An Uncompromising Player

Ana Nakashidze is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of AzerTelecom and makes key technical and commercial decisions in one of the largest companies in the region. She’s often disappointed that there aren’t enough women involved in decision-making processes.

How did her story begin? How positively does she view the intensity of women’s economic activity? What advice does she have for those women who are looking for role models inside Georgia?

Hereby I present to you the story of Ana Nakashidze.

Let’s start with childhood. Who was Ana Nakashidze as a child? Did you find any motivation or aspiration during school that would interest you to continue studies in the field of technology?

I was born and raised in a rather unusual family. Both parents are physicists. My father, who had quite unconventional views, taught me the value of freedom. This level of freedom made me instinctively examine all the challenge, boundaries and restrictions that came across in my life. As a child, I wanted to become an astronaut. This is still my dream, by the way. This dream was shattered along with the Soviet Union. Looking at those turning processes, I was realizing that becoming an astronaut was an unrealistic goal. This dream, or goal, however, transformed into immense interest for science.

At some point, I switched schools and went to V.komarov Physics&Mathematics school, where my interest in science further intensified. Communication as a profession was accidental. I can clearly remember my last exam in mathematics, stress that came with it….For Komarov students, this is a familiar story. On the last exam, the Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Tamaz Kupatadze came in and talked about this profession, which ultimately had a great impact on my professional choice. This person believed in me, he saw potential in me. His advice has played a critical role in my career development. Therefore, I can confidently say that having a mentor is crucial, as they give you important directions in life.

I did an undergraduate exchange program in England at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I wrote my thesis and acquired my Bachelor’s degree. Today’s opportunities are radically different from those at the time. From water and light to information, there were no resources available. Self-development was impossible, unlike this period when there are many tools available for professional and personal development.

What has been your most important educational challenge and what do you consider to be your most valuable professional achievement?

The most important educational challenge was any failure, problem or crisis that I had to overcome. One important conclusion I can draw from my experiences is that intellectual, emotional, physical self-realization and self-improvement is key to achieving happiness. Development only happens when you leave your comfort zone and get into a crisis. Crises are my biggest assets.

You currently work for AzerTelecom. What are your specific job responsibilities?

I am now the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of AzerTelecom in Operations. My job responsibility covers the technical and commercial aspects. For example, I work for International Wholesale Internet Trading, Wholesale Internet Services, and Telecommunications Services, which supplies all companies in the group with internet access and provides their connections. For me, moving to Azerbaijan, a marketplace with different rules, was a way out of my comfort zone. When you have been working in Georgia for so many years, building a certain reputation, gaining experience and knowledge locally, you are already in the comfort zone. Therefore, when you move to a new country, self-sustaining and gaining social capital becomes a new challenge, a new stage of development.

What is the state of telecommunication services in the Georgian market and how progressive are we in this regard? What is the main challenge for Georgia in this area?

There is a growing trend in the Georgian telecommunications market: for example, combining Magti – Caucasus, and Geocell – Silknet. It turns out that the market is dominated by two companies. The challenge is exactly that. The axiom is – the fewer players in the market, the lower the competition and the higher the risk of harmful settlements between market players. As a result, the customer’s choice in terms of service types, pricing, and service development is limited. Another challenge is for the country to position itself correctly in the global space. Georgia is not emphasized as an important transit location today, although we are one of the leading countries in terms of regulations and independence in this area. This requires setting clear policy goals.

What does it mean to be a woman in a male-dominated industry? What is your personal experience and do you feel discriminated against based on gender identity?

At high-level meetings, I am almost always the only woman. Starting with Komarov, now working in an industry where the distribution of women and men is 20/80 – to me, the lack of women in these aspects is not new. I often think about this issue and observe women in this field. I also argue with men, including those with progressive thinking who find it difficult to recognize and acknowledge discrimination.

Women need more energy and resources to be taken seriously. We need to constantly assure others that we deserve a certain position. For me, this is a struggle, this is a tough process that I constantly observe. Although, attitudes and approaches change. In the process of working, initially, it takes 3-4 months for the other party to believe in a woman’s professionalism, trust her, and ask for help or advice. There is discrimination, I’ve felt it. Often only physical violence is perceived as discrimination.

In many cases, however, hidden discrimination is the most damaging and the starting point for physical violence …

I agree. It is also true for me, discrimination is hidden and covered and much more harmful than direct, visible depictions of it. It should also be noted that women often question their abilities more than men. Consequently, in the process of women’s empowerment, it is much more important for women themselves to believe in their abilities. For men, self-esteem is natural, for them, the earth is a place of self- realization and self-actualization. Women, on the other hand, are met with internal or external obstacles and because of that, we’re morally obliged to constantly remind everyone that we are worthy players.

How important is it for people and companies with large social or financial capital to take on social responsibility and engage in women’s empowerment?

The numbers show that companies, where decisions are made by mixed teams (men and women), have an increase in productivity. Such a policy diversifies the work process. Gender balance leads companies to make the right decisions. Large-scale discussion is needed, recognizing the problem, and then taking effective steps to eliminate the problem. Hopefully, a bright future will come when special measures designed to empower women will no longer be needed as we achieve gender balance, but today companies need to develop a specific approach. I do not believe that this case will be made with general slogans. There will be no results. Big company executives need to acknowledge the problem, find ways to solve it and act. Experience sharing is very exciting and necessary.

What would you recommend to young people who want to work in your field? I would focus on girls who believe that women in tech can be just as successful as men.

As I said, I strongly believe that anything is possible. I just want to say to the youth and especially to the girls: Fight hard to achieve your goals! It is very difficult for me to find the right model to maximize the development of various aspects of life – emotional or professional. It is difficult to find people who will be a source of motivation and inspiration, people who will give you advice and say that you can. Each of us can express such support for one another. The key to a world full of closed doors is hard work. Remember that there are no limits! Be brave, and never, ever give up.