Evgeny Shadchnev

Evgeny Shadchnev is a Founder Coach and an Author. My background as a Founder and ex-CEO of Makers, a tech training provider in London, helps me coach founders navigating the inevitable challenges of building a startup. I have recently written a book Startup CEO Succession, which helps startup CEOs decide if, when and how to replace themselves with a new CEO.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey and what inspired you to choose this career.

I was born in the Soviet Union in the eighties when it was impossible even to imagine the profession of a coach for startup founders! As a kid, I was a geek at heart, really into computers, so I studied Computer Science at university and later worked as a software developer in my twenties before founding Makers. My background as a software developer helped me build a business that trains software developers. And that experience, in turn, led to coaching.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

There were many! One was moving to London, of course. I moved from Russia to the UK at 23 to study at the master’s level, which took my life in a completely different direction. Another turning point happened when I attended CEO Bootcamp, a group coaching programme by Reboot.io that I signed up for in 2015. It helped me understand what it means to be a startup CEO and realise that I’m not alone on this journey. Jerry Colonna, who led the leadership retreat, inspired me to train as a coach myself many years later.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

At this point in my career, I want to do good work helping others and keep growing personally and professionally. I’m not trying to make huge money or build a unicorn. My idea of a good life at this point is waking up daily feeling at peace and grateful to be alive — not because I have this or that, but because I’m alive.

I am keenly interested in meditation, which has supported me for the last several years. In a way, many meditation teachers serve as role models for me: they live a simple life, share what they learned with others and enjoy being present, knowing that this present moment is enough.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

My only real challenge is my untamed mind, which drives me crazy regularly! I’m blessed to have good health, a roof over my head and nice people in my life.  Yet, when my mind gets distracted and lost in stories about what I want or need or how I want the world to be anything other than it is, I get unhappy quickly. My way of learning to be with my mind is meditation.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

The impact I am most proud of is the thousands of people we trained as software developers at Makers who went on to start a career in technology. Our students regularly describe their experience as life-changing, and I’m very proud of our impact on the UK tech community. A significant proportion of our students are women or come from minority backgrounds, so having trained over 5,000 people, I believe we made a meaningful difference to the diversity of the tech community, which 10 years ago was full of people like me — white, straight men. Today, it’s more vibrant and diverse.

As I continue working with entrepreneurs, I hope my work will help many founders avoid unnecessary suffering on this journey. Building a business isn’t supposed to be easy, but some suffering is avoidable, and I hope that my work contributes to this.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I would like the world to become a place where people listen more to each other. So much conflict and unnecessary suffering happen because people are more interested in being right than listening to others’ perspectives. I see it both on a small scale — in families and teams — and on a large scale when I think about all the wars going on right now.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

I’m very happy to see more and more women assuming leadership positions all around the world. Often, some of the most inspiring examples of grounded, humane leadership come from women, not men. I was extremely lucky to have had a chance to trust my own company, Makers, to a female CEO, Claudia Harris OBE, who has done an incredible job since taking over from me in 2020. I know she inspired many more women to aspire for top leadership roles.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Consistent effort matters and is grossly underestimated by most people. Everyone wants quick results, and some people get lucky this way, but a much more reliable approach is to put in a consistent effort, day after day, year after year, into whatever you’re learning or building. The hard bit is not to be attached to an expectation of quick results, but often, it’s people who have the patience to persevere for a long time who achieve great results.