Putting Love into Anything One Does: Tatev Ayrumyan’s (MPSIA ‘08) Recipe for Success6 min read
Tatev Ayrumyan (MPSIA ‘08) is the executive director of Apaga Foundation which supports families in need, children with disabilities, and veterans with disabilities by providing them with different opportunities for self-sufficiency and a sense of fulfillment. In the interview below, Tatev shares her success story, emphasizing that love and commitment stand at the forefront of whatever she does. Crediting AUA for teaching her to be a doer rather than just a dreamer, she encourages current AUA students to use every moment at AUA to get as much knowledge and skills as possible.
Tell us about your career journey. How did it start and what brought you to your current role as the executive director of Apaga foundation?
During my study years at AUA, I started to work in the UN Communications office. Although I was volunteering in that job, it taught me a lot in terms of building my career. After graduating from AUA, I started working at Beeline as a communications specialist, later on becoming a manager in the Media Relations department, and moving on to become the head of the PR department of Beeline in 2014. I have 17 years of experience in public relations, marketing, and crisis communication management. In the last three years, I completely changed my career path and started to apply the knowledge and experience I had gained in the social sphere.
What was your experience like at the American University of Armenia? What was the role of AUA’s MPSIA program in your career?
Every time I pass by AUA, I smile, because I have a lot of positive emotions and memories connected with the university. AUA gave me not only solid and profound knowledge, but also important skills, such as analytical thinking, organization, time management, self-management, all of which are really important, because while you can have very good knowledge, if you do not have the appropriate skills, you may still have difficulties in overcoming challenges on your path. Most importantly, AUA taught me to be a doer, instead of being just a dreamer. If you want to be successful, you should take a step toward reaching your dream every single day. This is exactly what I would advise current AUA students to do: use every moment to learn, get as much knowledge as possible, and develop skills, because your knowledge and skills will eventually lead you to success.
What has been the most memorable moment of success in your career journey?
During the last eight-nine years, I have worked in several different lead positions. Still, for me, the most memorable moment of success was being appointed as the head of the PR and Communications department at Beeline. Why? Maybe because it was my first lead position, and I was the youngest director on the board — I was just 29 at that time. That appointment was the start of a new chapter in my life, which also played a big role in my future.
What are your core values as a leader? How important is company culture to you, and what measures do you take to promote and maintain a desired culture?
I believe that the most important leadership qualities are centered around soft skills and emotional intelligence. Another thing I value highly is for a leader to be open to new initiatives and experiments, and to be committed to the emotional and intellectual development of his/her employees, because for me a leader is not just a title or a position. A leader is someone who walks the way and shows the way.
A couple of days ago, I took part in a leadership conference, where one of the speakers said something that really made an impression on me. He said that we do not control the water in the river, and we do not control the water in the sea. Then why should we control people and tell them what to do? So if you are a good leader, if you are contributing to growing a positive culture in the company, and if you know where you are going, your employees become your partners, and you simply enjoy the process of advancing together.
There are many people working in my team on a voluntary basis, and the most important thing for me is to motivate them by assuring them that what they are doing is something good not only for themselves, but also for all those that we support at Apaga foundation.
Tell us about the Apaga Foundation. What is its mission? What projects are you currently engaged in?
The Apaga Foundation was formed in 2018 by businessmen Eduard Marutyan and Arayik Karapetyan. Before founding Apaga, both of them were financing different social initiatives but, in the long run, they recognized that one time financial help hardly changes the quality of people’s lives. Hence, the main mission of the foundation is to realize projects that would change vulnerable people’s lives for the better. There are different ways to fight poverty, and what Apaga foundation has chosen to do is to help people reach financial stability with their own efforts, to show them that they themselves are able to change their lives. By providing them with all the necessary skills and abilities through at least six-month courses, master classes and training, we empower them to start their own business and earn their own living. The core wisdom of our projects lies in the saying; “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day — if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for many days”. I’m really happy that today we are able to realize different projects that have a powerful impact on the reduction of poverty in different regions of Armenia. For instance, we have a project in building a sustainable future, within the scope of which only in 2021 we have helped around 100 families, measurably changing the quality of their lives. Vulnerable and poor families with two children under eighteen, low income families with no stable employment, families that have children with disabilities are in our target groups. All these families now run their businesses and have a stable income.
What do you like most about your job? What motivates you to keep going?
I think that the social sphere is perhaps one of the most difficult domains, because on the one hand, you have to work simultaneously with different problems, and on the other, there are a lot of emotions involved that you need to put aside in order to make objective and meaningful decisions. Sometimes the decision-making process is really hard, especially since I am dealing with the future of children and families. We are not philanthropists; I think we are a helping hand that supports, rehabilitates, shows the right direction and makes a concerted effort to have a positive impact from this financial support. As soon as I see the fruits of our efforts, as I witness how people are overcoming poverty and standing strong on their own feet, I get the best motivation to keep going.
Another thing that always keeps me strong is my family, which has played a big role in shaping me as a person. Family can provide one with all kinds of support — physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual — instrumental to one’s development. I truly believe that especially in Armenia, families have a significant role to play in the lives of their children. We need to develop our children’s strengths in all spheres, because nowadays we need champions in Armenia like never before.
How do you manage to combine your job of an executive director with teaching?
Mother Teresa said; “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather, he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” I put much love in everything I do, and I also teach my co-workers to do so. I never do a job which I’m not enjoying. I really enjoy both my job as an executive director and as a lecturer. Although I don’t manage to teach a lot because of time constraints, I have excellent students who keep inspiring me with their successes. I love to see that by sharing my experience and knowledge I help others to find solutions. I believe that no matter what you do, if you are 100 percent committed to it, you will get very good results.
How do you keep a work-life balance?
For me, work-life balance is a certain cycle that one achieves through time. I think one needs some experience and knowledge to reach a good level of balance. It is about feeling good about yourself and being in control of your life and career path; work-life balance brings happiness and fulfillment.
I have actually discovered that if you have a high index of happiness in your family life, you have got more of a chance to succeed as a leader, because a balanced lifestyle makes you more well-rounded, more creative, and more productive. And in order to be happy and successful, I try to be 100 percent present at work and 100 percent present at home. The good news is that it’s not as hard as you might think, and having such an attitude really works for me.