Women in Business Q&A: Anastasia Popova, Marketing Director, Coub

Anastasia joined Coub in February 2014. Born in Siberia, she lives in Moscow and has been working in media and digital for the last 10 years. She began her career as a freelance journalist and interpreter for lifestyle press while studying international economics. In 2010, Anastasia was hired to Vedomosti/Financial Times (Independent Media and Sanoma Magazines) as money crime investigations junior reporter. From there she joined an education startup called Theory and Practice, growing the audience there in one year from 500 to 30,000 unique users a day. After T&P was sold, she worked as a Chief Copywriter for the branding agency Winter in Moscow and re-launched the web presence of Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine in Russia.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
You know what's funny? I have no idea. I started working when I was 16. And it took me some time to start saying no to any job that implies day-to-day work with assholes and idiots-- pardon my French. And always seize the opportunity to have fun and work with somebody I respect for their achievements or the way they do things. That's the golden rule: never go down the aisle if you feel like it's not going to end well.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Coub?
I used to work as a capoeira coach for a while, where I learned how to persuade people to do what I want them to do. And things I ask nowadays are usually much easier than a centre split.

But jokes aside, I don't believe in the idea of a traditional career path. My gigs have included being a journalist, interpreter, copywriter in a small branding agency, and launching a couple of digital media projects as editor-in-chief. I got my Masters degree in International Relations and World Economy. Whatever you do, it all supplements your experience, and one day you realize it's all useful, even though sometimes the bigger picture is a little funny looking.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Coub?
For me personally, challenges and highlights are the same things, to be honest. I'd say my accomplishments would be the undertaking of a huge development, a fast changing product that needs showcasing because the product isn't necessarily easy to explain in plain words.

Continuing to push our consistent growth is the biggest challenge. 50 million people watch us monthly. That's scary, but it's also so exciting.

What advice can you offer women who are looking to enter the tech and business world?
I presume that for the next couple of decades programmers will continue being the rock stars of the tech industry. If you feel like you're up for the challenge, don't be shy, go code. If you don't code, don't hesitate to enter the tech industry as there are still many other fields you can work in such as communications and sales.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Many of my friends also work either in media or tech, and I'm not sure yet if it's a good or a bad thing. The past evening my boyfriend and I were talking about the essence and key ingredients of media virality instead of watching a TV series, for instance. I like it though. I'm not a very organized person, but I make sure to find time to play sports, go for a drink, a walk, check out a museum. The only thing that I wish I had more time for is books. I don't read half as much, as I used to 10 years ago. Now I read email.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Personally, I haven't experienced any; where I worked gender never mattered. Age did however. Sometimes people are scared if you're too young, they fear you won't be able to make executive decisions and are not responsible enough. Luckily I seem to have grown beyond that.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I believe a good mentor never actually mentors you, he or she just acts in some particular way that makes you want to learn from them. So I'm not sure how exactly some people influenced me. My former editor Irina Reznik (Vedomosti-Financial Times) sort of played that role, having taught me how to fish out information from someone who wasn't necessarily eager to share it. My parents showed me how to stay cool when everything is rapidly going to hell. My boxing coach explained how to wait and strike back. All of these various lessons have proven useful.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Ada Lovelace, first programmer in the world. Friends with Michael Faraday and Charles Dickens, she created the first algorithm to be carried out by a machine. Ada was also a visionary, being the first (and at that time -- only) person asking questions about the analytical capability of the computers, i.e. the capability to go beyond simple calculation. She rocked, really. If I have a daughter, I'll name her Ada.

What do you want Coub to accomplish in the next year?
Twice as big an audience, brand awareness worldwide. I also want Coub to be used by journalists, creative professionals, school kids, students, models, designers, -- everybody!

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