The formula for success is quite simple — you must work hard, you should not be afraid to take risks, and create teams. I read this message in an interview with one successful businessman when I had just started my business, and looking back, I understand that this is a very true statement.
As a part of our series about powerful women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing…As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tatiana Melnichuk.
Tatiana Melnichuk is the Founder and the Head of the international IT recruitment agency Lucky Hunter. For more than 12 years she’s been recruiting staff for IT companies all over the world, holds lectures and training courses. She knows how to recruit the best tech specialists, where to find them, and how to motivate a tech talent to accept the offer even if there are no attractive perks and high salary. On the basis of the agency, Tatiana has launched a tech project Zero2Hero. The project is aimed to help startups launch their products faster and easier by building rapid product prototypes by efforts of a team of junior developers. Recently Tatiana has also launched the third project — a special service for IT recruiting, which is called CVHub.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started working in staff recruitment when I was a freshman at college. When I was 18, I had my first experience of opening a business. This was a full-cycle agency: for a fixed price, I helped startup entrepreneurs to launch their businesses: I searched for premises, supported them with a legal entity registration, and selected staff.
I had an office in the very center of the city, and soon I had my clients. Things seemed to be going well until a long-running economic crisis began, and I lost my business. Along with this failure related to company management, I also got some bitter experience working with my partners (therefore, since then, I rely only on myself).
At that moment, I made a firm decision not to start my own business anymore: the risk of failure was too high. I began to work as an employee in large IT companies, international startups, and in a recruitment agency.
Having worked like this for ten years, I returned to the idea of creating my own business again. This was a natural continuation of my professional development. The reason that made me decide to open my own business was quite common: I felt that I reached my top career level. My latest workplace was a startup. I played my role in this project, I realized that it was time to look for something new. It could be either some other startup where I would have to perform similar tasks or a corporation. But, in fact, I didn’t want to do any of these — I “overgrew” startups, I knew the workflow and noticed that I was “going round in a circle” and I did not feel enthralled by the perspective of working in a corporation. There was the third possible way — opening my own business, and I decided to choose it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My entry into the British market was perhaps the most exciting event. Once I thought about the need to move somewhere, to look for new ways for business development, I decided to open an office in London. Just a week later, a recruiting company from London contacted me and made me a cooperation offer. There is definitely some magic in what happened 🙂
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?
My main mistake was the belief that the more people I hire, and the more work I delegate, the fewer responsibilities I’ll have in the long run. As it turned out, things are quite the opposite. Fifteen people work for me today, and my life is very fast-paced. With each new employee, the number of my tasks increases exponentially.
For three years of my business activities, I got used to these circumstances and accepted that there would never be less work for me. But the main thing I realized is — that’s the way it goes. This is one of the key development indicators. So now I’m OK with that and don’t worry too much.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
I hold the keys to the kingdom. I don’t depend on anyone; I manage my own time and tasks. On the one hand, this is great responsibility and stress, but on the other hand, it is a huge area for development. The key to success here is the ability to manage your time so that the result is effective for you and your company.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I think I should start by saying that there are several types of frontline managers: hired CEOs, and CEOs who own their businesses. Founders treat businesses like their children. If this “child is sick,” you cannot go home at 6:00 pm, you will stay until the problem is solved. Hired CEOs are less involved, they can switch to something else as soon as the working day is over. I am the owner of my company, and I never left home when things around me were on fire. Perhaps this is the key difference.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
As I’ve already said, what I like most is that everything depends on me. I am happy to have full control, even though it has its drawbacks.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
As we all know, great power comes great responsibility. Every day I make a lot of decisions, some of them are really tough. I wasn’t born with some secret knowledge about how to do business and I often face problems I have never solved before. To make a decision is a challenging task. Sometimes I dream for at least a single day of routine in my life. But eventually, the decisions I make turn out to be the best. It gives me strength and motivates to do even greater things 🙂
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
- Everyone can start their own business. I’m not Tony Robbins, so I can say for sure: this is not for everyone. If a person is a great employee, it is often better to keep developing as an employee, as there is no guarantee that they will become a good leader. It is better to be a good employee than a bad business leader.
- After creating a team, business owners do nothing and enjoy their lives. Some people are convinced that having a business of their own, they should work hard for several years, and after that just relax, delegating duties and enjoy themselves. Things don’t work this way. If a frontline manager is having a rest, the company does not work properly, and as a result, it starts degrading. After all, everything that stops developing will sooner or later collapse. I have seen no example of a successful business with an owner who did nothing at all. On the contrary, the more successful your business is, the harder you work on it.
