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We’d like to introduce you to some of the people from around the world who make us who we are at Progress. In this post, meet Mariyan Vasev, senior talent development specialist at Progress.
A psychologist by trade and a knowledge-sharing geek at heart, Mariyan Vasev joined Progress as an intern in 2015 and is now spearheading the management development program LEAD and the mentorship program.
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He is also one of the driving forces behind our recently established Plus employee resource group. Outside of work, Mariyan enjoys a good Dungeons & Dragons session, watching European cinema and spending time with his nephews. Find out more about Mariyan in the following interview.
I feel like this sums up what my job is all about. All the projects that we do in the organizational effectiveness team have something to do with sharing knowledge. At Progress, I have the privilege to work with people for whom sharing knowledge is something important and interesting. This is what I like most about my job.
Getting to work alongside and learn from the inspiring professionals at Progress has taught me a lot about discipline, about seeing the big picture and about the importance of always asking "Why?". My job is not about having all the answers ready to share. It is about asking the right questions and understanding what other people need first. Thinking back, Progress has also taught me to be humble, to have a more structured approach to my work and to always be curious.
LEAD, our global management development program, and the mentorship program are the two projects that take up most of my time.
With LEAD I'm involved both with the administrative tasks and the facilitation of our virtual workshops that we have been doing ever since the beginning of the pandemic. I also involved with the development of the program itself, doing research both internally and externally to figure out what would work best to support our people managers.
Almost two years since the launch of LEAD, I find joy in seeing how it evolves after each session and the ongoing tweaks we make based on the feedback. It’s like solving a puzzle.
As for the mentorship program, the pilot concluded several months ago and now the team and I just launched the open enrollment for the full-fledged program. It is closely tied to our inclusion and diversity efforts and its main purpose to connect people who don’t ordinarily have the opportunity to talk to each other. It is very exciting to hear the stories of the participants and the impact the program has had on their personal and professional development.
That all I do is trainings. In fact, when I was applying for the internship position, I also thought that I would do mostly that. There’s so much more though that happens prior to and after the trainings.
A lot of people connect learning with trainings and tend to see them as a magic pill that solves problems instantly, but sometimes a different approach is needed. It’s all about assessing the situation properly and asking the right questions. What happens after a training is equally important—collecting feedback, understanding and measuring the impact and trying to see if anything else is needed, and applying your takeaways in practice. After all, learning doesn't start and stop with you attending a session.
If there is a secret formula, I am really annoyed at myself for not knowing it. Jokes aside, I think what has helped me is how supportive Progress and my team have been to me wanting to do research. My background is in psychology, so for my PhD I chose to study the nonverbal communication of managers or leaders and how it is interpreted by the people who are observing it.
It's interesting how even if you don't attribute a meaning to something, a lot of times people would do it for you. And they would connect those dots, not necessarily in your favor. There is a lot of popular literature on nonverbal communication that is just assumptions. It sounds nice on paper, but it’s not necessarily applicable. From a researcher's perspective, it is interesting for me to see what would hold true, and can actually be proved, so that it's ultimately useful in practice.
Plus is an employee resource group aiming to foster an LGBTQIA+ community at Progress. When we started it, Nenko Toromanov, Todor Totev and I were very practical in our approach, thinking what we need to do to make this work. Plus’ main benefit is that it allows us to learn from one another and talk about what being LGBTQIA+ really means when we think about our work experience.
Because the conversations tend to differ greatly depending on where you are in the world. When I think about what's next for the ERG, it's all about continuing to bring up these topics that some may find uncomfortable or completely different from what they might have expected, but such that can essentially turn out to be eye-opening.
Having the support from our corporate sponsors, Jeremy Segal, senior vice president of corporate development, and Jennifer Ortiz, vice president of marketing, from the very start, was very empowering in a sense that this is seen as an important topic to the senior leadership as well. Ultimately, Plus is for everyone at the company. Even if you’re not involved with the LGBTQ+ community directly, there’s a lot of learning that can be done.
I consider myself to be flexibly extroverted—I enjoy connecting with people, but I do need to spend time on my own. My hobby in the past two years and half has been playing Dungeons and Dragons. It's a great collaborative storytelling experience and ultimately, it's a nice bit of escapism.
I like that the game is entirely imagination-run. The group can create its own system of rules and each person can craft his own character, which I see as an opportunity to explore different parts of me in a safe environment. My character is a wizard, an obnoxious know-it-all, who is quick to fire back when something needs to be said in-character.
Sometimes the different players can be too nice to each other, so it’s interesting to shake things up. When playing the game, it’s like I start living another life. I’m a senior talent development specialist by day and a divination wizard on Saturday night.
Not really. For the longest time though I wanted to have a chocolate factory until one day an adult told me that if I worked in a chocolate factory, I wouldn't get to eat the chocolate, because I would have to sell it for profit. That suddenly broke the illusion.
Afterwards, I wanted to be a vet and a lawyer. Before I signed up for psychology, I actually did a year of Scandinavian studies. My understanding is that you don’t simply get to a certain place and stop there. We’re constantly moving, changing and growing and I enjoy that.
To get to know other Progressers like Mariyan, read more of our Progress employee interviews here.
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Tsvetiana Zaharieva is part of the Global Communications team at Progress. Inspired by technology and its impact on society, she is passionate about sharing good stories and know-how in the most efficient way. She is interested in the influence of psychology on communication and the role of the entrepreneurial mindset in a corporate setting. In her spare time she enjoys singing in choir as well as going to cultural and business events.
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