Albina Itskhoki, senior researcher at Netflix, was born in “the largest settlement in Russia without traffic lights,” graduated from the Economics Department of Moscow State University with honors, moved to the United States, gave birth to three children, started a video blog to inspire girls, and is considering writing a book about her mother. Albina shared her success story with “This is the Caucasus”.
How I got to Netflix
- I work for Netflix. But not in the department that makes films, but in the one that provides the platform with technical support. I analyze the information in order to understand what the consumer likes and what not, and on the basis of this information the company's strategy is already being developed and various innovations are being worked out.
One of the main questions I get asked is how I got there. We can say quite by accident. I moved to California a few years ago. My husband worked at Stanford, and I raised two children and was absolutely happy to deal only with them. But at some point I decided that it was somehow strange to live in Silicon Valley, where there are so many cool companies, and not try to work in them. One evening I sat down and submitted my resume to Google, Facebook, Apple, and at this time, as usual, a Netflix movie was playing on my computer, and I thought: why not go to Netflix too?
I googled their office and it turned out to be half an hour's drive from my house! I researched everything about the company, wrote a cover letter and sent a resume. A few weeks later, my future boss called me and invited me for an interview. The process was very long, as is customary at Netflix, and after 12 interviews I was hired.
“There were two dreams. Both have come true"
- I was born in a village, which was once asked a question in the program “What? Where? When?”: The largest settlement in Russia where there are no traffic lights. Dagestan Lights became a city only in 1990, but as a child it seemed to me that it was a big city. Three schools, Lenin square, glass factory! Then the girls just did not walk the streets, it was not accepted. School is home, demonstration on holidays. True, I have always had my own opinion on any issue. We were raised under "don't sit back, otherwise they won't marry!" I remember how I shocked those around me with the answer: it's great that they won't take it, I don't want to myself!
I can say that my childhood was happy because I have good parents, sisters and a brother. But if it were possible to change the model of childhood, I would do it. Because a child from a poor family usually has only one motivation - to earn money. Therefore, I entered economics, although my favorite school subject was mathematics. I don’t think that this is a good motivation for a girl, but it’s hard to expect another, when all your childhood you wear clothes for your sisters, and after school you four have to weave carpets for sale.
Everyone asks about carpets. I am a tabasaran, this is our national craft. We lived in a small two-story house, but there was no life on the second floor because the loom lived there. My sisters and I weaved carpets after school. And all four of us together hated this business, constantly trying to do other household chores in order to avoid carpet weaving. Of course, I know a lot about carpets, now sometimes I think: give me a knife and a ball, I weave a carpet, my fingers remember everything. But when I was 13 years old, I wrote down my dreams. There were two of them: "Never weave carpets" and "Marry a smart guy."
Both have come true. I no longer weave carpets, and my husband is a professor at Princeton University and the University of Los Angeles. We have been together since our student years, classmates. Of course, my family was shocked by my choice, and many did not approve of it. I always remember how my mother jokingly said: "Well, if someone disgraces our family, it's Albina!" Unfortunately, I lost my mother very early, at the age of 18, and she did not have time to meet Oleg. But I think she would have liked him - all my relatives now love Oleg more than me (laughs).
"There is no money for your math"
- I always studied well, loved mathematics and wanted to study at the best university in the country. I didn’t want to study in Dagestan, because then it was customary to apply there only for bribes. There was no Internet yet, so in the 8th grade I wrote a letter to the address of Moscow State University from the library directory to ask about exams for the Faculty of Economics. And they answered me, sent me a list of exams, and I began to prepare for them. In the 9th grade, I entered the correspondence school at Moscow State University, where it was necessary to send the completed tasks in mathematics. A year of study cost 40 rubles.
The first year my family pulled out this amount, and in the second year my mother said that we had no money for my mathematics. And my teacher Aida Bagirovna offered to pay for the tuition herself. I understood that I couldn’t take the money, I couldn’t tell my parents about it, because they wouldn’t allow it. But Aida Bagirovna said: “Magomedova, take the money! And when you get an education and start working, buy me a perfume. " And so it happened.
