With a creative drive to develop audio accessories that are beautiful yet functional, Anna leads a talented team responsible for the design aesthetic for Stellé Audio Couture with a focus on creating a unique and unparalleled audio experience for women. Anna's unwavering creative vision and commitment to building a successful business has afforded her leading executive roles for an array of world renowned companies, including Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, QUALCOMM, Inc., and Arthur Andersen, among others.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When I was 9-years-old, my family emigrated from Russia to the United States, and at an early age I was introduced to responsibility and new environments with very little understanding (literally). I had to build confidence in an unknown atmosphere - navigating a world that didn't make sense. This shaped my determination to find answers, seek solutions and to be confident in situations that make others uncomfortable.
My parents had an amazing work ethic and believed through education and hard work you could determine your own destiny. As I progress through my own career, I look for key characteristics in people that I work with, such as a hunger to learn, a passion for doing what it takes and an ambition to be better. I also had the opportunity to travel the world throughout my life, which shaped my understanding of diversity and cultural differences, in addition to a deep appreciation for listening and understanding. Finally, my own consulting work with executives enabled me to adopt traits in leaders that I admired, most notably the ability to challenge the status quo, to listen and learn, to be humble and to be visionary for my team and the organization.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Stellé Audio?
What I bring to Stellé Audio from my previous experience is the ability to listen, identify needs and develop viable solutions. Whether it's coming up with new products or redefining processes - I can uncover a problem, identify areas for improvement and make recommendations for next steps.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Stellé Audio?
The highlights have been seeing my idea turn into a reality, something that started as scribbles on the back of a napkin actually come to fruition.
The main challenge with any new brand was awareness. We knew once people used our products they would love them - but first we had to get them into the hands of the right folks!
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own business?
My best advice is 1) build relationships - networking is critical to building your business; 2) find complementary skills sets - surround yourself with people with different skill sets than your own; and 3) be confident enough to ask the questions.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's a challenge. Being a female in a leading role with an up and coming company is demanding. Even more, being a mom with a young child who deserves my attention is not easy. What I have learned over the last 25+ years is that my expectations for work/life balance have changed depending on where I am in my professional and personal life. There are times I have to be a leader at work, and other times where I have to give my best to myself and to my family. And frankly, when I can do both, well I know I have made an impact. And today that's all the balance I need.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Apart from the obvious, juggling work and family, I think women are often faced with a lack of female mentors and /or role models; therefore socialized in organizations and unfortunately lose sight of some of the characteristics that make women truly unique.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having a mentor has allowed me to pursue new opportunities and step into unchartered waters with a life jacket on. My mentors have provided valuable coaching, influenced some of the paths I have taken, instilled confidence and encouraged me to ask questions. More importantly, they helped me focus on my strengths and bring out the same in others.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I tend to find admirable leadership skills from "ordinary" women accomplishing extraordinary things, not in those that are far removed from my day-to-day life. If I had to pick one well-known leader it would be Oprah Winfrey. She has risen to the top through many challenges and great adversity. She believed in her vision and turned Oprah into a brand that has enabled many others to flourish. Her generosity and vision for the future has shaped many lives while her endeavors provided employment to many worldwide.
What do you want Stellé Audio to accomplish in the next year?
I want Stellé Audio to change the conversation. At Stellé Audio, we have fundamentally redefined the gender based hot pink speakers with awful sound, and brought products to the marketplace that inspire through design and quality. With this, I want Stellé Audio to be the brand of choice. More importantly, I want to continue to develop products that will change the landscape of technology for the female consumer.
Follow Laura Dunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauraemilyd