Today we meet Alexandra Mechkova – the driving force behind the tech-ed organization Telerik Academy. Alexandra‘s team knows her as a courageous, brave, and empowering leader who leaves a unique trace in everything she does.
We sat together to discuss what has motivated and challenged her throughout her career and how she managed to become the inspiring leader she is today. Let’s get started.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Telerik Academy.
For the past 2-3 years, I have been responsible for Telerik Academy - growing our organization and team, expanding our program offering and portfolio, and working together with the team on our day-to-day operations as well as envisioning and pursuing the next frontiers for us. Before that in 2017 I was part of the team that spun off Telerik Academy into an independent organization when I was primarily responsible for our marketing and sales efforts.
2. What do you love the most about your job?
There are so many things I love about my job! Externally, the opportunity to make an impact both on an individual level (learner’s change towards a better career and life) and on an industry level – helping the IT industry grow 1. in a sustainable way with our junior dev talent and 2. progress towards a more mature future as a product innovation hub with our Upskill programs for Product Management, UX/UI and Digital Marketing, as well as several more value-added disciplines that we’ll soon announce.
Internally, I love working every day with extremely smart and committed colleagues, driven by a shared motivation to change our community, Bulgaria, and the world.
And lastly, what inspires me is the fact that now is one of the most interesting times to be engaged in the sphere of education – the opportunity for change and potential for disruption are immense. Covid-19 started many long-delayed changes across all levels of education and the organizations that today are most ready to adapt, flip everything they do upside-down and leave legacy practices behind, will be the education leaders of tomorrow – something we ourselves strive and are extremely well-positioned to be.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I do believe that when it’s all said and done, the biggest challenges we face are self-inflicted and a result of certain (self-)established expectations of who we should or shouldn’t be.
Business and market challenges are the easier part, they are focused on problem-solution. Overcoming some of our own perceptions and long-established beliefs aka. achieving a change on a personal level, especially in beliefs that have served us well for a long time, is the hard part.
For me, personally, it’s the idea of what a leader must and must not be.
At the very beginning in my current role at Telerik Academy, I devoted a lot of energy thinking about this, pitting myself against a standard, written on the wall that no one else knew about, and it left me very exhausted.
The moment I let go of it is the moment I truly started enjoying my role.
4. If you could share with us one leadership lesson that you’ve learned over the years, what’d it be?
To be authentic to who you are and with the people you work with. I’ve seen many times how with growth many leaders lose that, intentionally or not.
Personally, I think it’s oftentimes a way to hide insecurities at the beginning, which is okay. What I take an issue with is artificially creating the image of the almighty leader, who can do no wrong and knows everything. I think it does an incredible disservice especially to aspiring and young leaders that they need to be that person – that person doesn’t exist and has never existed.
5. Any advice on how to build confidence as a woman in a leadership role? How did you do it?
For me, everything in life has been merit-based and I strongly associate hard work and achievement with building confidence. It may have to do with how I was brought up, so I don’t pretend that is universal.
Once you become a leader, achieving results is only part of the story, the other part has to do with helping others grow and thrive, and the more you invest in this, the more successful you will be as a leader.
6. What sacrifices you’ve made to be where you’re today?
“Work-life balance”, you know? For me, it was never a balance, really, and it is only in the past couple of years that I started paying attention to the latter.
7. How do you unwind and unplug from work?
I used to be one of those “always-on, never off the grid” people, including on vacations.
With time and in the last few years, I realized the time to recharge does not come with an opportunity cost, but not doing it does.
Thanks to the pandemic, in the past year I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time closer to nature. It is ironic that something so drastic had to happen for me/us to realize that life and business go on even if we’re not constantly racing against busy schedules and traffic. So, my way to recharge has been being outdoors as much as possible.
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