Name: Yelena Pak
Job Title: Chief of Staff – Head of Communications
1. Brief description of nominee’s role/job
In the last four years, I have been working at the Astana International Exchange – 2.5 years as head of communications, and the last 1.5 year combining responsibilities of chief of staff with the ones of head of communications. I am responsible for corporate relations for AIX, ensuring stakeholders see AIX as an excellent and open communicator; supporting the business from a corporate communications and strategic relations perspective to identify, implement and track strategic objectives; and building strong working relationships with relevant senior leaders and the wider AIX community. In May 2021, I received an offer to expand the scope of my work, and in the new role I also supervise the human resources and administrative and procurement teams in terms of guiding them, helping to implement strategically important projects for the business making sure there are strong corporate culture and values in place, succession planning, talent development, evaluation and hiring processes as well as a strong employer brand. I am also responsible for making sure that administrative services within AIX are delivered at a high level, and the procurement processes are followed timely in accordance with the established policies and procedures.
2. Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):
I have worked mainly in corporate sector (oil and gas company, sovereign wealth fund, British Embassy in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) at various levels from communications specialist to head of PR and chief of staff for more than 15 years. In the beginning of my career, I worked as a TV and newspaper journalist for several years. I graduated from a local Eurasian National University named after Lev Gumilyov (journalism, 2002), the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (PR, 2004), and the Alliance Manchester Business School of the University of Manchester (Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, 2018). I was a scholar of the Kazakhstani President’s Scholarship programme.
As part of my pro-bono work for the development of the public relations sector in Kazakhstan I have co-founded and act as editor-in-chief of the first and the only online magazine for PR professionals in Kazakhstan called PRDrive.kz which in the five years since its foundation has transformed into a community of PR specialists which organizes industry events, shares expertise and best practices with each other, helping to raise the quality of communications in public and private sector in the country. In my spare time, I love playing the piano, sewing blankets in patchwork technique, and reading fine literature.
3. What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2022?
The most important project for me in 2022 was the implementation of a communications campaign in preparation for the IPO of the leading vertically integrated oil and gas company KazMunayGas (“Company”). For a small frontier market like the stock market in Kazakhstan, this was a significant event, especially since the geopolitical and global economic environment was extremely tense. In addition, it was Kazakhstan's first local IPO, which was aimed primarily at retail investors -- citizens of Kazakhstan. As head of communications, I led AIX's participation in a large-scale Non-Deal Roadshow of the Company throughout all regions of our large country, including visits and presentations in the most remote locations.
As part of this event, almost one third of the AIX team participated as speakers in the roadshow -- they talked about opportunities to participate in IPOs on AIX both in the classic way via brokers; via a direct subscription tool, which AIX offered retail investors in its mobile app Tabys; and via branches of the national postal operator, for the first time in the history of the stock market in Kazakhstan. To participate in the roadshow, we had to quickly prepare a large number of handouts, presentations and questionnaires, as well as train the speakers, many of whom are employees of the back office.
After the IPO parameters were announced, explanatory work for the book-building period was carried out under my guidance mainly through digital channels with the involvement of bloggers, experts and opinion leaders. As a result of this work, as well as through active marketing by my colleagues from the retail investment team, $35 million were raised on AIX, and almost 6,000 applications worth more than $2.2 million were raised via direct subscription.
In addition to this project, the AIX continues to implement communications aimed at improving financial literacy. This is especially important in a country where only 5% of the economically active population has brokerage accounts. For example, every year AIX has the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality event and a wider campaign aimed at raising women's awareness about investing in the stock market, the proper allocation of their finances, and the need to accumulate a financial safety cushion. In 2022, as part of this campaign, six live broadcasts were conducted and a series of special posts were published on AIX’s Instagram, reaching about 16 thousand people. For the successful annual campaigns within the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality initiative, AIX was honored to get the AIFC Woman Leadership Award in 2022.
4. What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success?
The brightest example and guiding star in my life has always been my mother. She worked in education all her life. After graduating from a small rural school in northern Kazakhstan, she entered a university, worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature, first in a regular school and then in a school for children with special needs. In parallel she studied defectology in her master’s degree, worked as a head teacher, head of the methodology department at the district department of education, and was awarded for excellence in education.
She worked with passion. She used to unite people around her ideas and initiatives She was so empathetic that they were often coming to her for help and advice. She had a wonderful strategic vision for a small provincial town where we lived. It was my mother who persuaded me to enter the faculty of journalism during the difficult early years of the country's independence. She forced me to learn English properly when I did not quite understand such a need. Like Romain Gary's mother in his autobiographical book, Promise at Dawn, she predicted, "You'll have a fascinating job, you'll meet extraordinary people, you'll travel and see the world!" That said, my mother never literally oversaw my upbringing. She never checked if I did my home tasks and didn’t lecture me. She just trusted me and believed in my potential. I think that in many ways it is her faith in me, and her role model as a woman who works with inspiration, that leads me through my life and in my professional development.
5. What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions?
I think that many of us lack a little bit of faith in ourselves and in our own strength. It's only in the last year or two that I've started to get rid of my imposter complex and have seen that the work I'm doing is paying off in the long term. I've also been lucky with mentors, look for them in your communities and don't hesitate to ask for advice. Also, we must accept that we live in a rapidly changing unstable world, that we should not wait for better times -- today's times open new opportunities for us. We should not be afraid to take advantage of them. About mistakes --there is no manager who has never made a mistake. It's important to pull yourself together, analyze mistakes and move forward, learning from the mistakes you've made. Lastly, I believe in meritocracy and that those who work with inspiration and dedication, who constantly develop themselves and their professional level, will be recognized as professionals and will be able to get joy and pleasure from their passion, to benefit the community in which they live.
The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.