Julia Lemberskiy of JJ Studio: “You have to work hard”

You have to work hard. Americans live to work, not work to live. That can be a significant mindset change if you come from a country where family, hobbies, enjoyment, etc. are the priority. If you don’t have that mindset, you might find it challenging to succeed or find happiness in the US, especially in […]

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You have to work hard. Americans live to work, not work to live. That can be a significant mindset change if you come from a country where family, hobbies, enjoyment, etc. are the priority. If you don’t have that mindset, you might find it challenging to succeed or find happiness in the US, especially in a place like New York City.

Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.

As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Lemberskiy.

Julia Lemberskiy is the co-founder and Managing Director of JJ Studio, a startup marketing & operations consulting agency. Originally from Russia, she is a German national, based in New York City for the past 3 years, and an avid world traveler. She helped HelloFresh launch and grow a ready-made food company to over 1 million meals as CMO before rejoining Uber to lead its electric scooter sharing business while managing the mid-Atlantic markets. She was also the Head of Uber Eats Russia, a Global Venture Development Manager for Rocket Internet, Head of Central Operations at Uber Works, and serial entrepreneur.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Moscow, Russia and moved to Germany when I was just 6 years old, soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. At the time, we (my mother and me) lived poorly and had little. At night, my mom would stock shelves to get enough money to get by. Once we got to Germany, I was able to go to school, and subsequently completed most of my education in Europe.

As a teenager, I got an appetite for traveling and since visited over 70 countries. I first traveled to the United States when I was 15 years old as a foreign exchange student, moved to London after I finished my master’s degree, and worked in Russia as a high-ranking executive before moving to the United States permanently. I’ve been in the USA for nearly three years now.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

I think there were a few trigger points that contributed to my emigration. As I mentioned previously, I first came to the US when I was 15, and I got a general feel for the American culture while I was there. Without that foundational knowledge about the US, I’m not sure I would be where I am now. I also came to the US in 2014 as an exchange student at Stanford University. Experiencing life in Silicon Valley showed me the US could, and should, be on my radar for the future.

The real start of my emigration journey began when I realized corporate life in Russia was not for me. I started exploring jobs in the US once I realized that fact.

At this point, I started taking trips from Moscow to New York City multiple times per quarter and quickly fell in love with the city. I gradually started making connections and was comfortable enough with the city and its people that I realized heading to New York City would be a great path for me.

The thought became a reality when I was offered an enticing compensation package from a New York-based company. I was offered the position of CMO at a spinoff of Hello Fresh. I would have a good team full of innovative ideas in the fast-growing sector of food tech. The relocation and compensation package beat out the other offers.

A week later, I packed and moved to the US for good.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

I was lucky that I had experienced the US before moving here for good. I also lived most of my life in large metropolises, so the change to New York City wasn’t a jarring one; in fact, it was quite natural. Being in New York City was motivating and positive. I felt as though I had made it.

I felt the vibe of, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” and everyone around me seemed super ambitious, which positively fueled my professional career. I felt at home very quickly. When I arrived, it was summer, and the city was alive, as it always is.

The other side of the coin is that it was quite lonely for the first few months. I had tons of friends in Russia and was highly respected as a major player and leader in the tech space. Although I had networked before I got to New York City, the biggest challenge of moving here was the lack of an extensive social network.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

A few weeks after moving, I went on my first date. That date turned out to be the man I married two years later. He did a great job of making me feel welcome in the big city. Less than a year after moving to the US, I lost the job I came for. It was a tough time, but my now-husband motivated me to stay, helped me with applications, and helped me get back on my feet.

Without him, I probably would have moved back to Russia very quickly. Now, I’m starting a family and plan to be in the US for a very long time.

So how are things going today?

Things are going very well. After I lost my first job in New York City, I re-joined Uber in the US. I joined a new division called Uber Works and had a large and brilliant team working for me and around me. When COVID hit, Uber lost over 80% of its revenue and decided to shut down nearly all new bets (businesses outside of ridesharing and Uber Eats), terminating thousands of people on the same day, myself and my team included.

It was a difficult time for me because I couldn’t get a new work visa due to the pandemic, and I did not want to leave the US/my then fiance. I had by this point paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in income tax yet was not eligible for any stimulus checks or unemployment compensation. Basically, I was told to go back to my country.

