Anastasia Sleptsova is one of the leading personalities in the Odessa and Ukrainian tech worlds, and is involved with numerous technology forums and organizations.
I have several favorite places in Odessa and all of them are completely different from one another. The first which comes to mind is the Art Section Hall of the Gorki Library. That was my secret place, the place where I went before any of the many co-working spaces had opened in Odessa. I was really comfortable there with those old books, strange ancient lamps, the old oak furniture and mysterious atmosphere. I I did not cease going there after the conclusion of my university studies, but continued going there while I studied at the Tourism Bureau to get my tour guide license. I often found myself alone in the reading room of the old library, leafing through huge art albums, stacks of old Odessa newspapers and art history books. Time just seemed to stop moving there.
The librarian was an old woman who had that very special Soviet style and character. She always asked me what I was researching and the reason that I was I was there every week. Everytime I tried to convince her of my good intentions, that I was merely reading or looking at art book illustrations, she would never quite believe me. I think she must have thought I was stupid, because I could not answer her questions. Though later we became friends, because it was usually just the two of us in that hall. I got started in the tech world by chance. Everything important in my life always happens by chance. My first career in information technology got started when I worked as a Customer Support Specialist in a small team of the sort that we would now call a startup. They needed a person who knew foreign languages and had communication skills, as all of them were merely tech geeks in every sense of that phrase. No matter what it is that I start to work on, I always try to go very deep in order to understand the whole picture. That is also my approach to what is happening now with the Ukrainian tech industry. In the very first years of my career I considered the tech field to be a space where I could make a living in order to have the leisure time to do what I really liked to do in my free time. At the time, those interests included representing Ukraine at the European Conventions of the Rotary International and organizing alternative tours in Odessa for foreign tourists.
But once I started to get deeper into the startup scene, I realized that I could actually combine the things that I love to do with the way that I earn my living. So, I quit my day job in order to start our own project, Geeks Lab, as I always wondered why all the great events didn’t happen in Ukraine and especially in Odessa. So that is the story of how we came up with Odessa Innovation Week and the Black Sea Summit afterwards. So it wasn’t like I just sat down and decided ‘‘Well, what do I want do do? Oh, lets organize some conferences’… I hate conferences to tell you the truth… I just see them as being a really effective instrument for sharing experience, and pushing progress in opening up this unknown tech hub in the middle of Europe to the wider world.