Mila Smart Semeshkina, a Dubai-based businesswoman, venture capitalist, author, and founder of the Women’s Empowerment Council believes a highly responsible attitude entails a high demand. Focusing on seizing opportunities, leading to success, she spares no effort to live an extraordinary life. In the meanwhile, on 7th- 8th March 2023, Dubai Opera is to host a major WE Convention on women’s leadership.
Lara Palmer: Thank you so much for taking the time to give this interview. I’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time as you’ve been so difficult to catch – a lifestyle I find amazing.
Mila Smart: Thank you. Yes, I am, indeed, a busy person - constantly on the move, always pushing myself forward. My offices to be found on different continents – in Dubai and Miami, Florida, with Europe to follow suit soon - my hectic schedule includes more than 150 flights between them every year to meet with my incredible team, consisting of over 1,000 professionals, based worldwide.
Together, we make a difference to the world via five thriving business venues, including Lectera.com, a world-renowned educational platform that has already been used by over two million students, an event management company, and philanthropy projects, in keeping with our commitment to giving back. There is so much more in store, lots of new ideas and ventures in the works.
Our businesses are expanding at a three-digit rate - a phenomenal growth indeed. Despite the fast pace and demanding schedule with all the travel, craziness, and challenges involved, I would not have it any other way. Not growing means not moving on. And that, simply put, is not an option for me.
L.P.: This February, the whole of Dubai is filled with your photos as you are ranked among the top 100 most influential locals. A young woman. A foreigner. How come?
M. S.: Every new day convinces me even more that anything is possible if your goals and actions are right. Women’s potential and talents immense, it’s our responsibility to tap into them to develop female work capacity and make good progress. Dubai is a truly unique city of diversity, open to people of all ethnic origins and religious persuasions. A new ‘Melting Pot’ and thriving hub for the purposeful, it gives everyone a chance to hit the big time.
I am 31 years old - not as young as those hitting it big in their early 20s. Naturally, age alone does not define your personality. However, having faced challenges and difficulties, I do have a wealth of life experience that has shaped me. Now, I know for a fact that with a balanced combination of the right mindset, enough self-belief and self-discipline, good goal-setting skills, timely outside support, and good enough performance, the sky is the only limit.
As WE Convention organisers, we were naturally planning to advertise the event. To be honest, the on-going extensive advertising campaign of such an impressive scale, prominence, and brightness has come as a welcome surprise to me. Every day, I receive numerous phone calls and hear about my visibleness all around Dubai. This only goes to show yet again that anything is possible!
L.P.: Could you put in a nutshell what Mila Smart Semeshkina is like?
M. S.: Much more than just a businesswoman, venture capitalist, and author, Mila is a beacon of light, illuminating the way for others, empowering them to discover their potential and reach new heights.
L.P.: Sounds like an incredibly difficult undertaking. How do you manage all that?
M. S.: You know, with the right priorities, work ethics, and goals, you can achieve anything at all. My schedule demanding as it is, I cannot afford a day off even when on holiday, so I am always on duty and in touch. My work and life intertwining, I’m already used to high stress levels and constant multitasking. Having ambitious goals, you cannot lower your expectations and must continually raise the bar of your endurance, performance, and everything else necessary to reach them.
How do I manage to get all that done? The thing is I do not do everything myself but delegate responsibility. Say, having no time for routine and everyday tasks, I have my team to carry them out, which enables me to focus on most crucial things. If I notice my work process becoming sluggish or ineffective, I consider delegating yet more responsibility to be able to tackle more challenging and higher priority tasks only I am equal to. Delegating responsibility is one of the most difficult yet incredibly rewarding skills I’ve had to learn and master so far.
L.P.: What does your typical day look like?
M. S.: Oh, I wake up really early - between 5 and 5.30 a.m., when it’s still dark outside. At 5.45 a.m., I start my daily workout, followed by a quick breakfast. From 7 till 7.30 a.m., I work out my day plan, make arrangements, and compile a task list for the day. The next 90 minutes, I spend on improving my English. My 2023 objective is to reach the native speaker’s level. Already fluent enough, I still have to get rid of some flaws and am actively pursuing the goal.
At 9 a.m., I’m usually on my way to the office and meetings to attend throughout the whole day until 7 p.m. or so. Then, after a business dinner, I try to get home and hit the hay by 10 p.m. at the latest, as I am early to rise. My daily schedule consistent and efficient, I am still flexible if need be, say, while travelling, having to overcome a jet lag, or in case of inconvenient gym hours. The key factor is having enough self-discipline to follow a well-planned schedule.
L.P.: What is the point of doing all that rather than just living a normal quiet life?
M. S.: Look, I’m doing so because mine are big goals. I believe a highly responsible attitude entails a high demand. There are still many opportunities to take advantage of. To be able to give back, share my knowledge with others, and create new jobs, I have to be well-disciplined and focused. The only way to achieve my big goals is focusing on outcomes and taking consistent actions.
What’s the average idea of ‘a normal life’? Usually, it’s all about a relaxed lifestyle - couch potatoing, watching Netflix, and hanging out with friends. Personally, I hate the word ‘average’ and this view of ‘a normal life’. I think ‘average’ is synonymous with ‘gray’ - not my favourite colour. What I want is an extraordinary life and spare no effort to live just so. The world still full of promising opportunities to seize, I am always prepared to go an extra mile to keep moving on.
L.P.: How did you become a successful writer?
M. S.: Well, I wouldn’t call myself a super successful writer. Luckily, there is still much more for me to achieve in this respect. My debut book, ‘Learn or Leave the Market’, translated into 17 languages has been well-received, over 400,000 copies sold or downloaded. It’s already helped many to understand what they need to develop and why. Now, with my own knowledge and skills much improved, I feel it’s time I should give my book an update.
