INSEAD: From a successful corporate career to entrepreneurship and coaching (without skipping bedtime stories with her baby girl)

Alla’s story is one of strong will and clear goals.

Professionally, Alla is passionate about being a female role model in the AI world. She is the founder of Xtatio (SAAS company), and an ICF-certified coach supporting professionals in their career transitions and leadership journeys. Alla also coaches INSEAD Executive Education students in digital strategy, innovation, partnerships & ecosystems, and AI applications for business. 

We wanted to get to know what drives Alla in her quest for promoting women in the world of AI, and here’s what we found out. 

She grew up in south Russia, in a multicultural family and environment. Her background helped develop her into an energetic, resilient, and adaptable person, constantly looking for new ways to grow, both personally and professionally. 

“I always strive to explore new experiences and opportunities”

Alla Running in Central ParkAlla’s life passions are sports and technology. She shared with us that she is passionate in competing in Olympic-distance triathlons and Marathons as they drive and inspire her to achieve. 

A few years ago, Alla found herself a new challenging hobby: kite surfing, which led her to travel around the globe, following the windy season.

We were fascinated to find out more about Alla and how she has created a life that enables her to juggle many important priorities - being a mother, a student, having a successful professional career, and, making time for self-care. For Alla, the secret to having such a rich and varied professional career, and still being able to kiss her daughter “good night” is to learn to say “No”. She also has a fierce belief in setting clear priorities and building excellent communication both at home and at work.

Juggling parallel opportunities: Making decisions in a dilemma

Alla studied for her Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) exam while she was 7-months pregnant, demonstrating how ready she is for any challenge.

At the same time, she was promoted and joined the European Business Architecture team of Canon, a huge step up, full of new responsibilities and learning. Immediately on her return from maternity leave, she received her acceptance letter from INSEAD’s Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) programme.

Alla and her daughterThe dilemma she faced was whether she had the capacity to join the GEMBA programme while simultaneously getting an internal promotion and looking after her 6-month-old daughter. She spent time reflecting on whether it would be prudent to delay her studies for another year or two.

“I decided it felt like the right moment and was a big commitment regardless of when I would make it”

Energetic and resilient Alla’s reflections did not last long: she decided to go for both the promotion and enrol on INSEAD’s world-renowned GEMBA programme.

What made is possible? Support and flexibility

Alla’s motivation for doing an EMBA was to gain a different perspective on the challenges of her daily job and to have an opportunity to apply all the methodology and learnings within the Canon organisation. 

Using her great communication skills, she was able to articulate the knowledge that she would bring back to the organisation after graduating from INSEAD, reculting in her gaining the support of her Manager, and of Canon's Leadership Team. 

But, like any mother, she still wanted to be able to be there for her daughter. The support of her family and friends and the flexible schedule offered by the INSEAD GEMBA programme made that possible.

“Of course, I still wanted to be able to read a bed-time story or give a good night kiss to my baby girl”

It was a win-win situation for her professionally and personally and in 2017, she graduated from the Global Executive MBA programme at INSEAD.

From a corporate career to entrepreneurship

Alla_ActiveHer experience during the INSEAD GEMBA programme, and the network she had built, had a huge influence on her professional career. 

At INSEAD, she had her first experience with coaching and became fascinated by it. She became an ICF-certified coach supporting professionals in their career transitions and leadership journeys.

After her graduation, she joined some INSEAD events where she met brilliant people. One of those inspiring INSEAD Alumni shared an exciting startup idea and asked her to join the team. Alla made her choice and left her secure corporate career at Canon to pursue life as an entrepreneur, and Xtatio was born. 

If you ask her what is next on her agenda, she answers that she would love to pursue entrepreneurship again and join a startup or scaleup founded by a fellow INSEAD Alumni or other talented and creative people. But without losing the balance in her life.

“Multifunctioning is overrated. There are always a lot of opportunities around but be mindful and focus on 2-3 maximum to make those your personal success story.”


Alla’s recommendatios for balance and leadership

Women in AI, the NGO in which Alla is Head of Partnerships (Netherlands Chapter) shares common goals with the PWN Global community; to reach a broader female leaders’ network and provide all necessary support to bring them together and capitalize on combined knowledge and expertise. For Alla, joining PWN Global, courtesy of the INSEAD partnership was an obvious step to take. By joining the network, she was able to develop further through networking, learning, and sharing. PWN helped Alla reach and connect with like-minded female leaders worldwide by joining global events, forums, and webinars.

“The overall vision of the PWN organisation and its beliefs (respect, courage, gratitude, collaboration and talent) align with my values and professional aspirations”

In Alla’s opinion, being an amazing gender-balanced leader requires authenticity. To create that authentic approach, Alla recommends always aligning with your own fundamental values, and bring your own personality and passions into your leadership style.

And if you want to find the right balance, like Alla has, follow her tips:   

  • Learn to say "No" ;
  • Prioritize family and health; and
  • Look at everything as a learning moment

If you have been inspired by Alla’s story, and want to know more about Alla, you can connect with her via LinkedIn, or, if you are a PWN Member, via the PWN Global Membership Directory.


Date: 13th October 2022
Author: Christelle Perrin, Volunteer, PWN Global
Copy Editor: Rebecca Fountain, Marketing Consultant, PWN Global



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