Oksana Goncharova is the Managing Director for the Material Information Platform at Ansarada. She works closely with the strategy, sales, marketing and product development teams, helping lead the company’s transformation from operating in the deal execution space to an always-on AI-powered platform for businesses, advisors, and financial sponsors.
She has lived in more than 10 countries and speaks five languages. In 2012 she moved to Australia as part of the startup team created by Rocket Internet, which founded THE ICONIC. The team grew THE ICONIC business from ground zero to a multi-million dollar revenue with more than 300 employees in less than four years.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Traveling has impacted my professional and personal life in ways I never imagined. Having lived and worked in countries like Italy, Germany, Singapore and everywhere in between, I’ve been exposed to a diverse range of people and cultures. Everyone you encounter has their own story — their own challenges, their own dreams, their own inspiration — and the role of any good leader is to learn how to relate to them. I can’t stress how important it is to have an open mind and show compassion toward the people you work with. It’s your job as a leader to encourage hard work and determination, and never stop being an inspiration.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Ansarada?
Someone once said, “A good leader takes people where they want to go, but a great leader takes people where they should be.” Having been a part of the founding team at THE ICONIC — an Australian fashion e-commerce giant— I learned firsthand this statement couldn’t be more true. To be successful in the fast-changing world of tech, you need to have trust in yourself and your team in order to adapt and innovate. That trust is what allowed us to grow to over 300 employees and $100 million in revenue in just four years. Putting a focus on innovation encourages your team to take risks, dream big and understand the importance of decision-making as it relates to overall progress.
My experiences have also reiterated the importance of ensuring diversity and having an open mind. At THE ICONIC, I worked with a diverse team of fashion designers, creative personalities and consultants, whereas now I’m constantly interacting with financial experts, data and AI scientists and engineers. Having an open mind makes working with a diverse team so much more productive, and the ability to actually drive and advocate for diversity teaches you invaluable lessons for life.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Ansarada?
Our team faced our share of challenges leading up to the launch of our Material Information Platform (MIP), but if I could go back and do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. For nine months we worked (sometimes through weekends) to develop our first-of-its-kind product. In the final weeks before launch, we traveled to 11 cities to tease the new platform to our clients — venture capitalists, partners at law firms, managing directors at investment banks, CXOs — to give us early feedback and validate our view of the problems faced in the industry. The fact we pulled this off in three weeks and learned that problems faced in Australia have relevance in the rest of the world was a major highlight.
The day after launch, I remember the team coming together to outline what we were going to achieve from thereon out: get 10 clients within three months and align on a set of metrics that would help us gauge their interest in our product and support our go-to-market strategy. We also decided to not rely on our sales staff to bring the MIP to market. We launched a firm-wide redesign that allowed us to invest more in automation and capacity creation, and accelerate growth across all teams. While this caused initial setback, it ultimately benefited the whole company and supported our unanimous decision to raise the bar so we could continue to grow.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
My advice to women is the same as what I’d give to men: never stop learning. Never stop bettering yourself and being curious. The best way to create the future is to make the past irrelevant, and to do that is to always seek out new opportunities and remain ruthlessly open-minded. John Maxwell says, “The human mind is like an elastic band. You can expand your capacity and potential to make anything possible.” That’s a motto I encourage everyone to apply to their everyday lives.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
To be a leader is to be a servant. As a leader, so much of what we do is dependent on our people and learning how to constantly inspire and relate to them. Being a successful leader isn’t about being a perfectionist, it’s having the ability to raise the potential of your team by serving them.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Working globally, at times, makes it difficult to find balance — especially when I’m working with other countries because Australia isn’t the most convenient location in terms of time zones. But having a job I’m passionate about makes it easy for me to go to work every day. My secret to staying energized and productive is making my work weeks as diverse as possible. I like to block my calendar with things I’m passionate about (like meditating or boxing) to help me reflect and then plan my meetings around that. I’m fortunate to work for a company that sees the importance of me pursuing my passions in order to give me the fuel I need to do my job.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The fact that women are even asked these questions says we need more female role models in the workplace. While I don’t doubt gender bias exists, I think the solution is to normalize the idea of women in business by hiring more women in traditionally male roles. And it goes both ways. We need diversity from men in dominantly female professions, too. The fact is, either gender is capable of doing any job role, it’s the environment that influences what success looks like from each.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having mentors in my life has been incredibly helpful to my career and I’m forever thankful for everyone who’s helped me understand what I’m passionate about and what I’m good at. Our CEO Sam Riley, for example, has helped me realize that as a naturally results-oriented person, I am good at inspiring people. I try to apply this every day by serving people within our organization and raising their potential.
If Sam and CFO Rachel Riley have taught me anything, it’s that I could never work for someone I didn’t consider a mentor because I believe you need someone to hold you accountable for the goals you set for yourself and guide you toward the path to help you achieve them. Mentors should help you understand why you’re valuable and what your purpose is, which makes any experience — whether personal or professional — that much more rewarding.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Natalia Vodianova. Many know her for her modelling career, but her life story and what she’s accomplished in her life is so much more attractive. Natalia grew up in a small Siberian village with a little sister who was born severely handicapped. Because her family wasn’t wealthy, she had to help support her family financially from young age until she became famous. After a successful career as a model, Natalia wanted to refocus her time on charity work and founded the Naked Heart Foundation — a Russian charity for children inspired by her sister. She was also behind the implementation of the equality in education law in Russia that advocates for equal education for disabled persons.
On top of it all, she launched her own startup — Elbi — and is a mother to five children. She’s the definition of a driving force and a true influence to me.
What do you want Ansarada to accomplish in the next year?
Just a few months ago, we launched our Material Information Platform (MIP), the world’s first AI-powered platform for companies, investors and advisors. Since then, we’ve been on an impressive growth path. Most people don’t realize the business-critical events that take place on our platform are actually emotional because the stakes are high for the hundreds of people involved. I’m particularly proud of what we’ve achieved because the MIP gives people the ability to maximize their value and potential. In the next year, I’d like to see more companies grow and redefine the way they operate as a direct result of us bringing our product to market globally.