What was it like to be the first woman in Apify?

Jana Michalovova
Jana Michalovova

Jana was the first woman to join Apify in November 2018 and since then she has had four different team leaders and succeeded in several roles. Here is her journey.

From corporate machine to startup buzz

I joined Apify in November 2018, a few days before the move to Lucerna Palace, when the headquarters were still situated down the road in Palace Adria.

Before Apify, I had only worked in big companies where the individual is often overlooked as just another part of the corporate machine. I wanted to escape that world. I wasn’t looking for a specific position or a specific company, but I was fascinated by the startup environment, which had become a buzzword in the normal business world around that time. Social media was full of photos of open-space offices and young people revolutionizing company culture. That made me curious to find out what all the fuss was about.

So I left my home country of Slovakia and moved to Prague in the Czech Republic and applied for several jobs. When I got the call from Apify, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew little to nothing about IT. I had studied Cultural Studies at university, but it hadn’t turned out to be what I had hoped for — it was too theoretical, and I was looking for dynamism and hands-on experience — so after my bachelor's, I jumped straight into the job market.

Spontaneous and fun: Apify co-founder Jakub hanging out with Jana on a company trip
Spontaneous and fun: Apify co-founder Jakub hanging out with Jana on a company trip

Back to November 2018 and the move to the new offices in Lucerna was my first encounter with the Apify startup mindset. At my old workplace, we would have called professional movers with trucks. We would have handed them boxes and bubble-wrapped equipment at the old offices, and we would have been waiting for them at the new office to receive and unpack it.

But here I was, casually walking down the street with a bunch of guys, my new colleagues, and the CEO himself, carrying monitors under one arm and chairs under the other. There wasn’t much furniture at the old office — a few tables and chairs, the computers, coffee, and tea — so they only let me carry a few bags, and a few back-and-forth trips were enough. I was surprised by how spontaneous and fun the whole process was.

The very first female Apifier

I was the first woman to join Apify, which was also an experience in itself. When I joined, only around twelve guys made up the whole company. I didn’t really think about that aspect much. All the guys were really nice, but they were shy. I could tell that they weren’t used to having a woman around the office, but I never felt unwelcome or out of place. I wasn’t the only woman at my old workplace, but I still felt uncomfortable at times, and I often couldn’t find the space to share my ideas.

Jana with the guys on a teambuilding weekend on the river
Jana with the guys on a teambuilding weekend on the river

That never happened at Apify. I learned pretty fast that I could always express my concerns and opinions, and the guys actually listened to me. As a woman, you learn not to take this for granted. All along, they tried to make me feel comfortable, and that’s a special kind of attention that we strive to preserve for everyone at Apify, a fundamental part of the company culture — again, very different from what I was used to. Values such as openness and transparency are actually encouraged in Apify, and even if you feel uncomfortable saying something, you really do have the space to share it.

Encouraged to seek new challenges

Before Apify, I had a few regular office jobs, but I didn’t enjoy them. I wanted something more challenging and less monotonous, fixed and repetitive. I entered Apify as an office manager, but I was more attracted by the company culture than the position itself.

After some time, I started asking to help with other jobs. I didn’t have any previous experience or relevant education, but I was eager to learn. What I couldn’t find out online, other Apifiers explained to me. I was given the chance to learn on the job, and that has been an amazing opportunity.

Row, row, row your boat: life in Apify has been a dream for Jana
Row, row, row your boat: life in Apify has been a dream for Jana

Over the years in Apify, I have had four different team leaders. I started off paying bills and subscriptions and sorting through documentation, invoices, rent, salaries (both internal employees and external collaborators), preparing documents for accountants and cash reports, while I was still working as an office manager (what Kaja has been doing since November 2020, and is slowly passing on to newcomer Helena while she transitions into events – talk about flexibility and growth!). To be fair, it was easier to be an office manager when there were barely 15 people on the team!

Later on, I went on to draft contracts and organize the onboarding process for newcomers. Now I work as a financial specialist: I take care of financial planning and analysis, reporting, budgeting, and forecasting.

Part of the Apify family

It’s heart-warming to see the company grow and still feel like a family. Everybody still cares about everybody else now that we are over 80 people just as much as they did when we were only 15 people. We trust each other to the point that we are free to work whenever we want, as long as we get the job done. This supportive atmosphere genuinely makes you want to give your best.

Jana had already become an essential part of the Apify family when the company turned four
Jana had already become an essential part of the Apify family when the company turned four

The Apify family got me through a pandemic, lockdowns, and family issues. It’s a safe space where we can share our success and our struggles and find people who will celebrate and mourn with you. After four years, I still look forward to Monday mornings just to go to the office. I didn’t know that I was going to stay when I first came to Prague, but I decided to make it my home because of Apify.

We may not be a perfect family, but we definitely are a family, and whenever there is a problem, we deal with it directly and together. Change starts from within, and we try to make change happen in Apify, so that we can hope to see it reflected in society and into the world.

Read other stories from our inspiring Life in Apify series. We wanted to give our users — and potential new hires — an idea of what working at Apify is like, what kind of people we hire, and what led them to where they are at now.



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