Anastasia Dedyukhina
photo by Angelina Moskalenko

Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a bestselling author, workplace wellbeing pioneer and the founder of Consciously Digital.

A company which started from her own attempt to find a tech/life balance whilst working in the tech sector, and has since grown into a network of over 130 coaches around the world who guide organisations in how to enhance the wellbeing and mental health of employees in the online world.

Anastasia regularly speaks and writes about mental health and digital wellbeing, including as a two-time TedX speaker, and has pioneered research on measurements of digital wellbeing at work, as well as teaching the first digital wellbeing certification program approved by two major coaching associations, ICF and NBHWC.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role:

I speak, write and teach about the impact of digital technology on humanity. I wear many hats – public speaker (over 1000 global conferences), author, founder of the network of digital wellbeing coaches Consciously Digital, director of the first international certification programme in digital wellbeing accredited by two major coaching associations, ICF and NBHWC (www.consciously-digital.com/coaches). I also act as a mentor for start-ups, guiding them on tech ethics.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did, big time – and it was a total failure! As a good MBA (SDA Bocconi/NYU Stern grad), I perfectly followed the scripted path, networked the hell out of myself, worked on my resume for hundreds of hours, and did all the tedious and boring work. It certainly gave some results (with a big price of nearly a burnout) and led me to pretty much hate my life and myself, when I ended up in a “perfect” job – a client director for an international marketing agency, working on a major tech brand.

And all the current success came from the unscripted part when I started listening to myself. The first thing I did was to give up my smartphone to help me get some inner silence and take a break from my crazy career race to understand what is it that I want and can do. And then things started unfolding – I managed to get for free into an expensive coaching programme, did a TEDx talk, wrote a book, and all of a sudden ended up riding a big wave of a big tech ethics movement.

The moral is, to stop following the script and pretend you can plan your career or life. The world is changing too fast for it! Take time to observe what’s happening around you reconnect with yourself and your true desires, and align the two!!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Of course, I did – I don’t think I’ve formulated them as challenges though, it was just a daily routine. A story from my early career. Just after the MBA I managed to get a dream job in London, in the middle of the recession. I was supposed to be doing marketing for Hollywood films for Eastern European markets. But my work visa was denied 3 times by the UK government without giving any explanation, and while I was reapplying, my dream job was gone. This was a total blow, of course – all my classmates were settled, and I was jobless and without documents, with no idea what to do next. This whole thing lasted for about 8 months, and what helped me not go crazy was starting to draw pictures.

When I finally got the visa, although the job was gone, I still decided to come to the UK out of principle, ended up doing bits and pieces for various companies, and started basically rebuilding my career from the scratch, from very low-paid internships to higher positions. One thing I learned when I was studying in the US was to constantly learn new skills, and I figured out pretty quickly that my MBA didn’t add much value once I was already out of the hiring marathon, and that the skills that are being requested are the ability to work with the data. So I taught myself to do it and started getting more interesting work. Of course, it was hurtful for the ego at the time (and MBA does tend to blow your ego big time), but you have to adapt to what’s happening in the world.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Building the whole business and digital wellbeing movement as one person with zero marketing budget. Making myself a global name, selling over 10000 copies of my book without using any PR or publishing support (because nobody wanted me at the time)

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I had a friend in the US military who told me the main principle they were taught in the army – Keep walking towards your goal, no matter what. When you cannot walk, crawl towards your goal. When you cannot crawl, lie towards your goal. I’m very consistent and good at lying towards my goals, although it might take a few years

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Stop putting yourself into boxes of what your job should be called, or what your education should be in order to be suitable for a tech career. Also, please stop telling yourself that you aren’t educated enough. The market is changing so fast that endless opportunities are emerging. I’ve seen so many women losing their chances just because they think that they need to tick some boxes on a resume – the truth is, you could soon become the person who is hiring these people if instead of trying to fit someone else’s criteria, you attentively look at what’s emerging and where opportunities are.

I would also recommend doing 3-4 internships in different places and roles (even if you are a senior), to get a feel of what it’s like to be in the tech industry. Perhaps, do something small on the side, even like a tech podcast, this will help attract the attention of a recruiting manager. In other words, just lie towards your goal, but do it consistently. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket, i.e. don’t focus just on sending resumes – in my experience, it’s the least efficient way to get hired.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I was shocked when I first came to the UK by how difficult it is for a career woman to be accepted for who she is. I am originally from Eastern Europe, and we are brought up there with the idea that a woman can do anything she wants careerwise, and she can freely speak what she thinks (we are quite known for this, you know).

So it was the first time in the UK when I heard adjectives like “aggressive” or “too much” towards myself from my (male) boss – luckily, I’ve already had quite a few years of successful work in other cultures, so I didn’t take it personally. Needless to say, we didn’t work much with him, but I’ve seen that my successor, a male, who repeated the same things I was saying, was treated differently. I don’t however think that it’s the main obstacle. In these situations, you just shrug your shoulders and do your job well, and then people change their opinion eventually.

Speaking to fellow UK-born women, I understand that their main barrier is actually not just the attitude, but the increasingly high cost of childcare. It just doesn’t make sense for many women to be serious about their work, if all their money goes to childcare. Unless this changes, it’s unrealistic that the UK will see more women progressing in tech into senior careers.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Provide money and facilities for childcare. Seriously. You’ll see A LOT OF WOMEN applying for roles within your company.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

We need to debunk the myth that a role in tech requires tech education. I’ve always been fascinated by tech, but I studied arts and humanities (I’m a former pianist turned journalist), and later business (worked in marketing). And yet I ended up one of the key thought leaders on where technology is taking the humanity and the impact it has on our health and wellbeing. Just because I ended up being in the right place and at the right time.

With the fast AI development, we will need more and more people who understand the ethics behind technology, and who think about the impact of our digital habits on nature (and they are really impactful!) And we’ll need fewer and fewer programmers, actually (because as you may have read, many of them will be replaced by the algorithms).

Probably around 80% of people who go through the Consciously Digital certification in digital wellbeing are women, and when I ask them about the reasons they join the course, they explain that they are concerned about where the tech progress is taking us.

Most women have this natural tendency to think about connections with others, relationships, caring about the Earth – and we so need these qualities in the tech world right now, for a more ethical and inclusive tech development.

There are so many roles now – in tech regulation, in data protection, in implementing AI in hiring or internal HR solutions – that need to be filled with competent people with a non-IT background. Women just need to understand, where they can be useful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

If you are young, go to as many conferences as you can – locally and internationally, ask to volunteer so you can attend for free and network there. Find some inspirational men and women who really look like a role model to you, and ask them to mentor you (I’ve actually always happened to have male mentors who were extremely generous with sharing their knowledge and not asking anything in return, but see what makes you more comfortable).

For podcasts, I personally like those that speak about how humans are made and psychology, like Huberman Lab, and more futuristic stuff like Lex Fridman. But it’s my personal pull. I would also encourage you to check movements like Humane Tech (Tristan Harris) and All Tech is Human, they have a great job board for interesting roles in tech.


 Read more from our inspirational women here.