Sometimes stories come full circle. Like the story of Inga Chernova who started out as a volunteer at The Shortcut and recently became our CEO. Meet the inspiring woman who worked her way up in the startup industry from volunteering to CEO:
Born in Ukraine, Inga moved to Finland in 2017. Like many other foreigners, she came here for love. After her arrival, she started looking for a job but soon had to admit that what she knew about job hunting was of no use in Finland: “No matter what background you have, when you move to Finland, you realize that the approach toward job seeking is very different in this country, especially compared to my home country Ukraine.”
After struggling to get a job for a while, she heard about The Shortcut: “The Shortcut was my stepping stone when I first moved to Finland.” At The Shortcut, she learned the ins and outs of Finnish working culture, where to start with your job search and how to land your first job. It was also at The Shortcut where she fell in love with the world of startups after coming from a corporate background.
“When I joined The Shortcut, I was immediately struck by how inspired everyone was, how enthusiastic and energetic. They were determined to work together and build something great.” In 2017, she got the chance to volunteer at the School of Startups – one of the best startup events she has ever experienced, to this day.
As a data volunteer, she could see what impact the School of Startups had on the community and how it supported them. “I’m a nerd and I love spreadsheets, data, and analysis, so this was the perfect chance for me to volunteer, learn and get to know the startup ecosystem”, Inga says about that time. She fell in love with the people, the attitude and the overarching idea at The Shortcut that anything can be changed and improved with just enough faith and hard work.
Blast from the past: In an old presentation, Inga is featured as a Success Story from The Shortcut (we couldn’t agree more).
Coming back to The Shortcut now feels like “coming full circle” to Inga: “I’ve always loved the idea behind The Shortcut that there are no closed or locked doors and it feels like a logical step to come back and offer that space to our community.”
After managing several different organizations including ArcticStartup and Upgraded, Inga brings the knowledge to move The Shortcut forward and keep it growing.
While Inga is excited about her new role at The Shortcut, as a Ukrainian citizen, she had to deal with the realities of the war this year. “Life has never been the same after the 24th of February”, she says. “The feeling of uncertainty and dread is something that has entered the lives of all Ukrainians and it will remain with us for the time being.”
She left Kyiv six years ago but she’s never felt as home sick as she does now. When the war started, her parents lived not far from the occupied areas including Bucha. “For two weeks, I didn’t get any sleep because I never knew what news I might hear.” Thankfully her parents are now in Finland as asylum seekers and in safety, but Inga knows that so many people do not have the same luck as her family.
For her friends and family who decided to stay, the war is slowly becoming a normality: “They are used to waking up to the sound of sirens and just go on with their lives. It’s impressive how we as human beings can adapt so fast but it’s also incredibly sad and scary.” She’s very proud of her fellow countrymen and women and how they are showing up in the face of adversity: “I come from a country of heroes. These people are extremely brave and resilient.”
Inga wants to encourage all fellow Ukrainians in Finland to visit The Shortcut to connect with the community. Coming to a country as a refugee can be isolating because you tend to connect mostly with fellow refugees who speak the same language, come from the same space, and have the same struggles.
“It’s important to meet new people to avoid falling into a negative thought spiral. If you come to The Shortcut, you will get to know people from all kinds of backgrounds – and there is someone who speaks Ukrainian. You will never be able to forget that your country is at war but at least you can take your mind off things for a few hours”, Inga says.
For all the people who recently arrived in Finland, Inga wants to remind them that they arrived at a great place. “While I moved here for love, I stayed for my love of Finland. It’s a place where I found home.” She especially appreciates living in Helsinki, a city where you have the benefits of modern civilization combined with the peace of nature. A place where work-life balance is a priority, not an afterthought.
“Helsinki is one of the calmest and most peaceful capitals you can find in the world. You have all the benefits of working in a capital while you feel like you’re in a small, cozy and comfortable town,” says Inga Chernova. Despite common belief, Inga feels like the people in Finland are very supportive: “This is the place where I feel like returning every time, no matter where I go.”
Author: Jessi Christian