- It is easier to start a business with a partner than on your own. I know very few examples of truly successful affiliate business. Much more often, things end badly, especially if a company starts getting some profit.
These are just the most common myths. In fact, there are many others.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
- A woman has no right to emotions. Any expression of emotions is regarded as “hysteria,” “imbalance,” “emotional instability.” When men express their sentiments, it is explained by a hard day they’ve had, overstrain, or serious business problems.
- A woman has to prove her “intellectual viability.” This has nothing to do with the IT sphere, however, as this is one of the most developed areas today, the person’s gender or age is of no importance, it is about skills and professionalism. Here is one of the quotes from a book about Harry Potter:..it matters not what someone is born but what they grow to be…I think this describes the IT-sphere perfectly well 🙂
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I was full of confidence that I’ll work with one or two assistants, representing my own company, a small recruitment agency that provides services to a little number of clients. But at some point everything went out of control: today we work with the largest companies around the world, we have launched several subsidiary projects, found partners in London and are doing our best to conquer the world of IT recruiting 🙂
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
Running your business is hard work. Every day you face both great successes and big failures. A good leader can stand that, find the strength to move on in moments of despair, survive any crisis, and deals with stress on a daily basis.
Besides, good leaders understand that most of their lives will be devoted to working. There is a huge effort behind any successful project, any takeoff, and any luck. A leader works more and takes more responsibility than everyone else.
Do not start your business if you can’t cope with stress, or know how to adapt to the new market reality, or if you are not ready to devote much time to your business.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
You must understand that you can do whatever you want and stop “playing these gender games.” All you need is to be a professional, confidently stand on your own ground, and be resilient. Look at me: I don’t remind a typical “IT-lady,” I am a blonde with curly hair and I wear bright outfits. But when I start talking, people take me seriously as a real professional. Just do your job well, and remember that women can do anything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful for helping you get to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have started all my projects by myself without the help of other people. But even though I did everything, I was never alone. For more than nine years, my husband has been my main companion and support. All this time, he was close, supported me in business, and helped to overcome difficulties. For these nine years of marriage, he never reproached me for my late return home or for working at weekends. On the contrary, he is very sympathetic, he respects my choice, and is sincerely proud of me and my achievements; he is always ready to help. It gives me strength and helps me move on.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My world differs a lot from the rest of the world. In my world, people care about the environment, live consciously, trying to do something good constantly, to improve the lives of other people. What is really important is that they initiate great things, motivate other people to “do good” 🙂 Often, we unite and do something useful together: we support charitable foundations, we help small businesses, we fight for nature conservations. Our actions attract the attention of other people, and they join. So I agree, that you have to be the change you want to see in the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Running a business of your own is hard. It would be great if someone had warned me that there I would often feel hopeless, I wouldn’t understand what to do next, I would stumble and make mistakes. But most importantly, I would like to be told that it’s OK when you do business, and you just have to move on with your head held high, make certain conclusions, but in no case, should you stop.
- There is no need to be afraid. I remember the day when my first big client came (Yandex — the largest technology company in Russia and the 5th largest search engine worldwide), I was scared to death. I was afraid to do something wrong, to disgrace myself, to let them down. But in fact, there are dozens of failures behind any success story — do not be afraid to take risks; do it without worrying if something goes wrong.
- If you want to achieve something, set global goals. You get exactly half of what you have planned. Want to make a million? Set a goal to earn two 🙂
- Form teams according to the personal comfort principle. Experience is less important than the fact that a person “burns with enthusiasm” and strives to develop professionally.
- The formula for success is quite simple — you must work hard, you should not be afraid to take risks, and create teams. I read this message in an interview with one successful businessman when I had just started my business, and looking back, I understand that this is a very true statement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would like to be a supporter of the political movement. The political sphere is rather poorly developed in my country: we lack political education, pluralism of opinions, and active participation of citizens in resolving issues that are truly important for our society. It seems to me that it is very important to develop our political prowess and improve the things we have here because politics is directly related to the quality of our lives. But I don’t think of it as a dream — it is my plan 🙂
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life and attitude to work can be described with Sir Winston Churchill’s expression: If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going. Even if everything is bad, and it seems that the world around you is crushing, just keep walking, sooner or later, things will go better.
We are very blessed that some very prominent 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
I have a girlish dream and a business dream. A girlish dream is to meet the frontman of the Hurts band 🙂 Talking about inspiring personalities in business, Donald Trump is my choice. I know that in many ways, he is a very controversial person. But at the same time, Trump’s life and professional journey is my personal inspiration, and therefore, no matter how trite my answer sounds, I would like to have breakfast with him.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.