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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina

Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a bestselling author, workplace wellbeing pioneer and the founder of Consciously Digital — a company which started from her own attempt to find a tech/life balance whilst working in the tech sector, and has since grown into a network of over 130 coaches around the world who guide organisations in how to enhance the wellbeing and mental health of employees in the online world. Anastasia regularly speaks and writes about mental health and digital wellbeing, including as a two-time TEDx speaker, and has pioneered research on measurements of digital wellbeing at work, as well as teaching the first digital wellbeing certification program approved by two major coaching associations, ICF and NBHWC. 

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

My background is very eclectic. I was trained as a classic pianist, then worked as a business journalist, then through MBA moved to work in digital marketing and product. In 2015 I started Consciously Digital, and it has since grown to an international network of over 130 digital wellbeing coaches. I am also a public speaker, author, and I mentor tech start-ups, guiding them on tech ethics. Becoming an entrepreneur was a natural way for me (or rather, a way of necessity), as I’ve always found it difficult to fit in a rigid structure.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I was so overwhelmed with my daily “dream job” in tech that I decided to take a break from my career and got rid of my smartphone to create something thinking space. It turned out to be quite a painful process, as I realised I felt very dependent on it. I was training as a coach at the time, and when I was telling people this personal story, they started asking me if I coached others to get rid of their smartphones.

It wasn’t the plan, but since people kept asking, I thought that I wasn’t the only one who had a problematic relationship with her smartphone, and perhaps this could be a niche. I started speaking about the topic to raise awareness, first at small meetups, then made my way to the first TEDx. I wrote a book, and one thing followed the other, and all of a sudden, I ended up riding a big wave of a big tech ethics movement and being one of the movement leaders. 

How did you achieve awareness?

Partially, thanks to my background as a journalist and a marketer, I understood the power of the media and tried to work with journalists early on. It also turned out, I loved public speaking, so I was just doing a lot of it, for the first couple of years for free, looking for weekly opportunities to speak somewhere. But a big part of that was luck – my first TEDx went viral and got over 400,000 organic views, which helped a lot. And I did quite a bit of partisan marketing for my book, for example I went for crowdfunding and building the whole campaign around it.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

I didn’t need funds, and my growth is very gradual, but it’s also conscious. I don’t think that everyone needs to be an Elon Musk. I’d probably burn out if my business had skyrocketed. I got funding several times in the form of the governmental grants; one was to do a festival raising awareness about our digital habits and the second one for R&D research to create measurement tool for our coaches to help them measure digital wellbeing at work. To be honest with you, the money itself didn’t matter much, it was more of a push towards doing the next thing, as now I was accountable and had to deliver.

What are the key successes?

I am very proud of having written and published my book, Homo Distractus. It sold over 10000 copies without any PR, without having a name, with over 100 agents and publishers ignoring me and telling me that this topic isn’t interesting and that nobody knows me. I still have copies of their emails somewhere. Now these very publishers call me to ask if I’d like to do my second book with them.

Also, I consider it a big success that people start talking about the importance of digital wellbeing at the workplace and overall in life. When I was just starting, everyone thought I was a crazy luddite because it was all about digitising, and I was calling for reviewing our relationships with tech. Ten years later, it has become the main narrative, and I know how much my work and that of our coaches at Consciously Digital has contributed to it.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Everything was a challenge – to raise awareness and explain that there’s a problem in how we use devices and allow them to enslave us, when everyone was saying the opposite. The challenge was to start charging for it. The challenge was to show that I should be listened to.

There’s no unique recipe, I just was more consistent and kept doing the thing again and again. Many very talented people who I know started earlier than me and were more successful before me, are long gone, because they didn’t go all the way. I did. Good news is, it becomes easier with time; my current challenges are much easier than those I had when I was just starting – there was no market and no awareness.

What are your plans now/for the future?

My plan is to minimise my business involvement and develop myself more as a thought leader and master. I want to spend 80% of my time thinking, writing, and speaking, and 20% overlooking the business. Right now, it’s probably the other way around.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Firstly, forget the term success, forever. If you are doing it for success, you’ll fail. You have to do it, because you cannot avoid doing it, that’s all, for the same reason that a born dancer can’t help moving – she’ll just blow up from the inside, if she sits still.

Stop romanticising entrepreneurship. It’s not for everyone, it’s full of ups and downs. You do it just because the other scenario is even worse for you (I know that I’d rather be with no money as an entrepreneur than sitting in the office 9-5 with someone telling me what to do).

Finally, forget about making money and focus instead on your clients. What can you do for people? How can you serve better to this world? Then the money will come, you’ll figure out how. Entrepreneurship is about serving others and solving their problems, it’s about being totally connected with the world around you, it’s not about growing your ego.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

A friend of mine, who was formerly in the military, told me the main principle they were taught in the army – Keep walking towards your goal, no matter what. When you cannot walk, crawl towards your goal. When you cannot crawl, lie towards your goal.

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?