Polina Pashkov

Polina Pashkov

University of Technology Sydney
UX Researcher and Designer | CoFounder
Polina studied Bachelor of Communications and Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at University of Technology, Sydney

What's your job about?

I have 2 concurrently running jobs - (1) as a UX researcher and designer at an agency and (2) as a cofounder of med-tech start-up.

Snepo Research is an experience and technology agency that specialises in interactive software and hardware development. The company works across multiple digital domains to create digital experiences and differing pieces of technology for a range of industries. I work in the research, testing and actioning phases of projects that come to us. This means extensive deep-dives into problem spaces, outlining the values and needs of the stakeholders involved, and reframing the problem to create solutions that have relevancy and purpose in the area it is tackling, with a digital underlying. I continue onto co-design an appropriate product, service or experience with experts and stakeholders using different thought experiments to conduct agile user testing. We are currently drawing on our Fab Lab (a lab of emerging technology) to create experiences for corporates to understand and see the risk and opportunity technology is infiltrating industries with.

Stitch Hub, on the other hand, is a med-tech startup that looks at supporting those loving with Type 1 Diabetes to take command of their chronic illness. It is an online marketplace of tools that are outside the immediate scope of direct medical care; tools such as books, support groups and clinical trials. Alongside my 2 cofounders and I we do ABSOLUTELY everything - from engaging with stakeholders to manually entering tools into our database. On average, my days consists of meetings, strategy planning our next steps and continuing to build out our platform.

What's your background?

I am the first-born child of immigrants who travelled from a non-English speaking country, so I grown up with the pressures and expectations to succeed. My upbringing was split with a strict work regime, to perform well academically (which I kind of did) and going to various extra-curriculars, such as dance, swimming, touch football, Russian School and more dance.

A pivotal moment in my life was breaking the firm grip of schooling life and being able to actually forge my own path, autonomously, and choose what I wanted to study without the doom and gloom of a final mark hanging above me.

I ended up taking an ENORMOUS risk and choosing a degree that had not yet existed up until that point; the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at UTS. I recall one of the lectures sitting at this small dingy desk on open day, surrounded by other faculties colourful banners and posters, with only an A4 piece of paper to unveil the mysterious degree. However, all it took was 6-minute conversation to convince me that it was an unknown I wanted to pursue. And as it happened it provided me varying opportunities to travel, learn and connect with extraordinary minds. This is where my startup was born, through a passion project within this degree, and has since grown out to be its own entity.

I was also luck enough to be paid by the university to travel to places like Belgium, Fiji and Cambodia! This is where I first encountered Project Everest Ventures and concurrently began my journey with them. With my 2-year involvement I have grown so much as person and have in turn been able to obtain skills around leadership and business that I would not have experienced anywhere else. I rose through the ranks and was entrusted with large groups of up to 45 people - running country operations and project consulting.

I chose to pursue a startup after working in the environment of one for 2-years with Project Everest Ventures and loving the passionate people and meaningful work. I pursued getting a second job to continue learning. I did not see the value of applying for job openings with set expectations of a role and as a result I began approaching companies and with my the value, in the hope I could create my own role, which I did at Snepo. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Anyone is capable of doing what I do, you just need a resilient and open mindset to learn and do on the job. I believe in a transdisciplinary approach, which means blending disciplines and fields to create new knowledge and outcomes that allows for various degrees to feed into each other.

Specifically, to what I do it is important to be able to decipher what stakeholders and customers are saying and doing when interacting with questions, products, services or experiences, in order to get to the crux of their needs and wants. As well as, being able to approach challenges from different disciplinary angles. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

Personally, I find admin very therapeutic but not something I could do all day, every day. I enjoy the exposure I get to new kinds of technology and getting the opportunity to explore these pieces in different contexts, as well as being able to teach these insights to others internally and externally. If I am enjoying the environment I’m in, work with the people that are as passionate and stimulated as I am, and if the work I do is purposeful and meaningful then I know that I am working towards the right thing.

What are the limitations of your job?

With any startup there is pressure and responsibility to succeed as you are the driving force of the company. You have to self-motivate yourself, as there is nothing else but your passion that can get you out of bed in the morning. I guess the biggest challenge is that it is constantly weighing on your mind - how to do better, where to go next…

On the other hand, the work at Snepo is very reliant on the case I build up regarding the direction of the project, so again a lot of responsibility. There are also more players involved that need to be kept happy and informed which can make decisions slow and not what you had hoped, however some of the best ideas have come out of the confines and criteria given.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Get more involved in experiential and international work placements that the university has to offer. Do not let the intimidation and little-experience factor dissuade you from applying.
  2. Go to more industry events on social topics that are currently being explored (eg. Held by General Assembly and big corporates - PWC, Accenture, Deloitte). As well as, participate in more Hackathons.
  3. Be confident in your decisions that are regarding you and your study, no one else is living your life but you.