A Woman with a Vision - Meet with Victoria Zagorsky - Stylfemina

A Woman with a Vision – Meet with Victoria Zagorsky

I see every woman today busy in building her dreams through a personal recipe. The beauty of the present Industrial Revolution is the awareness that women are fostering towards personal growth and innovative development. I have been recently introduced indirectly to Victoria Zagorsky and I instantly developed liking for her. She is different. She is exceptionally intelligent and irresistibly charming. Her vision towards empowerment is charged with passion and determination. Here is my conversation with Victoria Zagorsky, I am sure you would love to meet with her too.

  1. Tell us about yourself, your expertise, your life and what you feel should be your contribution as a modern world citizen.

I have been fortunate to live in the Middle East for over 20 years, and I consider myself a global citizen.

Driven by a mission to make a positive contribution to building a knowledge- and innovation-based economy, I launched Insight Middle East and Africa, a platform to empower the region to embrace 21st-century technologies in order to unlock the economic and social potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Insight Middle East and Africa envisions the region at the forefront of global digital innovation. To inspire progress and empower technology-driven transformation, our platform champions best practices, educates the next generation of technology leaders, and convenes action-focused communities of stakeholders.

We engage governments, academia, think tanks, society, business organizations, start-ups, and experts to work together to accelerate innovation.

I am proud that Insight Middle East and Africa has supported over a hundred high-profile regional and international events and trainings as an official media partner. These include Smart Data Summit Dubai, GCC Cyber Security Summit and Middle East Cyber Security Conference & Exhibition, Research & Results Trade Show in Munich, Data Driven Business Conference in London, and Predictive Analytics World in New York.

Through collaboration with members and stakeholders, Insight Middle East and Africa leverages the unique contributions of diverse professionals and organizations to realize the full potential of the game-changing impacts of emerging technologies.

Our platform proudly supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aiming to make a positive contribution to closing the global skills gap and advancing gender equality.

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  1. What were the motivating triggers to becoming a Chief Insight and Strategy Officer at Persontyle UK? Please share the story of your journey with us.

Persontyle UK is the founding member of the European Data Science Academy, which was launched with the objective of delivering much-needed learning tools for closing the skills gap in Data Science in the European Union. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

As part of our commitment to empower the Middle East region to realize the benefits of emerging technologies, Persontyle UK, in partnership with the School of Data Science and Engineering, UK, launched training programs in Oman to help business and technology leaders practically learn emerging technologies for innovation and digital transformation.

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The Certified AI Business Professional program designed by the School of Data Science and Engineering, UK and based on the skills framework and curriculum of the European Data Science Academy was received very positively by the industry. Following this success, Persontyle UK, in collaboration with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) Oman, STFS, Oman Blockchain Club, DSME Foundation, and Global Blockchain Consortium, launched the Certified Blockchain Business Professional program to provide a practical and applied understanding of the blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), use cases enterprise platform solutions, open source frameworks, and industry best practices.

In 2018, in response to the unprecedented opportunities that emerging technologies present for the future of Oman, its economy and people, Persontyle UK, in partnership with the Higher College of Technology, held the Oman Industrial Revolution 4.0 Summit, which brought together the region’s top leaders, business decision makers, and technology innovators, for a strategic discussion on how to effectively harness the power of emerging technologies to drive sustainable growth.

VZ 269x300 - A Woman with a Vision - Meet with Victoria ZagorskyAt this summit, I had the privilege to moderate the panel discussions on developing 21st-century talent and deliver the keynote speech on artificial intelligence applications, examples, and best practices.

With almost 250 delegates, including influential technology experts, senior business leaders, distinguished officials, government representatives, students, and members of academia, the summit received widespread praise for the intellectual quality of the presentations and the high-level networking opportunities it provided.

Inspired by this positive response, our team at Persontyle UK was delighted to continue the partnership with the Higher College of Technology to expand the scope of the Oman Industrial Revolution 4.0 initiative by launching the Oman IR 4.0 Meetup series.

Oman IR 4.0 Meetup events feature interesting and thought-provoking presentations by invited speakers to showcase new research ideas, industry case studies and use cases, best practices, and latest trends.

