Marianna Simonian, Founder & CEO, and Country Manager for Tech & Startups, Seed Group

Marianna opened her first startup media FAVOT, when she was a student. Making all mistakes and gaining success she started teaching students at university on how to create a startup from scratch. She was part of global startups, such as Yva and Ansnei. Being a people analytics leader, she helped to automate HR functions for both corporations and startups. She is the author of the course “HR automation using startup methodology”. Marianna is the founder of a startup VARD, that helps data teams reduce data logistics with AI and collaboration. Mentor, member of ‘Women in VC’, lecture, speaker. Marianna had diverse support over Women in Tech. She is the Founder of Women in STEM community ‘Wonder Women’, Director of the Dubai Chapter ‘Women in Big Data’ and mentor in this field. Marianna graduated from MSU and HSE with an honor. She is currently pursuing an EMBA.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Marianna shared her insights on the impact of AI on data science, the inspiration behind establishing, her favorite entrepreneurship quote, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Do you think that data science is perceived to be more important than ever before? And what has been the impact of AI on data science?

I strongly believe that the future will witness a significant urge in all aspects related to big data. The digital world is not just a glimpse of what lies ahead, but it is already shaping our present reality. Data science plays a crucial role in understanding how to effectively utilize data in various models and predictions, and its importance will only continue to grow. However, it is important to note that just like any other scientific field, data science relevance is truly realized when applied to real-life situations. The advent of artificial intelligence serves as a constant reminder that data holds immense value for the future, as it enables us to enhance and resolve real-world problems that were previously unsolvable.

Marianna, briefly tell us the start-up story behind Where did the idea come from and what exactly does it do?

The inspiration for came to me organically, driven by my personal experience. After transitioning from the world of startups to analytics, I noticed numerous unresolved challenges within the data realm. With an entrepreneurial mindset, I embarked on a quest to find innovative approaches to working within the data industry. By leveraging my own frustrations and converting them into solutions, I founded as my startup.

You are Director, Dubai Chapter at Women in Big Data. Can you please tell us about this organization and its mission?

Women in Big Data community is a diverse and talented community of professionals who are passionate about data science, analytics, technology and other tech-related fields. They spread around the world, have various backgrounds, including academia, business, government, and non-profit organizations. These women are highly skilled in areas such as data analysis, machine learning, data visualization, and data engineering. They possess a deep understanding of statistical techniques, programming languages, and tools used in the field of big data. In addition to their technical expertise, women in the big data community are also strong advocates for diversity and inclusion in the industry. My mission along with WiBD is to encourage and attract more female talent to the big data & analytics field in the Dubai area and help them connect, engage and grow. ​​

On one hand, I observe Dubai’s plan to lead in technology and draw an increasing number of tech professionals. On the other hand, there is a growing presence of women actively participating in the tech sector, seeking network and support along their journey. Through Women in Big Data Dubai chapter, I plan to provide opportunities for women in the region to focus on networking and evangelism to start with.

What are your goals as the Country Manager for Tech & Startups at Seed Group?

As the Country Manager for Tech & Startups at Seed Group, I work with a diverse range of companies in the technology industry, serving as a catalyst for both new and established businesses and start-ups looking to expand their presence in the Middle East. My goal is to support the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 and transform Dubai into a global hub for knowledge-based, sustainable, and innovation-driven enterprises. Through my role at Seed Group, I strive to foster an environment that promotes growth, collaboration, and success for technology companies operating in Dubai.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this gap?

I would like to say that basically the issue of gender pay disparity, which is evident in the recent recognition of Claudia Goldin’s Nobel Prize in Economics for her extensive research on women in the workplace. Goldin’s findings reveal that a significant portion of the current wage gap exists between men and women working in the same occupation, with men consistently earning more.

To tackle this issue, one effective approach is the implementation of HR analytics, which utilizes data-driven decision making. By leveraging data, organizations can identify and address the disparities that exist, enabling them to take meaningful action. It is surprising to note that many organizations do not fully utilize people management data, despite its potential to bridge economic gaps.

I firmly believe that through the application of data-driven insights with people analytics, we can make significant strides in closing these gaps and creating a more equitable economy.

What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

In my opinion, in order to be a great entrepreneur nowadays, you have to have next skills:

  1. Continuous self-improvement: Embracing personal growth is essential as entrepreneurship presents numerous challenges. By constantly working on oneself, entrepreneurs can ensure their businesses do not become stagnant and can adapt to changing circumstances.
  2. Focus on people: Recognizing that individuals are the driving force behind any organization is key. How entrepreneurs treat and engage with their team members directly impacts the success of their business. Prioritizing a people-centered approach fosters a positive work environment and encourages collaboration and innovation.
  3. Perseverance: The ability to persist and not give up is vital. Challenges are inevitable on the path to success and overcoming them is part of personal and business development. Achievements hold value when one has faced and overcome obstacles along the way. The journey itself holds significance and shapes both the entrepreneur and their business.

What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?

Goethe J.W. — ‘Everything is hard before it is easy’.

What books, podcasts, or people have been the most influential on your journey?

I am an ardent admirer of Guy Kawasaki, a trailblazing figure who served as one of Apple’s earliest employees and currently holds the esteemed position of Chief Evangelist at Canva. His invaluable insights and perspectives on technological entrepreneurship have greatly influenced my own journey.

I highly recommend his book, ‘The Art of the Start,’ which offers invaluable guidance, as well as his captivating podcast, ‘Remarkable People,’ where he engages with influential individuals from diverse backgrounds. Both resources have had a profound impact on my personal and professional growth.

What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learnt that’s unique to being a female leader?

As a female leader, I have come to appreciate the significant impact that women can make in our society. The unique set of soft skills that women possess are invaluable in driving progress and innovation in our modern world. I firmly believe that women are an essential part of shaping the future of leadership.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I am deeply committed to making a positive impact on the world. I strongly believe in the power of women and their ability to create meaningful change in society and technology. I am driven by the idea of making the world a better place.

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