Minter Dialogue with Lena Rantsevich
Lena Rantsevich is a rebel, treating life as an intellectual and emotional pursuit. Formerly head of Samsung Electronics in Belarus, Business Person of the Year, TEDx speaker and co-founder of businesses in decentralised justice, real estate and consultancy, Lena and her family left the Ukraine because of the war to set up in London. Her new venture, Reputy.io, is a “soul bound talent wallet” designed to help individuals find better jobs faster by matching and proving soft skills. We discuss her remarkable journey from Minsk to Kiev to London, the tremendous responsibilities Lena earned early, her life lessons and how she’s faced and overcome the challenges of being uprooted by war. We discuss Reputy, the problems it solves and the intricacies of trying to map and communicate soft skills between recruit and employer.
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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).
Full transcript via Otter.ai
SUMMARY KEYWORDS: people, soft skills, lena, skills, work, ukraine, learn, companies, build, talent, freedom, war, create, share, ukrainian, convinced, london, resilience, coding, experience
SPEAKERS: Lena Rantsevich, Minter Dial
Minter Dial 00:05
Hello, welcome to Minter Dialogue, episode number 542. My name is Minter Dial and I’m your host for this podcast and a most proud member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. For more information or to check out other shows on this wonderful network, go to visit evergreenpodcasts.com. So, this week’s interview is with my friend Lena ransom which Lena is a self-declared rebel, treating life as an intellectual and emotional pursuit. Formerly head of Samsung Electronics in Belarus, Business Person of the Year, TEDx speaker and cofounder of businesses and decentralized justice, real estate and consultancy, Lena and her family had to leave the Ukraine because of the war and have set up shop in London. Her new venture Reputy.io is a soul bound talent wallet designed to help individuals find better jobs faster by matching and proving soft skills. We discuss Lena’s remarkable journey from Minsk to Kyiv to London. The tremendous responsibilities Lena earned early, her life lessons, and how she’s faced and overcome the challenges of being uprooted by war. We discuss of course Reputy, the problems it solves, and the intricacies of trying to map and communicate soft skills between recruit and employer. You’ll find all the show notes on Minterdial.com. And please, if you have a wee moment, please go and drop in a rating and review because you know that is the true currency of podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to catch all the future episodes. Now for the show. Lena Rantsevich! How lovely to have you in front of me on the screen, albeit although we’ve had plenty of time together in real life. Lena in your own words, who are you?
Lena Rantsevich 02:02
That’s a philosophical question. And yes, hi everyone. And thank you Minter for inviting me into this time window to speak about something that really matters to humanity, and hopefully there. So, I’m an adventure architect at this life stage. I have a mission to discover and empower talented humans. And my core values are novelty-seeking, fairness, creativity and freedom. And once somebody asked me, What is the meaning of life, what you’re looking for, at this moment? I would say it’s intellectual and emotional pursuit, that leads to create common good.
Minter Dial 02:43
I love that what a phenomenal wrap up. The word freedom strikes me. So, I like to talk about philosophy in general. And I think freedom is a word that many people aspire to. And I think that we all might have different understandings of what is freedom? How do you define freedom in your value set?
Lena Rantsevich 03:08
I would say it is very multilayered. So, it’s a freedom to design your life, to have this intrinsic motivation to choose your education and careers. And the place where you want to live. It’s a freedom of speech. So, understanding yourself and navigating your life without any barriers.
Minter Dial 03:34
So, a little bird in my ear says, I wonder to what extent that notion of freedom is related to your past and the fact that you are a Belarusian living in Ukraine. Tell us a little bit more about how you think you developed those, maybe that process! Ant talk about how you got to London.
Lena Rantsevich 03:57
So, it’s a joyful and a sad journey. So, we didn’t have much freedom in the Soviet Union in my childhood, and I think a lot of us were aspiring to move to another point and to feel what it is like to speak what you’re saying and to do what you think and to share thoughts in total freedom. So, I happened to marry a Ukrainian guy, and that’s how I moved to Ukraine. But before that, I built my career in the corporate segment. At the age of 23 I became head of Samsung Electronics in Belarus. I ran the office for eight years. I learned a lot about the corporate world. My freedom was not very limited because I was the head of office, so I could show my creativity, initiate new projects on different levels. I traveled the world. I worked in remote teams, I hired people. I initiated projects. I was the cyber mum in my country, cyber sports mum, and the youngest Business Person of the Year. So, that’s one of my awards. So, I’m really proud of that past that was an entry to the corporate world. And then I moved to Ukraine because of the family reasons. And we started building our own business in hospitality. And we invented a new hybrid form, a co-living place, which was connected with a cultural venue. So, we literally became a cultural center in European satellite town of Kyiv. And I also gave a TEDx talk about this concept. And our mission was to create a thriving environment for individuals where they could meet each other and cross pollinate and share ideas and have a glass of wine and watch an arthouse film in the lobby, and then go for a walk in the forest or take the shared dogs for a walk or plant a tree. So, that was the concept. And they also build a few Ukrainian companies, I was a chief marketing officer into companies, I also had consultancy for seven years helping other founders and startup founders, build their businesses and ideas. And my favorite aspect of this is partnerships and stakeholder management. Because I think we can create shared values collectively, instead of trying to push our product or service through traditional marketing channels, spending millions of euro or pounds on that. So, that was my business philosophy. And then I joined a Web3 startup as a co-founder. I was responsible for partnerships, company, reputation, people branding, partially for the product. And then well, with all that happened in the world. The war began in in Ukraine. So, we were displaced to Germany and then to London. And we, we chose this final destination because I always wanted to live in London. So, we’ll share the British values. I studied at three British universities when I was a bit younger. So, I thought, well, this is a golden opportunity for me to practice what I have learned and to finally feel myself as a global citizen. They must say that London is a is a freedom-minded city. And then I also met, you know, my Minter, through somebody whom we both know, and who lives in the United States. And he said, Well, you know, you need to meet Minter. It looks like you have a lot to say to each other. So, had a coffee, if you remember.
Minter Dial 08:03
I do. And thanks, big hat tip to Craig.
Lena Rantsevich 08:07
Yes. Hi, Craig. Connecting people over the ocean. And then at a certain point, so the previous startup was frozen because of the crypto winter, and they started looking for a job in London. For a senior position. It was really, really hard. But along the way, I was thinking about my entrepreneurial past and about becoming a founder myself. So, I really needed that period to build the confidence and to be able to apply for incubators. And then I met Minter, again, and Minter said, “Well, have a look at Block Dojo.” Hi to Block Dojo team, by the way, and thank you so much for this ticket into the startup world. So, I applied to the program. I went through. And I spent three months in the incubator this year, and started building my own project that empowers humans.
Minter Dial 09:06
it’s a beautiful story. Now, thinking back to the 23-year-old getting the position to run Samsung, in Belorussia. I mean, how did that happen? I mean, oh, my goodness. I mean, obviously, they saw talent. But that is not what I would have expected the Korean-run Samsung organization investing in a woman who’s 23 years old in Belorussia. How did that happen?
Lena Rantsevich 09:34
There’s more input. I didn’t have any business education at that point. So, I studied linguistics and methodology and teaching and cultural studies. So, I could only speak two languages and I took some marketing and managerial courses, but I didn’t have an MBA because they didn’t exist in my country. And when they asked this question, Why me? They said, Well, we invest in the rising stars, and you learn on the train. So, literally, I started looking for a specific management course or pre-MBA course that was only emerging in our country. So, I applied and it was open university. And, so, I got a diploma in management through them. So, I learned on the go, I learned from practice, and then I decided to get some credentials. So, I did a strategic marketing course on the way. I did all of other courses in technology and project management and then consultancy. So, this is the way they were recruiting people in those times. So, I think it’s a miracle. I was just a lucky person.
Minter Dial 10:43
Well, yes, and no, I mean, I do think there is an element of luck in life, you know, you and I met. You and Andriy met, there’s always, you know, luckiness, in somehow, but then you also have to craft and make the most of the luck that’s given to you. So, in all these experiences, you have sort of a corporate part, and then this entrepreneurial part, and, out of curiosity, really, I am just wondering how that might be different in the Russia or Ukraine versus what we think is a civilized developed world that we have, how different is it really in your opinion, what are the what are the things you can carry over with ease? And maybe what are the things that you can bring that an advantage, thanks to your background?
Lena Rantsevich 11:33
I think I learned to operate and make decisions with scarcity of resources. When you don’t have access to capital, when you don’t have a lot of educational resources, or the choice of talent in your own country, you get along with what you have at hand. So, you need to be really, really creative and apply critical thinking and lean methodology in order to build something. So, initially, I didn’t have any budget for my country from Samsung. So, it was really, really limited, but I had to do something to set up the brand perception and assist sales, find dealers and partners to create awareness. So, what can you do without money? So, you apply your brain, or you think about partnerships, and this is what I learnt, then when I moved to Ukraine, there was a better situation because lots of foreign companies are represented there. And you get access to a better sample of people because the population is five times bigger. And all the people travel to Europe and get foreign education. So, you can find talent, you can find the resources, but still there are local rules that you have to play by. And I was working for Ukrainian companies that didn’t have this global axis. So, working with limited resources, I think is a good skill for any business. If you can do it without money, can you imagine what you can do with money?
Minter Dial 13:12
Indeed, I mean, it speaks to, sometimes I’m working with teams and things are going well. And there’s an issue of how to manage growth. But it’s also in those times that it’s really quite useful to be sharp-minded, and to cut back because it’s easier to cut back in those good times in order to prepare for when the shit hits the fan, because it will inevitably, cycles being what they are things happening in the world being what they are. Lena, I want to before we get into what you’re doing in London, cycle back to March of 2022. Because for most people, we only know about this through the news and the incredible cycle of war, misery, and hardship. And of course, now we have things that are happening in the Middle East, in Israel. Your experience? How did that go? Basically, you must have had a feeling something was happening. But then overnight. The shit did hit the fan. So, talk us through what was your experience?
Lena Rantsevich 14:29
There we had been reading the news about potential war and there were school programs that prepared civilians to collect all the necessary things in one backpack can be enabled to relocate somewhere, but we didn’t really take it serious. We thought that well in the modern world. The Second World War can’t repeat again. So, it’s a digital war. It’s an information war. Intellectual war but nothing on the ground. And so, we were not prepared. And war has always been my biggest fear after watching documentaries about fascism, and about all the atrocities that happened in that war. And when we read the news, we made a decision to buy tickets to Germany and to fly before the war, because I didn’t want to watch it. I thought I would rather stay there for a while. And if the war doesn’t start, then we’ll always come back. But I don’t want myself and my children to just see the war.
Minter Dial 15:39
So, you had enough of an understanding that it was potentially going to happen. And you didn’t take a backpack? You, you managed to get a suitcase and basically leave to Germany where you’d already had experiences before, you knew some people. And you manage to get out. But then you’re outside and of course, your husband didn’t go with you.
Lena Rantsevich 16:00
Minter Dial 16:02
How was that?
Lena Rantsevich 16:04
Yes. So, he stayed in the house because he couldn’t believe that they would come and attack the civilians who had residence at that time. So, some people were renting the rooms in the house. And he said, Well, I’m the house owner, and I build the house with my own hands. Well, not literally, but he organized the process. And this is our family nest and I’ll stay here and the house master. But one day that came. So, no, nobody could believe it.
Minter Dial 16:40
And you’re in Germany, and then London? And Andriy, of course, I know. Big hello to Andriy. But how was that? I mean, it’s certainly couldn’t have been easy to be outside of your home, dealing with new things, new administrations and bureaucracies, paperwork, a strange culture, different cultures anyway, and then always the angst of having your family and friends and husband, who were in the midst of it all? I mean, how did how, how did you survive that? How did what, what techniques did you have to deal with that, and I would characterize that as true hardship.
Lena Rantsevich 17:30
I think this experienced experience wasn’t that traumatic for me as it was for the people who stayed inside the country. And I was always living with this sense of guilt that I’m not there, that people are suffering. The people are killed in the next house to ours. And you could see dead bodies in the street or children killed inside the cars or raped. I had this sense of guilt, but I was comparing myself with them. And I thought, well, I can survive. I’m alive. And this is a great gift that I need to preserve. And I need to look into the future, I need to talk to my family and to my friends, and try to do something for this. So, what I did, I created an online database of other co-living spaces in different countries. And I shared the link saying that you can address these houses and find your new home outside of Ukraine. So, these places had spare rooms that could accommodate Ukrainians. I agreed upon this with the people that I know. So, that was my minor contribution. I couldn’t do more because everyone experienced stress at that moment. So, we’re saving our lives. And we’re reading the news in Telegram channels, shared by our neighbors. This horrible pictures of what was going on in the streets. We had five tanks parked around our house. I don’t want to share the whole story here because this is the wrong angle probably.
Minter Dial 19:15
Suffice to say it was a grisly experience. And of course, I know a little bit more. The thing that I would like to talk about is the notion of resilience. We talk a lot about it in the West. “Oh, you need to be resilient!” We also talk things like authenticity and agility and liberties free speech. And some of those things are absolutely great. But when it comes to resilience, I keep on thinking that if we have so many mental health issues in the West, and we haven’t gone through what you and your citizens of Ukraine have gone through, is it a real resilience that we’re developing in the West? I mean, are we are we just deluding ourselves that we’re resilient? Because you know, my BMW got scratched? Oh, my gosh, I broke a leg. Oh, that’s, that’s terrible. I lost 1000 pounds. Oh, that’s sad. But how do you view from your angle, because it’s got to be a very different type of understanding of what is hardship and resilience.
Lena Rantsevich 20:36
I wish I could compare the experience of building resilience here for a long time, because I’m not an insider yet. But I can certainly relate to the level of resilience that we went through. And we were building and tempering ourselves, in Belarus, and in Ukraine, and when anything happens on the domestic level, or pedestrian level, so I think people don’t get angry, because I went through the collapse of the Soviet Union, are through sort of shortage of food in the early 90s, when you had to stand in a queue to buy a pair of socks about the socks were rationed. You can only buy two pairs of socks per month. Or the when there was no meat in the in the shops, only bills and you had to source it from the village, you have to grow your own vegetables. It’s called food sovereignty at the moment and his lack of hype words, that this is a new trend growing your own food, and having little gardens everywhere. But it was a necessity back in the Soviet times. And we thought it was a norm. So, went through this. And then when we moved to here to Ukraine, the world economic crisis began in two weeks. So, late 2008, you remember what happened. So, a lot of people lost their jobs. And we’re in the middle of this construction process. I recently delivered to a baby. So, my baby was three months old, I didn’t have a job, obviously. So, my husband had the position. So, although there was a lot of uncertainty, before that there was the Orange Revolution. But then in five years, there was my done. So, the cycles were shorter and shorter. And then there was the war. And COVID, of course, and then there was the election campaign in Belarus, with the massive protests in the streets, and it was 1000s of people marched out to guess the regime. So, I think we got to use to these to this volatility. And now we know the word for it resilience or the agility of mind, but not taught this at school. So, it’s innate, where we, we learnt it from practice, there were a lot of good things in the past. So, in order to be, you know, fair, we had really good education in sciences. For example, I learned coding 30 years ago, it’s cool. When they say this in London, people think I’m probably very, very old, or I’m writing fairytales. But we’re handed as a subject IT technologists, information technologist was one of the normal subjects along with advanced maths and languages and chemistry. And then I learnt it at the university being a linguist, but it was a must subject in those times. And here, my daughter is not learning coding, and she’s 15 already. Right?
Minter Dial 23:52
So, it’s funny, you know, you studied linguistics as I did as well. And I got to coding, my first experience or exposure to coding was at university in the United States. So, I really did also think of it though, as learning another language, and back, so I’m a bunch older than you, Lena, but back in my days, I started learning Pascal, and C, and Basic, just an introduction to figuring out how that all works. And it was lovely. Also thinking about typewriters moving to computers in for you and me probably writing large dissertations, and how much easier it was with a computer than a typewriter, lots of changes. And it’s very good that you highlight the positives because obviously Belorussia has quite the reputation these days, with Lukashenko and all that, but this is not a political podcast, but I do want to ask you, for your friends who are still in Ukraine who are dealing with it, it’s sort of been pipped in the news these days when this podcast will be released, by what’s going on in Israel and Gaza. But, what do they need? What’s going on? And what do they need if someone is listening to this and wants to do something useful today, and thinks that Ukraine is a place where they need to, want to invest some time and maybe money? What would what would you say is needed back in Ukraine right now?
Lena Rantsevich 25:28
I think it’s human and business connections. Because a lot of people are trying to restore the economy and to create a new vision of the country and new systems and new economic relationships. And we really need to interact with companies from outside of Ukraine and to build new partnerships at this point, even before the war is over, learning from each other. Ukraine and Belarus are really advanced nations who have great human capital, very well-educated people, technically minded, Freedom minded, especially in Ukraine, there’s huge creativity. Wherever you go, the restaurant at her school, you can see a holistic system that is nicely wrapped, and well thought from inside. So, you have this whole experience. And I really treasure this. So, we need these connections fast. Second, we need to create the right reputation of individuals. For those who live outside of Ukraine, because sometimes the perception of Ukrainians on Eastern Europeans is distorted. So, a lot of people don’t know about the technical talent, if you don’t work in it, you wouldn’t know about the best programmers that are sourced from our part of the world. And unfortunately, a lot of people are now forced to work at reception or cleaning companies or catering companies, those who have PhDs in the backgrounds or senior positions, this is totally unfair. But there is reason for it. So, role need to adapt and to play by the local rules. So, I would work on creating fair reputation of Ukrainian people who are trying to contribute to the societies where they found themselves after the war, contributing to, to the ecosystems of other countries being valuable not using just their hands and feet, but also applying their brain and being visible for these abilities. And, well, it has to do with soft skills, of course, and partially my mission, and I was triggered by this discrepancy and will slide unfairness which is unfair by design, I would say. And I was thinking, how can I repair this? How can they make talent visible? How can they help people understand their next career move? Where else can they apply? Can they apply their transferable skills?
Minter Dial 28:12
Well, I’m gonna give a little hat tip to my lovely Ukrainian born Russian friend who works in a Moscow, Alex. There’s this some rigor, thoroughness. Definitely, culture that comes through with my knowledge of Alex, in particular. And also, yeah, a level of, of hardworking-ness. That is, I think, I don’t want to call it puritanical, but a little bit close to that there’s a stronger sense of, of a work ethic. That’s the way I view it. But of course, those are generalizations because there’s always lots of bad and good and all that in every country. So, moving, you did say that, by design, there’s a seems like a by design, there’s a poor reputation. What did you mean by that?
Lena Rantsevich 29:12
Ah, so the remark was not only about the reputation, but about the recruitment process and curriculum process. Because, in in, in Eastern Europe, you can build your career pretty fast, you can become a senior manager 25. So, you don’t have to wait four years until you are promoted. So, it’s not linear. It’s could be it could be exponential because they show your achievement. And having the high competition for senior positions here among locally educated people, which is understandable. It’s really hard to find the same position that you had in your own country, even if you have a brilliant mind you’re overeducated, overqualified, so it’s hard to get through probably because we don’t know how to communicate ourselves, we definitely need to one the local codes and to play by the local books. It takes time, but I thought could we shortcut this time? Could we make people more visible. So, this is what I mean by design. And the current recruitment process relies on AI as we both understand having the shared experience in the past or this session about empathy. So, it appears that empathy that AI is recruiting AI at the moment, and the human element is neglected. So, a lot of work is automated. And it’s really hard, especially for young people to get through and to be shortlisted for an interview. So, this is, by design
Minter Dial 30:52
view are a testament of why we should be hiring more Ukrainian or Eastern Europeans in general. Because you also are very, you’ve said it several times, you need to adapt to the local rules. And I think that is the smartest way to go. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring things that you know how to do like your resourcefulness, for example. But it’s also about fitting in and I guess there’s, there’s always a dilemma between fitting in and belonging. How do you how do you sway between fitting in needing to fit in, and a sense of belonging?
Lena Rantsevich 31:34
Interesting. Well, I had another conversation about culture and culture fit. You bring something but he also fit into the matrix into the culture code. It is really important to be yourself and to feel the sense of belonging to your true nature to your personality, instead of twisting yourself and feeling this discomfort, which aggravates your efficiency at work…
Minter Dial 32:03
And your mental health, I would argue.
Lena Rantsevich 32:06
Yes, people often get frustrated, and then they quit their jobs. So, it’s an end game. So, a healthy balance will help I think, because if the company is interested in you, that means they see some potential or gems or new trains of thought or perspectives that can be useful for the business development. So, there is a reason for that. You don’t have to adapt yourself 100%. Because you will become one of — or you’ll become somebody else who plays in — the same team.
Minter Dial 32:44
Well, that is a great topic of interest for me. But let’s talk about Reputy now. So, this is the project that was born out of your experience at Block Dojo, as I understand it, Reputy.io, I suppose the IO is indicate it’s all techie. And the idea is to help companies as I understand it, to recruit the right soft skills for the culture that you have. What is the problem you’re solving is Reputy.
Lena Rantsevich 33:22
We’re helping recruiters and talent managers to better assess soft skills, as you said. So, this is our core project. But on the top level, it increases the accuracy of hiring and promoting decisions. I’ll give you a few numbers. So, 57% of recruiters struggle to assess soft skills. They do psychometric tests, behavioral tests, they seek recommendations, they look for endorsements, they look at social media, they ask tricky questions, but sometimes while majority of them can’t assess the consistent skills, because every time we are doing a test, we have a certain set of hormone level of hormones, mood, outside inside temperature, whatnot.
Minter Dial 34:14
It’s a snapshot.
Lena Rantsevich 34:15
It’s a snapshot. Exactly. Instead of documentary. So, what we are doing is we’re shooting a documentary literally every day, capturing the moments when a person is showing certain skills outside of the working hours or during the working hours and doesn’t matter because it’s all about our human skills. We can demonstrate leadership at a parent can eat at school, or at tennis club or at a charity shop anywhere. It’s not only about the working environment, or critical thinking and creativity. So, these are features live with That’s around the clock. So, we’re helping to, to evidence they are we’re creating a container to upload all sorts of evidence and all types of content that would prove that we have the skills.
Minter Dial 35:16
I absolutely adore that Lena. I hadn’t really had this conversation with you. And the idea of presenting me as a person, as a human being a father, a tennis player, an outside of work person, is absolutely delicious. And I think it’s one of the things that we get wrong in business is to think that it must be a hiring based on competency and professionalism. And yet, things like trust, ethics, relationships. It’s all personal. And we’re so poor at doing that. So, I want to start with one question, which is, how does a recruiter actually understand what is the thing that they’re looking for? Because on paper empathy, great team skills, great, yeah, but, you know, how does that actually jive with the way we are? Is it the right thing? It’s like on paper, intellectually, I want these type of really great people happy go lucky, optimistic, whatever, doers. But how does one go about crafting the right set of soft skills for your company in the first place?
Lena Rantsevich 36:37
Well, there’s common knowledge. And we have AI that helps us to understand what kind of rules require, what skills, so we’ll be heavily using AI to accommodate all the data and all the lists because they professions are evolving by There are also certain constant things like managerial skills, if you if you aspire for a leadership position, and you want to become a team leader, so it’s all about people’s skills, and you need to be a good motivator, good speaker and good teamwork, you need to have this very good time management skills, because a lot of people will be addressing these different issues. So, I think this skill set for managerial position would be more or less the same for any industry. And will be aided by AI in any function, but still, so we also help people to understand their skills, because there is no such subject at school or university that teaches you specifically soft skills. There are a lot of courses, I need some coaches who are teaching kids empathy, or analytical thinking or teamwork. So, they do have this gigs, but it’s not a must for everyone. So, first stage is to learn your skills, who are you. So, you can do it in multiple ways. It can also use psychometric tests or simulations, that would give you an idea about your skills. But then you can also grow them connecting with different coaches or learning platforms, or meeting other people in real life or in zoom and practicing the skills given certain tasks from real companies, for example, working on real challenges from the business world and preparing yourself for the new role. So, this is second step: growing the skills if needed. And third step is evidence in skills. And this flow works for those people who know about their dream job. But what if you’re tired of teaching or working as an economist or as an architect, and you want a twist in your career? So how do you choose? You need a coach, you need a mentor? Probably, you need a psychologist who knows you well or ask your Mum? How about making a decision yourself, making it really intrinsic, and also rely on data? So, our app will help you understand the set of skills that you have and will bring you all possible options and drills that you can apply for having the skill set. So, it opens the horizons and it brings more freedom of choice and self confidence in switching the careers. And talking to many people, especially today., we had a session with people who are switching their career into IT. They want to become software engineers, and they are former doctors, drivers, schoolchildren, what not, economists, biologists, they all want to go into IT because they’re fascinated by technology. But the hardest thing for them is to present themselves to potential employers, and to make sure that they are a good fit for the corporate world. After being a bus driver, for example!
Minter Dial 40:14
Or a biologist or an academic…
Lena Rantsevich 40:17
Yes or an NHS doctor, who has never worked in a corporate world never been in an office at a meet him. So, the employer would really hesitate to whether it is a good fit. But what if he can prove this, that you’re a good team worker, you can communicate ideas, you can analyze ideas, and it doesn’t really matter what you did in the past, you can always learn on the job. There are internal courses, LMS systems, that teach you their profession, given you have the right material, the right skill set for this role.
Minter Dial 40:53
Yeah, LMS learning management systems. The issue I want to get back to is quickly with regard to the employer looking at employee and saying, what is the right fit? My observation from my experience is that we don’t really, as an employer, fully know ourselves. So, we might aspire to have great people were shifts, we might aspire to have empathic individuals. But that is not what we do. It sounds right. But it’s often wrong. And I’m getting the feeling that in your approach, you’re really looking at mostly teaching individuals looking for jobs to learn more about themselves, and how to express an explicit, they’re soft skills that will be transferable for getting the competencies that are needed. But what about the companies? And I feel that they too, need a little learning about real talk about who they really are?
Lena Rantsevich 41:55
Yes, exactly. So, companies really need to understand their values. While it’s a very tried expression. I think that everybody’s talking about company values fit and still values are about common beliefs, and they and a shared vision of the future. I think that relies on the values. So, people could be different. They could have radical characters, or you could have only calm people in the team, or protesters and rebels in another team, we can still share the same vision. Okay. So, it is really important to understand what is the North Star metric, as we’re saying in the startup world? So, what is the final metric, the final goal that we are aspiring for? And then we need to understand what kind of people we need in the team? How many? Will the roles be fixed? Or can these people switch the roles inside the team? Maybe it’ll be even healthier. So, employers and especially HRs could test themselves to understand what kind of material they are. Maybe they are deluded, maybe they want to have the same people as themselves, like cloning yourself, because of course, we are the best people in the world in which we want to like
Minter Dial 43:20
The King, I — not the king and I. The King, I.
Lena Rantsevich 43:24
The king, I. Yes. So, a lot of leaders think, well, I need just another me to do this work this job, but they don’t understand what kind of another person would be complementary to them, to their own personality. I heard an expression from, psychologist Nikita Mikhailov who says, personal intelligence is crucial these days. So, if you learn yourself if you have this not emotional, but personal or personality, intelligence, if you understand yourself, you understand what kind of people you need around you to be successful or happy in your personal life. So, it all starts from ourselves.
Minter Dial 44:12
Amen. Know yourself. I mean, gosh, I think that was a very much a Greek dictate, I think was Aristotle has had news I’ve made that we will have Socrates in any event, the idea of knowing yourself is really fundamental, knowing yourself as an individual. But then within that and that’s the hard piece is knowing what I’m not good at and being okay with that from an ego standpoint. Well, I’m shit at numbers, how can you be shit at numbers and run a company? Well, I’ve got other qualities, but I am really bad at that. So, I need someone who’s much better than I am at numbers. And not only have the humility to accept that, but to say let the other person shine. And I feel like in many companies, these types of positions and postures is missing. So, there’s a lot of grandstanding. There’s a lot of what I should be doing. There’s a lot of what I would like to do, but really are not real, in terms of what the perception is. So, that must be a challenge for you. But going back to Reputy.io, where you are crafting the soft skills, so as I understand it, you have the people who are showing themselves in a documentary fashion over a period of time, my Soft Skills. How do you evaluate the soft skills? Is it really just a, what you see is what you get? If you see that’s what it is, we as human beings know, what funny is we, as human beings know what authentic is, we as human beings actually can feel empathy and see empathy? Is it? Is it really about observation? Or are there ways that we can evaluate and more graphically measure what we’re looking at?
Lena Rantsevich 46:11
Good question. So, and the Latin expression is Nosce Te Ipsum: Know yourself? Just remembered that. Thank you. So, we’ll be given prompts about assessing and evidence in soft skills. So, the first step is vocabulary. So, what is empathy? What is critical thinking? Because we don’t know that these terms, so there’ll be a lot of prompts inside, and how to have an answer and how to measure. So, there aren’t a lot of tools that help us measure certain skills. For example, neuro sensors that would detect our eye movement, our response, within a conversation in Zoom, our body posture, our emotions, facial expressions. Whether we’re really sharing what’s been said, or just making believe. So, there are sensors that can help us. We can also measure the sentiment, the tone of voice and the text that we’re using in describing a certain case study. But we would also suggest that people rely on their self-assessment, having learned this theoretical part. So, if I really believe I demonstrated good time management skills, and I can describe this and I can probably ask other people to endorse me for this in a good way, not faking this experience. So, if I’m capable of that, and I will put this evidence into my card, into my time management cards. And if I’m not, then it would be just a wild guess, probably all my personal opinion. And it’s up to the employer whether to trust it or not. So, we’re just shooting the documentary, we’re not assessing anything, we’re not giving any scorings. We are avoiding this Black Mirror effect when everything is caught and people rely on social graphs only. We don’t want to be managed by numbers. We are human beings. So, it’s like a family album. If I’m an employee, and you send me your talent, wallet or talent portfolio, I’ll I look at the feed, I’ll check the photos, videos, case studies, endorsements, our proof of attendance protocols using the talent from Web3. So, we will NFT is that prove that I attended a certain event at a certain location on that date. So, there are multiple layers of verification. So, I can look inside your documentary and make my own opinion, whether you possess these skills or not, or maybe you have faked them, which is also possible. And we’re thinking how to reduce fake. We’re not bulletproof at the moment, but we’re building methodology and that’s the biggest challenge.
Minter Dial 49:15
That’s very exciting. When I am listening to you, I’m thinking of LinkedIn, when they have that option for presenting your skills, and then the ones that are voted on by others. I was wondering what your opinion is of that set, that rubric, on LinkedIn? Is that something that is by numbers officially useful or do you find that mostly gimmicky and or fake?
Lena Rantsevich 49:45
There is a degree of fake, of course. If you are well connected and you have a lot of friends and you want to gain from this profile, you want to get a job. You’ll ask your friends to support you. So, we’re human beings, we help each other. I mean, to me as a recruiter that you have a lot of friends, and you can convince them to do something for you.
Minter Dial 50:14
I got it. Is there a way in your project, are you looking at any elements that are more meta in terms of data? You have the individual recruitment, this company wants these soft skills that happens or doesn’t. But is there is there a play that’s more big data on in the way you’re looking at Reputy?
Lena Rantsevich 50:39
Yeah, so far, we’ll be using the metadata like location stamps and timestamps that would be immutable, especially if we, if you use blockchain, then every entry is indelible, immutable, it belongs to you. So, you manage the access to your data. And this is about the self-sovereign identity. So, you create your profile, it lives with you forever, don’t lose the keys. The golden rule, give a token to another person to open the profile. So, there are there are meta data, but I’m sure it’s not enough. So, I’m still learning the new tools on that web three brings to this base. So, let’s start with some of the basic solution. And then we’ll be adding extra layers of verification.
Minter Dial 51:29
So, I’m feeling a bit a little old in this one, Lena. As much as I would like to believe that I understand I don’t, but blockchain? To what extent is a recruit needing to be familiar with Blockchain in order to be able to use and verify my Soft Skills?
Lena Rantsevich 51:49
You don’t need to know anything about it. So, something about it, it is the back end of the technology. As a recruiter, you just click on the link, and you see something that looks like a personal landing page, or the dashboard with my name, or my pseudonymous name, or just my number, which is a combination of numbers or letters. So, I can be anonymous to remove bias, right. And you’ll see my dashboards and the set of cards and you’ll see the position that I’m applying for, and do you make a more fair decision about myself, of course, if you click the card, you will see my face probably on the pictures, if it’s not blurred, and if I don’t want to disguise myself completely. So, you don’t need to know anything about technology. It’s literally made for illiterate people, almost for kids, for grannies, for anyone. That’s very easy.
Minter Dial 52:52
So, I’d love for you to dot a t or cross an i. We talk a lot about transparency, authenticity, and then there’s anonymity and removing bias. Because if I were a visibly diverse person, or from my accent you hear that je suis tres francais…. that could bias the person who’s trying to hire me. So, how do you cross that Khyber Pass between transparency, authenticity, give me the real thing, and anonymity and bias.
Lena Rantsevich 53:40
So, the answer is very simple. I believe our product will be used at a second stage of the interview. So, we can’t avoid the spider software that scrapes information from our CVs, as texts. So, it analyzes the text, by keywords, we can’t skip it, we can’t replace this software at this point of time. So, the candidates will be pre-selected and then they will be invited for a job interview in Zoom or in person. This is the moment when you meet the eyes of another person. And this is the stage when you can unmask yourself and send your documentary to show the skills instead of doing a test in real life. And being stressed and probably failing it or faking it if you know how to say, show the consistency of skills and if you’re an introvert so I’m especially worried about talented people who have dyslexia or who can’t communicate themselves, who don’t speak foreign languages, but they’re talented in Maths for example, and the society doesn’t receive this talent, so we’re not making use of this talent. So, the person who’s really shy and introverted will be able to communicate their personality via the documentary, which would be designed during their more calm moments, natural moments in life. Almost every day.
Minter Dial 55:14
I love it. I just recently saw the film “The Intern” with Robert De Niro. And to get hired, he is a senior intern at this startup, and I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but he has to do a video of himself. And I thought that the video that he rolled was delightful. And I cried a few tears in that film. But that’s for another discussion. Lena, your project Reputy.io. This, you named it as an app just now? What’s needed next? What? If someone’s listening to this? How can they go find it, understand more about it? And what are you trying to do next. And if anyone is interested in this project, either as a user or maybe as a supporter, and is interested in it, from an HR or financial standpoint, we tell us what we can do.
Lena Rantsevich 56:08
Oh, this is a precious question. Thank you. So, we are at the stage of building the minimum viable product.
Minter Dial 56:18
The MVP, the famous MVP.
Lena Rantsevich 56:20
Yes, decoding the acronyms. So, and we have a wonderful team of interns, six people who were invited to help us develop the code and the product ID and the user flow. So, I’m really happy. I’m literally sitting on campus here. Working in the same space, we’re had an in-person session today, brainstorming ideas, wonderful experience. So, and we’re really open to new ideas and to people who want to join the mission who want to learn something about startup life or soft skills, or presentation skills, anything. So, it’s very reciprocal at this point. And who can bring some of their knowledge for example, recruitment experience, expertise in psychology, development, coding, so junior software engineers are welcome, designers, people with crazy ideas, art directors. So, anyone who feels like they can improve the product, they can co create it with us. And my question to companies would be whether anyone is interested in piloting, Reputy to help to bring more transparency into the hiring and promotion process to aid their diversity and inclusion initiatives, empowering talent, finding talent, recruiting recent graduates, because young people are normally hired for potential, not for their working history. So, I’m open to meeting people from the corporate world. And of course, we are fundraising at the moment. We do need angel money, smart money to be able to build a proper product that integrates AI and blockchain tools. And to launch it here in the UK and to start bringing value to both sides: to job seekers and recruiters. So, someone who is eager to invest in talent, bringing their expertise and social and financial capital are very, very welcome.
Minter Dial 58:36
Wonderful, I take away from our chat, Lena, a strong thread of collaboration. It’s a word and a feeling I get: your ability to collaborate. You don’t come across as like an owner and someone who has to run it his way. You clearly are open to others, their feelings. You also, in my opinion, talk about diversity in fully the rightest of ways which is diversity of opinions, diversity of backgrounds, diversity of thoughts, and ways of being and I love the idea that you also recognize that learning and competency happens through experience, as opposed to in schools or in textbooks and you learn on the way. And I think those are wonderful qualities that you have, Lena, which I appreciate, and a few more. But hey, I can’t get into all of that. That’d be saying too much big hello to everybody who has put us together and keep on going and I would encourage anyone to go check out what you’re doing Reputy.io. I feel it’s a really worthy mission. And you have such integrity in the way you go about things and Anybody who wants to reach out to you will not be disappointed in hanging out with Lena Rantsevich Concretely, what are the ways to reach you connect, contact you right now?
Lena Rantsevich 1:00:11
LinkedIn. So, let’s connect on LinkedIn professionally. Or you can fill out a very short form on our website saying that well, I mean, I want to meet you I want to contribute. We’re not using any other channels.
Minter Dial 1:00:27
Well, I would add that you and I are coauthors of a book now available on Amazon. Lena Rantsevich, such a pleasure to have you on I’m gonna put all those in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on.
Lena Rantsevich 1:00:41
Thank you Minter.
Minter Dial 1:00:46
Thanks for having listened to this episode of The Minter Dialogue podcast. If you like the show and would like to support me, please consider a donation on www.patreon.com/Minterdial. You can also subscribe on your favorite podcast service. And as ever, rating and reviews are the real currency for podcasts. You’ll find the show notes with over 2000 blog posts on minterdial.com Check out my documentary film and four books including my last one “You Lead, How being yourself makes you a better leader.” And to finish here’s a song I wrote with Stephanie Singer, “A Convinced Man.”
I like the feel of a stranger
Tucked around me
Precipitating the danger
To feel free
Trust is the reason
Still I won’t toe the line.
I sit here passively
Hope for your respect
Anticipating the thrill of your intellect
Maybe I tell myself
There’s no use in me lying.
I’m a convinced man,
Building an urge
A convinced man,
To live and die submerged.
A convinced man,
In the arms of a woman
I’m a convinced man
Challenge my fate
I’m a convinced man
A convinced man
In the arms of a woman.
And struggle to see
Live for the challenge
So life’s not incomplete
What’s wrong with challenge
I know soon we all die
I like the feel of a stranger
Tucked around me
Precipitating the danger
To feel free,
Trust in my reason
And let me show you why.
I’m a convinced man
Practicing my lines
I’m a convinced man
Here in these confines
A convinced man
In the arms of a woman.
I’m a convinced man
Put me to the test
I’m a convinced man
I’m ready for an arrest
I’m a convinced man
In the arms of a woman.
I’m a convinced man… so convinced
You convince me, yeah baby,
I’m a convinced man
In the arms of a woman…
Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.
👉🏼 It’s easy to inquire about booking Minter Dial here.