Vitaliya Kaleva (’10), Head of Services at We Are Pentagon: ‘Pentagon is a vibrant community of like-minded individuals’
AUBG will hold its tradition Job and Internship Fair online on March 30. One of the employers recruiting students at the fair is We Are Pentagon Group. An international group of companies with offices in Europe and Asia, they offer an end-to-end solution that enables brands and retailers accelerate their online growth through 75+ global marketplaces. We Are Pentagon specializes in international trading, managed services and marketplace integrations using their own technology. Some areas where fresh AUBG graduates could grow within their business are account management, design, marketing, finance, and business analysis. This is Pentagon's 10th year participating in the AUBG job fair.
To learn more about the company and the opportunities it offers to AUBGers, we spoke to Vitaliya Kaleva, Head of Services at Pentagon and AUBG alumna. She has over eight years of experience in ecommerce and retail in Europe and Asia. In her current role as Head of Services at We Are Pentagon, Vitaliya is responsible for the success of the Account Management, Product Data Management and Customer Service divisions who manage over 100 online marketplace stores worldwide. She is also heading up the online trading department, which is part of the Pentagon retail business Arcade. Vitaliya graduated from the American University in Bulgaria in 2010 with a double BA degree in Business Administration and Journalism & Mass Communications and is a proud Radio AURA alumna. She’s also a certified Digital Marketing Professional.
What was your first position at the company and how has your career progressed since?
I joined We Are Pentagon in April 2014 as an Account Manager and I was given the amazing opportunity to work with some of the largest brands and retailers in Europe and to manage their marketplace operations from top to bottom. I moved on to head up the Account Management team in 2017 and as such was responsible for the success of a vast portfolio of world-renowned brands such as Dyson, Philips, BMW, Next, Ann Summers and Fanatics on marketplaces. In 2018, I moved to Singapore where I set up and managed our Asian headquarters for a couple of years. I’m currently based in Sofia, Bulgaria and in my current role as Head of Services I ensure the efficient operations of our Account Management, Product Data Management, and Customer Service divisions. Our team of experts manage 100+ online marketplaces stores for a wide range of clients and we take care of all aspects including technical integration, product page creation, merchandising, design and more. I am also looking after the online trading department of our retail business, Arcade, and work with our Trading Managers to ensure we sell our products at the right price, in the right region, and that we tailor our advertising to fit the needs of our customers.
The company has grown immensely since I first set up foot, we built a software, set up a retail business, opened up offices across Asia, and our portfolio now includes one of the leading brands and retailers across various industries. This has undoubtedly created various opportunities within the business and will surely continue to do so as our company grows further and further.
What is it like to work at We Are Pentagon? What should the AUBG students expect after they become part of the company? What are the perks and the career growth opportunities?
Pentagon is a vibrant community of like-minded individuals - AUBG students can certainly relate to that. The company offers a friendly, easy-going atmosphere. Ecommerce is booming, especially nowadays, and the opportunities up ahead are limitless. For example, back in 2014 when I started, we were only managing eBay and Amazon stores, 7 years later our portfolio consists of over 70 marketplaces worldwide.
AUBG students should expect to feel in their right place at Pentagon. You go through a 2-3 week extensive training program but in reality, you learn on the go. That’s the nature of the industry, you can read a hundred books on ecommerce but the only way to actually learn is to start doing the work - setting up marketplace stores, figuring out fulfillment options, creating campaigns and promotions, analyzing trading data. It’s very similar to the practical aspect that the AUBG education offers. So it’s not unnatural for a newcomer to own tasks and to manage client communication within their first month. Of course, there’s a great team behind to provide support and boost confidence when needed so nobody feels like they’re thrown in at the deep end.
While the world was functioning normally, we would regularly fly out the team across Europe to meet with existing and potential clients, and to attend marketplace and industry events. Pentagon runs the biggest conference for online marketplaces in Europe - Retail Without Borders which had over 1000 attendees on its last edition in Feb 2020. Until we can resume travelling, we all rely on video conference calls, webinars and the likes - not as exciting as meeting people face to face but it will certainly change soon.
You spent two years working in Singapore. What were the highlights of your experience there? What other international opportunities does We Are Pentagon offer?
I moved to Singapore in May 2018 to set up a Pentagon office as our Asian headquarters. Our Asian network included two more satellite offices in Thailand and Japan. I headed up a regional team responsible for managing Asian online marketplaces such as Rakuten Japan, Lazada Singapore, Gmarket, 11Street Korea, and many more. Pentagon partnered with the regional DHL Express division on an exciting pilot project aimed at helping local companies start their own ecommerce journey, and we worked with merchants from over 10 countries.
What’s stunning is the level of opportunities the region offers - ecommerce is lagging behind due to various factors but there’s an infinite desire to shop online, spend money, and get orders quickly. As industry leaders in Europe, Pentagon had a lot to offer especially in terms of know-how, connection with marketplaces and overall capabilities to manage marketplace operations. While in Singapore, I had the chance to travel extensively across Asia and Australia, and meeting new people, working alongside partners from various countries, learning about their culture and habits changed the way I see and do things. For the first time in my life, I realized what “getting out of your comfort zone” truly meant.
What advice would you give to the AUBG students on successfully preparing for a job interview at We Are Pentagon? What kind of people are you looking for to join your team?
There’s an inside joke within the company that AUBGers almost always come very prepared for interviews so as an alumna that makes me proud. Anyone who is eager to learn, is not afraid to ask questions and is curious about ecommerce will surely find their place at Pentagon.
I would advise students to do their homework and cover the basics - research the company and the position you’re interviewing for. Read up on ecommerce trends and be aware of what’s happening in the industry. Be open about your goals, emphasize on what you’re good at and what you want to achieve, and just be yourself.
And an advice that one of my AUBG professors gave me a long time ago - always bring a notebook and a pen - even if it’s an online interview, I would add.
How has the pandemic impacted We Are Pentagon? How does the company operate at the moment (online, on-ground, partly online)?
I would be lying if I said that the pandemic did not affect us. On the positive side, our turnover grew immensely as households across the world suddenly got stuck at home, with their computer or phone being the gateway to online shopping platforms. It’s crazy when I think about how many vacuum cleaners, TVs, and pairs of trainers our clients sold through our platform in 12 months :) Moreover, even traditional brick and mortar businesses are now turning towards ecommerce which has created an exciting pipeline of new clients for us.
As of now, we’ve moved all operations online and everybody works from home. I am certain that back in March 2020 we were one of the few companies in Bulgaria which switched to remote working in a smooth, efficient and calm way that did not interrupt operations even for a second. Working from home meant we can’t do any team activities so we moved that online as well - we often “get together” and play games online, or just chat and socialize. We even held our Christmas party over Zoom this year and it wasn’t lame at all :)
One of our challenges was running our AUBG Summer Internship program all through email, Skype and video calls, without actually meeting our interns in person. I’m happy to say it was a huge success and we ended up offering all eight students full-time positions at the end of the internship. So I am quite excited to welcome the new participants of the program this year, now with the confidence that working remotely doesn’t stop us from achieving our goals.