Tatevik Revazian
A lot of things can be done in Armenia, so if you are a person that likes to create, chaos is better

Repat Armenia interviewed Tatevik Revazian, a repatriate from Denmark, who is the Director of Global Partnerships at FLYR Inc

FLYR Inc. is a silicon valley data science company that leverages the power of machine learning to develop pricing systems for airlines. 

-Tatevik, can you tell us about your background and education?
I was born in Yerevan. When I was 5 years old, my family moved to Denmark. It was not until September of this past year that I finally returned to Armenia as a repatriate. It had been a long time coming, though, and the thought of moving back had been on my mind for years now. However, it was important to know exactly what I would be doing here once I got back. I remember that the first time I thought about it was back in 2010, when I was doing the Birthright Armenia programme; since then, I’ve been very involved in Armenia, expanding my network and truly getting to know the country, the challenges, the opportunities. I am very excited to be here. 

In terms of my education, I have two Master’s degrees: one in Innovation And Business Development and the other in International Management. I tried to study abroad as much as possible. During my studies I lived in London, San Francisco, Armenia, Sweden and then in Denmark where I was raised. My passion, however, is aviation; my dream was to create jobs in Armenia while working in this field myself. 

-What was your occupation in Birthright Armenia? Were you in Yerevan at that time?
Yes, I was. At the time, I doubt there was any possibility of working outside Yerevan. We were a very small group and, besides, it was in the middle of the winter. I was placed with Mission East, a Danish humanitarian organization. The manager at the time was Raffi Doudaklian, an incredible figure in Armenia who had inspired me more than I can say throughout our coffee conversations and the months of my work at Mission East. I can honestly say that I was very happy with my experience. 

-In Armenia people think that life is better abroad. You have lived in cities like London and San Francisco, but why did you choose Armenia? What appeals to you most?
Quite a few people ask me this question, ranging from taxi drivers to strangers on the street I strike up a conversation with. Of course, the connection I have with Armenia brought me here, and what holds me is the fact that since I am an individual in love with creating something new, it fits with my personality and desires. In Denmark, which is a very structured country, you already have the road set for you, while Armenia is more like chaos. So much can be done here, so if you are a person that likes to create, chaos is better. Armenia is most definitely like an adventure for me.

-Tell us about your career opportunities here: what are you doing now, and was it easy for you to find a job in Armenia?
I didn’t apply to any jobs here, and it was a conscious decision. In general, I know that Armenia, at least in some fields, lacks jobs, and in other fields there are plenty of jobs and too few people to cover them; but for me it was an initial decision that if I come to Armenia, I’ll have to create jobs for both myself and the people surrounding me.  So with that mindset, when I was ready to leave my job in Denmark (I worked in the Momondo group, a company, recently acquired by Kayak), I read an article in the news about a startup in San Francisco called FLYR; they were mentioned as one of the best travel startups of 2017.

For me it was really important to work with ambitious and talented people who encourage me to grow, making this particular bit of news such a great opportunity. But there were no job postings that could give me an inkling at least about where it would all lead to. So I just read about them and thought, “Well, as a startup, they probably need to scale. Why not scale in Armenia?” I organized a call with CEO and founder of the company and during the call he said that they might need somebody like me in six months or so. It clicked that if I wait for six months I won’t have this opportunity anymore. making the move myself, I bought a flight ticket to San Francisco to drink coffee with the CTO & Founder himself. (Laughs) 

I, of course, had other reasons to go to San Francisco as well, but this was one of my key reasons. I also made back-up plans in case this one didn’t work out - B, C, D, and so on, but this was something I really wanted and he could feel that when he met with me. 

I never had a real job interview; we were just talking about the industry, the challenges, the opportunities. After a week or two had passed, we met again in Berlin during a travel conference, and he asked me whether I’d be interested in starting their Europe office, to be closer to the airlines. Honestly, I had not planned on working in San Francisco anyway when I approached him; so when I asked where in Europe I would be working out of, he listed Copenhagen and London. My response to that? ”What about Yerevan?”

He probably thought, “This crazy girl, why Yerevan?” In response to what I assume was incredulity, I told him they need to scale their team because they’re growing fast and that I can do my job (that has nothing to do with engineering!) and also help them filter and find good engineers in Armenia due to my expanding network there. After that I didn’t hear from them for a while. I thought that maybe I mentioned Armenia too soon or that I seemed too crazy. Finally, I asked them to let me work remotely from Armenia, because it wouldn’t make a difference whether I sat in Copenhagen, London or Yerevan if I didn’t have a team. We agreed on that. Funny enough, my first task when I arrived to Armenia was to find a way to hire engineers.

-FLYR is a Silicon Valley data science company that leverages the power of machine learning to develop pricing systems for airlines. The fact that it partnered with an Armenian IT company and has its branch here is big news for the Armenian IT sector. Was it easy for you to find the right company to partner with?
When we were hiring the engineers here, I was told the criteria: we needed mainly senior developers and we needed them fast. Talking to people in the industry, I realized that doing the hiring myself is little bit risky. As such, we decided to hire a company that did the recrutement for us. I was recommended 7 companies by key people that work in the IT industry. The Head of Engineering and CTO of our company flew to Armenia to interview them. As a result, VOLO was chosen. However, it was not an easy choice at all. I constantly refer to many of those companies when somebody is interested in hiring engineers. When I mentioned creating jobs, I did not necessarily mean I would be the one doing it myself. My work here has allowed me to enable others into creating jobs here as well. 

Wow! Indeed, a lot of passion is involved. Where does this energy come from?
What gives me a lot of energy while being here is being connected to the world of startups. Teaching, conducting training sessions, and staging talks give me a lot of energy. Although I have my job where I earn my money, I also enjoy teaching for free. There are a lot of opportunities to do that here and a lot of people who are interested in what I have to say. I think if I felt that the local populace did not care about it, then I would not be so motivated. However, I can feel the same amount of passion and enthusiasm among young people here and I would like to encourage that. 

-Tell us about the challenges you’ve noticed in Armenia. What, in your opinion, has to be changed in people’s mindset?

Well, many complain about the government. Of course, the government creates a lot of challenges and I feel for people. However, I think that the main challenge is the mindset. People are willing to work really hard to raise enough money to buy a plane ticket for their whole family to move to Los Angeles and then start their life from scratch, not knowing when they’ll ever be able to come back to visit the country in which they were born.

If that amount of energy and money was spent on creating something here, I think several of them would actually have succeeded; probably more so and better than wherever they would go. The biggest problem in that is a very human tendency - when they put that much of an investment somewhere, you also never hear them saying that it didn’t work out. They’ll never admit that to you. That being said, I’m a big supporter of people getting out of the country to obtain a solid education and receive international work experience, but they should do it in a such a way that they leave an opportunity for them to come back home.

-What advice do you have for repats and expats? Why Armenia?
Why Armenia? Because it is a place where dreams can be achieved. It is probably the opposite of what people here think. In reality, something that would take years and years in Denmark, could take a month here, and I’m not kidding. If you get into the right networks and talk to the right people, you can get introduced so fast. And for me personally, Armenia is a place where I achieved my dreams by creating jobs and working in the field of aviation, which, as I mentioned earlier, is my passion. So if you are also a passionate person, there is no doubt that there are quite a few opportunities here. And if anybody is interested or has an experience in aviation, I’m more than excited to have some coffee with you and chat. 

Interviewed by Rima Yeghiazarian
Written by Yana Danielyan
Edited by Tamar Najarian


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