Women of the C-Suite: “It’s Essential to Build a Team That Trusts One Another,” Says Irina Papuc

Carly Martinetti
Nov 2, 2020 · 7 min read
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Don’t be afraid to let your bold personality shine, and just be yourself. Many people stiffen up when it comes to addressing a team or being a leader, but people appreciate genuine human leaders. Show that you are human and have a life outside of work, that you sometimes make mistakes too! Also, don’t be afraid to show your nurturing side. Leadership is like cultivating a garden: you need to nurture and maintain medium to long-term relationships.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Irina Papuc, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Galactic Fed, a multinational, fully-remote marketing agency with employees all around the world.

A physicist turned digital marketing leader, Irina brings a unique view to her work as a data-driven growth marketing expert. Irina co-founded GalacticFed to provide clients a better solution for on-demand, scalable, growth marketing teams. Previously she led SEO teams at Toptal, a global online services business, and has built high-powered virtual teams for hyper-growth Bay Area companies. Irina has created performance marketing strategies and solutions for brands such as Shell, Descript, Tenfold, and HVMN, among many others.

Irina’s specialty is providing bespoke, highly scalable email marketing and link-building solutions, as well as designing and operationalizing full SEO programs at any size and scale for her clients.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I studied physics, worked briefly at CERN, graduated in the aftermath of the 2007 recession, and concluded that office life was not for me. Then I bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan, lived there for a year, taught English, and then saved up enough money to travel a year overland from Thailand to Romania (my roots). Once I returned to the states in 2014, I fell into marketing when browsing the web for remote work opportunities, and it stuck like a well-fitted glove. I fell in love with all aspects of SEO while joining (and eventually leading) the SEO program at Toptal, a global tech startup specializing in the talent economy, finally moving on to co-found Galactic Fed.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

This is less one single story and more the overall fascinating experience of building an international company and getting to know the team, who hails from a dozen+ different countries where our employees are at any given moment. Also, since Galactic Fed’s founding, our team members have collectively traveled to close to 70 different countries! We love sharing photos and experiences from different cultures. Even during this pandemic, when many folks are cooped up in their homes, we still retain this international flair.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Not sure if this is genuinely that funny, haha, but in the very early days of GFed, we were (gulp) using Skype for team communication. It was pretty wonky to keep everything organized though the emojis were great. :) The lesson learned was that we need to upgrade to Slack (and we’ve never looked back.)

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’ve been different from the start. Through Galactic Fed, we’ve brought revolutionary tactics to a stodgy old industry, including:

100% Virtual: our fully-remote team of nearly 100 people, scattered worldwide, strictly works with clients in a virtual setting.

No Internal Calls: with rare exception, 100% of internal communication at Galactic Fed is in writing, via Slack and email. We believe pointless meetings are the biggest productivity killer in corporate America.

Asynchronous Communication: operating across 13 time zones, we have built systems that allow our employees the luxury of setting their schedules.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We recently submitted our papers to receive our 501(c)(3) for the new, non-profit arm of Galactic Fed, called Galactic Good. The mission of Galactic Good is to work with partner agencies and freelancers to provide nonprofits with pro bono marketing services at scale. More to come on this exciting new venture soon.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Don’t be afraid to let your bold personality shine, and just be yourself. Many people stiffen up when it comes to addressing a team or being a leader, but people appreciate genuine human leaders. Show that you are human and have a life outside of work, that you sometimes make mistakes too! Also, don’t be afraid to show your nurturing side. Leadership is like cultivating a garden: you need to nurture and maintain medium to long-term relationships.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Communication — it’s hard enough as it is to communicate effectively in a traditional team setting. Once to take this to a remote environment, you often have little more than a few specs, Slack messages, and perhaps a brief call or two to convey the expectations and the end goals. Daily communication is the cement that holds the team together, and at Galactic Fed, this extends over multiple time zones and continents.

Building trust — it’s essential to build a team that trusts one another and their managers to deliver on their promises day in and day out — that reassurance of trust fuels the team to show up every day and give 100%. A unified company culture — whether your company is domestic or international, it’s vital that leaders find common threads to unite the organization in unified company culture.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It’s not easy to pinpoint one particular person; rather I stand on the shoulders of many giants. But if I had to choose just one, I am grateful to my 4th-grade teacher, Mrs. Boyle, whose whimsical lessons and compassionate nature brought out the humanity in me, and to whom I am forever grateful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Having a positive impact is crucial to the work we do at Galactic Fed. We founded a company with a mission to help other companies grow and reach their goals. At the same time, we have a company that encourages a positive work-life balance, and our remote work culture gives our staff the freedom to create fulfilling lives. We’ve also created the non-profit arm of our company, Galactic Good, that helps non-profit organizations scale up their marketing efforts.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a job. This is accurate! While you can clock out of a 9-to-5 at, well, 5, being an entrepreneur never stops. It is a near-constant experience of discovering or staying on top of the industry trends, learning to explore and adapt to new territory as your company grows. It is an experiment that never stops.

2. Whatever deadline you give it, assume at least double. Ambitious deadlines lead to short-sighted results and disappointments when they are missed. It’s better to be a realist and assume any extra time cushion for any deadline, whether on an internal project to improve Galactic Fed, or external, client-facing work.

3. It’s important to set client expectations from day 1. So important! Setting healthy client expectations from the beginning leads to a much better experience for all.

4. Cohesive branding counts. Putting in that extra time and effort to build beautiful, branded websites, proposals, dashboards, etc. goes the extra mile to show that we care about not just the nitty-gritty nerd work that goes on behind the scene and a beautiful presentation to cap it off.

5. Expect things to snowball rather quickly as your company grows, and plan for change and be flexible. Managing a team of 2, then 5, then 25, then 50+, and so on each comes with its own unique set of challenges and moments of exhilaration. Infrastructure needs change, cultural needs change. Expect the unexpected!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Zach and I are both extremely interested in the impact that climate change will have on our lives in the coming years, particularly the effects of geographically displaced climate change migration. Across the US, some 162 million people (1 in 2) will experience more heat and less water in our lifetime due to climate change patterns. For 93 million, changes are particularly severe. If carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, 4 million people in the US alone could be living outside the ideal niche for human life in the next few years. We would like to build a company around this problem.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Short cuts make long delays.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring This resonates in so many life situations, especially in business. From building and nurturing relationships, to planning a new department, to hiring a stellar senior-level engineer versus a n00b, short cuts make for very long delays.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Dare we say Elon Musk? We would LOVE to do growth marketing for Spacex (will work for pizza).

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Carly Martinetti

Written by

2x pet tech founder, publicist, writer, and dog mom. I love learning about what makes CEOs tick.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Carly Martinetti

Written by

2x pet tech founder, publicist, writer, and dog mom. I love learning about what makes CEOs tick.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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