There are very few women who have made remarkable contributions in a male-dominated industry. Tanja Lau is one of those women. She has co-founded many startups in Spain but is currently based in Switzerland and leading her company Product Academy as part-time CEO. Among the many roles she plays, her due diligence and immense experience help her make a difference. Having worked with a horde of startups, what are her takes on funding and the success of a business? How did the thought of starting an academy to help product people explore their potential enter her mind? Let’s start from the beginning.
A female founder, coach, consultant, product leader, part-time entrepreneur, and mother of two describes Tanja Lau the best. The zeal to give back to the community in terms of her coaching involvement is absolutely amazing. She claims to work about 16 to 25 hours a week and is a staunch mother the rest of the time. However, her work wonders and market experience earn her the respect of a successful entrepreneur. So, what were her inspirations?
She started as an editor, but after her post-graduation at UC Berkeley, she had a short stint at Silicon Valley, where she learned the importance of product management. She took a chance and went off to Madrid to kickstart a company with a group of Spanish friends. The new place, foreign language, never gave her the jilts, and she took in all the experience she could with that opportunity. She did everything from investing her own money in the business to fundraising, leading workshops and events, and working with teams. She got an A exposure in the vast world of product development, resources optimization, and web analytics. However, she realized she was homesick, and before getting shares in her new company, she decided to move back to Germany. It was a risky plunge, but her convictions gave her wings to do better with risks.
Tanja joined a startup incubator Venture Stars, in Germany and helped many startups grow. Here, she was in charge of several functions like rebranding, product development, marketing, IT, fundraising, etc. She also mentored about 25 people across departments and worked in the depth of leadership role. She understood here that one of the vital reasons for the failure of many startups is premature scaling, unhealthy leadership, and unplanned funding.
She assesses that leaders need to give time to their startups and not grow them before time. It is because growth spurs indefinite challenges, and it requires preparation. And when startups fail to take the challenges head-on, that creates problems. What kind of funding works for the business is another concern. Are they ready to send power to investors, or do they want complete ownership is one of the initial questions startup owners must ask themselves?
Tanja realized that there would be ups and downs in business, which is a part of growing up and gaining profoundness. Her focus on creative learning instead of the size of structure led her to launch her brand, Product Academy in 2019 in Switzerland. It is a platform that brings together product people in different roles who learn, share ideas, and support each other. Also, product management is a complex field that really confuses people even with specified experience. It needs an outlet where people can share what they know.
Before the launch, Tanja provided e-business solutions and made digital products available to renowned companies like Coop, SwissSign, etc. Having been in the consultant cum speaker role for engaging people in the product building process and marketing, she understands the importance of product development. It is why she coaches women all over to join in the product niche and refine their skill set. Her ardor for e-commerce and digital finesse upskills many startups, including hers.
She recalls how her inspiration spurred from her awareness of the startup situation at that time. Organizations needed to adjust to the uncertainties of the market. To thrive, they had to have a vital purpose and develop them in multiple areas to not fall even in an atmosphere of constant transformation.
A proud mother of two, she advocates the idea of having a work-life balance with a bit more affinity towards family. Her kids are her center of attention, and she claims to dedicate 40% of her day towards her company effectively and keeps the rest for them. She has started her journey with a conviction and, even in challenging times, believes in dancing with the destiny to push herself. Apart from that, she gives herself time to take care of her mental health, sorts her work priorities, and optimizes her time. She understands the significance of objectives and outcomes and strictly applies that in her personal life. A determined individual, she revisits her choices when it doesn’t feel right and stays open about her work commitments with her partner.
Technology has advanced dramatically, but women still get underappreciated and stand back behind their male counterparts. Product Academy has designed a pet project to enter women from their existing roles and target growth in their learning curve. The company has chosen 12 women who will get the opportunity to attend 5 workshops in 5 months. These women empowerment workshops will help women to lead their career choices. In addition to reflecting on their challenges, it will introduce them to a new coach to help them build confidence and rise high in their careers.
A successful entrepreneur with varied experience, Tanja Lau could have started any company. But her intention to do the greater good and make a difference in people’s lives led her to create Product Academy. She has built a platform that brings a lot of learning to everyone involved in the curriculum. It has mentors and coaches from companies like Google, Trivago, Paypal, and many others. A student can choose an individual course or work with teams to begin their careers in product management. She is also the co-organizer and founder of ProductTank Bern and Zurich by Mind the Product.
With her juggling roles, Tanja has proved one thing; if you have the commitment and patience, you will ultimately realize your dreams. No one can limit you from conquering the most incredible heights of success.
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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.