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Women in Tech: Katrin Bacic, CSO at Wayra Germany, “my job is to support and promote female founders”

Katrin Bacic women in tech
Image credit: Katrin Bacic
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“Trends around new technologies have always been my main topic and passion”, Katrin Bacic, Chief Strategy Officer at Wayra Germany, Telefónica Germany’s Open Innovation Hub, is excited to share with us right from the beginning. As a firm supporter of the future of work trends that will host no gender pay gap, she likes to keep an eye on initiatives created by female entrepreneurs.

Before her current position, which she has held since 2018, Katrin developed a career in the telecommunications niche. Now, she is in a place where she can back up seed to growth investments of up to €25M per startup at Wayra.

The CSO has a background in technology and international business and marketing and has been giving back to the tech startup ecosystem by mentoring Women in AI for the past two years.

Between technology and women in tech, her wish is to see and develop diverse opportunities when it comes to VCs, founders, and startups funded in our neck of the woods, which she will tell us more about in the interview below.

In the “Women in Tech” series, we will introduce you to talented tech professionals that are riding the wave of change in the most exciting tech companies and ecosystem organizations in our region. Having a strong and devoted team is one of the prerequisites of success for every startup venture and what investors are most often looking for, so we want you to meet the ladies who are making innovation happen. 

We will explore different roles and jobs – from technical talents to professionals responsible for the growth and exploration of new markets, to IT jobs you haven’t even heard of, yet. We will also talk about what it is like to work in tech – the skills you need, the challenges you meet, the work environment that helps you thrive, and the future of work altogether.

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Katrin Bacic women in tech

The Recursive: Tell us about your “women in tech” career path so far and how did you land your current job?

Katrin Bacic: Before joining Wayra Germany in 2018, I spent more than 13 years in various senior business development and innovation roles at Telefónica in Germany and Spain. Trends around new technologies have always been my main topic and passion.

After many years in the corporate world, I started as Co-Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer of Wayra Germany, Telefónica’s innovation and investment unit. I am responsible for the strategy and all programs for the collaboration with the startups. This includes community building, venture development, and investment activities.

I work with Wayra and the startups to drive forward topics in those technological fields from which Telefónica can particularly benefit. These include 5G, New Work, Metaverse, Big Data, Internet of Things, and digitalization in general.

My special focus and passion lie in working with high-potential female founders, whom I specifically promote and support as a mentor.

How would you explain to a 7-year-old what your job is?

As I want to be a role model, especially for young girls, I would love to answer “I am a boss”, because I want to encourage young girls to become a leader and that they can achieve everything as the sky’s the limit.

We need more female leaders in politics and business.

What do I do? My team and I are looking for new technologies and trends, we scout for innovative and digital products.

What is it like to work for Wayra Germany and what do you like most about their culture?

I love my job at Wayra. I meet new inspiring people from all over the world every day. I enjoy being a mentor for young founders as I get so much back from my sessions. I can learn each day.

Our local Munich startup community is very open, friendly, and supportive. There is great collaboration and support among the startups.

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What have been the advantages and disadvantages of developing in your field as a woman?

When I was young and started my career, I was not aware of the fact that there are still so many inequalities between women and men in the business sector. But there are many.

One of the biggest disadvantages is that women earn less money than men. The Gender Pay Gap on a global scale of 37% (women earn 37% less than men) is a fact and one of the major issues in today’s business world.

The main reasons for this are the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles and the higher share of women fulfilling care and family duties. In Germany, where I live with my family, many women are still responsible for childcare and the household.

The pandemic has unfortunately slowed down the development here. And there is a huge need for more available kindergartens and after-school options to give the parents more flexibility to work.

What does a day in your life look like? Tell us something we don’t know about the field you’re working in.

Each day I connect founders, investors, Telefónica colleagues, and other partners. I am a good networker. During a normal business day, I jump from one meeting or call to the next one, connecting people, listening to pitches from startups, or building new partnerships for Wayra. I am also traveling as I attend several innovation events in Europe as a speaker, panelist, and scout.

Katrin Bacic women in tech

What did you want to be growing up and how has this vision changed over the years?

When I was a child, I wanted to become a teacher. I loved kids and I wanted to work with them.

During my business studies, I discovered my passion for innovation and digitalization. I wanted to have an exciting job, meet new people, and have inspiring surroundings.

What has changed over the years is my wish and motivation to have a positive impact on society. Now, I support more gender diversity in the startup ecosystem to raise the numbers of female founders and female investors involved.

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The proportion of female investors in the German VC scene must increase to have equal opportunities for female founders. A quota system would help here, for example.

What is your definition of success?

In general, being successful means the achievement of desired visions and planned goals. I feel successful when I am healthy and happy and I achieve my personal and professional goals.

How has technology shaped your career?

I believe that technology is the key driver of innovation. Growth in digital technology helps to make the planet better and brings the required tools to reduce poverty, helps to fight corruption, and supports managing natural catastrophes better.

What are your professional goals for this year?

Building a diverse and successful Wayra portfolio. In the portfolio, the share of female-led startups is currently 30%, and we want to increase it significantly soon.

Tell us about how you coped with a big failure in your career? How did you move on?

I am a pretty optimistic person. Therefore, my motto is “Fall, stand up, don’t look back!”. Failures are normal, they happen and it is okay. From failures, you learn and you get better. I encourage young people to strengthen their strengths and not to focus on what they can’t do.

What is your motivator during not-so-productive days?

My family and sports. I love to run in the morning surrounded by nature.

From remote work, through automation, a 4-day working week, to universal basic income, how do you imagine the future of work?

You can work from anywhere and anytime – I believe in flexible working models where the employee can decide based on individual needs. Moreover, I hope the future of work has no gender pay gap anymore and we have equal rights for all human beings.

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive with 10+ years of experience as a freelance writer based in Bucharest, Romania. Her mission is to report internationally on the amazing progress of the local startup ecosystems while bringing into focus exponential projects developed in niches like health and education or by female entrepreneurs.
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