Out of that, JJ Studio was born. We are a diverse and growing agency that has five distinct business arms. We use our C-level experience to help individuals, small businesses, and startups develop and grow by executing certain business functions. We also create our own products and services; invest in the stock market, real estate, and other sectors; explore and support nonprofit organizations; and educate young people through seminars, workshops, and other events.

Seven months in, we’ve grown to over 1 million dollars in revenue. We are a growing team with dozens of clients, and I am thrilled from both a professional and personal perspective. I am happily married, continue to enjoy living in New York City, and see continued business potential. Sometimes, we need to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. We have a house upstate so we can enjoy nature as well.

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

A part of JJ Studio involves giving back. We have a dedicated branch of JJ Studio that focuses solely on helping and supporting causes we believe in. We’ve been able to set up scholarships and different educational programs for young people aspiring for additional schooling. I have also done a bunch of pro bono work.

Additionally, I generally act as a mentor and coach. I’ve helped several of my friends go through the emigration process as well. I try to pass whatever knowledge I have learned throughout my personal experience and the mistakes I have made to help others not make those same mistakes.

You have first-hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?

First of all, the timelines are outrageous. I had to submit over 600 pages of paper documents and wait over a year to get a Green Card. It just feels horribly inefficient to me. I’ve thought numerous times as to why the application is over 600 pages long and why it’s on paper? I can’t think of any good reasons. On top of the environmental issues that come with that — it’s just much too long. Additionally, if everything is in order with my application, why do I have to wait a year to get a Green Card?

You can’t work officially during the year-long process. You pay a lot of taxes but have to rely on your spouse. I also can’t travel during this time and haven’t been able to see my family friends in a long time as a result. The Green Card process is outdated and archaic and needs to change. I wish we could get some startup minds in the immigration service to speed up and optimize processes a little.

Another thing that is a bit annoying is the taxation without representation aspect of it. The American Revolution was in the late 1700s and it is still a pain-point for immigrants today. I feel like I pay tons of taxes without getting any support from the American government for the years of working here on a work-visa and while the Green Card is being processed.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

You have to work hard. Americans live to work, not work to live. That can be a significant mindset change if you come from a country where family, hobbies, enjoyment, etc. are the priority. If you don’t have that mindset, you might find it challenging to succeed or find happiness in the US, especially in a place like New York City.

Speak to someone who has done what you want to do. There are many mistakes you can stumble upon down this path. Having a mentor or a coach, or someone you can lean on for any questions you may have, will be critical to success. A good mentor will be able to help you navigate the US, answer any questions about moving into the US, keep an eye and ear open for working opportunities, and be a friend in a lonely place.

Don’t delay on paperwork. Not starting your paperwork early is a crucial mistake. My advice is to start your paperwork the day you arrive in the US. The process takes such a long time. Start quickly.

Save money. There is no safety net over here (or at least not to the level you might be used to from e.g. Europe). If you do not have friends or family who are specifically invested in making sure you are OK, you need to take care of yourself. Don’t spend everything you have. Be savvy about saving and investing money when the time comes because nobody will look after you. Celebrate and be happy with any successes you achieve, but take care of your finances.

Leverage your advantages. For example: Maybe you are from Ukraine and know some fantastic developers who will work for cheap. Maybe you’re from Argentina and know how to hire and supervise telemarketing agents locally, at a lower cost than in the US. Hire them and re-sell their services to startups in Silicon Valley. Leverage the connections you have back home and around the world and make your past a benefit, not a hindrance. It can be a great advantage being an immigrant. Use that advantage.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

I think I am optimistic about the US’s future, in part, because of immigrants. This country still attracts the world’s best people. America is built on the backs of these immigrants, their skills, perseverance, and dedication. They bring innovation and great ideas from around the world, resource from their own countries, and have a fantastic work ethic. When America is diverse, it grows.

Americans are open to opportunities. They’re open to disruption and are not afraid of failure. There is an entrepreneurial spirit here that I haven’t seen anywhere else. With entrepreneurship comes innovation, change, and progress.

America is massive. There are so many natural resources, different sectors, different cultures, different areas, and different natural locations in this country. Massive opportunities come along with that, which makes me very optimistic for the future. If something happened to one part of America, the country is so diverse that America will continue to thrive and shine.

We are very 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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many wonderful people and big names that read this column. I think it would be a disservice to only name one person. If anyone reads this blog post and is interested in my journey and professional growth, reach out to me! I would love to talk with you more.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can go to JJStudio or connect with me on LinkedIn.


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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