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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • MARTA KRUPIŃSKA

  • "If somebody introduces me as a British entrepreneur, I politely thank them and remind with a smile: I am from Poland."

     

     

     

    I moved to London six years ago at the age of 24. London was not the first place for which I left Kraków. At the age of 18, I worked as a waitress in Dublin and then moved on to live in New York.


    My experience of London started with a tiny room in a flat in Stratford with eight other people from across the globe, who came here to seek their fortune. These first months were not particularly great for me: the weather was awful, it was cold and murky, everything was expensive, and the work was hard. At some point, I was even considering going back to the States.


    Then, in a fortune turn of events, I met the right people, and that is how Azimo was born. It is an online platform for transferring money abroad, the alternative for banks and Western Union that have been ripping off generations of hard-working migrants, such as me.


    In December last year, five years later, I have decided to give up my day-to-day managing role at the company. In that period we raised more than 50 million US dollars in funding and won over more than a million clients around the world while growing to 140 people in two offices in London and Kraków. I felt that my dream came true and it was time to move to a new challenge.


    But the beginnings were not easy. Throughout my career in fintech, I was regularly the only woman in the room. The advantage was that I was always standing out against the backdrop of mostly white, middle-aged men. It helped in relations with our employees too – often migrant themselves – as we shared a similar experience of London.


    On the other hand, I regularly encountered everyday sexism in my industry as I was mistaken for someone’s secretary or a partner, or asked to make someone - always a man - a coffee. I guess being a woman migrant involves certain inconveniences: you need to work that bit harder to achieve anything, or you risk disappearing unnoticed.


    Obviously, all these issues do not make success impossible, but it is worth remembering how much effort goes towards achieving that goal. I often wonder how many fantastic women never made it as far as they could have in their career, and not because they lacked talent or willingness.


    How to change this situation? Actively, and this fight needs both women and men. Let us keep an eye on one another so that when we are discussing hiring a new director, it does not necessarily have to be a he, while a new assistant job does not necessarily have to go to a woman.


    I am proud that I can often take part in the British public debate as a representative of both women and the Polish community. Two years ago, I appeared on the “30 under 30” ranking made by Forbes, and last year on the list of most influential Londoners prepared by the Evening Standard, probably as the only woman from Poland.


    What I am particularly struck by is that following my success I became "one of us, Brits" for some people, and no longer "one of them, migrants". If somebody introduces me as a British entrepreneur, I politely thank them and remind with a smile: I am from Poland.


    I am now working on two new projects. At the same time, I advise start-ups in Poland and the UK and work with entrepreneurs from industries ranging from technological solutions in medicine, and financial independence of Indian women, to the promotion of LGBTQ+ artists in London. I write and attend conferences about the democratisation of opportunities, especially in the context of women and minorities.


    Where is home? When I initially came to London, the plan was to make a career here and go back to New York. Today many people encourage me to take this step too, but I feel that my place is in Europe. For what it is worth, it is here that I have this Polish-British bridge that served as the central point of my life. After all, I can always catch a plane to wherever I want to go next.

     

    Words: Jakub Krupa

    Picture: Jadwiga Brontē

     

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