19 December 2023

Dive deeper: work and life insights from the sea bottom

A Lead Architect, a Talent Acquisition Manager, a Legal Counsel, a Finance Executive, an Analyst, a Pricing Advisor, and three Engineers walk into the sea. No, it’s not a weird twist on the infamous ‘walking into a bar’ joke, but a real story about Exness employees from different teams and backgrounds sharing a common passion: scuba diving. This time though it’s not another leisure activity: the team has assembled for what is now the second cleaning activity, submerging to collect garbage from the sea bottom and making their contribution to the long list of Exness CSR activities.

According to Alina Sheshneva, our Global Talent Acquisition Operations Manager, there’s something else to be found at the bottom of the sea apart from unwanted byproducts of civilization – and that’s a state of mind that helps make the challenges of working in a rapidly changing environment not only bearable and manageable, but also even enjoyable. To better understand the metaphorical connection, we asked Alina all about her passion for underwater exploration, and how it helped form her as a person and as a professional.

Let’s dive in!

When you’re underwater with other people, they’re your team, and in a way, you entrust them with your life – and vice versa. Having a team you know you can rely on transforms the way you go about any project."

Alina Sheshneva Global Talent Acquisition Operations Manager in Talent Acquisition

Love at first dive

There’s an obvious yet fitting parallel to draw between diving and almost any project you undertake. Ideally, you want to deeply immerse yourself in everything you do at work, since surface-level knowledge of any subject will only get you so far in understanding it. And when you’re done with the work – or resurfacing from a dive – you want everyone involved to be ashore, alive, well, and, in a perfect world, happy. All of this of course requires some work, preparation, and dedication, but a bit of natural curiosity doesn’t hurt.

I had my first dive at 8 years of age, and was hooked immediately. It wasn’t until 2014 however that I started actively pursuing the field and got officially licensed. This kicked off an almost annual tradition of traveling worldwide to experience various diving locations in Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, Egypt, and Cyprus, with the latter eventually becoming my home. Even my choice of accommodation had to account for this passion, as I picked a place right across the road from a diving center, allowing me to pursue the next big step: becoming an instructor.

It’s a journey that started in 2021 along with another, even bigger one. I joined Exness the same year as a Talent Sourcer, creating a pool of candidates for the company’s vacant positions. In other terms I was that person who annoys you with messages when you’re working at a different place, trying to catch your interest with alluring descriptions of our working conditions and social package. Within a year my position shifted to the Talent Acquisition Operations Manager, allowing me to handle more administrative stuff, directly interact with teams, and eventually expand my responsibilities to other offices as the title became Global.

Universal truths

Having quick and easy access to my hobby, I started juggling it with my work, dedicating my free time to reaching the Advanced and Dive Master levels necessary for becoming a diving instructor. I also got some practical experience under my belt by helping my own instructor teach groups of kids. Being mostly 10-12 years old, they can be noisy and unfocused. So you have to make each lesson into a bit of a game to get their attention, as teaching the fundamentals is a big responsibility. Apart from being important technical lessons for diving specifically, they’re applicable as general life lessons that you can take with you to work, in a way.

  1. Analysis and preparation Always think about ‘why’. What’s your location of choice? What’s the weather like on the day of the dive? Does all equipment work well? Is there a wound that needs to be tended to before you dive? If anything is amiss, is it maybe a better idea to postpone the dive? Asking these questions is crucial to having a good diving experience, and they’re not unlike getting briefed on a project you’re about to undertake: what are the goals, the timing, the resources, and the tools available? Being well-informed and well-prepared is a prerequisite for a successful dive – and a successful project.

  2. Patience and practice You’re not always going in with experienced divers. Sharing your knowledge with others and allowing them to practice in a safe environment will boost their confidence and reduce the chance of things going wrong. Many newbies are afraid of submerging, so we combat the fears by practicing the necessary skills, communication, and tool handling: first on the shore, then in shallow water, only moving to the real deal when they’ve memorized the basics. Similarly, it’s normal to feel the pressure and confusion when you’ve joined a new company, so offering a helping hand and supporting a fresh hire in their first weeks is essential in building their momentum.

  3. Mistakes and lessons While we learn to combat our fears, it’s important to remember that they exist for a reason, warning us that stepping into an unknown environment carries risks and sometimes unforeseen consequences. My own husband’s first dive was a negative experience due to a damaged piece of equipment. The malfunction was difficult to detect on the surface, but at a 5-meter depth, the oxygen regulator was letting a bit of seawater in. It took a while for him to agree to try again, but I learned that certain malfunctions only happen under pressure. So don’t expect your new project to work flawlessly from the get-go. Acknowledge the mistakes, fix what’s possible, and try again when your teammates are ready.

  4. Composure and adaptability Things aren’t always going to go according to the plan even when you’re knowledgeable and prepared. After getting my certification in Vietnam, my next dive took place in Egypt. The group was diving back first into the water, which was something I’d never done before, and I’d wasted a lot of oxygen to nervous heavy breathing even before submerging. At 20 meters deep I started running out and immediately informed my instructor. The way I’ve been taught, the instructor should allow you to take a spare oxygen regulator from them, but this one yanked my own regulator out of my mouth before providing me with his, and I had to scramble my thoughts together to remember everything I’ve learned, press the appropriate button, and make the first deep breath. It was scary. But that’s what we often encounter in our lives and at work: things taking an unexpected turn and requiring us to think on our feet, make quick decisions, and follow through while keeping calm. Underwater, panic is potentially fatal. While maybe not as dramatic in our line of work, it sure doesn’t help any project you might be working on. Stay focused, watch yourself and those around you. Which brings me to the next point.

  5. Teamplay and trust When you’re underwater with other people, they’re your team, and in a way, you entrust them with your life – and vice versa. You watch out for each other, you share oxygen if need be, you communicate, and you help. Once when exploring a sunken ship, a man got stuck when his oxygen tank hit a piece of the hull. It was a very dangerous situation, but with me in front of him and another diver behind, we immediately took notice and helped him out. Having a team you know you can rely on transforms the way you go about any project. You yourself want to be as reliable as possible, and if anyone has any trouble – be the helping hand that gets them out.

These pieces of advice may sound like banal, simple truths, but it’s good to remind yourself of them and not take any of it for granted.

The necessary reboot

Don’t let any of these comparisons between diving and work paint the wrong picture for you. In many ways, underwater is where I find serenity, my escape from the daily grind, the meetings, the stress, and the difficult decisions.

The effect is similar to meditation: putting yourself in this natural yet somewhat alien environment drowns out the noise of everyday life, making you much more focused on yourself, your inner feelings, and your immediate experience. For many, achieving this requires mental effort and regular meditation practice. But here, beneath the surface, among the beauty of marine flora and fauna, this state of mind is achieved naturally and effortlessly. You just, for the lack of a better word, sink into it. Figuratively speaking, of course. I always try to teach this to my diving students, as the techniques and safety measures are just what support the main experience. 

I’ve witnessed sea life from beautiful corals and tiny nail-sized fish to quirky manta rays and intimidating sharks – even a huge whale shark once in Thailand. Whatever life- or work-related stress might have accompanied you before such an experience won’t go away when you resurface, but I promise you’ll have a fresh outlook on it.

It’s an enlightening experience, it’s movement, it’s a social activity, and thanks to the recent sea bottom cleaning initiative – it has also become an opportunity for us to serve the local community and environment. We’ve cleaned out 500 kg of garbage from the Limassol shore, and we’re very proud of it. But the secret is that you always get rid of the mental waste in your head as well, and I can’t recommend that enough.

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