Member Spotlight: Victoria Yakubenko,
Associate Director, Tristan Capital

May 18, 2022
Written by: by Alissa Poloumieva
AP:  Can you provide us with a brief overview of your career to date, and how you got to your current position? 
VY:  I am originally from Ukraine, which is where I started my career working with a real estate developer and manager for over a year before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in real estate in London. Upon graduating, I worked briefly with King Sturge before they merged with JLL, and then spent an amazing 8.5 years at Heitman, where I had progressed from an intern to an Assistant Vice President, working with all the main real estate asset classes across their European portfolio. Today, I am an Associate Director within the portfolio and asset management team at Tristan Capital Partners, where I’ve been for 2.5 years. As an asset manager I am responsible for our properties in Poland, Finland, Norway and Denmark,and part of the UK portfolio. I am also a member of Tristan’s ESG committee.

AP: It’s great to see that you were able to grow with one organisation for a period of over 8 years. Can you expand on your experience with Heitman and why you think this working relationship was so positive? 
VY:  My time with Heitman started as an internship, which led to a full-time analyst role on the acquisitions and asset management team. After some time, I started to get more involved in the qualitative aspects of the asset management role, visiting the properties, dealing with the site teams, and experiencing the tangible day-to-day of their work. This allowed me to get a much better sense of the properties and the markets within which they operated. Since then, every time an opportunity became available, I just went for it! I always felt that I was learning and developing. 

AP:  Why did you decide to make the move to Tristan, and when did you know it was the right time to do so? VY:  When the opportunity with Tristan came about, Heitman had sold the majority of their CEE properties, but I still felt that this was the market I wanted to continue focusing on. The second reason for moving into the new role was the opportunity to work within a slightly different structure. Tristan works with external operating partners, which allowed me to step back from the more detailed day-to-day management and spend more time on the high-level, strategic initiatives for the investments. 

AP:  What is the best part of your role now and what have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
VY:  One of the challenges for me was moving away from being very detail-oriented and “in the weeds” of the day-to-day to more high-level thinking. Another challenge was learning to manage up. What I mean by this is that not only are you managing your junior team mates and your relationships with your operating partners, but you are also managing the expectations of your senior colleagues, investors, and other stakeholders.

AP:  That’s a lot of relationships to juggle! Can you tell us what you most enjoy about your role? 
VY:  It’s difficult to pinpoint just one thing, but for me it is definitely the opportunity to travel and work with an international team of operating partners that are local to the markets that I look after. It’s about getting out there, visiting the properties, engaging with local teams in person, learning about their challenges, and working to solve them together. I find this aspect of my role to be most creative and energizing!

AP:  What drove you to join CREW, and what can you tell us about your experience so far? 
VY:  I learned about CREW through the first mentorship program, which is what led me to join the organisation. At the time, I was at a point in my career where I felt that I needed some external perspective and advice, so an industry-focused mentorship programme seemed perfect. Having not had any formal mentoring before and having not been exposed to many senior women within my teams, I was eager to make new connections within the sector and to build my network. 

AP:  What have you learned or how have you been directly impacted from mentoring others / being a mentee? VY:  The mentorship sessions provided me with a certain sense of clarity and direction on a few particular matters. I was also amazed at how many very influential women are out there and how eager they are to guide and to support you. A number of other virtual events and even some in person meetings followed (within the gathering rules, of course). So, I thought this is amazing and I wanted to be a part of this. There is so much energy here!

AP:  Are there any particular take-aways that you could share with our readers?
VY:  Yes, there are two that come to mind, mentioned by a few different mentors, and they go hand-in-hand. The first is state the obvious. What may be obvious to you, may not be obvious to others. You may need to be more direct about your achievements and projects to ensure that others take notice. The second is don’t ask, don’t get. Take time to think about what you want to achieve, and even though your goals may evolve throughout your professional journey, it is important to be clear in your aspirations and to communicate these when the time is right.

AP:  What do you think the key to greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) is in 2022? 
VY:  I do not think there is just one, it is always a combination of things, and it does depend on the situation. I have noticed that supportive environments that empower colleagues take initiative is really important. I feel that we, as women, do not always see our own strengths, and we may lack confidence. There is often this “I am not there yet” or “I have not done this one before” mentality that holds us back. In my experience, most of us just need that extra encouragement or the support to frame our abilities in the right way. 

AP:  I find that the confidence factor is a common thread for women wanting to progress. We always feel that we aren’t “ready” or don’t have the exact experience, so we don’t put ourselves forward nor do we champion our own abilities to the extent that we should. Would you agree? Do you have any advice for anyone in this position?  
VY:  I do agree with that, however, it is easier said than done, and it doesn’t mean that you will always get what you ask for. I want to highlight that the ask should be credible and substantiated by your contributions and projects. What I have also found to be helpful is enlisting another colleague or peer on board with your initiative. This can be as simple as reinforcing your thoughts in meetings, supporting your proposals, and being a sounding board for new ideas. These relationships and networks within your own organisation are sometimes the key to unlocking those future opportunities.

AP:  Who has been your most influential professional mentor? And why? What is the best piece of professional advice that you have received? 
VY:  I’m fortunate to have had several informal mentors throughout my career, however, it was only more recently that I understood and appreciated the value of a more structured mentorship programme. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest of mentors to understand and work through my daily challenges, both professional and personal. Lately, I have been coming back to this one quite often: create time for thinking and learning. 

AP:  Realising that work commitments are just as important as commitments to personal and professional development is crucial. What kind of development efforts have you recently committed to or are hoping to commit more time to in the future? 
VY:  This year I want to be more present within the wider real estate network, to build relationships and to learn from others in my sector. You never know who you might meet and what you might learn from a newly formed connection. This helps to build your knowledge organically in a more social and interesting context. 

AP:  Outside of work, do you have a hobby or passion project you are working on? 
VY:  The various lockdowns made me realise how much I love the outdoors and being active. After getting into hiking in 2020, I discovered rowing last year and joined a rowing club on the Thames. Now every Sunday, rain or shine, unless the water stream or wind is too strong, I am on the river.  Yet, I am loving every second of it!

AP:  Why rowing specifically? 
VY:  I wanted to try something new and to meet new people around where I lived. There has been a lot of positive self-discovery and it’s also quite a social sport, where I’ve been able to meet people from all age groups, backgrounds, and career paths.

AP:  Victoria, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to catching-up with you in person soon!