late, and risk being left behind by their competitors. We continue to deliver reliable and efficient solutions to remedy that risk.
What is your motto?
Work hard, stay humble, be kind.