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Career Story: Anastasia Yushkova, ANCHOR-VR

05/15/2018

Professional MBA Marketing & Sales alumna

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?

I’m a journalist by my profession and my first education at Moscow State University, faculty of journalism, had a huge impact on my life. It was in early 1990s, when the world completely changed. The Cold War was over, the iron curtain fell, freedom and hope were in the air. It was not an easy time, sometimes our lecture halls lacked heating in winter, but at the same time we saw how the whole world opened in front of us and we accepted the challenge and explored all the opportunities. For young journalists, like me and my classmates, that time were unique in particular, as we experienced freedom of the press — a true luxury nowadays. The archives were opened, many important people were able to talk publicly, new language of Russian journalism was born. We had a chance to learn everything and we used this opportunity as much as we could.

 

After my graduation I joined ELLE, Russia, team. This international fashion magazine was recently launched on the Russian market and was something absolutely new, both for the audience and for those, who created the content. It was an excellent professional school for me. Imagine a small office with big windows in a famous constructivist “House on the Waterfront”, overlooking Kremlin and Moscow river, where people of different nationalities — Russians, Americans, French, Canadians, Italians, Polish — created something, that didn’t exist before. We were not afraid of experiments and were learning from each other. The new format of journalism was born in front of our eyes and as a result of our effort. Very exciting times!

 

In mid 2000s I made a decision to move to men’s magazines to be able to focus on less commercial and more serious content and I was invited to lead the first international magazine about yachts in Russia — Boat International, Russia. By that time I had nine years of experience in writing, editing, content production, supervising authors, chasing newsmakers. But my new position required slightly different expertise — I had to become the top manager of the project. I had to hire the team, teach it, develop the design, fine tune the production process, establish the relationship with our headquarters in London and other group magazines. But the real challenge was to develop new skills in myself in management, marketing, sales. In many ways my true role was strategic planning and key account management. And the majority of my key accounts were superyacht industry professionals: architects, designers, brokers, shipbuilders. Their deals could reach hundreds of millions of dollars or euro. It worked out very well: the magazine paid off in three years, which was a record, even for bigger magazines at that time. Moreover, the new lifestyle format that we introduced to the yachting press was soon adopted by our mother publication in the UK.

 

After the world financial crisis of 2008, the world of media started to change dramatically. Advertisers became more cautious regarding their expenditures, digital technologies disrupted traditional business models of the printed press. The process of communications went through serious transformation, sometimes bypassing media and going through B2B channels: company — client. Media managers had to face the new reality. By that time I was the General Director of another big yachting publication — Yachting, Russia’s Premier Marine Magazine and my goal was to go into digital and try new formats. We launched an iPad version of the magazine and Facebook page, our social network audience exceeded the one of the printed version.

 

While being the editor of a yachting magazine, I realized that a very few international yachting events were taking place in Russia. That was a pity, as we had a growing yachting community and general public was also interested in yachts. While Russia was preparing for the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, the new Sochi Grand Marina was build on the Black Sea coast and it was the first yachting marina of international level in Russia. The owner of this marina and the biggest Russian shipping company — SCF — decided to create a big event to promote sailing on the Russian Black Sea coast and I was invited to become Director of Communications for SCF Black Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2014. Along with communications strategy development for the event, relationship with big sponsors of the event (SCF, Transneft, Gazprom), my goal was to create international development strategy for Sochi Marine Club and Sochi Grand Marina.

 

Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?

As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a journalist, but after my graduation from WU Executive Academy I decided to start my own business as founder and CEO of ANCHOR-VR. My company provides Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions for the superyacht industry, both for new builds and brokerage boats. I believe that this project is a natural continuation of my career in communications and yachting. Obviously, VR/AR has become a new communicative medium. It’s a very powerful platform for story telling, for exchanging ideas and creation.

 

How and why did you come to work for ANCHOR-VR?

I always dreamed to start my own business. I explored different possibilities and was attracted by Virtual Reality and its potential for the future. What’s the biggest motivation for me? Well, there are many.. Now I’m reading a new book, written by Jaron Lanier, one of Virtual Reality technology pioneers, who invented many great definitions of VR. Here is one of them: “[VR is] a twenty-first-century art form that will weave together the three great twentieth-century art forms: cinema, jazz, and programming”. For some people it is not easy to believe in VR, they say, it is all artificial, they reject to put of glasses or Head Mounted Displays. But if we recall the first days of cinema in early XX century, many people ran away from the train approaching the railway station in an early Lumiere Brothers’ movie. This is one of the reasons why I’m interested to work with VR technology. I see a lot of potential, fun and inspiration in it. It’s about how to touch the future.

