Irina Obushtarova is the Managing Director of Trending Topics Bulgaria. She studied communication science in Vienna. Her career started in sales at the Viennese magazine das biber. Later on, she switched from the media to the tech sector, where she was responsible for product marketing of various software solutions. And then suddenly, Irina decided to go back to her roots.
Isn’t it a wonderful time of the year? Cruising for weeks from one Xmas party to the next one, reveling in anticipation of the holidays and some well-deserved resting days with the family. We congregate cozily in “the ecosystem” of like-minded people.
We use the same slang. We wishilize and occasionally pivot our pitch decks. We have read or listened to most of the books Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have recommended. We look up to the same role models. We even complain and joke about the same things. We celebrate each other’s successes and preach about learning from our failures. We look for the synergies, we stick to each other and share common beliefs. Occasionally, we draw some really needed inspiration from each other, because, let’s be honest, startup life is not a confetti life.
Some days ago, I caught myself trying to explain about our community to someone who was totally unfamiliar with the ecosystem. He looked at me almost puzzled by my euphory trying to make sense of all the anglicisms I used. In the end, he asked me a question that really took me out of my comfort zone: “Ok, I see, so this is a subculture. But isn’t this a bubble? If we had a solid recruitment policy, does this subculture have the potential to get us out of the mess our country is in?” There was no provocation, no attack on my slightly smug positive thinking, but an honest search for an answer and maybe untapped potential. I had to admit, it is indeed a bubble. But does it have the potential to bring about some real change, I couldn’t tell. Such a statement would be, maybe, overly optimistic…
Still, it is always useful to get out of our bubbles and connect to others from different walks of life. One of the easiest ways for me is just having a conversation with taxi drivers – one very diverse community. We would talk about the business, how much does it take to maintain a taxi, how many hours they would work a week, how do they manage to make a living out of it or what do their kids study or if they are abroad. Often enough if not always, at the end of the trip we draw the same “conclusion” – This country is in a crisis and we will never get better. Like a mantra that’s being repeated for decades now. That the facts and indices show the opposite doesn’t really impact or matter for a taxi driver. Still, this statement is maybe a bit overly pessimistic.
Outgrowing the fixed mindset
Around this time of the year, many of us also tend to look back and do some recap. For me, the last one has been an eventful one. I relocated, changed my job and cut my hair. I remember a year ago, yet again sitting and conversing in a cab, I informed the driver about my decision to move to Sofia. The usual dazzlement about why I would go back and the same old mantra followed. I explained, if we really want things to get better, then we are those who bear the responsibility to actually do something about it. In fact, more and more people of my generation, who now have the maturity, the experience, and the power to improve the state we are in, actually choose to be in Bulgaria. They choose not to wait and hide behind excuses that others have to change their social reality. They demand it, they act upon it, even return, work and invest their time, energy and resources to achieve that.
Indeed, it is a bubble. Maybe, economically there isn’t potential to change the reality for a whole society and its various walks of life. But this bubble carries in itself, a new way of looking at problems. In this bubble, each of us is challenged to outgrow our fixed mindsets and to stop using the pessimistic mantras as an excuse that we are not the ones responsible. In this bubble, each of us is challenged, daily, to call ourselves problem-solvers. In this bubble, we are depending on synergies and forced to focus on cooperation rather than competition.
What if we, the members of this bubble, manage to spread this mindset also to those others outside of it? Cause if it is not us, then who?!
I have always been a better story listener than a storyteller. Yesterday, I accepted a challenge to put down my thoughts and publish a piece. It is not a plaidoyer for those living abroad to return. It is not a call for social revolution. It is simply a reminder to think about those outside of our bubble and how we could empower them with a new mindset!