Women in Tech Leadership: Julie Hansen
- Date Published
Describe your journey to becoming Chief Revenue Officer at Babbel
I joined Babbel four and a half years ago, after a great experience building Business Insider into the largest business website globally. I wanted to return to an entrepreneurial setting and I was lucky to find Babbel at the ideal point in its development: where I could focus on the early-stage opportunity in the US but also contribute to the scale-up stage of the parent company. Prior to Babbel I worked in a number of media companies, always on the business and revenue side.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
I love the amazing team of people that work at Babbel and the dedication to our goal of teaching languages to as many people as possible. I lead the revenue team, which is tasked with delivering learners into the Babbel ecosystem. It’s great to know that when we succeed, we are helping more people enrich their lives through language-learning.
What advice would you give to women considering a career within the technology sector?
Just do it! Tech is the most exciting and dynamic industry I’ve ever worked in. Generally, tech companies reward smarts and hard work. If you can deliver those, you will find amazing opportunities.
Some tech companies are predominantly male. The way I think of it, working at a company where women are underrepresented is an opportunity for you to help change the balance. To be clear, there’s no reason to stay at a company where women are treated poorly – whether in tech or in any industry – that’s not the point. Those companies will be less successful in the long run anyway. But don’t be concerned about being one of a few women – seize the opportunity to forge a path for others.
Have you had a particular role model you have looked up to? How have they inspired you?
Early in my career I worked at a book publisher, Workman Publishing. I had the privilege of working closely with the founder and CEO, Peter Workman. I learned so many lessons from Peter that I still refer to all the time. Peter didn’t just follow the herd; he thought differently and saw things that others didn’t. He demanded excellence from his team and in turn he treated them well. He had an unerring sense of fairness, but he could be tough when needed. His authors were loyal to his company unlike any other. These are such fundamental ideas and so powerful. When I found out that he died, it was only the second time I ever cried at the office. (The first was when I had to do layoffs as a young manager.) I’m also a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg – I particularly appreciate her fearlessness and versatility.
How important has company culture been to your career choices?
When I think about the companies where I have been most successful and happy, they are all companies with strong cultures, starting with Workman Publishing and including Business Insider and of course Babbel. A shared understanding of what’s important is the key thing that culture provides. We don’t waste time at Babbel discussing whether we value learner success over other factors – we know it’s the most important thing. That clarity attracts people who share the same belief and thrive in that environment.
As a member of the senior leadership team at Babbel, what advice would you offer women looking to make the step up to board level?
Start by understanding what a board does – critically, it’s not management but rather oversight – and how it functions. Being part of a board in your personal life (a non-profit organisation or another company) is a great introduction. Seek advice from people you know on boards about how to add value. Look for a board opportunity that leverages what you know, particularly through the committee roles. Make sure you can devote the time. But don’t wait until you feel completely “ready” because chances are your male peers are not any more ready than you are. There’s never been a better time to be a woman seeking a board position.
Babbel cites diversity as one of its strengths. What do you think is key to attracting and retaining a diverse talent base?
No question that it starts with recruiting. Seeking out diverse candidates is the first step. Next comes a hiring process that is fair and evaluates all candidates the same. Once you’ve managed to hire a diverse team, then you need to make sure that everyone on the team has the same access to opportunities and feels included and appreciated. Since these simple concepts are not as simple in real-life, training and monitoring are important. We are so lucky at Babbel that our product naturally attracts people from many parts of the world who are drawn together by their belief that language-learning unlocks doors, both personal and professional. I’ve loved meeting people from so many countries and backgrounds and I’m certain that Babbel benefits from it.