Working women receive a slew of advice — lean in, lean out, be aggressive, but not too aggressive. We’re constantly inspired by the women who are paving the way and taking charge in the ever-evolving world of technology. Welcome to This Woman’s Work, a series highlighting how various women are advancing the tech industry, both professionally and personally.
This month, we’re chatting with Frederike Probert, founder and managing director of Mission Female.
To start with, can you tell us a bit about your career path and what brought you to your current position?
I started my career working for large American corporations like AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo! However, I quickly realised that I was better suited to startup environments, which led me to work at Wunderloop, the first DMP in Germany. One of my first projects involved working in conjunction with a few other ad-tech leaders to launch RTB to the German market in 2012 (a time when virtually no one knew what RTB was). Not long after, I founded my own company, a meta-SSP, which I later chose to sell.
After 15 years in the digital industry, I decided I needed a bit of a break and a change, which is what eventually led me to found Mission Female.
You’ve been on quite the journey. Tell us more about what inspired you to launch Mission Female.
After selling my company, I bought a camper and drove across Europe with my dog Fiete for a year. During this time, I had a lot of time to think, and I wondered why so few women were in management positions, in and outside of the digital industry. It sparked the idea for my book, Mission Female. Frauen. Macht. Karriere. (Meaning Mission Female. Women. Power. Career.)
Over the course of that year, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of women and men, and I learned that women work an incredible amount, but easily fall into the ‘busy trap,’ becoming so absorbed in day-to-day work that they don’t have time for networking. It gave rise to the idea for a professional network, also called ‘Mission Female,’ which I founded in 2019.
Amazing — you’ve found your new passion! Can you tell us more about the organisation and your work?
I have! And I put my heart and soul into bringing people together. My job at Mission Female is to bring great, strong women together across Germany, as well as Austria and Switzerland, regardless of their industry. It’s all done digitally at the moment, but what sets us apart are the physical face-to-face meetings we host — workshops, dinners, off-site events, conferences, etc. We have 80 – 100 events a year and 70 members in our network. It’s such a pleasure to see women grow together.
It sounds like you’re always on-the-go. What does a typical day look like for you?
Always! A typical day for me consists of a lot of event planning. Our programmes fall into a few different areas. We do personality analyses — so women can assess themselves and better understand their strengths and weaknesses — as well as leadership programmes and events like improvisation training or facial expression training.
I’m always on the lookout for new event formats and places to host our next dinner, off-site, or conference. I also handle member management and enjoy speaking about female empowerment in the press, as that’s always a hot topic.
A hot topic, indeed. Speaking of, who are some of the women who have inspired and empowered you throughout your career? And who are your role models outside of the office?
I’ve had a lot of great bosses from the tech sector who have helped me achieve my goals — from my first boss at AOL to my boss at my very first start-up. But I’m also grateful for my husband, who supports me in everything I do. If you’re a risk-taker like me who likes to make quick decisions, it helps to have family support.
You mentioned earlier that you wrote a book about all of this — Mission Female: Frauen. Macht. Karriere. What tips do you give women in this book to help them feel more empowered in their careers?
Women need to clearly formulate where they want to go and how they plan to get there, and accept nothing less. One example is salary negotiation. In the past, at my own company, I noticed that men often ask for raises, but women won’t dare. Women should speak up and ask for what they deserve.
Another tip is to build your own network — find coaches who can help you assess personal situations in a neutral way.
Excellent advice. In the theme of network-building, what’s coming up for Mission Female? And how can readers get involved?
Due to COVID-19, all of our events have been digital, but many new ideas have emerged — Expert Talks, Peer Talks, Personal Change Talks, etc. During this time, we were able to expand our online offering to 100 events per year.
Now, our Mission Female Events are taking place in person again, of course in strict compliance with hygiene and distance rules. On 19 November, our first conference — Mission Female X-Change — will take place in Hamburg, including an off-site with 50+ top speakers from different industries.
Women can apply for membership on our website.