“Organizations should move away from the paradigm that learning is about acquiring knowledge – in today’s business dynamic – it is about helping people learn how to learn and build the mindset for change,” states Elena Agaragimova.
Elna Agaragimova, the CEO and Founder of Bessern, believes that having a mindset for change is the key to effective learning. According to her, the external like finances, clients, and outsourcing can be taken charge of, but the mindset is an integral and hardest part that requires managed and continuous learning.
Working towards this change, Bessern provides individuals, organizations, and corporates a key to growing through their well-equipped mindset, skills, and mental resources. With its science-backed methodology, the organization intends to transform how people think, feel, and behave at work.
With a motive to find the Top 10 Inspiring Business Leaders Making a Difference 2022, we at Insights Success crossed paths with Elena to know about her inspiring story and how is making a difference in people’s lives.
Delve into the interview to know more:
Elena, kindly tell our readers about yourself and your professional journey so far.
I come from a higher education and learning background, having spent the first part of my career working in various higher education institutions around the world, followed by shifting towards corporate learning and then to the corporate side of learning. It was a hobby that turned into a career and then a business. In 2019 – after years of doing side gigs and trying different things – I finally had the courage to jump into entrepreneurship.
Originally, I am from Russia, and having moved to the US at the age of 13, I didn’t have much education and career guidance, which is why these topics of professional development and how we can be at our best are very personal to me. I wish I had the mentorship and advice earlier on in my career, so I try to give that to people now by bringing awareness to strategies that work when it comes to performance. I truly believe we can all have fulfilling jobs while at the same time monetizing in a way that works for us and taking care of our overall wellbeing. It is possible – you can love your job every day (maybe not all day, but definitely every day).
I spent a big part of my 20s experimenting with different jobs and found this box to fit into as I began to navigate the ‘real world’ after college. And realized that I didn’t fit into any boxes, so I created my own but combined all of my experiences to essentially create my own career path and business opportunities.
In my free time, I enjoy giving my time and career development experience to young students looking to transition to the world of work post-graduation and veterans transitioning from military to corporate jobs.
What was your inspiration to step into the Human Skills Training space?
The story of Bessern started a few years back when my co-founder (Ivan Palomino) and I have decided to do something; anybody will tell you not to do when you start a business – which is starting a business with your friends. After 6 years of friendship and several dinner conversations about the state of learning and development in organizations, we have decided to combine forces and create a solution to one of the biggest pains in corporate learning: getting actual results on learning, or to put it bluntly having as an indicator of success change of behaviors in people.
We have a personal story about the need to re-invent learning to help individuals get more control of their lives. My business partner, after over 17 years working in senior corporate positions had experienced a burnout (& he is not alone in this; in fact, this is another pandemic that the workers around the world are experiencing); which made him decide to leave his senior leadership role as it was a direct cause of his burnout.
From my side, I have worked in various organizations and had my own struggles in finding meaning and purpose at work while finding ways to continue to grow in my career. Essentially, I have created my career path, where I found my passion in the world of talent development and quickly realized I can help people do the same. Did you know that over 75% of the global corporate workforce is disengaged? Meaning they show up to work and do their bare minimum, without much joy, creativity, or interest in what they do. Gallup – an analytics and advisory company, releases annual reports on the state of the global workforce. Every year, I am saddened (although not surprised) that these are the numbers we are looking at.
That is why we do what we do at Bessern. Because when an employee is engaged, they do great work, they are creative. They bring their best to work & everyone around them (including the business) benefits. It is a win-win formula.
Tell us about Bessern, its mission, and its vision. What role did you play in furthering its development and outreach?
Our personal stories drove our passion for making a change in the way people learn at work. But there is more than just passion:
- Corporate learning hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years – long hours of training with few opportunities for practice. If we don’t practice, we simply forget
- E-learning use in corporate has expanded, but unfortunately, only 15% of participants finish a program – people need to have a feedback loop to have the motivation to finish the endless suite of “movies without practice.”
In the last 3 years, employees started to voice out their concerns about the impact of traditional training on their development – with a high rate of dissatisfaction.
These were the indicators for us on the opportunity to become disruptors in this industry – combing principles of brain science and technology so that our learning approach can be effective and scalable in organizations.
At Bessern – we help people build essential skills, mindsets for growth, and resilience to perform at their best at work. It is almost like helping people create a regular practice of skills in a short and impactful format.
Ivan (my co-founder) and I have a complementary set of skills – my focus as CEO is the operational growth of Bessern – from our humble start – today we have customers in 3 continents. One of my favorite phrases in the development of our company was in the creation of the learning approach – combining fresh behavioral science research, building tech, and building a training delivery.
Please tell us about the various sectors Bessern serves and how it adapts to the clients’ corporate skills training requirements.
Bessern focuses on tech and engineering industries where you would typically find the majority of analytical teams who can benefit from our suite of offerings. This is not such as big surprise when you consider that the cost of having unproductive employees is often high in these industries. Thus, the need for trying innovative solutions to upskill organizations is quite high.
We usually develop programs combining live sessions, in-app access to practice and access to facilitators – Our typical customer onboarding starts with a discussion about the type of corporate culture they want to have and what’s challenging with the current. This leads to a tailor-made program designed in order to have quick returns on new behaviors that need to be displayed in the organization
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? And how have they helped you to become a strong leader?
I think I faced similar challenges as most when it came to being a woman in business. In some aspects, it helped me, in others – there are still lots of stereotypes that go along with being a woman in business & overcoming the ‘old boys’ club is a real thing. And I was also very lucky to have mentors who opened doors for me and created opportunities for me to shine and test my own potential. When you do anything that is different from what most people are doing – you will be doubted, you will be ridiculed, etc.
So, you very quickly learn who wants to see you win and who are the people you need to surround yourself with. You also learn resilience, patience, and strangely enough – kindness. Because you realize how often when people speak to you they are actually talking to themselves. As long as you are able to filter through advice that is not meant for you, and you are able to stay aware of your own journey, have the right circle of people around you – you will be alright.
As an experienced leader, what advice would you like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who wish to venture into the competitive industry that you are serving?
If I had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are building, is that things take time. Great things take a lifetime. Patience is part of the game. While you pivot, innovate, go through trial and error, and re-invent your business and yourself, it is just part of the process. If you don’t enjoy the process and the struggle, then entrepreneurship is probably not the best choice for you. There are many different ways to create value in this world, find out what it is for you.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Also, how do you envision scaling your business operations and outreach in the coming years?
I see myself expanding Bessern in different parts of the world, continuing our mission, and impacting people around the world.
I see myself diving more into youth education and programs, particularly in low socio-economic areas where it is needed the most. I think education is one of the biggest gifts we can give to the next generation. We don’t know what we don’t know, and bringing awareness and access to areas of the world where youth need it the most is where I would like to focus – after all – they are our future. We owe them that much. I see myself continuing my multi-dimensional journey in the world of professional development and aspire to get a degree in Clinical Psychology as well, to add my work with individuals.
From Bessern’s side – our aspiration by 2023 is to impact 1 million people incorporates around the world with our programs and ultimately decrease the number of people who are disengaged at work. Within 10 years’ time frame, our dream is to make Bessern a household name that makes an impact not only in organizations but also individual lives around the world. We also have a very aspirational arm to our business – Bloom Youth – where we are looking to close the gap between educational institutions and the corporate world when it comes to preparing our youth for the future.