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Interview with Ukraine-based programmatic tech chief Olena Chudinovych

Updated: Apr 24

In our latest interview, we speak to Olena Chudinovych - CPO at SmartHub, who shares her journey into programmatic, and her advice for women looking to further their career in the industry. 

Welcome Olena. Tell us about your journey to programmatic

OC: Before SmartHub, I devoted five years to jurisprudence, but knew I could better fulfil my potential in the IT sphere and was ready for a new challenge. Joining SmartHub in 2019 was a step out of my comfort zone, but nothing can stop you when you’re eager to learn and gain new skills. Working with a great team, I got a full dive into the programmatic industry and grew from account manager to CPO. 

What qualities helped you evolve to a senior product role?

OC: The key qualities of a successful CPO are having a genuine interest in your work, a desire to constantly learn, strong soft skills, strategic and critical thinking, customer-centric focus, and high analytical and communication skills. Deep technical knowledge of the product is required, and I gained it while working as an account manager, but the ability to be a good leader for a team is equally important. 

Being a CPO involves responsibility for the product management, vision, and strategy, so my team and I continuously analyse customer needs and requests. We release around five new features per month to ensure product competitiveness - and although it’s a ready-to-use platform, we are always ready to customise SmartHub according to specific client goals and requirements. 

Apart from our clients and partners, I communicate daily with our account managers, software and business developers, business analysts, marketers, and CEO. It’s this effective and regular communication that ensures the product’s continued success. 

What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

OC: The programmatic market is constantly developing, and this process is very rapid. For instance, there may be a growing demand for a specific functionality, but it may lose its relevance quickly. Prioritising new functionalities and integrations can sometimes be challenging, but the focus remains on our clients’ needs - they are our core priority when planning product updates.

How can you ensure team flexibility and productivity?

OC: The pandemic and the war in Ukraine has had an impact on operations, but communication is still a key to effective performance. Chat, video conference and project management software, as well as a CRM system, are invaluable for communication and it's hard to imagine a working day without Slack, Jira, and Hubspot. These tools help us streamline our workflow, which allows for productivity, flexibility, and quick responses to customer requests. 

How do you stay competitive?

OC: SmartHub isn’t the only solution offering full deployment of the white-label ad exchange platforms in the market, but we manage to stay ahead of our competitors through continuous product updates, unique features such as adaptive margin, and unwavering customer support. 

What are your greatest achievements at SmartHub?

OC: The launch of a DIY ad exchange solution is definitely among up there because I wanted to include audiences with less budget/experience but who still want to earn through media buying. I managed and monitored product development, testing, and launch. Within six months, it attracted over 20 clients who could actively earn on their ad exchange platforms. Some of them achieved a positive ROI from day one. 

I also managed the development of unique profit optimisation tools (e.g. Adaptive Margin, Win Rate Booster, Demand Booster) which have enabled client campaigns to perform even better. 

Finally, I oversaw the addition of dashboards and alerts to the white-label ad exchange, helping our clients monitor their platform performance.

What are your thoughts on DEI in the programmatic industry?

OC: Programmatic companies are adopting inclusivity and diversion initiatives and we are seeing progress, but it’s taking the industry too long to change. It’s not only about being more attractive to potential employees - we all know a diverse and inclusive workspace allows for more effective problem-solving, addressing every challenge from multiple perspectives at once, which accelerates the process of finding the right solution. 

What has inspired you in your career and what is your advice to other women in the industry?

OC: My inspiration has three core pillars: Family and friends, always believing in me and motivate me to keep going; the amazing and brave Ukrainian team, supporting each other, whatever happens, to create a competitive and effective product, therefore helping our international clients succeed; and new challenges which allow me to learn or improve on existing skills. 

The most important tip here is to follow your dream, believe in yourself, and keep learning new skills, regardless of the industry and other factors. Yes, programmatic is considered to be mainly male-dominated, but nowadays women can be successful in any industry and maintain a work-life balance at the same time. You can be a strong woman leading the product development process and enjoy your private life - that’s absolutely okay, and it works.

Being a CPO in a programmatic company can be challenging, but when you have a passion for what you are doing and are ready to learn and improve your hard and soft skills, nothing can stop you. Find something that inspires you, understand every aspect of your product, prioritise your clients’ needs, and keep growing as a professional. When these components are in place, you ensure your product’s continuous competitiveness and success.

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