Anastasia Pash of Globetrotter VR: “Grow your network and have allies”

Grow your network and have allies. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I heard that phrase during my first week as a trainee, fresh out of University. Let this be your mantra as you create a valuable network around yourself. The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. […]

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Grow your network and have allies. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I heard that phrase during my first week as a trainee, fresh out of University. Let this be your mantra as you create a valuable network around yourself.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anastasia Pash, founder of Globetrotter VR.

Anastasia Pash is an entrepreneur and digital media creator. She has producer award-winning virtual experiences for travel brands, governments and NGOs. She founded Globetrotter VR, a platform that allows users to experience destinations from their couch, with the help real tour guides and virtual reality. She is a public speaker and an activist for environmental sustainability and gender equality in the VR industry. Anastasia is an ambassador for Women in Immersive Tech, an NGO breaking barriers and inspiring women in immersive tech all over the world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up between Russia and Cyprus. Being a 90s kid, I was raised on sci-fi movies and was captivated by the promise of technology and virtual reality. My father was an early adopter, so we’d always have the latest gadgets at home. I never read instructions, and for most part I still don’t, I like to figure out things on my own. I went to a very traditional catholic all-girls school, and always felt like an oddball there. After finishing school, I moved to the UK where I studied Law. I went to Warwick, which was very international. I loved what a melting pot the University was, and how different my friends were. I must confess I didn’t enjoy studying law very much, and I passed all my exams by crash-studying “Nutshells”. The rest of my time was spent on student societies, organizations and events. It was then that I realized that I am much more entrepreneurial than anyone ever imagined.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”. After graduating from University, I was launched into a career in the City of London. I worked for top names such as UBS, D.E. Shaw and CVC Capital. I enjoyed working with brilliant people on big deals. But I always had a longing to be more creative. Listening to this book, gave me so much perspective, and I finally gave myself the permission to create, experiment and put myself out there. It was liberating and I recommend it to anyone who wants to live a more creative life.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.

I never wanted a career in the XR industry. I was just curious about virtual reality. In 2016, I was writing a travel blog and I had an idea that it would be really fun to incorporate virtual reality into it. I thought it would be a great way of giving people a better insight into a destination. I bought the cheapest 360° camera I could find on amazon and started experimenting with it. It was such a pain to shoot and process the footage. Premier Pro didn’t have the plugins it has today for editing immersive video. Youtube didn’t recognize 360° formats so you had to inject the metadata separately. My 2014 laptop could barely handle 4K video. But the first time I saw one of my videos in a headset, I knew that I was onto something. I started knocking on doors and demonstrating what was possible with this new technology. Soon enough, I was working on commercial projects creating content for hotel brands and Tourism Boards. Of course, I had to upgrade my gear! A few years later, I find myself leading a whole team of brilliant people in a VR start up. It’s been a fun ride, but I never really thought of it as a career, more as a passion pursuit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

The initial idea for Globetrotter VR was an immersive guide to help travelers plan their trips. In February 2020, we were designing our MVP — a virtual guide to Barcelona. In March 2020, Barcelona, and the rest of the world, went into lockdown. At the time, the authorities were saying this was going to be a two-week measure, and I remember thinking “This is going to last way longer than that, and it will devastate travel and the global economy.” As my UX designer and I sat locked up in our respective homes, figuring out what tools to use for remote collaboration, I decided to pivot the company to create interactive and immersive virtual tours. I don’t regret that decision. We’re seeing so much interest from both businesses and consumers in our product due to continued lockdowns, but beyond COVID-19, the solution has value for people who are unable to travel to all the destinations they want due to physical, financial or time constraints. Also, the travel industry is looking for new ways to entice travelers after the pandemic. Finally, companies who have gone remote are always looking for exciting online team building activities.

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?

I consider myself a very well-rounded person, and when I was starting out, I thought that I would be able to get my company off the ground as a single founder. I found out quickly that investors shy away from single founders, especially single female founders. I quickly realized that if I want to build a great company, I need a brilliant team. I really enjoy working with my team and seeing the different perspectives and opinions that shape our products.

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?

Yes, and not just one! My partner and my best friends have been incredibly supportive of me and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. My partner has been there for me from day 1 and has encouraged the transition I made from the corporate world to starting my own business. I am also grateful for amazing friends who are brilliant and successful, and always help me see the light. Finally, I’m grateful for our angel investors who took the risk and trusted us to build something valuable. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and give you strength. Doing a start-up is tough, but it’s also a lot of fun, and you want to be with people who will be there for the good and the bad.

