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Academy Xi Blog

Tribe Spotlight: Marina Chelak

By Academy Xi

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Our Community Programs Manager, Marina, is celebrating her 3 year anniversary working at Academy Xi. We chatted about her journey so far (and discovered she’d quite like to give diamond mining a whirl…). 

Tribe Spotlight: Marina Chelak

Hi Marina! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. 

First up, can you describe your role in three words?

Creator of opportunities.

Casting your mind back…do you remember your first day at Xi?

I do, actually! I especially remember my second day because it was a colleague’s birthday. The Melbourne team were discussing how to surprise him; so I decided to get some helium birthday balloons. Later that day I discovered that you have to order them in advance – I had no idea as it was my second week in Melbourne and Australia in general. I’d recently moved after living in Europe for five years.

Anyway, I spent the whole night googling and I managed to get the balloons. I was glad I could add some brightness and contribute to his birthday. On that day, I also realised how cool and caring the whole team in Melbourne was.

I remember from my first day being really impressed with the onboarding process. It was on Trello back then. It seemed so organised and fun at the same time and it made me look forward to everything else that was going to follow.

How has your job at Xi changed over the years?

This is the part I like the most about my work as my role has changed a few times. This has given me the chance to explore different areas of the business.

When I first joined Xi, I started as a Campus and Events Coordinator. I was the sidekick to our Events Manager by day and a “Campus Director” by night when we had our evening courses going on after hours.

I loved how dynamic my work was, how many interesting people I was meeting and how much I was learning from them all on a daily basis. During that role I learnt how to own whatever I was doing and to never diminish the value of even the smallest tasks, because it’s all those small details which make great experiences.

I am grateful for my team making me think about my work this way back then. I’ve lived and breathed that insight throughout my work since.

A few months into the Campus and Events role, I transitioned over to being the Events Producer after the opportunity to step up became available. It was hard farewelling my Manager, as I felt like I still had so much to learn from him, but this was also when the Melbourne team came to support me the most. Thanks to them, I was able to continue growing our community through a variety of multiple events and meetups, bringing together people willing to share and learn from each other. 

After a year and half working with events, I had a big change and moved over to our (then) newly established B2B team. I was working with an audience that was new to me – corporate. 

Always open to a new challenge and adventure, I happily jumped into it and I’ve learnt heaps of new skills including business development and how to run online events.

Despite having a great team and manager, I realised how much I was missing the presence of community in my life and that it was in fact what I’ve been so passionate about all this time.

Luckily at Xi people usually get recognised for their interests and they end up where they truly belong. That’s how I made the move into my current role as Community Programs Manager, where I run our community-based In-Residence mentoring program, connecting our students with experts. This supports them to a faster transition into their new industry.

You’ve had quite the journey so far! How did you first learn about Academy Xi?

I started looking for a job in Australia when I was still in Europe. I applied for a role at Academy Xi before even moving here. At the time I’d never heard about Xi – I just found the job ad quite catchy! 

Back then I was looking for work in both tourism and event industries, but I was very keen to work in a start-up.

Two days after arriving in Melbourne from Europe, I had my interview with Academy Xi. I remember I was very jet-lagged but it was the best job interview I’d ever had.

How do you balance your career at Xi and your personal life?

There were times when my work at Xi was my focus – but I loved it because I was in a stage of accelerated growth and learning. I was very excited about having what I had professionally. 

With time, as my priorities in life started changing, I felt more work-life balance in my day to day. I’ve felt that there has always been an option for having that balance – it’s really about how you choose to approach it, how you want that work-life ratio to be.

However, I’ve been so lucky to work with people who I consider my friends that at the end, the border between personal life and work becomes blurred anyway.

How has Xi helped you in your career development?

Xi has always been a place where I could experiment – where I could try without being too afraid to fail. The experiences I’ve had have helped me to discover where I stand in terms of my skills, passion and capabilities. 

Since the first day I’ve had the freedom to do the work my way and when needed, I’ve always had the support of my team. Having such great conditions for applying my creativity, while at the same time having the feeling of safety and support, has definitely been a catalyst for my career growth and development at Academy Xi.

It’s important to emphasise that when I say Academy Xi, I mean people who I’ve worked with in the company. You know the saying that you’re the average of people who you’re surrounded with. Well, my average has grown tremendously after I joined the team and I continue to learn from them every single day.  

If you could job swap with anyone else within Academy Xi, whose role would you want?

If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I could’ve given you a more interesting answer, but at the moment, I am very much in the place I want to be.

However, our Product team does some fascinating things, the way they build our courses. I believe my curiosity would like to explore what it’s like to be a Learning Designer for a day.

What is your proudest accomplishment or moment here at Academy Xi? Or favourite project?

All smiles at the International Women's Day Event in Melbourne, hosted by Stone and Chalk
All smiles at the International Women's Day Event in Melbourne, hosted by Stone and Chalk

Throughout the last three years, I’ve had a few projects and accomplishments that I am proud of. 

One of them is Pitch X Night – a pitching competition for the startups, which was born before I stepped into the role, but I was able to revive it together with the other two amazing Melbourne communities: YBF Ventures and The Silicon Beach. This event involved way more stakeholders and elements than any other Xi event and it’s preparation took at least 2-3 months.

The complexity of it and the impact it had on the lives of the entrepreneurs who were just at the beginning of their start up journey at the time was what made it special to me. Among the winners were some startups that are still on the market now and some of them are quite successful. The ideas that the Pitch X Night and the prizes that the winners received played at least a small part in their success today makes me proud and happy!

Of course, I can’t stop myself from speaking about the current In-Residence Program that I run – this is my favourite project so far. It’s the program I’ve been involved in from the very beginning and I’d love to grow further. Working with incredible people, creating opportunities for their growth, development, showing them that they can make a huge impact on other people’s lives and in the industry they work in, is what gives purpose to my own work. 

Before working at Academy Xi, what was the most unusual or interesting job you ever had?

While studying at Uni in Russia, I had a part-time job as a Mechanical Computer Engineer. I was the only female in the team of men that built personal computer system units and tested them before sending them to the retail shop. 

Marina – you’re on the homestretch now. Some quickfire questions to end our time with you today!

Embarrassing work moments?

I have a really bad memory, but I believe that if I had a really embarrassing moment at work, my colleagues wouldn’t allow me to forget it!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

Helena Bonham Carter

If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?

Diamond miner

Motto or personal mantra?

Work smart, not hard

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

I worked as an accountant for 4 years

You’re happiest when?

When I do what I like, be it traveling, enjoying delicious food together with friends, working on a project I’m passionate about or getting myself into another new hobby!