My soft skills outweighed my lack of job experience.

Meet Nataliia: She's an Imagine Ukraine Fellow, a Teacher, a Technical Analyst at Target Global, a Mother of a 9-year-old son (and in our opinion) a *super* woman 💃💃💃

Nataliia at the annual Imagine Summer Party at Tempelhofer Feld (July 2022)

Two weeks ago - mid of June 2022 - I met Nataliia for the first time. I was longing to meet her as she was one of our first Imagine Ukraine Fellows and had not just found one but two jobs in Berlin within the shortest time. From what Johann, the co-founder of Imagine, had told me, Nataliia is an admirably positive person. So that's Nataliia, without further ado. 

Hi Nataliia, where are you right now? 

Hey. I’m in Berlin now. Together with my 9-year-old son, my grandmother, and my mother, we live in an apartment in Mitte. My husband is still in Kyiv. Of course, we miss him very much, but he is with a group of friends and according to the circumstances he is doing well.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life in Ukraine? 

Sure. I was born and raised in Kyiv. I studied English at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and the Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University, where I worked as a lecturer for International Relations and Advertising after my studies (find out more about Nataliia’s work experience here)

Teaching has always been my calling. It is fantastic when you can inspire people, and see a spark in their eyes. It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

The universities are closed now but I am still in contact with some of my students. The boys are alone now in their country, without their families, they can’t leave. Every person has different reactions to crises: Some want to be alone, and some want to distract themselves. I offered my students that whenever they want to, we can meet up online. I give lectures or we just talk. It is important to support each other now. 

Nataliia, how did you evacuate from Kyiv to Germany?

It’s quite difficult for me to recall as I tried to forget everything. We woke up on the 24th as we were hearing noises. We couldn’t figure out where the noises were coming from. I looked out and saw some kind of dark fog in the sky. The sounds didn’t stop and I guess on some level we realized what was going on: The war had broken out. In a hurry, we were packing our stuff. Looking back it’s odd, I packed books and family pictures, but no toothbrush…

There is a basement at the university where I was working. We went there with other families and colleagues. We stayed for 5 days. As soon as there was an opportunity, we left. Everything was all better than staying in that basement. We made it to our relatives in Vinnytsia, from there we continued to Lviv and then without my husband to Poland and finally to Germany.

I feel pain for my city, for the streets where I had my first date with my husband, and for the playground where my son used to play.

You know, the day before the outbreak I took pictures of our apartment. We just finished decorating. We have been working hard for it. It was our home, our place. I miss it and my city very much. Before, I didn’t know the notion of ‘motherland’. Now I do. I feel pain for my city, for the streets where I had my first date with my husband, and for the playground where my son used to play. When I read the stories in the news about Ukraine I feel like these are all my relatives and it is painful. 

How did you get in contact with Imagine?

As soon as we arrived at our relatives' place in Vinnytsia, I started to look for job opportunities. I wrote a lot of applications every day. That is usually how I deal with things. I always need to do something, be active, I don’t cry, I can’t sit still.  Even in the darkest times I was always doing, doing, doing. As I said before, people have different mechanisms to handle difficult situations. There is no “right” way here. 

Celebrating 300 Fellows with a job in Germany/ Europe

I got in contact with Johann through a former professor of mine who had told me about the work of the team at Imagine. He and his wife Sandra asked us to move in with them right after we met online. When we arrived at their place, Johann said: “We are friends now.” I didn’t expect that. Without any questions asked they welcomed us into their home, helped me with all the paper stuff, and translations, and supported me to look for schools for my son, to find a place to stay. I couldn’t have done it without them and I will be forever grateful for the friendliness we’ve received and the friendships we’ve gained.

Please tell us how you managed to get two jobs in Berlin, Nataliia?

I sent my CV to literally all the schools in Berlin, had a few interviews, and did not give up. Easier said than done, but I was confident in a positive outcome. The main task is to convince others that you are the one they were looking for. It is hard, but this experience is worth a million! It is the best time to go out of your comfort zone. Eventually, I managed to find a position as a language teacher for Ukrainian. The problem for me was that I am not a specialist in that field. I’m not educated to be a language teacher for Ukrainian. Of course, I was happy to have found something but it didn’t feel like the right match for me and I didn’t feel like I was doing a great job for my students. 

Convince others that you are the one they were looking for. It is hard, but this experience is worth a million! It is the best time to go out of your comfort zone.

Now you are working for a tech venture capital firm. That must be quite different from your work as a teacher before? How did you find this job?

Johann drew my attention to their open position as a technical analyst. I thought to myself, why not. The team at Imagine taught me to not lower my plans and to not do things I don’t like even though I was in the position I was in. At first, the position at Target Global seemed very different from my teaching career but it has quite some similarities. I was in charge of the website at the university I was working for and I created the moodle courses. Teaching includes a lot of skills that can be applied to any job - communicative skills, adaptability skills, flexibility, acting skills, and public speaking skills. So I gave it a try. 

The team at Imagine taught me to not lower my plans and to not do things I don’t like even though I was in the position I was in.

How did you prepare for the interviews?

Before the first interview I read about the company, its culture, mission, and founders - everything I could find online, even followed them on Linkedin and liked their posts. What's more, I was thinking about how I can fit in and contribute. 

I more than compensated for my lack of experience through a willingness to just throw myself in, do my very best, and learn.

After two long interviews, one with a founder, I am now a happy member of the team. They accepted me with open arms. I am working hard, and I believe I am doing my job now quite well. I get good feedback from my colleagues, which makes me proud. Sometimes I wonder how I landed this new job in a new industry. Ultimately I believe I more than compensated for my lack of experience through a willingness to just throw myself in, do my very best, and learn. I still hope to go back home as soon as possible but I am here now, I am eager to learn and I face new challenges every day which I enjoy. 

Do you have any advice for people who are reading this article?

  1. I’ve experienced great kindness from everyone I’ve met on my journey. Every day I feel support from my colleagues at work. We are not alone. This understanding is very helpful and important.
  2. Don’t settle for something you don’t enjoy doing. You have the right to follow your passion and dreams. Don’t lower your plans. Nothing is impossible. If you can dream it, you can do it.
  3. Give it a shot. Throw yourself in. When you do, some doors will open up for you, as they did for me.
  4. I was excited to meet new people, so I just smiled and talked a lot. Be yourself - it is nice to be authentic, people love it.

Last but not least: What do you like about Berlin? What is your go-to spot?

Berlin is a vibrant city, a mix of everything. People are very friendly, relaxed, and tolerant. My favorite place is the 'museum island'. I love museums, and galleries - here time stops and it is close to meditation. Just walking here makes my mind peaceful 💆.

Thank you Nataliia, it's great to have you on board!

To finish this article here are two nice programs for children affected by the war that Nataliia recommended to us: 

Kinderprojekt Arche

Wir helfen Kindern - RTL

That’s it. We hope you enjoyed the read. Now it’s time for action. As always, we are rooting for you. Keep us posted.


© 2018-2022 Imagine Foundation e.V. Made with 🤍 in Berlin.