From Deputy Director in the Lviv City Council to a CD candidate, a glimpse into the person behind the face ~ Oksana Spolyak

Comité Directeur Member for 57th Agora AEGEE-Europe

With the Agora right around the corner we at The AEGEEan are interviewing the candidates to give you an small insight into who the person is behind the face. Here we have with us Oksana Spolyak, running for the CD member position of AEGEE-Europe.

Can you say something about yourself? What was the moment you realized AEGEE is for you?

I was born, and am living in Lviv, a charming Ukrainian city. I’m currently working in the City Council to make Lviv known not only to AEGEEans but worldwide as a convention destination. Needless to say, I got this job largely due to my experience in AEGEE. Within 3 years of my employment (where I grew from a project manager to deputy director), I noticed this interconnected influence of work and AEGEE, which keeps developing me a lot. My life aside from AEGEE and work is spent on travelling, dancing, theatre, and shopping.
The time I realized I would stay in AEGEE for a longer time was actually after a year and a half of joining the association. Yeah, it took me quite some time. However, I am glad it happened. Why did I stay? – First of all, because of the people. Secondly, because of the responsibility granted to me, initially by coordinating a local educational project, later by joining the core team of Autumn Agora Kyiv. When I saw that I was capable and there was no need to be afraid to take on the responsibility, I felt empowered and doubtless to get more and more involved.

CD position requires teamwork in AEGEE, how do you see yourself fitting in a team? What are some of your skills that would keep the team motivated?

Both AEGEE and current job provided me with a lot of opportunities to work in a team, be it as a coordinator of 8 people (including my boss) who altogether organize a conference for 100 meeting professionals from all over Europe, or member of the team who leads the local for a year facing different challenges on their way and sharing later joy of their successful overcoming. That’s why, I can confidently call myself a team player who can balance between leadership, team, and individual work.
Additionally, working as an English language teacher/tutor helped me a lot. Having groups of different ages and levels always made me look for an individual approach to each student. I believe that’s the same in a team: when you realize what is able to motivate the other person, you act accordingly.
To sum up, I was frequently recognized my sense of ownership towards the duties. I believe this quality along with empathy and the ability to find a compromise are the skills I can offer to keep the wheels turning enthusiastically.

Say, there are some policies that you do not like but they go through in a consensus. How do you see yourself compromising with the decision?

That’s type of a question where the answer depends on a specific situation.
I am a person who is ready to compromise and even more ready to collaborate. If majority of the team votes in favour of something , I will go with a democratic decision. It’s good to have different opinions on the matters – the matter is what’s the matter.

What area of AEGEE would you like to focus on as a member of the CD? What are some of your skills that help fit this role?

This year we will draft the future of AEGEE – A New Strategic Plan. I am strongly advocating for setting the right path that has a long-lasting powerful impact not only for a 3-year-span but for our legacy. While dealing with different associations at my work, I see that an important topic at stake is legacy of the meetings and organizations. What legacy do we want AEGEE to have? Should it strongly focus on content? Do we want it all?

I believe we do and will be firmly supporting (in the role of elected CD member or ordinary member of AEGEE) to proceed with adding 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations into our agenda. Some key topics I suggest focusing on are youth well-being, employment, sustainable consumption, gender equality. Ensuring quality internal education of the topics and partnering with other (youth) organizations will make our impact more powerful. Being knowledgeable in the topic, “linked” to global associations (through my current job contacts), having relevant experience, I believe, make me a good match for the role.

A CD member requires meditating skills to work with working groups and local bodies, and there’s bound to be conflict.  In these situations, how would you bring two contradicting bodies to a negotiating table?

It’s always “healthier” to prevent a problem rather than deal with it. Therefore, first of all, I’d focus on keeping sound work relations with all parties involved. Secondly, if the conflict is bound to happen, I (if appropriate) would act or involve an impartial mediator who will listen to both parties and decide on the compromise.
Again, that’s not always a right solution to all issues. However, generally, I believe that’s the right algorithm to start with.

You have an impressive list of professional achievements for a person so young, and you have attributed a lot of this success to your experience in AEGEE. What would be your advice to other AEGEEans to make the most of the opportunities that the association provides?

(Feeling thankful)
Dear fellow AEGEEans,
1. Find what you enjoy doing.
2. Don’t be afraid to take on responsibility.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of skills, knowledge, and  personal connections AEGEE grants you.

Motivation is a key success factor for a project. What are some ways in which you could keep the motivation high within the network?

Absolutely agree. And my algorithm here would be similar to the expressed above: understand what a person likes (better even, is passionate about) doing and give her/him this task. Passion and right distribution of tasks are crucial here. Don’t consider it a catastrophe if the other person resigns, but to avoid this, communicate clearly her/his responsibilities all the way through. Listen to other side and empower by setting an example.

If not elected, which of the other candidates would you like to take over your position? Why?

Tricky question! Out of all candidates, I have direct experience of working with Oksana Prokopchenko (when I was part of the core team of Autumn Agora Kyiv). Now her interest and commitment to the AEGEE network cannot stay unnoticed. Therefore, I would love AEGEE-Europe to have such person in the team, despite the election results.