At 23, Katerina Lengold became the youngest vice president of the aerospace company in the world. Katerina told us about leaving Astro D44g152tal, her nine-week productivity system, her book and daily habits.
- I grew up in an ordinary Russian family, I spent all my childhood in Moscow. I was not super gifted, but I was very curious. I started reading early, my dad and I even had an agreement: instead of a nap, I read books.
I really liked the encyclopedias, I loved to get new knowledge. And this love has not passed yet! At school, I stepped over several classes: after the third I immediately went to the sixth, after the sixth - into the eighth. Studied the tenth and eleventh grade in a year.
I have several higher educations: I studied cryptography, economics, innovation at the Higher School of Economics, then I studied at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in the field of data science. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I studied computer technology and management, took courses at Harvard Business School.
It seemed to me that with the help of studies I would prepare myself for the realities of life and business. But that did not happen. Now I understand that such a number of educations and a long stay in the academic environment allowed me to postpone real life for some period of time and not to leave the greenhouse as long as possible. Many excellent students are reluctant to crawl out of their cozy academic nest - there they understand how to be the first, how to get the coveted fives. And real life is very different from studying at the university: even even if you completed all five with a plus, this does not guarantee you success.
Despite the education I received at leading universities in the world, I was not ready for my first startup. Funny: cool theoretical training without practice was not applicable. You need to find the strength in yourself to get down to business, which I did.
I moved to America. Moving was not easy: I missed my family very much, and often could not fly back and forth.
I suffered from my own stereotypes - I thought that Americans are superficial and low moral people without a soul and heart. Now most of my friends are Americans, and they are all wonderful people. I found that between Russians and Americans there is much more in common than differences.
The idea to launch the startup appeared completely by accident. Rather, it was a coincidence.
In Boston and its suburbs of Cambridge, where MIT is located, the highest concentration of startups per square meter in the world is even higher than in Silicon Valley. I had no idea, a team - only a lot of courses that I took at the institute. The startup appeared as an experiment: then I participated in the MIT $ 100K competition (business accelerator of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. - Ed.) .
I invited my friends from the aerospace department to work on creating the idea of the company. Throughout the whole year, under the MIT $ 100K, we went through all stages of entrepreneurial activity. As a result, we reached the semifinals and received funds for the initial development.
Having founded the company, I still studied at MIT and passed almost a triple rate of courses. There was not enough time.
In addition, we did not have sufficient finances to accelerate the development of our product. We did everything “on the knee”, with our own hands, until we received the first investment. Lack of time and at first money was compensated by enthusiasm, as is usually the case with young entrepreneurs. My parents were very proud of me. They did not have such experience, therefore, they simply supported and were nearby.
I often laugh that I never had a normal job. Before the company was bought, I held the position of CEO. After purchasing our startup, I became vice president - at 23. I did not have the traditional way from the bottom up, I immediately perched on top. In the process, I figured out how to live on this top - to manage people and myself.
Our startup has built a satellite constellation that allows you to monitor the entire earth's surface. Data from satellites fall into the processing system and the analytical platform. Thus, important changes for our customers are revealed so that they can make the most accurate business decisions. Priority areas are agriculture, environmental monitoring, urban planning, business analytics. Every 90 minutes, new data comes from the satellites.
For example, with the help of images of our companions, farmers can easily determine the optimal location for grazing where there is the required amount of grass. This is one of hundreds of applications of information.
In business and in life there are no only right decisions. I think I have deviated more than once from my compass, but I do not see any problem in this. I am known as the youngest founder of an aerospace startup.
But last summer, I left Astro Digital's operations. I stayed in America, California, and decided to transfer to the other side of the table. Now I am engaged in venture capital investments in international companies. I'm building a platform that allows me to evaluate companies at an early stage for a more efficient investment in startups.
Many modern innovations remind me of a hexagonal wheel - like "they haven’t done this before, thank God they didn’t.
No need to think in innovation, you need to think in solutions to specific problems of specific people. It is necessary to look at the world with wide eyes, pay attention to those problems that exist, and look for ways and teams that can solve these problems.
The essence of flexible The Agile methodology is as follows: instead of doing the whole project and spending several years on it, work on it is divided into several short stages - sprints. Within each sprint, feedback is collected from customers, partners and market representatives. Agile's approach has come close to my usual life.
I have never been able, for example, to make a plan for ten years. I can’t imagine how you can predict your desires in five or ten years.
Instead of huge goal lists, I prefer nine-week sprints. They help me try new things, harmoniously build my life, and conduct experiments. Based on the results of these experiments, I make a decision: I want to move on in this direction or want to try something else.
Based on the Agile methodology, I came up with a planning system and for many years just printed it for myself. About two years ago, I posted it in the public domain. Now it can be downloaded for free from the link in my instagram . To my surprise, the approach was useful not only to me, but also to many other people. The system is used by tens of thousands of people around the world.
About a year ago, a sprint planner appeared on sale. And a couple of months ago I released the book "Just Space" , in which I talk about stuffed cones, ways of productivity and recharging my "batteries". The main feature of my book is that it does not impose the regime of a crazy hamster and a superproductive person who makes people hate themselves and their own lives.
For me, balance is important. I want life to have meaning, success, and pleasure.
Some habits I have already formed, some have just appeared. Since childhood, I loved to eat sweets and flour, but now I am gradually reducing the amount of fast carbohydrates in my diet. This affects not only the waist, but also the efficiency of the brain. I try to fulfill the priority tasks in the morning - this is an important element of my productivity system. I divide large tasks into intervals of 25 minutes using the Pomodoro method (a system where a person works for 25 minutes and rests for 5 minutes.
- Approx. Ed.) .
I try to smile more and look at life positively. When problems arise, I do not accumulate them, but sit down and understand.
It helps to write down our thoughts: when we describe experiences, our reaction to them is transferred from the amygdala, which is responsible for instincts, to the cerebral cortex. It turns out systematically and without a psycho to approach exciting issues.
One of the main books for me is “The Man in Search of Meaning” by Victor Frankl and the “Book of Joy” by Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Literally, I just finished reading the book Becoming - this is Michelle Obama's autobiography. The book has not yet been translated into Russian, but if you read in English, I highly recommend it.
Through her, a new view of the life of the ex-first lady of the United States opens, which caused me a lot of thought.
Entrepreneurship - permanent exit from comfort zones. You need to get rid of the stereotype that your own company is the equivalent of absolute freedom. An entrepreneur, CEO is a person who owes a lot to a lot of people. The following advice was given to me by one of the professors at MIT Business School: "Get out of the building and start talking to people.
" I repeat it every day. Before building your product, communicate with customers, ask them questions, find out what the market really needs. It is very important to learn how to test your hypotheses and get rid of illusions. Before writing the first line of code, conduct a customer interview (interview with the target audience. - Approx.
Ed. ). You may see that you want to move in a completely different direction.