 

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program (state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, networking) support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities (promotions, new responsibilities, etc.) have opened up for you?

Everything has changed in my career after my MBA degree. First of all, I have made a decision to start my own business. The program helped me to summarize all my professional experience in communications and management and to structure it. During our classes we looked at business from various angles, starting from traditional financial management to less traditional neuro marketing, having disciplines, like key account management, digital marketing and logistics in between. My networking with other students from different countries and professional backgrounds, our working together on various cases also helped me to look at myself from the outside and to identify my strong and weak points. The program is absolutely brilliant because it allows you to see who you are in a broad perspective and helps you to create your long term career development plan, which is sometimes a different from the narrow perspective, for instance, given to you by your bosses or HR’s. It helps you to prioritize things in life, having a broad picture in front of you.

 

What was your biggest professional/personal success?

Perhaps, not to be attached to my past achievements and ability to go forward.

 

What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?

I’d like to develop my business, test my hypotheses, exchange feedback with more partners and clients, including superyacht industry leaders, to attract investment. Speaking about long-term goals, they are in building a sustainable business, that might be able to transform a very conservative industry of designing and building the yachts, and, most importantly, to let owners co-design their future boats using the advantages of VR.

 

Speaking about personal goals, once I’ve been to the island of Borneo, in South-East Asia, where I met a local guide, who told me, that there are places on this island, deep in the jungle, you need three days to get there by boat, where you go out of the wooden hut in the morning and suddenly see a butterfly, twice bigger than your palm, sitting on your shoulder. I absolutely would like to go there one day.

 

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

Time. It is so difficult to feel its value, while you are young. You think that everything is forever. While I was working at ELLE in late 1990s, I interviewed Swiss luxury watch producer high in the mountains. I asked a question, why some watches, even with very simple design, are so expensive. He explained to me that everything counts: precious materials, precise mechanisms, innovative approach, heritage and craftsmanship. But as soon as watches are very often passed from one generation to another, they remind people about time. One shouldn’t be afraid of it, but should respect it.

 

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?

Speaking about fiction, it is “Baudolino” by Umberto Eco. Speaking about business literature, it is “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

 

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?

My philosophy of leadership is based on personal responsibility. I believe that it’s very important to put your skin in the game. Otherwise, it is superficial.  

 

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?

I love sea and sometimes I need to be by the sea to re-establish my connection with nature. Sea is the source of energy and inspiration for me.

 

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

Perhaps, with an astronaut. I’d like to see, how Earth looks like from the space.

 

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA Marketing & Sales of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the school, very professional and friendly. It is important to note, that Vienna University of Economics and Business is the oldest business university in Europe, at the same time it has one of the most contemporary campuses. For instance, WU library was designed by Zaha Hadid. Admissions process was challenging, but not too stressful and scholarship system was a good bonus. I appreciated high level of students from around the world being selected for the program — from the US to Singapore, Middle East, Brazil and China. Learning process was organized in a smooth way. Everything was planned beforehand, you know all the deadlines in advance and could plan your time, both with studies and life. Besides, Vienna is a great city to study in with great heritage, modern infrastructure, cosmopolitan character and lots of places to enjoy after studies, from opera to museums and beautiful parks. WU Vienna Ball in January is definitely a great way to keep in touch with your classmates after graduation. And learning how to valse is another great advantage of your studies at WU.

Wordrap

My motto in life:
If there is a will, there is a way.
I can laugh about:
False news and propaganda, both are becoming too strong worldwide. But being a journalist, I’ve got a good vaccine against it.
Shortcomings I am most likely willing to overlook:
I believe that devil is in the detail and very often spend too much time on trying to make things perfect. But very often things just need to be done in the most straightforward way. This is one of the lessons I learnt during my MBA thanks to my Czech classmate, who was my brother-in-crime in our group homework preparations.
I would spend my last money on:
Traveling, because it makes you see the beauty of the world and its diversity.
In 20 years I will:
Still be willing to change the world.

Read more interesting career stories of our students and alumni here.

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