Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Anna Agafonova is Women of Wearables ambassador in Bangkok, Thailand. Originally from Russia, Anna has been living and working in the UK, China, Hong Kong and Thailand. She has built a successful career in the executive search building the teams across the globe and helping strategy consulting companies and top startups in finding their best talent. After 12 fruitful years in the corporate world, she has decided to change the stability to a madness of a startup. As part of her role as General Manager of VResorts, she is currently bringing a Virtual Intelligence into this world, creating Virtual Reality masterpieces for hotels and help them with the distribution. She has also created FemTechAsia - a career platform for female technologists looking to evolve their careers in the Asian technology markets.
Anna, welcome to WoW team! Tell us a bit more about yourself; your background and how you became interested in the world of technology and wearable technology.
I have spent 12 years in executive recruitment working for an international company in Moscow, then I moved to Shanghai and after that to Hong Kong. I was always recruiting for strategy consulting businesses with a big focus on innovation and digital over time. Around a year ago I decided to leave the corporate world and was incredibly lucky to have an opportunity to be a part of a unique startup in Virtual Reality - VResorts. To add to that, I am an Advisor for a job search platform exclusively for female technologists in Asia - FemTechAsia.
How did you find out about Women of Wearables?
I was a member of the Women in Tech community in Hong Kong which I found to be very helpful in many ways. When I first came to Thailand I wanted to be a part of a similar union, however I failed to find anything even a bit similar to Women in Business/Tech and I decided to create it by myself. I simply googled the women in tech globally, where WoW was the first link.
You are an entrepreneur yourself, General Manager Asia for VResorts and Advisor for FemTechAsia. What is the idea behind your projects and business? When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
I believe that when you have a very strong thought in your mind there will always be an opportunity for it. I wanted to leave recruitment and corporate businesses for some time, however I only got what I wanted when I actually decided to take a step and leave. From that moment, everything happened in a heartbeat. I met my good friend in the airport (he was actually one of my placements), who was setting up a VR company. We are currently building our business globally bringing a Virtual Intelligence concept into this world - we are creating VR content for hotels and helping them with their distribution, so they can sell more.
On top of that, being in recruitment for so long and having a strong interest in developing the female community in Asia, I am advising for a young platform FemTech.Asia, which is a job search website purely focusing on women technologists and their career in Asia
What was the biggest obstacle? How about biggest achievement?
We are doing something that no one has ever done before. At first I thought it would be very easy to sell and get a great engagement, however I found it even tougher than driving a highly competitive product or solution; that is because there is no data, ROI and the biggest difficulty is actually selling the value. I personally know that it is the greatest solution and I love our product so the biggest challenge is to show it to our customers. For the achievement I will combine it with your next question and will say that my biggest achievement is to keep going when nothing is going your way. I have changed my lifestyle and work environment, sacrificed all my previous achievements and recognized I must try something different in an area I have never worked before, learning new skills every day. It has been nothing but amazing.
How does the tech ecosystem look in Bangkok and Asia in general?
Tech in Asia is absolutely booming at the moment, every mid-large scale company is going through a digital transformation or putting digital as a priority in their agenda. Everything is about growth, new developments and launching new products. It is very exciting to be a part of this journey. However it is a very male dominant market that is what brings me to your next question:
What will be your main goals as Women of Wearables Ambassador in Bangkok?
I see a huge potential for the WoW community to make a real change. There are very many different ad hoc meetups, some very special gatherings for females technologists, however there is nothing systematic or regular. I see a key challenge in joining the community together, creating a platform where everyone has a chance to ask, speak and get advice.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables.