“Both personally and professionally, focus is my biggest challenge. In our busy world, with multiple distractions, information overload, and an extremely short attention span, it’s crucial to find your focus. We only have that many hours in a day and the way we choose to spend the time will either help us grow or obstruct our success.”
Inna Semenyuk is a Founder and Marketing Strategist at InnavationLabs, a full-service marketing consultancy based in San Francisco. A seasoned marketing leader, Inna has worked with Slack, Calm, Nua Group, Lightbend, DeveloperWeek, Tribe XR and other exciting companies. Before taking her passion for helping brands find their voice and tell their story to San Francisco, Inna lived and worked in London, United Kingdom, where she completed her MBA at Imperial College Business School. Before that Inna was a VP at Grayling where she helped Starbucks, Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal, Burger King, Facebook, Skype and other top international brands launch in the Russia. Inna is an alumna of Singularity University and a founder of SU San Francisco Chapter.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My journey to starting InnavationLabs, a marketing consultancy based in San Francisco, included starting as a part-time junior specialist at a PR agency in Moscow, becoming a C-suite executive at the age of 26, moving cities and countries, and lots of soul-searching that landed me in the happiest place I have been personally and professionally.
I’ve always wanted to work in communications, and when I was a teenager, I told my mum that “every tiny business in the world, even a flower shop around the corner, will need a publicist” to promote their brand. In high school, interned at a local newspaper and a youth organization and then got accepted by the best university in Russia — Lomonosov Moscow State University — to study journalism and public relations.
Through my work at a TV station as a TV reporter and a PR executive at Mmd and Grayling in Moscow, my understanding and knowledge of PR, marketing communications and digital has evolved and I discovered my passion for technology brands and the power of content and social media. I have since moved twice: from Moscow to London and from London to San Francisco, and I now run InnavationLabs, marketing consultancy in San Francisco helping cutting-edge brands tell their story. And I absolutely love what I do!
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
Both personally and professionally, focus is my biggest challenge. In our busy world, with multiple distractions, information overload, and an extremely short attention span, it’s crucial to find your focus. We only have that many hours in a day and the way we choose to spend the time will either help us grow or obstruct our success, so I constantly ask myself what impact a particular decision would make on my life and business.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
In my opinion, leadership is not about “leading” other people or being their manager. It’s about trusting others and empowering them to do their best, while sharing the vision and the big picture for the business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My parents and my family have been my rock and supported me since I was a teenager. They’ve always believed in me more than I believed in myself and I’m forever grateful for that.
I have also been extremely lucky that many people whom I’ve met throughout my work became my friends and stayed in my life even when work would come to an end. It’s always useful to have a different prospective and exchange opinions about personal and professional growth, business ideas and the struggles and wins on the entrepreneurial journey which I always appreciate.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Business success does indeed put more pressure on personal life however we are in control of our own lives: how we address the challenges and issues, how we choose to grow the business, whether we get help and how we celebrate the success. It’s important to understand that even the busiest entrepreneurs (and especially the busiest people!) need to make time to rest and recover so that they would bring their creative and focused selves to the office in the morning. “We’ll sleep when we retire” and “Work hard, play hard” approaches are disfunctional — it’s only when you take care of your own health and happiness that you can offer the right attention to your business.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
There are a few tools that helped me approach my life and work more mindfully and achieve the work-life balance:
- Do a “spring cleaning” of your digital life to discover a baseline of your day to day work. Turn off ALL the notifications on your smartphone (my phone is always on silent), unsubscribe from promotional newsletters and unfollow people and businesses on social media that were not serving me, Marie-Kindi-style. You will notice that you will be less anxious, you will worry less and overall you will be less distracted and more focused.
- Start scheduling time off in your calendar and use for whatever you feel like: I personally prefer to jump on my Peloton bike for a 45-min sweat, meditate (Calm is my favorite app!), or simply go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine. While it might sound counter-intuitive, slowing down in our busy world actually doesn’t stop us from seeing the results: it helps us see what’s important, set priorities and as a result, focus on the 10% effort that drives 90% of the results. So schedule time off to rest, meditate and do what you enjoy doing and what’s good for your creative mind.
- Start bringing awareness to and be careful about how you spend your time: we only have so many hours in a day so it’s important to prioritize and focus on what’s truly important and what will drive the result. That includes saying “no” more often, including rejecting requests like “grab a coffee” and “pick your brain” or going to networking events. It’s very hard to do in the world of constant distractions and short attention span but you will immediately see the positive impact it makes on your productivity.
- To beat procrastination, split big tasks into smaller ones. Procrastination is a big threat to productivity. The thing is that we often delay completing the task when the task is too big to grasp and too difficult to complete. So instead of being ambitious to complete a big task in one sitting, split it into smaller tasks with milestones (for example, if you’re developing a whitepaper, split it into chapters and set a goal to write the first chapter by noon). That way you will have small victories to celebrate and that will motivate you to keep going. You will complete your task in no time with this approach.
- Experiment and find what works for you. I do not recommend following “the hottest trends” and routines just because they are trendy. Instead — figure out what’s right for you. For example, some people get peace of mind and more focus by uninstalling social media apps from their smartphone but for me personally, that approach did not work (I often have to work on the go and be on social media for work) so I’m learning not to mindlessly scroll through social media and use my smartphone mindfully instead.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
At InnavationLabs, I work with clients every day and it’s the results that my clients see that inspire me every day and gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride.
On a personal level, I feel happy when I make time for myself, whether it’s a 10-minute meditation session or a quick workout.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m a huge fan of mindfulness and taking care of your mental health. If I was to start a movement, it would be for mindful marketing, encouraging brands and marketers to apply the fundamentals of mindfulness to the way the strategies and campaigns are designed. If we were to stop for a moment, think mindfully about our brands and the value they can bring to customers and identify authentic ways we could connect with them, the world of marketing (and world overall) would be a better place!
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Authority magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live