Podcast

Lauren Stiebing 16 December 2019

The Power of Passion to Drive your Career with Ilya Sokolov

We often hear the typical sentence “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. This means that when you pursue your passion, you will feel your job is a pleasure, rather than a burden. Being highly motivated and engaged at work will be an essential tool to have a successful career and, why not, have fun along the journey.

To discuss this issue we have invited Ilya Sokolov, who has shaped his career based on his initial passion for languages and anthropology, but then realized how he could channel that passion into a marketing career. He has now accumulated many years working in various countries in Europe and the US, and is now the Vice President of Marketing in Curation Foods.

 

Topics discussed:

  • How passion can help one to have a successful professional career.
  • First steps on shaping your career based on that passion.
  • Tips for those who haven’t found their passion yet.

 

Lauren:

Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the career success podcast. Today we have invited Ilya Sokolov to discuss with us the power of passion to drive your career. Ilya built his career internationally – starting from Europe and Asia and more recently in the US working in global and local roles. He has a blend of strategic marketing and operational general management roles and specializes in the health & wellness sector and products for children. Prior to his current company, Ilya worked 10 years in PepsiCo on Quaker, Tropicana and local nutrition brands. Now he’s leading marketing and innovation for a California fresh plant-based company – Curation Foods. Welcome, Ilya.

Ilya:

Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so much for inviting me and thanks for hosting this podcast. Actually, I’ve been listening to some of my predecessors and I learned a lot from them.

Lauren:

Well, you’re welcome. Glad to have you here today. We’re going to be discussing passion and I know that passion is a very powerful driver of one’s career success, but also personal happiness, let’s say overall life happiness as well. How has passion helped you and your career? And then furthermore in your overall happiness?

Ilya:

Some people are kind of lucky, or mindful – or probably both – enough to choose the right career path very early on after they graduate from college or university. It wasn’t really my case. Actually, I got two educations, one in linguistics, one in marketing. But, also, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with them. And I kind of chose marketing at this point in time, it wasn’t really very intentional. And that, for the first two years in my kind of career in marketing, I wasn’t really too happy or even successful to that extent. I even considered to completely change the profession. I wasn’t able to identify and integrate some of the things I’m really passionate about in my life more into what I’m doing at work. For example, my first educational passion was linguistics. I’ve always been very passionate about studying and different languages and different cultures. First of all, it definitely impacted my kind of true growth, I would say my international career because I really always wanted to work globally, internationally, and be able to travel in different countries and learn. And therefore, I first worked in Europe, and later in Asia and more recently in the US.

More importantly, I’d say my first education in culture and linguistics, I’d say really helped me to reframe my current profession in marketing. I truly believe that the most valuable asset of thing in marketing is really big consumer insights. A marketer is more of a kind of anthropologist. And that’s what I exactly studied many years ago in university. For somebody who’s really constantly learning about people, learning about behaviors, cultures and looking for insights. And kind of in the way I was able to merge two of my educations into one and kind of define the approach that made my work more fulfilling and more rewarding and probably also more successful. So that was my first example.

Lauren:

Where did the marketing piece come in, was there something that you had learned about marketing or heard about marketing that picked your interest at the beginning of your career?

Ilya:

Honestly, when I just started studying this, it was a completely new thing for me. It looked like an evolution of what I learned in my first education. But I wasn’t really sure how I was going to intertwined. And only later one, I kind of connected the dots in what I learned before, what I learned afterward and how I can merge them into something kind of more unique and more valuable for myself.

And then later on, more like a second example on how to integrate the working life into something more harmonic, when my first daughter was born, probably as many of us, I got naturally very interested in products and services for kids. But in my case, I decided to make them my profession and my specialization. When my daughter was one year old, I actually joined a big company, because I was so passionate about developing something really healthy and good for my daughter, and for the next ten years, I truly grew in my three kids now. I have been actually developing together with them the entire pipeline of products for kids, for different ages as they grew, as they evolved. And actually dedicated me to the nutrition for children, nutrition for kids. For the next ten years, my life and work were full of kids at work and in life and full of joy.

