Oksana Afonina is the Senior Director of EMEA Growth at AppLovin.

Oksana built her tech career in post-Soviet Ukraine, where men and women were expected to contribute equally in the workplace as comrades. This experience shaped her strongly-held view that, no matter the field, women have the same capabilities and potential when it comes to education and work – it should be individual skill that determines success.

Oksana has previously worked at Facebook and Google.

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

I was born and raised in Ukraine and currently live in Dublin where I hold the role of Senior Director of Growth at AppLovin. My career started at 15 when a family friend offered me a temporary job in marketing for his small business. I fell in love with all things advertising right away, and have since gone on to earn two Masters, one in Business Strategy, the other in Marketing, and later continued my career with roles spanning marketing research to B2B events, at companies including Google, Facebook and now AppLovin.

My career has focused on sales in advertising technology for seven years, with six of those years in mobile gaming. The team I lead at AppLovin provides consulting to mobile gaming developers around launching and growing chart-topping mobile games.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Looking back, I never had a particular plan in mind, nor would I have anticipated filling my current role fifteen years ago. While the decisions I’ve made around field of study and career moves have always been conscious choices, I typically made them on short timelines. I’ve made a habit of reflecting and reconsidering my path forward, so that view is constantly evolving.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I view any challenges I encounter as opportunities. This is particularly true in regards to working in the tech sector – it’s fast-moving and filled with competition, so it presents challenges each day.

Overall, one of my biggest hurdles has been balancing work with self-development, and it’s not necessarily something that gets easier with time. Learning and growing outside the core job is key to the success I’ve had so far and will continue to play an important role. I’m currently studying for a degree whilst working, so maintaining energy and motivation can be difficult. I try and stay focused, keep my eye on my goals, and plan out steps to achieve them.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I was one of Facebook’s first Russian speaking employees on their business team, and the first on their gaming team. I’m particularly proud of the work I did building Facebook presence within the CIS market in the gaming vertical.

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

One major factor is my focus on personal and professional development and growth. I aim to accomplish a major goal every couple of years to ensure that I’m moving forward. It doesn’t need to be as defined as a promotion—I’m more so focused on progress and learning new skills. My move to the tech sector is a great demonstration of this approach, as my realizing my passion for game marketing and working with people lead me to my current role at AppLovin. This role has proved to be a perfect fit for my interests and allows me to grow and develop further in this industry.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’ve never had a formal mentor but many of the people I’ve worked with over my career have provided me with informal mentorship. Having support from role models has definitely helped to shape my career and achievements. A standout role model for me was a former manager who taught me the importance of developing soft skills. Though neither of us are still at the company where we met, we remain in touch.

In my leadership role at AppLovin, I’m finding I enjoy being a manager and mentor to various people on my team. It’s a role that’s come to me organically, and thanks to some great mentors, I understand the importance of this role. When I moved to a manager role, I realised there were a set of skills I needed to learn. As a result, I’m currently doing a degree in Personal, Leadership, and Executive Coaching and although it’s different from mentoring, both fundamentally help develop people.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I’d persuade people to learn more about the topic. All of these movements are happening, yet I’m often surprised by how many people don’t seem to be aware of them. I go to lots of great events about women in tech and business, but most of the attendees are women. I feel it’s important for all genders to be a part of these events. Because it’s never about just one group making a change. A part of equality comes from embracing differences and encouraging more learning in this space.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Constantly learn – don’t stick with the status quo. I challenge myself to progressively identify new skills to learn, reach out to people both inside and outside of my industry who can help me build knowledge, and set achievable goals that contribute to my overall growth. It’s something I learned along the way and would have made a larger impact had I realized it sooner.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To become a stronger manager and leader for my team. As I mentioned, I’m currently doing my degree in Personal, Leadership, and Executive Coaching, so I look forward to implementing my learnings and supporting my team’s growth. The biggest reward would be to see them understand their potential and act on it.