Chief Strategy & Operations Officer at Acronis
Originating from Russia and now based in the bright lights of Singapore, Mark’s passion for innovation has seen him in a wide range of roles from Head of Business Development at the major space tech holding Russian Space Systems to his current role as Chief Strategy & Operations Officer at award-winning data protection heavyweight Acronis.
Prior to kicking off his career in Singapore, Mark served as Deputy Minister of ICT of Russia, where he focused on supporting the growth of innovation industries nation-wide. In Singapore, he continued to influence innovation policies and was elected a councillor at the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation. He also supports up-and-coming talent in both his for-profit and non-profit capacities and advises multiple organizations including universities and research centers.
What strikes people when they meet you first?
People are often surprised to find out that I used to be a rocket scientist. My first job after completing my PhD was working for a large space technology corporation as a research engineer. A lot of people use the expression “rocket science," but not many of them have ever met a rocket scientist.
What led you to move from a government role in Russia to a global commercial role in a tech company headquartered in Singapore?
My career path has covered three different areas: academia, policymaking and the technology business, but I’ve always had an interest in technology and innovation. The move from government to business is not really unusual. You continue working with innovation but change sides.
As for moving to Singapore, I decided to take my career international. I can see the link between that decision and an experience I had when I was 15 and I took part in a student exchange program in New Jersey. This had a profound impact on me, as I got to experience what life was like in another part of the world and in a completely different environment. I started to understand how global the world was and wanted to have a global perspective myself.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable skill to have in the tech business today?
The first is flexibility, so being able to change fast. This applies to companies and people. The second is continuous learning. The best way to learn is to work with people who are better than you in some skills, and see what they are doing so you can learn from them. That's number one in my opinion, especially for the soft skills.
What are some of the key trends shaping the future?
For me, the biggest concept that will dramatically change how we live is the tremendous progress of biotech, life sciences and medicine. We will not only live longer, but live better and be able to customize our bodies and likely our minds too.
Out of algorithmic areas, artificial intelligence leads the way. Today humans are the ultimate decision-makers and, in the majority of areas, they feel that they know how to do things best. Machines will become better at decision-making and we will need to learn how to trust them because the majority of what we do can be done better by AI-driven machines.
Blockchain is here to stay. A few years from now we will see the first applications of blockchain to more fundamental processes in our life. Blockchain is a new way to organize the operations of a distributed network of people that is more efficient and effective than the existing methods.
I also believe that the concept of privacy will change. There is much discussion about how the digital age is resulting in less privacy. Some individuals want to push back on this, but in reality this trend will continue. Whenever there is a contradiction between what society wants and what technology can do, technology wins. It can take time, but you cannot stop technology.
What are you currently learning?
I’m learning to slow down and reflect on the long-term more often than I used to. You need to take breaks to think. I would like to try meditating regularly. Someone recommended the Headspace app, so I'll give that a go sometime this year. Another thing I started practicing earlier this year is deep work. Hopefully, I'll be able to switch off the phone more often. I’m also learning to be more entrepreneurial. This is a skill that can be learned, and I’d like to see how.
Game-changing books that have changed the way you work
Favourite TED Talks
Industry columnists, influencers or websites to bookmark right now
I follow Elon Musk to see what he's up to. He is a unique entrepreneur due to both the scale of impact of his projects and the fundraising skills that are needed to develop them.
Some of the companies I follow on Twitter: good old KDNuggets, run by Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro on core data mining and analytics; Cloudera for data insights; Brain Corp – self-driving vehicles and AeroMobil - flying cars.
General interest websites like BrainPickings or Aeon are great because they hand-pick interesting things for you. Quora is a very good resource, as well as the MIT Technology Review. Finally business schools do a great job, see INSEAD Knowledge for soft skills and governance ideas, and HBR for business cases.