Lauren:

In terms of this overall happiness when did you figure out – I know that you said in the beginning that you didn’t necessarily maybe go in the right direction or maybe weren’t very happy -, when did you figure out how to shift that into something that you were passionate about?

Ilya:

I’d say it kind of came with, Lauren, and self-awareness it wasn’t one specific time, it was more like different, and different ways when I really understood, first of all, this is my life, what I really want to do, what is really interesting, what really trigger and drive my passions. And then, understanding that in my life, that actually if I want to do it, do I really need to completely change my profession? Or can I find a way to integrate this into what I’m doing professionally?

In my case, I was lucky and found a way to do both and to merge those different passions and different stages of my life into what I’m doing professionally. And it didn’t come to waste, was first more about, ok, how can I integrate my linguistics and anthropology education in the consumers’ insights as a marketing role? Also, recently there is my passion for kids’ nutrition, which kind of evolved into something broader. I’m a big believer in the mindful living, as I work, and in my career mainly in food and beverages, this passion for, or believe in mindful living kind of translated into the passion for mindful eating. In the last few years – over the last five or six years – I really dedicated myself to work only for brands and companies or portfolios with a clear purpose: portfolios that can really enable people to eat more mindfully and healthier. Actually, that’s my latest passion in my life and my latest passion at my workplace too.

Lauren:

Yeah, I think, you know, there is the whole topic coming up of purpose-led brands, but also purpose-led careers and how you can, let’s say, integrate all of that together in one. And I think this is a great example of it’s not necessarily either work or personal preferences and passions, but you can really integrate them together into one.

Ilya:

Exactly.

Lauren:

What advice would you give – I’ve met a number of people in my life, I’m sure you have as well, that haven’t found their passion and don’t really know how to find their passion. What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t yet found their passion?

Ilya:

First of all, if someone doesn’t – like if you don’t know what your passion is about, if you don’t know what do with your career – first of all, don’t be nervous, and kind of take it easy. As we all know, many, many famous people, even famous people who actually for whom it took decades to find a mission in life. So, I mean it is absolutely fine for some people it’s easy and it comes earlier, for some people it doesn’t. So, I think it’s fine, don’t rush it and don’t force it. That’s number one.

Second, I’d start with a kind of a real focus on the increased self-awareness. I think self-awareness is probably one of the biggest enablers for fulfillment and joy in life. And to that extent, also in your work, in your career. So really dedicate time to understand what really drives you. Sometimes and very often we kind of already know it, but we are not self-aware enough really to make it a priority and really know how to really not prioritize, not act on that, on this knowledge. So, I’d really encourage to be – to dedicate time for self-awareness, there are multiple ways to do it, more formally and more informally, and there are formal tools which I think are very helpful. One of them I actually used on my path is the tool we just call “career path”, which is a great tool to help predict your career but more importantly to identify what is the most fulfilling and rewarding career path.

And finally, when you do understand what you want to do, just really make it a priority, no matter how much of a stretch it is. Definitely everything is absolutely possible if you really want it. So don’t be shy to find your destination and don’t be shy to make your company or boss really allies on this journey, help you to evolve in this direction. So I think that’s just to really be a priority, to make your work and your life more fulfilling.

Lauren:

No, I agree. I think in these instances where, you know, maybe individuals are in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s, I think as we grow up, we have a certain image of ourselves, you know, even in our 20’s, and it can be quite challenging when you’re faced with that reality and you know that it’s your passion, but it isn’t necessarily in line with how you saw yourself either then or in the future. And I think it’s important because, at least in my experience with individuals that I’ve known, you may regret it later and ultimately you probably won’t be as happy, you know, staying in that place than if you’d have followed your passion once you do find.

Ilya:

Absolutely. Well, it’s never too late and like you can never know. I’m still extremely open to learn new things and maybe to change again my career path in a way or in a direction that will be somehow like, new and refreshing for me. So, I think we just need to kind of life for now and really do what we feel it’s important today.

Lauren:

Sure. Well Ilya, thank you so much for joining us today on the career success podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you.

Ilya:

Thank you so much, Lauren.