In 2019, we launched the initiative “Embracing Emerging Technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with the inaugural event held in partnership with the Visionary Mindset Professionals & Development Management in the UAE. Here, it was an honor to host Dr. Kai Bruns, Senior Research and Innovation Manager at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) and Innovation Ecosystem Builder at the Mohamed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity, who shared his insights into the design thinking process.

  1. If you were to start your career all over, where would you begin, and what would you do?

I would not change anything. While studying at the American University in Dubai, I discovered a love for data and analytics. I was fortunate to start my career at Nielsen, a leading global information and measurement company that provides market research, insights, and data about what people watch, listen to, and buy.

I did an MBA at the University of Massachusetts, and through various training programs, I continued to educate myself in the field of business intelligence and advanced analytics.

Having gained experience on the agency side of the business, I joined Citibank as the Consumer Insights Manager, providing insight leadership and contributing to building a customer-centric organization.

Fascinated by Big Data, I advanced my skills by taking courses on Hadoop, machine learning, and programming languages, including R and Python.

This expertise in data and technologies, coupled with business acumen, aids in empowering the world’s most innovative organizations on their digital transformation journey.

  1. What have proved to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses? How did you work on your abilities to achieve your goals?

Victoria speaking 300x200 - A Woman with a Vision - Meet with Victoria ZagorskyI attribute my success to determination, grit, passion, positivity, and optimism. I love working with clients and enjoy teaching emerging technology programs. Seeing the results of my work is so inspiring that I feel energized to work 100-hour weeks, without getting burnt out. I agree with Elon Musk that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” When asked how many hours a week he thought were necessary, Musk replied, “[it] varies per person, but about 80 sustained, peaking above 100 at times. Pain level increases exponentially above 80.” I feel that truly loving and being passionate about your work helps you keep going even after experiencing failure.

I don’t consider myself to be a good multitasker. Client engagements, training programs, and speaking engagements often require multitasking to stay on top of the work, so I continually practice techniques to help me work more effectively.

Working with a mentor has been a truly transformational experience. She has been a great inspiration and provided guidance and insight into how to make the most of my strengths and overcome weaknesses, to take my career to the next level.

  1. What is the biggest challenge you faced and how did you brave it? Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react, and how did you overcome this failure?

I love challenges! A challenge usually offers me an opportunity to move out of my comfort zone, try something new, and grow. I recently managed a project involving 60 countries, and at the outset, I underestimated its complexity. Although it was delivered on time, the issues I faced in achieving this made me think how similar projects in the future could be handled more efficiently. As a result of this experience, I was in a better position to work on developing the Insight AI Cloud to meet client requirements.

  1. Who has inspired you in your life, and why?

I find great inspiration in my colleagues and clients, but Professor Robert Nakosteen of the University of Massachusetts ranks top in those who have inspired me. He provided me with hands-on training in applying statistics, and his instruction fueled my passion for data science.

  1. What is one advice you feel that you need to give yourself?

I constantly remind myself of the importance of adopting a growth mindset. Those who believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others have this growth mindset. A fixed mindset, in contrast, assumes that basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of lack of intelligence or talent but as a starting point to learn, stretch existing abilities, and propel oneself into an opportunity for growth. I have placed the quote by Bill Gates “It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” in my office as an inspiration to view challenges as opportunities for taking my career to the next level. I also believe it is important to acknowledge and embrace weaknesses in order to be in a position to overcome them.

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  1. As a woman who believes in herself, how did you find people around you reacting to what you feel most passionate about? Are they supportive, do they like to see an independent-thinking and working woman of ideas?

My passion is empowering the region to unlock the potential of emerging technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era.

Insight Middle East and Africa provides a platform to advance women, advocating passionately for women in the region to be involved in technology. Interestingly, technology is the only STEM discipline where the participation of women has declined in the past 20 years.

Like many women, I have to deal with stereotypes and overcome barriers. Fortunately, the UAE’s visionary leadership believes in the power of women, the role they can play in society, and their contribution to advancing the country.

