Ivanka Vassileva is the CEO and co-founder of consultation, design and integration company PBT EU (https://pbteu.com), and boutique software developer Profuz Digital (https://profuzdigital.com). During the last 20 years, Vassileva has worked extensively with companies on a global basis. Post recently had the chance to get her perspective on how companies in the broadcast, language and film industries can advocate for women — as well as men — in tech and attract the best people in a company culture that encourages, motivates and has the vision to see their staff excel.
Tell us a little about the products and services you provide through PBT EU?
“We are global systems integration specialists, and our company PBT EU is an IABM-member offering many solutions to the broadcast and media industries, as well as language services professionals. PBTEU develops and provides performance-leading solutions and customizable engineering system integration to empower content providers, broadcast, production, and post production professionals to operate efficiently at the forefront of an ever-evolving digital environment.
“PBTEU’s primary focus is flexibility, future-proof, customer-driven product innovation, fast deployment, teamwork, perseverance, openness, speed and high-quality work, as well as dedicated support of our products, solutions and services, which includes the PlayBox Technology Neo product suite.
“We offer a wide range of systems integration services and customized solutions, as well as our own range of EXEcutor broadcast servers and software applications, advanced captioning and subtitling software platform SubtitleNext, as well as Profuz Digital’s powerful business process and information management system LAPIS, which is designed to efficiently centralize processes and data all under one roof, including the Next-TT hybrid platform, incorporating the benefits of SubtitleNext and Profuz LAPIS, all in one system.
“PBTEU collaborates with worldwide renowned technology partners across distribution and system-integration projects. We have our headquarters here in Sofia, Bulgaria, with a global outreach, including centers outside of the country, where sales, support, manufacturing and R&D operations take place.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your clients’ working lives and have you got products that adapt to the situation for remote working, for example?
“Combined with our dedicated 24/7 customer support, we continue to technically evolve our solution offerings to meet the complex challenges that the industry faces now, and in the upcoming years that lie ahead.
“Over the course of 2020, we have seen how the pandemic has forced a large proportion of TV channel workforces to work remotely. We therefore understand how vital it is to offer the flexibility of integrated, web-based, multi-channel functionalities to ensure that customers can continue to operate and run their broadcasts without interruption. In December of last year, we launched our brand-new EXEcutor 21 channel in-a-box, upgraded with exciting new features designed to revolutionize how broadcasters, television stations, production studios and post production companies adapt and operate at levels that fully optimize their productivity. With the COVID-19 health emergency compelling many broadcasters and television staff to work remotely, the team at PBT EU was motivated to further develop innovative online multi-channel functionalities to streamline efficiency and to see them through the start of the decade ahead. PBT EU’s new EXEcutor 21 vastly reduces costs without affecting server performance.
“The EXEcutor 21 is a simple and yet elegant solution that serves TV channels cost-effectively and ultimately enhances the viewer’s experience. It is versatile by the fact that it can be optimized to provide any combination of component services using world-renowned software such as PlayBox Neo 20, SubtitleNext and Profuz LAPIS to create efficient, scalable and flexible production pipelines.
“Many of our clients who primarily work with freelancers in the translation and subtitling sector, have the experience of being able to work remotely for quite some time, long before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the globe. However, other clients, such as universities and production companies, have had to adapt their work to virtual or online models where we have been able to assist them through our flexible and adaptable technologies that enable remote working.
“We are in the fortunate position to support educational organizations such as universities and colleges with SubtitleNext licenses if they need to work from home remotely during the pandemic. We have already helped to set-up other customers, such as the Hellenic American College in Athens, for example, by offering them licenses for their remote courses throughout the health crisis.
“Another excellent example is in the case of our Profuz LAPIS system at Portugal’s Jornal do Centro last year, which centralized the news company’s business management processes across their organization to help manage and control the management and centralization of content, ensuring quality and file-format compliance towards playout and broadcast. Profuz LAPIS’s remote capability was labelled an ‘extraordinary tool in extraordinary times’, helping the team access the system remotely from home. Keeping the number of people working in the office to a minimum has been a priority for many firms at the moment and LAPIS has made things easier for the teams, enabling the majority of users to work remotely and safely from home, without having to configure any VPN or dedicated line to their servers. The LAPIS solution provides journalists with access to all their content at all times from anywhere in the world, without having to be confined to the office, and helps streamline their news efficiently.”
What does PBT EU hope to accomplish in 2021, following the success you had in 2020, despite the pandemic?
“We look forward to continuing to build on our strategic plans, which have gained tremendous traction in terms of growth in key markets, such as broadcasting, media production and media localization services. After six years of consistency and steady growth, it is still an evolving process to ensure we are at the top of our game.
“I am immensely proud of the fact that PBT EU continues to develop unique solutions and customizable engineering services that empower broadcast production professionals to operate proficiently at the forefront of digital environments. We have always been a client-oriented team at PBT EU with a broad global footprint. As a result, our customers’ ongoing achievements fuel our success, which makes for the solid relationships we value. In return we provide our customers with vital tools to stay on top. The bottom line is that broadcasters, and all our clients in all sectors, need to be prepared not to leave essential updates and upgrades too late and risk being left behind by their competitors. We continue to deliver reliable and efficient solutions to remedy that risk.”
Talk about your career and some of its high points?
“The high point in my career was to get in early and have a (solution) ready by the time the rest of the market realized the need. I enjoy new challenges and that I need to be evolving to meet a variety of challenges. My work requires learning different areas quickly, from technology, through to management, marketing/sales and so forth.
What advice would you give to a woman getting started with a career in the technology industry?
“I would advise them to be confident in their skills, to work hard and further develop them, and to be patient, as success doesn’t come in a day. Women have a lot of soft skills, which can complement their knowledge. With perseverance, this combination can make them advance quickly in their career, even in this industry. In the media localization area, we see a lot of successful women, and many hard-working successful professionals, who are highly regarded.”
Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast or film and why or how it inspires you?
“I find historical books about people of integrity and of successful people, actions and strategies, very inspiring to read. We can learn a lot from our predecessors and bring continuity to their works from our perspective and in our era. I also like watching various performances of the new generation leaders in various industries that make success look achievable and imminent. I do prefer to watch movies revealing various characters and emotions humans can demonstrate in unexpected situations. It makes me believe that with all our weaknesses, we can still be strong when required to be.”
Where do you find support, and how important is networking in this business?
“I enjoy travelling, meeting different people and cultures, discovering new places, feeling their energies.”
What are the important characteristics of a good leader?
“A good leader is empathetic and a good listener. It’s important for leaders to strive to create an environment where people can be their best. I also believe that good leaders have to be good examples to their teams and proactively follow the same rules and principles they expect from their fellows. I think that when it comes to leadership, aggressiveness is overrated. You don’t have to be aggressive to be a good leader, but you do have to be dynamic.”
What do you feel is the most effective way for women in IT media tech to help other women in tech succeed?
“Generally, representation of women leaders is low considering all of the research that shows that companies with women leaders have reaped many benefits. Women are regarded as effective leaders, especially with respect to employee engagement, collaboration and customer insights. Diversity in management and on corporate boards delivers better financial results for shareholders, companies, and in turn, their customers too.
“Advocating for women in their professional lives and pointing out how great they are to someone else is a great thing to do. It is great to be confident of one’s talents and skills, but boasting about your achievements does not always sit well with many people. It is always positive to highlight when someone has made an achievement – encouragement goes a long way and helps boost people’s morale, and also helps to promote them within the industry to others.”
How has your life’s experience made you the leader you are today?
“From a young age, my parents instilled the importance of believing you can be whoever you want to be. This belief gave me a great deal of self-confidence. If you try to learn as much as you can, listen carefully and work diligently, you can be successful in whatever you set out to achieve.”
Has your previous employment experience aided your success at PBT EU?
“As I began my career, I learned more about that client’s business. This results in trusted relationships being established. I was also working much harder than the rest of my colleagues and invested a lot of time in self education. I wanted to know everything about the products we were offering, the clients’ profiles, the business culture, the market fit, and I wanted to get the full picture and to be competent in everything I committed myself to doing.”
What have the highlights and challenges been so far at PBT EU?
“We started out as a regional company, specializing in PlayBox products, but we soon understood that in order to be remarkable and independent, it was important that we enlarge our portfolio, broaden our horizons across the globe and provide our clients with a full range of reliable products and services that will meet their requirements. It was challenging but also very exciting to build a successful team from such excellent, high-caliber individual professionals with various backgrounds and experiences, and I am extremely happy that the hard work and effort has resulted in a highly productive and motivating environment where everyone can contribute. We also enjoy what we do – as we think of innovative ideas and ways to improve our clients’ working lives and this sparks fresh enthusiasm, and our clients feel that too. It’s a rewarding process to know we are playing a role in solving our clients’ challenges.”
Are there other female and male leaders do you admire?
“I usually have the same level of respect for everyone who is a respectable professional, and if they put their heart into what they do, whether they are a woman or man in the industry.”
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
“Do not be afraid to take risks. Understand the potential benefits and consequences, and make a decision. If the decision you make is a win for your business, ensure it is everyone’s success. If it is not, learn from it and move forward.
“A CEO’s job is 24/7, so I have to balance priorities while staying focused on our strategic goals. It is important to step back and re-set my perspective from time to time. I also believe very strongly in giving back to the community, and I am a passionate supporter of women’s health.”
Do you have a motto?
“Work hard, stay humble, be kind.”