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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Youth No Barrier in the Language of Success

For MTAlexandra Kashleva set up her own language services company at age 25.
ST. PETERSBURG -- It took only eight years for 26-year-old Alexandra Kashleva to build a career and start her own business. Having gained work experience at various companies in Russia and abroad, just over a year ago she set up a foreign language services company.

Born into the family of a military officer in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the age of three she moved with her family to Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then called.

A master of rhythmic gymnastics, she got her first job at the age of 15. "I've always wanted to be independent and to earn money," she said. "Sport has always played a key role in my life, and I started working as a fitness coach."

Having entered the English department at the Institute of Foreign Languages, Kashleva managed to combine study with work from the first year.

"I was hired as a translator-interpreter at a company that specialized in exclusive building services," she said. "As a newcomer in business, it was a huge learning curve, and I took a lot from that experience."

She worked in administrative positions at several other companies while interpreting and translating at business exhibitions in Italy, France and Spain.

In 2001, Kashleva received a diploma in linguistics, interpreting and translating, and joined the Linguistic Center of the Institute of Foreign Languages, where she started teaching English.

"It was a big challenge for me," she said. "Having just graduated and with no work experience in that field, I had to teach people, many of whom were much older than me."

Her next step was to enter the International Management Institute in St. Petersburg to take an eight-month course in management.

"At that time, I was working as a marketing manager and wanted to get the relevant training for it," she said.

Equipped with her diploma in business, Kashleva wanted to put her knowledge and creative ideas into practice.

Rather than going back to her old routine, Kashleva decided to step back to consider her options. Over the next year she learned German, took Italian lessons, read and traveled a lot.

"I'd been going straight from one thing to the next since I was at school. That's why I wanted to take stock and get some perspective," she said.

It was at that time that Kashleva realized she wanted to work in consulting, and she got an offer from the German consulting firm CIBER Novasoft of a three-month internship at their headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. After completing her internship, Kashleva became the company's business development manager for the Baltic states and CIS.

"I was eager to develop professionally, and it was a good chance to gain work experience in a Western company, to learn their management style, business approach and customer relations philosophy," she said.

Despite being offered a move to the company's office in London, Kashleva was ready to return to Russia and start her own business.

Kashleva said she had always dreamed of starting her own business, but first wanted to gain enough work experience and practical knowledge. It appeared to be quite easy for her to choose the business field she wanted to work in.

"I realized that I'd been learning foreign languages all my life, and I'd been teaching them as well. So I had learned from my own experience what both learners and teachers need to achieve a successful result in the language learning process."

Having researched the market for language courses in St. Petersburg, Kashleva set up Language Studio, offering individual and group teaching, translation, guide services and Russian language classes for foreigners.

As managing director, she recruited former colleagues from the Linguistic Center of the Institute of Foreign Languages, and even her former teachers.

Although she already has a thriving business, Kashleva isn't resting on her laurels. She works continuously to develop her business and often spends weekends at the office. In spite of all the challenges, she said she believed that "success is certain for those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Kashleva's colleagues talk of her business acumen. "When something doesn't work, Alexandra is remarkably quick to analyze, acknowledge and change," said James Wilson-Fish, Language Studio's director of business development. "She easily assimilates ideas that she has picked up while overseas and adapts them to the local market."

After a busy day's work Kashleva likes to relax by indoor climbing, fitness or playing tennis.

"I love sport, and most of all I like indoor climbing," she said.

"Unlike other sports, when climbing you can't stop just because you are tired. It's like in business -- you have no choice but to overcome all the difficulties in order to reach the top."