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

At Globetrotter VR, we’re constantly creating new travel experiences. Right now, we’re working on Dubai, Budapest, Edinburgh, Milan, Paris, New York, and have many other exciting destinations in the pipeline. We’re collaborating with amazing tour guides, and content partners in these cities, so each experience is unique, and the production is a fascinating process. We aren’t trying to replicate walking tours but creating truly interactive and immersive virtual experiences in their own right. We’re also excited that our business model allows tour guides who have been so hard hit by the pandemic to have an alternative source of income.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

The XR space is a really exciting one, as there is always something new and cutting edge happening. I’m really excited for hardware becoming more user-friendly and not as clunky. I can’t wait to try the Apple’s Mixed Reality headset, as I’m hoping their designers will do the same thing to VR headsets as they did to PCs. I’m also excited about alternative to wearables, such as Ricoh’s Warpe, which would be great way to display 360° content and 3D art. I’m also really excited for the opportunities for new interaction between people around the world that VR is creating. For example, we’ve seen, friends who haven’t seen each other in over a year due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, enjoy a virtual walking together while being in their respective homes. Twenty years ago, this was sci-fi. Today it’s a reality, and I look forward to pushing the envelope in this direction.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

I have some concerns about the health impactions of the current VR and AR headsets on our eyesight. Manufacturers do warn users to not spend too much time in the headsets, but we all know that once you’re in the virtual world, you easily lose track of time. I personally spend hours at a time creating in Quill. The other thing is the need for more diverse content. As with many industries, it can be difficult for women, BAME or other minorities to secure funding for their project. It’s paramount that we acknowledge this and make provisions to enable these creators tell their stories.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

The early adopters of XR technologies in Europe are in the automotive, aviation, and machinery sectors, but the medical sector plays also an important role. The technology upgrades the way that we have meetings, share information, instructions and monitor the work being done. Benefits from implementing AR/VR technologies at work include huge increases in efficiency, safety, productivity, and reduction in complexity. The opportunities to create more efficient and collaborative creative teams are really exciting for me, especially now when we’re seeing a massive shift towards remote work.

Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

Immersive training — or training and education powered by immersive technology is already disrupting how we learn. I’m particularly excited about how the technology will allow kids around the world to experience history, languages, sciences and learn creative and problem-solving skills through interactive and immersive applications. At Globetrotter VR, we’re currently speaking to language schools to enable students to go on “virtual trips” to different cities where they can learn the language, while touring the city and learning about its culture and history. No more having to sit through boring lessons during which you don’t retain a thing!

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

Of course, I’m not satisfied. While we’re seeing small improvements in the field in terms of representation, women are still underpaid, underfunded and are often harassed by their male colleagues. These questions should be asked to men during their interviews along with “What are you going to do to improve that?” Once hired, their pro-activity to make improvements in this area should form part of their performance reviews.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

I’m not aware of any “myths” of working in the XR industry. I can only say that when I was getting into it, I was surprised by how collaborative, creative and this industry is. Everyone I’ve met during events and festivals, from big time producers, to award-winning creators, are super down to earth, fun and a little crazy. I love the sense of community and camaraderie we have in XR.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t be a good girl. No one will pat you on the head if you stay quietly on the sideline. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, your team and your beliefs.

Grow a thicker skin. You will get rejected a lot — job and funding applications, partners, pitches. Don’t wallow on the no’s and think of every “no” as a step closer to a “yes”.

Know thyself. Learn about your strengths and weaknesses, get to know your saboteurs. Develop your emotional intelligence to grow as a leader.

Help other women. Be of help wherever you can to other women in the industry — whether it’s providing feedback, making an introduction, writing a reference, or even simply listening.

Grow your network and have allies. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I heard that phrase during my first week as a trainee, fresh out of University. Let this be your mantra as you create a valuable network around yourself.

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. 🙂

I would start a movement to ban commercial fishing around the world. As we speak, high-tech and heavily subsidized fishing fleets from the West are pillaging the oceans around Africa and Asia, destroying important marine eco-systems and as a consequence, the balance of life on our planet. They are also taking away food from communities that relied on the ocean for sustenance for centuries. If you like fish, ask for locally sourced and line caught.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to have a lunch with Michelle Kennedy, the founder of Peanut. I recently attended a mentoring session with her, and she was really bright, witty and sharp. I’d love to learn more about her experience as an entrepreneur, and I think we’d have a great time!

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

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