(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Alissa is a Co-Founder and CEO of Estelon – one of the world’s most luxurious speaker brands. The company was founded by Alfred Vassilkov and his two daughters (Alissa and Kristiina) in 2010. She has helped the company to become one of the leading brands in the industry, today offering its highly acclaimed speakers in 31 countries worldwide.
What makes you do what you do?
The first thing that drives me is an opportunity to work with the family and the people I love. I am very proud of my father’s work, and I want to show the whole world how great listening to music can be.
In our team, we are surrounded by very talented people and with their help, we can proudly create and present a product that is among the best in the world. It is very challenging, but also exciting to build something that is so unique. It gives a very special feeling.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
What really helped us in getting here is our will to work hard. We did not give up when we had hard times or were too tired, we continued surprising the audience with new products and made more and more customers happy. Their positive feedback gave us the strength to continue and become better. There will always be times when you feel tired, but it is important to remember your goals and do not give up.
If you know what you want and if you work hard – I think anything is possible. You just need to find the way how to achieve it. And do not get scared of the setbacks. They only make you stronger.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
When we started 8 years ago, I was 24. I was young and suddenly in a business that was dominated by men. I was new to the industry, I did not know the rules. But I did not see it as a problem at all. Being young and brave is a good thing – you think you are all-mighty and take on challenges you won’t take on when you are more experienced.
And in the end, what mattered the most was my love towards music and strong desire to support my fathers’ idea. I was honored to start a business together. And since I have my father’s genes, I think I was well accepted in this industry.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I did not really have anyone as a mentor. But what really helped me was books. My big thank you goes to Richard Branson. He really inspired me to take on challenges and try to make things happen. He’s “screw it, let’s do it” attitude was really something that made me braver and I wanted to try.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I keep on reading. There is so much to learn from other people, especially from someone operating in a different industry. You get so many hints regarding what to try in your own business. Good examples and experience of others always inspire.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Diversity is always good – you get different opinions and ideas. This is very similar to what I mentioned regarding getting ideas from other industries. If you have a team with different people, you get many different ideas and opinions. But different opinions on how things can be done, won’t get you there. What is important – is to have a common understanding and a goal. If this is clear then the whole team works towards the same goal and offers ideas that support that goal. And the more ideas we get here, the bigger the chance that something ingenious will be born.
But in our organization, there is no strategy or quotas regarding who should be hired. We hire based on people’s talent and that is the most important thing.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Be kind to people. Whatever the situation, avoid conflicts. Even if people are not nice to you, be nice to them. It helps you save your nerves and energy and focus on the right things.
I have always believed that people around you are the key to everything. Is it employees, partners, suppliers – does not matter. Keep that network on the safe side, because there will always be a situation when you will need their support.
Advice for others?
Be open to learning. Especially from people who are more experienced and can share their experience in one or another field of expertise. Then you do not have to do the same mistakes and can choose a quicker path to success.
If you’d like to get in touch with Alissa Vassilkova, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alissavassilkova/.
To learn more about Estelon, visit www.estelon.com