Femme #2: Klara

 
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Tell us about your career path.

‘Go with the flow’ - a phrase that I use more often than I should - it sums up my approach to my career and life in general.

'I love rock’n’roll' times

I have been playing electric guitar and singing in an all-girl rock band K2 since I was 11. I devoted all my free time to rehearsals, live shows, writing music and studio recordings. My bandmates and I even had set schedules in high school -- we used to have over 100 concerts a year! My biggest dream was to become a professional musician (or at least stay in the music industry if I wasn’t successful).

Because of my passion for art, I decided to pursue my university studies in the field of Arts Management at the University of Economics in Prague. I spent a semester studying abroad Communication and PR in Bamberg, Germany. The program was in German, which was a bit of a challenge for me at that time, and it would probably still be a challenge today. When I was in Germany, I was still traveling back and forth to our band shows, while we worked on an album.

Shifting gears

When I was starting a graduate program back in Prague, I realized that I might need some extra money to afford a proper apartment instead of staying in dorms. I started looking for part-time jobs and came across a job posting for a part-time receptionist at McKinsey & Company. Before I joined their team I had no idea that management consulting even existed. Honestly, that was the moment that changed my future.

While working part-time and studying, I applied for the consulting internship at McKinsey, passed the final interview in Budapest, and made a career switch to management consulting. Not only did I acquire many new skills in a very short amount of time, I also met very inspiring people who changed my life. Three McKinsey partner colleagues decided to start their own company with the ambitious goal of revolutionizing the way how B2B sales is done in the 21st century.  They invited me to join their endeavor to create a startup called BizMachine. First, I was tempted to stay at McKinsey because I didn’t think there could be anything better than that. Then, I realized that building something from scratch is much more exciting and I decided to try the startup life. By joining the startup, I had the opportunity to be surrounded by very driven people -- I was growing much faster professionally and personally.

I was making all these decisions while I was in San Francisco studying International Business. I absolutely fell in love with the city. After spending half a year in Northern California, I went back to Prague to finish my Master’s degree. Soon after, I started my professional journey at BizMachine. We grew from a tiny, self-funded startup to 25 employees and landed 30 corporate, SMB and startup clients after the first year. Now I am leading a team of client consultants and our role is to do whatever it takes to keep clients happy. I really enjoy being part of the company and be surrounded by all the smart and diverse people there.

I met Lucie in San Francisco during one of my visits. We had an instant connection that led us to create Femme Palette, a place where like-minded professional women can meet and over a cup of coffee, and create something exciting and daring like we did.

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What are the biggest lessons you learned throughout your career?

I learned 3 major things:

  • Don’t be afraid of failure

I used to be scared of screwing up and not achieving my goals in both my professional and personal life. After a few failures on both fronts, I became much stronger and more experienced. For me, trying something new is a win-win situation -- you can gain experience and life lessons, regardless of the outcome.

  • Expect little, but dream big

There is no limit to your dreams -- we call them dreams because they don’t have real boundaries. There is nothing wrong about aiming high, but if you set your expectations too high, it might result in unnecessary disappointment. I try to keep an open mind in setting low expectations -- I get much more excited when I get to celebrate all the small surprise wins!

  • Your network really matters

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now if I hadn’t met the people that I know now through studying, working, traveling, partying or randomly bumping into them. The knowledge that I gained in school, the content in all the books I’ve read, and even the hard work I put in everything that I do is totally insignificant compared to the impact of people I’m surrounded by and their constant support.

 

What do you wish you knew when you were 20 years old?

Wait, what? I’m not 20 anymore? Honestly, I don’t wish that I had been any wiser when I was 20. I’m thankful for figuring out my life the hard way and for all of the little detours I made along the way. I’m still figuring everything out and there are still many more detours to come. I have no idea when or in what form - and that’s exciting!

 

Who helped you along the way to where you are now?

I am very fortunate that my parents have always been my biggest supporters and fans throughout my entire life. My mom once got into a fight with my high school teacher for me -- he said that I’d rather play guitar in some band than go to his English classes. Well, the band has been around for 12 years and I ended up speaking English without attending his lessons. Also, my friends and mentors from the university, McKinsey and BizMachine inspired me, pushed me forward and helped me develop my full potential.

 

Why did you create Femme Palette and what do you want to achieve?  

I have recently realized a few things about myself:

  • I enjoy engaging in deep conversations

  • I love spending time with people and growing together

  • I like meeting new people and listening to their life stories

Lucie and I share these interests and so do other women in our networks - and that is how the idea of building a community of like-minded women started. I hope Femme Palette will attract and retain women that will lift each other up, drive each other’s successes and have fun together!

 
Klara GajovaComment