Women in Business: Alina Reyzelman

Women in Business: Alina Reyzelman
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Alina Reyzelman embraces the world and is passionate about sharing her international experiences through a variety of services provided through her online magazines including Eat Well Co and Elite Club Ltd. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Reyzelman started her career working for energy companies and consulting firms holding various senior roles.

Alina Reyzelman founded Elite Club, Ltd. and Eat Well Co. to share her experiences driven by an exciting lifestyle defined by world traveling. Her international lifestyle led her to become a self-taught expert on exclusive travel and healthy eating, and create a guide to living and dining luxuriously around the world.

Alina Reyzelman lives between Moscow, London and the US, she also travels extensively around the world. Alina is actively involved in charity work and admires classics and fine art as an artist herself.

Alina is a Ph.D. student, a connoisseur of wines and foods, and the author of World Restaurant Guide and a book Sex Diet.

Alina is also fond of the entertainment industry. She writes movie scripts and recently wrote and directed a documentary film called A Girl & the City.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My parents have taught me to work hard. I didn't see my parents much growing up because both of my parents focused on their careers to provide a better life for the family. It taught me at a young age to be responsible, hardworking and determined. I've always wanted to travel the world and learn about other cultures. When I was 15 I won a competition to become part of an exchange program between Russia and the US, so I ended up in Oklahoma. I managed to get a scholarship later on to one of the colleges, where I got Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. It was an amazing experience to study abroad; I met many incredible and wonderful people. Since I was part of the sports and academic teams, I travelled the US and attended many interesting events. Studying in the US has had a big impact on who I have become as a professional and individual. American culture promotes independence, freedom of speech, and equal rights. And I soaked it up like a sponge.

I came back to Russia in 2000 and started my career working for energy companies. I worked for leading industry companies such as Shell, TNK-BP (part of BP) and leading consulting firms. So to summarize, childhood played a big part in shaping my outlook on life since my parents have been great role models showing a strong work ethic. Studying in the States has also contributed to the development of my personality as an independent and strong willed person. Working experience in international companies has given me a lot of experience and knowledge as a professional.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as a philanthropist and entrepreneur?
I was lucky to work for international companies and I spent lots of time on trainings and skills development programs in Europe. When I worked for Shell, I frequently visited offices in Holland and UK. Learning from senior professionals was amazing; the best training is the knowledge sharing from colleagues. I was also exposed to European cultures and best practices in leading international conglomerates. Over the years I built a big network and I believe it plays a big role in contributing to success if you are to become an entrepreneur. Working for large international companies has helped me to learn more about the world, a strong work ethic, corporate structures, and business operations from up and down. I have climbed the corporate ladder from the very bottom and it gives me an advantage in understating how business works and operates in every aspect.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a philanthropist and entrepreneur?
You may have a great idea but it's not always going to make you rich. So, any venture needs a lot of pre-work, thinking and planning. I used to jump into ideas and think that each one was a brilliant business project. However, I've learned to take a step back, do my research and have a constructive view. You have to have skills and knowledge for the business you are in, and you have to have passion. I have also learned the hard way that if you don't have one of those components it's difficult to become successful in your venture.

It's not easy to run a charity fund in Russia. I have tried to use best practices from the US or Europe but things just work differently in this part of the world. So, you cannot do same type of events to raise money and may have to use different methods to attract donations. You learn as you go along and you have to be patient and creative.

Tell us about your new documentary film, A Girl & The City.
The film reveals the most current problems and challenges that women face in today's society. The film tracks the lives of three Russian women to illustrate the various aspects of female nature and the adversities they endure. The film takes place in Moscow, Russia, and follows the lives of three individual women from different social classes of society. Through their experiences and commentary, the documentary reveals the deep rooted issues plaguing their society, such as gender discrimination, financial support of socially unprotected members of society, and problems of both working and single mothers. Each woman featured in the film expresses her own fears, ambitions and capabilities that she must overcome and conquer. In parallel to the stories of these women, other successful women and businessmen analyse these issues and provide insight based on their knowledge and experience.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I've learned to compromise. Sometimes you have to work late and skip your child's bath time but then you may adjust your work schedule to squeeze in a walk in a park with your baby. I try to plan my week, so I can get equal distribution of time for both my family and work. The more you have on your plate the easier it is to do time management. Another important thing is to never feel guilty. Be the best you can be, and don't judge or criticize yourself.

I think it's important to delegate things at work and at home if you want to have a good balance between career and family. Don't try to do everything and don't be ashamed to ask for help. Ask friends and family to look after kids one evening, so you can have a romantic dinner with your partner.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I have done a lot of research for my documentary and I am aware that the issues of gender discrimination, chauvinism and sexual harassment still exist. However, a tremendous improvement and change in mentality have happened since last century and there are many regulations and laws that protect women at the workplace in developed countries. There is still work to be done... Women need to do all they can to stand up for equality and what they know they deserve. If you know you are getting paid less than your male colleagues, you have to challenge your management. If you don't say anything, then nothing will change. By agreeing to worse conditions women lose. This is not to say that women should try to negatively bring men down. The right way is to discuss matters in a constructive and productive way. At the end of the day gender doesn't matter; what matters is the person, skills and attitude.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I had great mentors while I was working for international companies, and I learned about industry, corporate practice, networking and more. However, I consider Richard Branson is one of my mentors, despite the fact that we never met. I think he is the wildest and craziest entrepreneur in the world. He is full of energy, life, passion and charisma. And he has consistently taken his businesses to another level. There is so much to learn from him.

I look up to female entrepreneurs such as Estee Lauder, Diane von Furstenberg, Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX and Judy Faulkner, who runs Epic System's private healthcare company. Mrs. Faulkner is one of 26 self-made women billionaires ranked by FORBES. And Sara Blakely is the world's youngest self-made entrepreneur, who turned a small investment into $250 million in annual revenues. And of course, I admire what Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post has achieved. These ladies have truly inspiring stories and I consider them my mentors.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I believe that actions speak louder than words. I admire women who are self-made, who built their fortune from scratch, through hard work, education, strong will and dedication to a cause. I look up to women like Christine Lagarde and Marisa Mayer who have achieved world's top positions for their talent, professionalism and intelligence. I actually mention them in my documentary as well; both of them are my role models. I think Oprah Winfrey is a superstar entrepreneur who has put her fame to good work through opening schools in Africa. The list of woman that I admire is extensive; I think great leaders are Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, Olga Dergunova (former Head of Microsoft Russia), currently head of the Federal Agency for State Property Management, and Wu Yajun, executive director of Longfor Properties Co, in China. I also admire Hollywood star Angelina Jolie for her impressive humanitarian work. She draws a lot of attention to refugee camps and war zone. She inspires people to be compassionate.

What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
Every year I try to work on myself. It could be an education, like taking a new class, reading some books on self-development; no matter what it is, I want to learn something. I've been working hard on my thesis in political science for the past 3 years, so I want to complete my upgrade by end of this year.

I would love to start making another movie. I think I am ready to do a motion picture. So, the plan is to write a movie script and start raising money for the project.

I have been doing a lot of new features and upgrades for my travel/lifestyle project Elite Club and I plane to launch these new developments. I also hope to do one or two charity initiatives throughout 2015 to support other organizations.

And I also want to expand my family and have another baby!

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