From lab to market: taking the most from Skoltech for a successful career.
Andrii Omelianovych, 2015 | Criteo, Product Manager
Meet Andrii Omelianovych, a product manager at Criteo. Andrii graduated from Skoltech in 2015. Since then, his career and skills have evolved from research to product management, but one thing remained the same: the experience and skills he gained at Skoltech. Enjoy his story!
why I chose Skoltech
I decided to join Skoltech to learn how to bring something out of a lab into the market.

Having been a researcher in the field of photovoltaics, I was surrounded by the stories of scientists and engineers creating their own companies to pursue new scientific and technological advancements. I really wanted to do the same. It seemed that it would naturally bring meaning to all of the research work I had been doing until that moment.

During the selection weekend, I first heard about teaching entrepreneurship in a practical hands-on way. This sparked my interest. Plus the people I met left a very good impression. I never looked back after that.

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industry experience at Skoltech
The concept of industry immersion seemed like a cornerstone of early Skoltech vision, bringing a scientific, product, and/or business strategy innovation to Russian ventures in a consulting manner working in a cross-functional team. I was initially very skeptical about the feasibility of such an idea in the post-soviet industrial context. However, I was proven wrong in Novosibirsk.

Together with a group of Skoltech students, I had a chance of doing about a month-long project with the TION group, the manufacturer of disinfection equipment and climate control appliances, based in Academgorodok near Novosibirsk. The company was quite curious about the idea of industry immersion, the leadership found our experience during the Innovation workshop quite relevant, and was ready to dedicate resources to experiment with product development. Fellow Skoltech student, Olcay Yilmazcoban, and I went on to work on an integrated climate control system for Smart Home reporting to the company's COO. The project had a significant impact on the company as well as high visibility, so we never felt that we were doing work for its own sake. This was my first experience directly collaborating with the engineering team, managing project scope, and juggling project priorities. Olcay and I managed to bring the prototyping mindset we acquired in Skoltech into the company's setting using the Arduino platform to test various hypotheses and solutions despite frequent ridicule from engineers who didn't consider Arduino a serious electronic component.

At the end we managed to put together a prototype that was able to interact with TION's products as well as AC and humidifier controlling several climate parameters (CO2 level, dust particle concentration, temperature, and humidity) and successfully present it to the company's leadership.
career path
I'm a product manager in Criteo, AdTech multi-national, based in Paris. My focus is a self-service platform for our advertisers with special attention to budget management and marketing campaign controls.

During the last year of Skoltech, Boris Urman (also Skoltech graduate), Dmitry Smetanin, and I founded Sharxi, a taxi sharing service based on a large-scale real-time route-optimization algorithm. Within the first year, we managed to reach 100 orders per day and a significant burn-rate. Naturally, this was hardly sustainable. We iterated on the business model and did pilot projects in different markets during the year after that. However, in the end, growth prospects didn't meet our expectations, so we had to move on.

After that I went to work for Fluix, a document-management and process automation start-up, which came out of Readdle, a very successful maker of productivity tools for iOS devices (e.g. PDF Expert, Scanner Pro, etc.) At that point, Fluix already broke even and was looking for a way to grow into new industries. It was an exciting journey where I had a chance to bring an idea to a fully-fledged BI tool for customers ranging from large energy multi-nationals to small credit unions. Fluix provided me with an opportunity to work with amazing software engineers and designers without worrying about expenses, and with amazing cultural experience in Odesa.

Completing the project of such scale in Fluix brought a lot of thoughts about the next steps. A friend of mine, Dr. Sergey Ivanov (also a Skoltech graduate), told me about the recently opened product position at Criteo. Being a publicly-traded NASDAQ-listed company, Criteo offered the scale I haven't had my hands on before as well as a chance to work within a larger product community. They were looking for a mix of start-up mindset and hands-on experience (hey, Skoltech!), so everything played out nicely. After all bureaucratic work was done, I moved to Paris where I am currently isolating :D
current job
As a product manager, I'm responsible for building and executing the product roadmap of Criteo platform while making sure it's aligned with the company's business strategy. This involves a lot of communication and coordination between commercial, engineering, and design teams, and I do my best to keep tabs on customer feedback and our competitors.

My day usually starts with a stand-up with the engineering team. The team is based in
Grenoble, so the pandemic didn't change the dynamic that much in this regard. Then
depending on my commitments, I may work on product specs making sure customer
feedback is taken into account, and appropriate scope and priorities are set. Or discuss product roll-out details with our commercial teams. Or work with the engineering team to solve ongoing technical concerns. The interviews with clients, high-level planning as well as professional development do take time from many of my workdays as well.

I believe Criteo provides a good balance between gathering insights from clients, working them into the roadmap, and then coordinating commercial roll-out which is inevitable considering the scale of the operations.

from Skoltech to real life
Back in the fall of 2013 when the number of courses at Skoltech was relatively low, there was a two-week period after the end of the courses where all of us worked on different projects, applying all of the knowledge we gained from the course. In a nutshell, this is what I constantly do at work. I had experience with project-based work before Skoltech, but the level of engagement and the depth of the rationale behind every project was unparalleled. Innovation workshop and Ideas to Impact course gave a glimpse into what it means to work on a commercial project and I was lucky to have been able to extend the practice into running a start-up.

The people I met at Skoltech and the sense of drive I felt when I was there left a lasting influence. I feel extremely lucky to have met Boris with whom we started Sharxi. The whole start-up experience was a foundation for my product management career. Moreover, Boris and I had constant mentorship and support from various Skoltech offices, especially from the Center for Entrepreneurship, and personally from Ilia Dubinsky. We could always rely on our friends for support and guidance. The quality of the network was beyond anything I could have wished for. Moreover, I felt part of a big Skoltech family which I haven't felt anywhere else.
advice to new students
I believe everyone has a unique experience, so it's really hard to come up with smth general. I'm not a risk-prone individual, but in several instances, it seemed that I should take a leap of faith, and that paid off. Will such a strategy work for you? Maybe, but that will be on you :D

At this point of my life I came to accept that my present situation came out of a combination of factors, many of which are outside of my control, especially this year. After reflecting on that, I came to feel more in harmony with myself letting go of unnecessary worries, meaningless personal goals, and empty expectations to live up to. If you have found a way to reach your own personal harmony, I'd say that would probably be the most important achievement.

and now about Skoltech
We are Skoltech – a new international English-speaking STEM university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011 in Moscow, Russia. In just 8 years, we united dozens of researchers and globally renowned professors, built a stunning campus, set up world-class labs and made it to the top 100 young universities in the Nature Index. Read more >>
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