My second publication - ‘Your Million-Dollar Career’ - is a more compre- hensive guide, drawing on my and other people’s experiences to help readers chart their careers for the next 10 years within just a month’s time. Having coached over 3,000 people in career building, I eventually realised I couldn’t possibly attend to everyone’s needs in person. That’s why I spent over two years writing the book to bring together all my successful experiences in the form of case-studies and easy-to-follow recommendations, enabling read- ers to map out their careers by themselves. Based on a thorough research, clearly written, and easy to read, the book has also won popularity.
‘Your Million-Dollar Career’ has also received very positive feedback from well-known publishers. One of them, with a 20-year-long experience in the industry, told me, ‘Mila, yours is the only book I didn’t have to correct’ - the biggest compliment I’ve ever received. So, I take special pride in this achievement of mine.
I’m working on my third book to empower women, often facing more career challenges than men, to build successful careers. Poorly structured 300-page-or-so books available on the market today usually offer no more than one useful idea. My new book will be an easy-to-use toolkit, providing clear and concise information - what I believe many women need now.
L.P.: What was the last training course you did? What are you studying at the moment?
M. S.: I am a truly diligent student. As I’ve said before, I spend a lot of time perfecting my English. Almost 70 % of my communications, interviews, and public speeches in this language, it is of vital importance for me to be able to express myself intelligently for any audience, including native English speakers.
Another milestone in my career came in recently. As a venture investor, I used to rely primarily on my instincts. Professional knowledge essential, I’ve managed to seek out a renowned Stanford professor’s expertise in a one- on-one training session. The experience enriching indeed, now, I feel more confident and ready to take my investment efforts to the next level.
I do have a passion for learning and growing, so I always plan what to study in the coming year. I miss no opportunity to expand my horizons, always sparing time for learning new things. I prefer intensive courses, a few days or weeks long, allowing me to work one-on-one with renowned men- tors. This incredibly efficient approach allows me to fill gaps in my knowledge in a matter of days. Thus in a short time, I learn what others have to spend their whole lives on. Expensive as these intensive courses are, I do believe the knowledge they provide is worth every penny spent. In essence, it’s the Lectera Fast Education methodology I’ve been using most of my life!
L.P.: What’s the Women’s Empowerment Council and the WE Convention’s purpose?
M. S.: You know, finding my own purpose in life took me some time. Initially, women’s leadership was not on my agenda. But now, I invest a lot of time and resources in it. My vast social networks helped me discover a common women’s problem - despite being active and talented, many lack opportunities to develop themselves. So, I decided to change that and show them ways to accomplish anything they set their minds to, without having to conform to somebody else’s expectations. Having seen both very and less successful ladies, I know what kind of challenges they have to face, often related to inability to exercise their rights, despite legal equality with men. That’s why I launched the WE Council to educate, inspire, and empower women to make it to the top in their careers, personal growth, and financial stability. The Women’s Empowerment Convention is a platform & conference, show- casing powerful female role models from different countries and with dif- ferent backgrounds. We believe their principles, personal experiences, and ways to success can help many women understand how to succeed in life by realising their potential to the full - our success formula.
There is a real need for what the WE Convention does, so I’m quite pas- sionate about it. Female students comprising 70% of the Lectera users, I know for sure women are highly motivated to learn and grow both personally and professionally. I want to empower them to be a success in anything they wish. Hearing some ladies say there’s something they cannot do, I just remind them they are capable of everything. It is time for women to take control of their lives and build a future for themselves, not for want of choice, but because that’s what they want.
L.P.: You are also a powerful and very popular role model. How come?
M. S.: Thanks for the kind words. Frankly speaking, popularity, entailing so much responsibility with all its downsides has never been an aim for me. In the meantime, I do have a social media following of about 2,500,000, women comprising 80% of them, celebrating my achievements and worrying about my absence due to a busy schedule. So, maintaining my social media myself, I have to be careful about what I post you know.
However, once and for all having made a point of staying true to myself, I am still who I’ve always been, never pretending to be someone else. Honesty, for a fact, is the best policy, sure to be appreciated. When asked if I ever regret sharing my recipes of success, I say I’ve got no reason for that. Somebody’s life improved by my teachings does not worsen mine in any way. Sharing my experiences, learnings, and mistakes with others, I help them grow. I do believe showing others a way to the top, inspiring them to make their dreams come true to be my life’s purpose.
L.P.: Could you list three most important rules you follow to succeed in life?
M. S.: My first and foremost watchword is ‘I am a Lighthouse’, illumi- nating personal growth and fulfillment seekers’ paths. My every interaction with people must have a positive effect as my life’s mission is to make sure everybody, coming my way feels inspired and empowered to realise their potential to the full.
‘Never Lie to Yourself’ is a second watchcry I live by. Being honest with yourself is key to making good progress. Always ready to acknowledge my weaknesses or shortcomings, I use them as step stones to learning and self- improvement. Thanks to my unwavering commitment to the truth, I live in The Precious Present from Spencer Johnson’s famous parable, making the most of each and every opportunity I come across. My embracing reality enables me to move on with purpose and achieve my goals with confidence.
The last but not least battle-cry of mine is ‘Act Now!’ The magnitude of my plans and goals at times frightening, I always remind myself that to fear is human. Our primary purpose being to survive rather than be happy, the fear function helps to sustain our lives. However, I do believe progress can be made only by taking action, whatever the circumstances. I embrace my fears as normal part and parcel of moving on and growing. So, I keep pushing myself to take steps forward and never slow down or stop. As, what really matters at the end of the day is action!