As Queen Rania of Jordan said at the 2016 Global Women’s Forum in Dubai, “there is no better place than the UAE for inspiring women… the UAE has achieved tremendous gains, having encouraged women to break beyond boundaries.”

  1. While women empowerment is important, we should also recognise the power of men in supporting women. Is there a man who has played a key role in your personal growth and success? If so, who is he, and how did he influence you? 

My father has played an instrumental role in my personal growth and success, and I am grateful to him for his great wisdom and kindness. A man of integrity, he instilled in me drive, work ethic, and grit. I always look to him for guidance and inspiration.

In the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Nahyan has impacted the lives of women through his inspiring vision as the Father of the Nation. He and HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid are true role models, and their commitment to supporting women has played a critical role in fostering diversity and empowering women to lead.

  1. Are there any tips from your side for women who are currently planning for their future?

The annual World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, published in December 2018, found that the most challenging gender gap remains in the economic sphere, and it will take 202 years to close. I believe that women’s empowerment is the single greatest enabler of human development and economic growth. Women need to be guaranteed equal rights, skills, and access to opportunities.

Responsibility for our future lies in our own hands. One of the most powerful tips that I received at the beginning of my career was to avoid waiting for opportunities to come along and focus on creating them instead. This has shaped my professional journey and helped me achieve my goals.

What we need to remember is that we live in an exciting era, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution presenting many opportunities. It is vital to continue learning and acquiring new skills to prepare ourselves for the future.

Also, the way we approach failure determines our ability to make our dreams a reality. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the key to achieving greater levels of success is to learn to leverage failure.

As Jeff Bezos says, “failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.”

With a positive mindset, passion, determination to succeed, and resilience, the sky is the limit!

  1. What are your top three priorities currently?

First of all, I facilitate Design Sprints to help some of the world’s leading organizations answer strategic questions, design new products, and develop new features, through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. To maximise ROI for my clients, I constantly educate myself on new strategies to effectively leverage emerging technologies.

Second, as part of my effort to make a positive contribution to developing sustainable national human capital in the Middle East and Africa, I deliver a number of training programs with a focus on emerging technologies, including digital transformation, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and fintech. I am keen to equip the talent in the region with 21st-century skills, through the latest world-class training programs. Additionally, I am currently working on developing an innovation program that focuses on integrating design thinking and systems thinking approaches to empower transformative change in complex organizations.

And last but not least, committed to enabling enterprises to transform, innovate, and successfully run their business on the cloud, I evangelize SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS solutions to clients and partners in the Middle East and Africa.

Insight Middle East and Africa is launching Insight AI Cloud, the region’s first AI-powered data marketplace connecting providers and users of data. This platform is being introduced following the success of initiatives including Insight Middle East and Africa’s Open Data portal, which provides access to data catalogs in 59 markets across the region, and World in Numbers, which helps visualize key economic indicators and data from sources such as CIA’s The World Factbook and the World Bank, for a period of 10 years, across over 100 countries.

Data is key to making this region the smartest and happiest in the world. Recognizing that data will drive a new wave of economic prosperity, by being a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship and propelling the knowledge economy into an innovation economy, with the direct GDP contribution estimated at over 1%, Insight AI Cloud will help the region unlock the benefits of data.

  1. How has your life changed while you have mentored start-ups?

Making the economies in the region more innovative and entrepreneurial is one of the key areas of focus at Insight Middle East and Africa. I consider myself very lucky to work with some of the most promising start-ups in the region, as well as in the United States. One of the things that has helped get me where I am today is the extensive network of mentors and advisors I have connected with along the way. Today, I am delighted to share what I’ve learned over the years with new entrepreneurs. It is inspiring to see diversity in business ideas and new approaches to utilizing emerging technologies to solve challenges.

  1. What advice would you have for a beginning business owner?

It is important to take the time to do market research, to listen carefully, and to empathize with the client’s needs. This is often overlooked, but it can spell the difference between success and failure. Develop a clear understanding of the problem that your product or service is attempting to solve and how it differs from other offerings in the market. Consider the customer and their needs as a starting point in your business journey, and the rest will fall into place as you develop a product that fills the gap.

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