Olga Sklyar

Tell us your story.

My tech experience started when I was 13, and I began to study mathematics in a government-driven program in a small Siberian town. Because of that program I ended up studying Electronic Technologies and Social and Economic Management at the university.

Right after university I got what I thought was a fantastic job but an itch to follow another path was already emerging. In less than two years into a traditional career, my childhood friend, fellow student, and current co-founder, Vlad, called me with an idea for a music startup. I loved the idea. I trusted Vlad. I jumped right in simply because I love to take risks and to have some adrenaline running through my veins. It was like being in one of those reality TV programs where they dump you in a jungle, and you have to survive on your own.

I am deeply grateful to Vlad for giving me this opportunity and believing in me. I’ve learned so much on this journey. We started 10tracks in 2011 and made it into sustainable B2B service that is still running on the side. I assure you that it wasn't the easiest experience in my life. We went through all troubles one can imagine.

I hit rock bottom when I ended up in the hospital because of stress. At that time we waited for a government grant to arrive and we were so low on cash that we had to let most of our team go. Vlad had to take another job so we could pay our developers. Laying in the hospital bed I thought, it cannot get any worse, so I might as well cheer up. Did the thought to give up enter my mind? You bet!

Even though 10tracks is cash positive, in 2014 we came up with the idea to develop it further and build the most intelligent personalized music streaming service ever seen called MusicSense. Since then MusicSense, has iterated its way to being rated better than anything else on the market and with our proprietary technology we are very confident that we have a competitive offering for music listeners. What started as an idea between me and Vlad is now out there and growing fast.

What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?

First I would love to stop talking about digital culture or tech as something "over there" where us, misplaced women, may or may not venture and be part of. Tech is everywhere and we as modern women are a part of it and vice versa.

I also think we should stop building false barriers for ourselves as women. We should stop measuring ourselves against men and stop thinking that we are moving into a forbidden area. We should instead embrace our differences and gather forces around a common goal and contribute equally. As an entrepreneur, I have always felt immediately accepted by male co-founders and peers and have felt that I have been measured based on my skills and value added to the project, not based on my female qualities.

What I would like to share with the young women out there is my experiences of becoming a founder of a tech company.... It is hard, unforgiving, painful, and the chance for you to succeed building a profitable company is slim at best! Unless of course you feel, like I do, that there is no other way for you than to work for yourself and create something from nothing. Unless you have found exactly the right people around you to work with. And lastly, unless you have an itch to solve 'that' specific pain and thereby make the world a better place.

Building a startup is hard, and the music industry is unforgiving, so I had plenty of reasons to quit. I am the type of person that is simply unable to give up no matter how dark everything looks. In the end, I always found a way to take one more step, and once there, to take another.

MusicSense is going to make a positive impact on people’s lives all over the world, and the thought that I contributed to making it happen makes all the hardships fade away. I can say that this startup has cost me blood, sweat, and tears. It's not a job in the digital world but my life. It's my and my co-founder's idea brought to life..

Pass it on!

My grandparents inspire me. I truly believe they were heroes becase they went through war, they were damaged, and broken but found the strength to survive, live and enjoy life. I always think the problems I meet in my life are nothing in comparison to what they went through.

I'd like to wish everyone not to give up. Every person has unlimited resources of energy, passion, and strength. The only thing to do is to step over the fears, weakness and comfort zone and fight for the dream because it’s amazing feeling when they, step by step, come true.

Frank Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’ is one of my favorite songs, it cheers me up every time and I feel that it describes exactly how startup life is, so I will end with his words:

'Each time I find myself flat on my face,

I pick myself up and get back in the race.’

The Women in Tech campaign exists to help redefine what women in technology means in the 21st century. Started independently by a group of professional women who, after many impassioned discussions about women in tech knew we wanted to expand this definition beyond 'traditional' technology skills. To us, it includes most every current, emerging or evolving role within an organization. By featuring leaders and emerging leaders across industries who embody this we hope to collectively 'stand up', be proud of our place in the digital world and inspire young women or those new to the 'tech space' to get involved.