Perseverance, Opportunity Creation Pays Off for Russia’s Alena Vladimirskaya
At her lowest point, she was eight months pregnant and her husband had left her, recalled Alena Vladimirskaya. She had been living her dream, working as an intern at Elle Magazine in Russia (she wanted to be the editor there someday) but instead she had to leave and go back to her small home town.
“Women do not need to block their vision and think there is nothing left for them!” Alena said. “They should always move forward.” She smiled as she explained how things turned out for her. She gave birth to a beautiful daughter, met and has been married to the love of her life for 22 years, and now has her own business.
After her lowest point, Alena’s career took several unimaginable twists and turns that ultimately brought her to a well-known and highly-respected position. Today, Alena is a foremost headhunting expert in Russia, and Founder and CEO of the recruiting company Pruffi, and its counterpart, Pruffi Friends – a social app where you can recommend your friends for a job and get rewards. She also mentors Sasha Olenina of We Study In, whom we featured last week.
“If someone would have told me years ago what I would be doing now – working in recruiting – I would have laughed and thought it was boring.” Coming from a family of journalists, Alena initially thought she would follow in her family’s footsteps so she studied journalism at Moscow State University. But after she had to go back home to have her daughter, she opened radio stations in the area and through her work became well known. She saved money to buy her first apartment. One day, Alena was invited to work in St. Petersburg at the largest radio station, for a large media holding company. The company had a recruiting and hiring publication and wanted to move it online. So, they decided to open internet division. “At the time, I didn’t even know what the internet was,” Alena said. “It was all new – but I volunteered to help and got the job getting the newspaper online. My fear of not knowing what to do or be was what motivated me.”
“My fear of not knowing what to do or be was what motivated me.”
As she had success in St. Petersburg, the media holding company invited her to do the same thing in Moscow. “It was a hard time though because my husband and daughter stayed in St. Petersburg and I had to work with new people and with a new team in Moscow. I had to establish myself as a leader in a new place.”
Alena went on to be one of the leading head hunters with the HH.RU service (Monster for Russia). This was during the time, that the internet sector in Russia was just 10 years old and was developing fast. Alena was well known in the industry and went on to work at a big company, Mail.ru. As it was entering IPO, Alena came up with an idea to recruit people from other companies to work for them. She shared her idea with the CEO and he agreed.
When she left Mail.ru to start Pruffi in 2010, “it was a radically different experience,” Alena said. “We moved into a small room and I had only one other person to work with me, not even a personal assistant. There was no health insurance, and I wasn’t not sure what to do…there was just lots of paperwork.” Her family ate pasta every single day to scrape by.
People from her old company supported her and she had a part-time contract with them for half of the year. “I am not sure I would have made it without their help,” Alena said. “I learned that in order to be successful, you don’t need to be very experienced, you just have to use your resources and your connections smarter.” Because of her connections, Alena didn’t have to look for the clients – they found her. When former clients learned that she left Mail.Ru, they approached her.
Still, Alena said, she’s made all the business mistakes that a person can make – developing too fast, taking on too much capital (she said she wouldn’t take the $1.2 million USD she raised in venture capital if she could do it over again); but she and her team persevered. Now, her core team at Pruffi has 16 people and well known clients such as Groupon, RuTube, Mail.ru, Rambler, HeadHunter, RBC, Morton, and many others.
“The goal for a recruiter is to not to be successful themselves but to help young talent grow and develop people – to help businesses and change the word for the better.”
When we asked to interview her, Alena generously said, “I would love to assist you with sharing ideas with women globally.” She thinks women are the ones that take more responsibility, are eager to grow, learn, and take opportunities, which is why the majority of her staff at Pruffi are women.
Now, Alena is working on expanding her company and business abroad, networking, and is eager to help others do business in Russia.