How did you start out?
In the early 90s I had a job I loved as a computer programmer. The first project I was involved in was developing special software to grow crystals on the Russian space station, which could be used to further scientific research and microelectronics.
But then Perestroika happened, and there were big changes in Russia, politically and economically. Many people changed their lives – their job and occupation, to the exact opposite of what they were doing.
The computer programming industry I was working in didn’t get funding from the state budget and overnight, due to high inflation, I was not receiving enough salary to pay my bills.
But I was fortunate because I had a decent level of English – which was unusual for that era – and suddenly it was allowed for Russian companies to establish relations with foreign companies. Before that, travel abroad had been forbidden.
One of my university friends had a Business Education agency, and because I could speak English, he asked me to join him and start a brand new language travel arm.
In my previous job, as a computer programmer, I couldn’t travel abroad – so for me it was a very interesting and exciting opportunity. It was opening doors to a new work, where I could travel and meet people from different countries. I was so happy to take this role on, and it also meant that I could give this opportunity to my daughter who was then 14 years old.
What piece of advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
There will be many times in life when the opportunity to leave your comfort zone presents itself to you – do not be scared. You need to be brave. My whole life, when faced with these situations, I have always needed an extra push – but it has always been the times in my life when I look back and see that those were my greatest achievements.
I had 2 partners at first with my language travel agency, but they both quit and I found myself the sole owner and responsible for everything. It was scary, but being scared is not bad if you are ready to prove to the world that you can do it – so be brave.
The biggest achievements of my life have come out of the times when I was scared, but chose to act anyway.
One word to describe yourself?
What’s your favourite quote?
Choose a job that you love that you won’t work a day in your life.
What would your superpower be?
When I was a child growing up in Russia, we did not have a lot of freedoms, so I always dreamt of flying – so this would be my superpower.
Any other advice for women in the industry?
It is very important to cultivate a love of people around you. My success with my company is because I really love my staff – and this is not always easy because it means that you have a high level of responsibility, and it can even mean a negative effect on your business success because you always put your staff first.
But, it means that I enjoy coming in to the office every day and spending time with these people. When you bring love, you get it all back in return.