How to Lead and Inspire: Lessons Learned by EmpowerBank

Women’s empowerment is a topic we care about, whether we are talking about specific rights, career growth, or changing the world as a whole. Because of our founding values, part of which are diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility daily as well as in the corporate world and the global economy, we are convinced that these principles are key to effective and sustainable leadership.

Therefore we are more than delighted to share with you the key insights from the Panel Discussion: EmpowerBank – Lead and Inspire, part of the EmpowerHer 2024: Elevate to Excellence Conference.

About EmpowerBank

In 2024 AmCham Bulgaria will continue to develop the EmpowerHer initiative with various activities that aim to engage with stakeholders and empower women among the Chambers’ membership to achieve their goals for personal development within the organizations they work for. The following three sub-projects are grass-rooted from our members’ ideas and will be implemented jointly this year.

EmpowerBank is an initiative of AmCham Bulgaria under the umbrella of EmpowerHer. With this project we want to focus on the diverse and inclusive business environment, Skills boost and career growth, more women leaders, developing a community, new opportunities on the radar, and employer branding & visibility.

Key activities for 2024:
  • EmpowerHer 2024 Conference: Ellevate to Excellence, March 8, 2024
  • Pink October Celebration – hosted by IBM Bulgaria

Panel Highlights

During the panel six business leaders in their sectors discussed topics such as female empowerment, leadership, diversity and equality, life-work balance, and many other topics, important not only for women but for all people engaged in the labor force. The panelists are as follows: 

Boyka Docheva,
HR Director, IBM Bulgaria

Boyka Docheva is the founder of the RiseUp Women Leadership Accelerator, received the Best Large Company Project award from BAUH and the international Stevie Bronze Award, and is also the founder of the Women at IBM Bulgaria BRG business resource group. Boyka has over 15 years of experience in people management and development positions in consulting and internal departments. Since 2007 she has been part of the HR team at IBM, most of which has also been related to managing the HR team within the company. The main motivators in her work are the long-term vision and drive to develop employees and the organizational culture as a whole, towards mature and sustainable practices in the area of working with people at all levels, empowerment and belonging.

Rumyana Peteva,
HR Director, Kamenitza

Rumyana Peteva takes up the role of Human Resources Director at Kamenitsa AD as of 1 February 2024. She has more than 12 years of extensive HR experience in the company, having progressed through various positions in HR departments at country, CEE and EMEA APAC level, as well as in the Legal and Corporate Affairs department. As an HR professional, Rumyana’s working philosophy is that “I have always tried to help others develop and in doing so I have developed myself”.

Mylena Kostova-Organdzhieva,
Managing Director, MSD Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Kosovo & Albania

Milena Organdjieva (Kostova) is the Managing Director of MSD Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania, having assumed the position as of July 1st, 2021.

Mylena began her career at MSD in 2000 and throughout 21 years acquired vast experience in different aspects of the business, including key functions, such as : Human Resource Management, Customer Relationship Management, and Business Operations. She has also participated actively in projects related to Business Development and Market Access for Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Kosovo, where she significantly expanded MSD’s strategic portfolio, focusing on oncology and vaccines. In January 2022, Milena headed a project for the spinoff of a part of the company, where she successfully managed and coordinated all cross functional activities in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.

Mylena Kostova (Orandzhieva) holds a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Economics Varna and she also holds a CIPD diploma from the association of human resources specialists – The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Darina Stoyanova,
CEO of Prestige-96 AD

Darina Stoyanova is CEO of PRESTIGE since 2014. The company is one of the biggest food producers in Bulgaria and the market leader in all categories in which it operates – biscuits, wafers and mini cakes. Before her appointment at PRESTIGE Darina worked for the multinational company Henkel for more than 14 years. Darina is a founding member of the Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria. She is also a founding member and а member of the Board of Food & Drink Bulgaria Association.

Plamena Cherneva,
Board Member EFF and
Founder of Nordic Women in Tech

Plamena Cherneva is an IT consultant, passionate entrepreneur and relentless Diversity and Inclusion advocate.

After graduating with MSc in Computer Science and Engineering from Technical University of Denmark and experiencing all possible challenges as a minority in the Industry, she established WonderCoders NGO, to support and inspire more women to pursue careers in Technology. 

She is the founder of Nordic Women in Tech Awards, one of the biggest women in tech communities in the Nordics and a Board member of the European Female Founders Network. 

Plamena has been nominated for multiple European and Global Awards for her advocacy for DEIB.”

Moderator: Maria Atanasova,
Senior Director, People Business Partners, Progress

Maria Atanasova has been part of the People team at Progress since 2010 and has had a dynamic career path following the growth of the company. Today, Maria is Senior Director of the global Business Partner function at Progress. Her team owns the strategic partnership with the executive leadership team, focusing on building the organizational design and organization health of various leadership teams, retention and growth plans for key talent, as well as creating tailor-made people programs to support the business units’ strategic objectives. Maria has experience with the people and culture side of an M&A process from due diligence to building retention and integration plans.  

Maria has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the American University in Bulgaria, a diploma in Human Resource Management from CIPD, and an HCI Strategic HR Business Partner certification. 

Key insights from each panelist were: 
  • Darina Stoyanova underlined the importance of the empowerment of each woman in our team. In Prestige-96 AD more than half of the leadership positions are held by women and the results of the company are still growing.
  • Mylena Kostova-Organdzhieva complemented what Darina said with a focus on the diverse roles a woman has to fulfill and how challenging this is for women leaders no matter the sector. She shared about effective practices in MSD for sharing experiences between ladies starting their career development and those with experience – reverse mentoring. 
  • Boyka Docheva gave practical examples of the leaders’ empowerment programs that IBM has implemented not only in their Bulgarian branch but worldwide. She and her team are proud that one of these programs, which was grassroots and focused on empowering women in STEM, which have joined IBM, is now implemented in various countries. 
  • Rumyana Peteva from Kamenitza AD underlined the need for balance in the workplace, especially the balance between the genders because their different perspectives are what make the dots connect and do wonders in the overall results. She put in perspective the importance of the emotional intelligence and soft skills that women put in the teams they are in.  
  • Plamena Cherneva showed that women’s empowerment and equality at work in Bulgaria is actually at a high level compared to the European plan and presented the international perspective of the case as a representative of the European Female Founders Forum. She underlined the importance of opportunities and resources for women and their overall success. 
Other important topics from the conversation were: 
  • The complexity of all roles a woman has to bear.
  • The thin line between life-work balance. 
  • The role men play in the empowerment of women. 
  • The importance of female communities in the business field. 

Full Video of the Panel Discussion:

Panel Gallery