(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Johanna Herbst is the founder of Delygate.com – a platform empowering its users to delegate everyday tasks to trusted service providers to get their time back for things that matter to them. The platform will launch this fall in Zurich, Switzerland.
She spent 12 years in the corporate world working in corporate finance, management consulting and business development for companies like Procter & Gamble, Siemens or Horvath & Partners in the US and in Switzerland. She has an M.B.A. from NYU Stern School of Business as well as a business degree.
What makes you do what you do?
I always wanted to become an entrepreneur eventually and knew that one day it’d be my turn. Till then I spent about 12 years in corporate finance, management consulting and business development roles here in Switzerland and in the US and gained lots of valuable experience for my new journey.
One day, I finally came up with an idea which slowly triggered my move into entrepreneurship. I love the idea of building up a new business and the vision of my startup is what motivates me to get up in the morning and work on it.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
This journey started earlier this year and it’s too early to say that I have been rising in the industry.
To make sure that I will, I am focused on learning. In the very beginning, I joined tons of startup events to learn about entrepreneurship and concepts like the lean startup. In the meantime, my focus shifted, and I am meeting more with other entrepreneurs to learn from and exchange with them or attend topic-specific meetings to learn what I need at that moment. I will also join an acceleration program as of October and am excited for all the insights that are waiting for me.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I love challenges and new endeavors. For example, when I moved from corporate finance to management consulting, it was a huge step as well and I always feel like that is when I grow most as a person.
I am also used to not being the typical demographic, e.g. we were only about 10 % female consultants in my old firm.
In other words, we need to get more women to advance across industries.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I am lucky enough to have two friends/mentors that I ask for guidance.
One is a friend I made in consulting and we go for dinner about once a month. We bounce back and forth ideas and I ask for advice on topics around my startup and it’s always great to get that perspective.
The second one is rather new, and I met him through a startup training. It’s also a very bright person who gives great feedback and has been connecting me with people from his network.
I feel blessed to have both of them.
How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
If you want to have a mentor, I believe it’s key to be actually coachable. Listen to the guidance you get and see how you can apply it. Also, it’s good to get the mentor involved.
For example, I started sending my latest mentor updates on the progress I have been making to keep him in the loop. I believe he really appreciates it and feels more involved.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I believe you always need to work on yourself and continuously grow your skills and capabilities. For example, I am reading about 2-3 books per month on relevant topics.
I am also joining events on various topics to learn and to increase my network or have networking lunches to get insights from other people.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Yes, I believe in diversity as a key ingredient for successful companies and am glad that research confirms the correlation between diverse leadership teams and business results.
My startup also supports diversity. By empowering women to delegate everyday tasks, they can use delegation as a tool to create more balance between their professional and personal lives thus they don’t need to decide between them.
I also gave a talk on women and entrepreneurship a few months back and will give another one at the European Women in Tech fair in Amsterdam in November. My objective is to encourage more women to jump in the startup waters.
For that purpose, I am also writing a bi-weekly blog keeping track of my activities. (Link: https://medium.com/@johe0301) I hope other women will find this useful to get started!
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Good question. A few things come to mind… First, having a growth mindset embracing challenges and perceiving them as opportunities to learn. Second, always focus on listening to understand, e.g. get insights from everybody on the team or really understand what your customers want. Third, becoming resilient and not letting negative feedback affect you. Forth, communicating clearly on your vision and getting other people excited about it.
Advice for others?
My advice, especially for the ladies, is to stop overthinking everything and to dare a bit more. There is only one way to find out whether a new path will lead to success: Just do it!
Lastly, I invite everyone to follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn). We’d be happy to hear from you!
Our big milestone is to get Delygate.com ready for business! We are now having Taskers register to provide their services and will invite Delygators to sign up in Zurich over the next few months. It will be exciting to see the idea come to live.
For anybody who would like to stay in the loop, you can sign up for our newsletter on delygate.com.
If you’d like to get in touch with Johanna Herbst, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johannaherbst/