“Equal does not mean the same”- Iryna Ashukina 


“Equal does not mean the same”- Iryna Ashukina 

On July 30 and 31 Armenia hosted the biggest-in-its-kind global event in the South Caucasus region - FemInno. The title of the initiative is a blend of the words feminism and innovation and its goal is to promote women leadership in business, science and technology. The event brought together participants from over 30 countries including Germany, USA, Canada, Nigeria, U.A.E. and of course, Armenia.  Philip Morris International PMI Science R&D center Armenia - the third in the global network of R&D centers set up by PMI to reach its vision of smoke-free future, was one of the key partners of the event. In the framework of this event Regional Post had an opportunity to talk to one of the speakers - Iryna Ashukina from Switzerland, who is the Global Head of Product QIntelligence at PMI and who is managing a part of PMI Science Data team here in Armenia.


Iryna, let me ask you on your participation to the FemInno conference. What is the message you want to bring to this event?

First of all, my role is to represent PMI Science and secondly, to encourage the females to go into the tech industry. Now, we really see a limited number of them in the sector, only some 25 per cent occupying jobs in the computer-based areas globally. I believe, for me personally, and for the society it’s extremely important that we see gender diversity in all the areas of the business, including tech. It brings profit, it brings different consumer perspectives. Companies with more diverse senior management have more chances to be more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits. This is what we females should bear in mind while considering our choices and opportunities and this is what men, managing and leading corporations, have to take into account. So, it is super important for me to speak about this and to tell the audience: “female are different but we are still equal”. 



What about uneven sharing of leading positions among men and women in different sectors? I mean what if holding majority of senior positions in area A for males is ok while they can be in minority in area B? 

I partially agree with your point. At the same time studies show a correlation between companies with females in senior positions and profitability. So, it would have been a missed opportunity for the tech business to not have females in senior roles. It only requires to break this glass ceiling of misperception and misbelief that girls can’t do math or that they are not good at tech. They are, actually, good at whatever they chose to do. They have talent and perseverance. 

Is this your first time in Armenia and what are your impressions from the country, from the tech industry as much as you got the chance to know it? 

Speaking about Armenia, it is my first time here actually, and I’m really impressed with the country, its culture, history and hospitality. I am equally impressed with the development of the tech industry here. I managed to meet a few Philip Morris partners here and the speed at which all the sector is developing is really amazing. The quality of the services they provide and the quality of the personnel they manage to hire (and this is equally important as the rest) is really impressive. Top notch, great job done! 

Iryna, would you like to share some of your career experiences with our readers? 

With pleasure. I started my career in the factory of Philip Morris as an administrative assistant and at my very first interview I told the director that I would like to take over his position “maybe in 5 years”, and back then I was just a 20-year-old girl and he was a man in his sixties. I quickly came to realize that if I am serious about my ambition (and I was) and I need to study how business operates. So, while learning on the job from every possible source I enrolled to the university to get the second major in economics. That was the first important lesson – invest into relevant knowledge for tomorrow. So, I progressed through procurement ranks and was planning to continue my career in supply chain when a new challenge came. I got an offer to move to manufacturing as a production unit manager. I received it and became a boss of 120 blue-collar men which was tough in the beginning but rewarding in the long run. That enriched my experience immensely and paved the way to where I am now. So, lesson number two is being open for changes. Since then I’ve led a factory in Romania and a factory in South Korea with few hundreds of employees each. One year ago I shifted again and became the head of quality intelligence team bringing value through data. 



Was it difficult to raise through the ranks and what experiences shaped you as a professional that you are now?   

At the beginning I was scared a little bit because I had never been exposed to data science, data engineering. But ultimately anything can be learned and spent quite some time going back to school and learning statistics. I’m not afraid to ask questions to my peers, to anybody and they normally guide me to the sources where I can read them. It’s a long way obviously for me to go and I’m not a data science expert but this is not impossible. So here is the lesson number three – it is never too late to learn something new. 

And a final one: what would be your advice to newcomers, to the women who want to start a career in tech and have ambitious career goals in it? 

My advice would be the same for women and men alike. We are equal even though we are not the same. You are shaping your reality yourself. It’s in your mind who you can be and what you can do, so, trust in yourself, develop yourself, as knowledge is key and don’t be shy to be different. Diversity is beautiful not only in terms of gender but of ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and everything else. The more different perspectives there are, the better it is for the society, for the company, and ultimately. We are not the same but we are equal.  


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