Home Content Articles The power of curiosity and embracing experimentation: Natasha’s story

The power of curiosity and embracing experimentation: Natasha’s story


Natasha Rostovtseva’s career path has always been unconventional – she was a doctor and a journalist, she worked in technology and healthcare, and even had a decade-long stint at Google. Now she’s embracing a different sort of challenge as a board member and strategic advisor within the health tech space helping startups commercialise and scale their products. 

Through it all, she’s pursued roles that add clear and lasting value to others, whether that’s through her advisory positions or her newsletter on professional freedom. And what’s more is that she’s always experimenting and learning along the way.

We sat down with Natasha to find out how she’s approaching this next phase of her career journey and what else is on the horizon.

Hi Natasha, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?

I’m currently a board member and strategic advisor and my expertise is in commercialising and scaling up technological innovation. I’ve got a diverse background as a medical doctor and journalist and I have a soft spot for projects that combine technology and healthcare, especially those that focus on bioengineering large language models and bio data, which is a really exciting place to be right now. 

My skill set has three distinct components that make a very interesting foundation for my portfolio career. Firstly, I’m incredibly passionate about health initiatives. I’ve carried out work around tuberculosis, HIV and AIDSs as well as general promotion of healthy lifestyles on a national level. It was then that I decided to move upstream in the business decision-making process, which is when I got my MBA from INSEAD Business School. The third component is the fabulous period of over 10 years that I spent at Google, where I was responsible for our go-to-market strategy, international rollouts and B2B business development for various products in the EMEA region. 

The combination of these three things means I’ve got lots to offer Series A startups getting serious about commercialising and scaling up their products, which is the main thing I’m focusing on in my career at the moment. Another string of my portfolio career bow is that I write a weekly newsletter about professional freedom for those seeking inspiration to follow that journey. 

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

You’ve had such a multifaceted professional life, going from medicine to go-to-market strategies. How do you think that’s shaped your career so far?

When I left Google last summer I started reflecting on the next steps, firstly by questioning how I could maximise the value I’m bringing to others and secondly by utilising the health care component of my skill set, which was something I missed in my last role. I’ve been trying to move towards the digital health space for quite some time, as it’s such an interesting place to be right now, particularly in bioengineering. There’s so much advancement and the explosion of AI has created such momentum.

I’m interested in learning more about what moves science towards a sustainable business model. There’s so much fascinating scientific research, but that doesn’t necessarily translate automatically into a good product that can function properly in terms of resources, funding, etc. This is definitely where my curiosity lies. Having spent a lot of time in a corporate environment, it’s also really exciting to be working collaboratively with different early stage startups. 

We talk a lot about the ‘why’ behind what you do and how that shapes your career ambitions. It’d be great to hear what motivates you and why you’ve chosen the career you have.

The thing I like most about being an advisor is that I’m actively helping someone, which is incredibly motivating. When you’re in a corporate environment, there’s a lot of self-promotion you have to do to build your visibility. Part of your job becomes building your personal brand inside the company, ultimately for the function of the company. When you’re building your brand for yourself and you’re promoting yourself, particularly as someone who’s helping other people, it feels very different. It’s incredibly fulfilling for me. I completely forget myself and focus on the person or organisation in front of me. 

In terms of my other ‘why’, it goes back to being so used to working in a corporate environment and wanting to break out of that bubble. When you’re working with different companies, you actually get to grow your expertise to a greater degree. You get exposed to the ecosystem, the industry and all the latest innovation, and working on a variety of different projects is so much more interesting to me. Additionally, I get to maximise my input and help more people at once, which feels very rewarding. 

As you’ve mentioned, you have your own newsletter on professional freedom. What made you want to start a newsletter and how have you found the process?

I was a medical journalist at the beginning of my career. When I started my MBA, I also started a blog about my career in the corporate environment that was quite successful. So I’m used to and enjoy producing content. 

Last year in March, I was at the Royal Opera House in London and a woman sat next to me and asked “I’m sorry, are you Natasha?”. When I said yes, she told me that she had read my blog several years ago and that I had inspired her to apply to INSEAD and move from Moscow to London, all because I shared my experience in business school. It was in that moment that I realised that something I did had such a profound impact on someone else that they would recognise me all those years later. And it really made me think. 

At the time, I was going through a lot of reflection about what I wanted to do next. I had been at Google for 10 years, which was a big number that I never expected to reach, and even though it was a beautiful experience it made me think. I stumbled upon a concept that described careers in three distinct phases. First you build your skillset. Then you increase your impact by inspiring other people to follow you through leadership. Finally, there’s freedom, where you basically capitalise on everything you’ve done. I think it’s such a beautiful way to define success professionally. That freedom is actually how you build your path to success and because of that I decided to start writing again and I now have a pretty successful newsletter with over 700 subscribers. 

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

That’s so exciting! You’re at such a pivotal moment in your career, and it’s been over six months since you left Google. Do you have any idea of where you’d like your career to be in five years’ time?

I want to be working with companies that bring technology and medicine together, supporting the biggest innovators in that space to help them be successful in business. And I want to be a recognised expert in bringing scientific innovation into the world through successful product and commercial strategy. 

I’ll do that through advising companies and mentoring founders individually, but also through corporate governance. I find that particular space very interesting and important because it balances out the power inside the company and it creates a fascinating equilibrium of expertise. I went through training on corporate governance during the pandemic, so that’s one of the things I’m going to focus on as a board member. 

And what would you say has been your biggest learning from the last six months?

My philosophy of trying new things through doing has proven to be effective. When I left Google, I told a lot of people that I was available and open to random projects so I could explore a range of different opportunities. That allowed me to figure out where I actually wanted to be. 

You can only learn so much from a coffee chat or from attending a conference. The moment you actually start working with someone and getting your hands dirty is when you learn whether you like something or not. I’m so happy that I applied this approach right from the start, because it meant that I shifted my focus, and now work with startups at a later stage, as I realised that’s where my expertise is more relevant. So from that perspective, experimenting and trying new things is important. 

That’s such a great mentality. We’d love to know what piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking about taking the leap into a portfolio career like you did.

I think it’s important to experiment, not just with different things but with different versions of yourself. Be very open. Yes, you have certain knowledge, but you also don’t know what you don’t know. And if you come up with a plan, you’re only going off of the knowledge you have. 

Actively exploring and being a genuinely curious person unlocks a huge range of possibilities you otherwise wouldn’t know existed. Being open to learning things you didn’t actually expect to learn is where you get the most amazing options and opportunities. It’s more than likely, particularly if you’re at the mid-point of your career, that you already have the skills so now’s the time you can play with them in different ways. Those combinations might be so unique that there’s no precedent set for what you do, which means you can create something that doesn’t exist. And that’s the most beautiful part. 

Motivated by Natasha’s story? So are we! It’s always so inspiring to hear from professionals that are proactive about creating the career of their dreams. We hope that hearing more about Natasha’s experience will encourage you to experiment and stay curious when it comes to your own portfolio career. 

If you’d like to meet more professionals who are forging their own career paths, then join our community and start engaging with our members. You never know what you might discover about yourself or your potential.

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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