I entered Moscow State University the second time. I lived in Moscow with my aunt for a year, studying at the preparatory department, and that was the year when I literally did not raise my head from books. Once I called my mother, and my mother, who with great difficulty let me go to Moscow, understood from her voice how bad I was and persuaded me to go back, but I sobbed and said that I would not return until I entered Moscow State University. As a result, I entered! And a few years later she graduated from the bachelor's and master's degrees from Moscow State University with honors and medals. I still believe that you need to get your way - even if not on the first try. Try again and again.
Every success story has a bit of luck behind it. For example, Aida Bagirovna is a great luck in my life. But there was still a lot of work. In addition, in my fourth year at Moscow State University, I started working in the Moscow office of a Western company and worked and studied at the same time for several years, and after moving to the United States - my husband went to graduate school at Harvard - I started looking for work, practically not knowing English. For four months I sent out a hundred resumes a day, no less. The funniest thing now is remembering how they interviewed me over the phone. I quickly translated words I did not know and matched the answer on the computer before answering the question. In the end, I got a job as an assistant in a small company - just checking the numbers in the tables. And four years later she became its youngest vice president.
Success and another world
- After Yuri Dud showed his film about successful people in Silicon Valley, where there was not a single woman, I wrote several posts on my Instagram. I asked the readers to tell their success stories, and then I recorded a video about myself. It became popular, and girls, girls, women from all over the world began to actively write to me. Many people say thank you, because I gave them faith in myself and set an example. I would like to continue to talk about women who have achieved something in life. If it inspires someone to change their life, that will be very good.
They write to me a lot from Dagestan. Many of those who have seen my video story ask for advice on what to do if they are from a very strict patriarchal family. I see only one way out - to study. And believe in yourself. If you didn’t succeed the first time, you’ll probably succeed from the tenth. Moms who are not sure about the future of their daughters also write. The main thing in raising children here is the absence of gender roles. Both the son and the daughter must be brought up in the same way, it is then that they will be able to choose their own path to happiness and success, and not the one that society prescribes for them.
Everyone has their own success. Someone has a high position in the company, someone has their own business, and someone just has his family. By the way, I think that the work of a mom and a housewife is one of the most difficult. Firstly, the working day lasts 24/7 all year round, and secondly, society greatly underestimates this work and often treats housewives with disdain. But the world can be completely different.
When I was hired at Netflix, before that I had only dealt with children for three years, and I was sure that it was for this reason that I would not be hired. But our company has great respect for people's decisions, so not a single person asked me why I didn’t work for three years - I myself told them that I wanted to focus on children, and everyone understood me.
What's more, a month after I got a job at Netflix, I got pregnant with our third child. And I was terribly embarrassed in front of my employers, because my stereotypes inspired me that they would think that I had deceived them in this way. But they just told me: "We are glad for you!" And I later learned that the company often hires girls who are long-term pregnant or even on maternity leave, precisely because they do not see any obstacle in this, but see it as a choice in a person's life - almost all of us in some then the moment they have children. Netflix believes that a person will do their job best if they are doing well at home. You are not hired as a robot, but as a person with different interests.
Dagestan woman, man of the world
- I am often asked whether I feel like only a Dagestani or a "man of the world." It seems to me that I have long been a man of the world. And not at all because I "forgot" Dagestan, but because I feel comfortable in other cities and countries. And besides, you always carry the house with you: I often have cicabs on my table - our Tabasaran miracle stuffed with meat and nuts, at home we wear dzhurabki, and when I get angry, my husband assures me that I have a “Dagestan dialect”. By the way, he teased me for a long time that instead of "hair" I said "hair". Now all my relatives are scattered across the country, so I rarely visit Dagestan, but I would like to take my children there. Yes, my childhood city is small and unkempt, but you enter your home - everyone is terribly glad to see you and they feed you so that you can't breathe! Oleg still recalls how he was fed non-stop in Dagestan.
I do not have a dream in terms of career growth, I do not have a five-year plan for life. I like my job, I like raising my children, I like my life here and now, I really appreciate it. My husband and I lost our parents early: I am a mother, he is a father, and we understand how fragile this thing is - family happiness. So I just dream that everyone is healthy.
I also want to write a book about my mom. Mom lived a very traditional life for Dagestan, and it seems to me that no one has yet described this usual difficult life of a Dagestan woman. I want to tell you how she lived, what choice she made. First of all, for myself, so that my children know about their grandmother, so that ties are maintained like this - family, Dagestan.