Turn your hobby
into a job and
I used to be a quiet rebel
Could you describe your childhood?
I was a child of working parents so I was often left to my own devices. I entertained myself with my imagination through role-playing, drawing and daydreaming. I was one of those kids you see in a school yard reading a book while others played together. But while being a quiet, reserved kid, I was also a rebel. I often refused to fit into the fixed frames. For example, at school, the literature program was designed around mostly Soviet writers. However, I would deliberately write my papers on American or French modern classics. Luckily, my teachers were very understanding..
Growing up in the country that was closed from the rest of the world made me very curious about what’s out there. My father was working as an engineer on a trading ship that was traveling around the world so the stories he brought for me were the absolute highlights of my childhood. His inspiring life always stirred me towards becoming a better me. My dad was the one who taught me how to draw, how to not be afraid of risks..
So you were very influenced by your father. What about your mother?
I regret to say that my mom was never my role model. As children, we often take for granted what our mothers do for us. Since my father was traveling 9 months out of each year, she was basically raising my brother and me by herself. She was a working mom with two kids living in a country with unstable political and economical situation. Right now it sounds like an impossible job to me but back then I really under-appreciated her.. I saw how much she was struggling with the work that she didn’t like, with the choices she didn’t want to make.. So I always thought I ought to be different. I ought to love my work, whatever I’ll end up doing.
Looking on the other side
Was Japan your first trip abroad?
No, I started traveling when I was 13. It was after my dad quit his job as an engineer and started his own company. He could finally afford to send me abroad. He believed in my potential and provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn and experience life.
I have heard you were a member of AIESEC. When did you join and why?
I joined AIESEC into the third year of University because it offered internships abroad.. My dad and I made a pact that if I don’t find my own thing, I would go and work for him after graduation. As much as I loved my dad I wasn’t excited about the idea of working in Russia. I could never really fit in..
Why did you choose the internship in Japan?
I didn’t choose it, it chose me. AIESEC doesn’t do a lot of technical internships so when one came by chance, I was the only candidate for it because I could program a little bit. I decided to give it a try because at that stage in my life I was eager for a big change and an even bigger challenge.
Could you describe your first encounter with Japan?
It was one culture shock after another. My first apartment was a tiny tatami room in a very old house. It had no furniture so I had to get used to living on the floor, sleeping on the floor, eating on the floor.. It was the time of big adjustments for me..
Love what you do
Many years have passed since your internship at Gaiax. What has changed? What is your mission now?
Over the years I started to love what I was doing. I was fascinated with programming but I wasn’t particularly good at it. I was slow and made lots of mistakes but design came easy to me. So when I was given an opportunity to shift to web design I immediately took it. I applied my talents and my passion to my work and that’s where the magic happened.
Until that moment you weren’t sure about staying in Gaiax?
I was grateful for the experience. It was very challenging but I did it anyway. I proved to my family and myself that I am capable of being independent, of starting fresh and succeeding in a country which language I didn’t speak. After all, I was offered to join the company as a full time employee only after 6 months of internship. And when I was given the opportunity to do what I love, I took it as a sign that this is where I ought to be, this is where I belong. I stayed all those years because I understood that there is no other company that would allow me to follow my passion, to make my own choices. So my mission back then and through the years was always the same – do what you love, turn your hobby into a job and enjoy it.
If I don’t challenge myself, I am taking my life for granted and
that is my biggest fear – to waste life
that is my biggest fear – to waste life
Is your life mission different from your work mission?
My life mission is just to be happy and yes, it is in direct correlation with my work mission. You can’t really be happy if you are miserable at work and you can’t be happy if those around you aren’t happy. Everything good you want to see in this world starts from within you. You want people to be happy? Make yourself happy first. Lit up the light inside yourself and everything around you will become brighter.
My priority in life is happiness for myself and for those around me. Finding passion, purpose, something that improves not only my life but the life of others, serving my family and the community, being grateful and not taking things for granted – these are my daily mantras, something I keep focusing on.
What is your next goal?
I have taken new responsibilities at work, something that requires me to learn a lot and always plan ahead so my next goal would be to excel at it, to prove myself useful to the company once again. In general, I cannot imagine myself not working. There is no way I will survive as a person without a job, without a purpose. If I don’t challenge myself, I am taking my life for granted and that is my biggest fear – to waste life. So, I will always set a goal for myself, something that will keep me going.
Did starting your own family change you?
My priorities shifted a lot. My son now is my number one priority but at the same time I feel that if I don’t realise my passion through my work, I won’t be able to be a good parent to him. Coming home each day after satisfying my personal goals helps me focus on his needs, give him my undivided attention. I always say that quality is better than quantity.
Does he inspire you?
Yes, he gives me a lot of energy. The shift between work and family is good for me. He makes me happy and proud and I take that attitude to work. It motivates me to do better. At the same time, when my work doesn’t go well, I get to go home and recharge. He helps me focus on what is important in life, he helps me not to get stuck in daily trivialities. I learn to simplify, to let go and to be more patient and open-minded.
In Gaiax, there are many working mothers like you. Do you think they are different from others?
In Japan, it is typical to stop working after giving birth. Japanese women face a lot of obstacles in motherhood but I see that Gaiax mothers don’t give up easily. All of them come back to work, sometimes skipping maternity leave altogether. They don’t consider motherhood a burden or something that can prevent them from pursuing their personal goals. They always work hard, sometimes even harder than others and they always bring something extra to the table. Their ideas, their actions, their initiative is the foundation of our company’s progress. They are constantly moving the needle forward.
Last question, when people ask about what kind of company Gaiax is, what do you answer?
I always reply that Gaiax is one of a kind company. It’s wonderfully weird and I am proud to be working in it.