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Executive Coach and Leadership Trainer Vladimir Borachev (‘95): "Work with Humility, Ethics and Integrity"

Meet Vladimir Borachev (‘95): a member of the first AUBG class, a professional with extensive leadership experience at Avon and Xerox, a former AUBG Board and UC member and EMBA professor and an inspirational executive coach and leadership trainer. In this interview, he talks about his journey to professional and personal success, his transformative AUBG experience and what it means to be a good leader. 

You have experience teaching at AUBG’s Executive MBA Program and are a graduate of IESE Business School. What are the benefits of an MBA degree? When would you say is the right time to acquire it?

A strong MBA / EMBA program challenges you, creates awareness and supports you in making the next step in your personal and professional development. Also, it opens doors to a new network of successful people. Last, but not least, an MBA / EMBA degree enlarges and enriches your skills and knowledge base in terms of various challenges related to the corporate, entrepreneurial and NGO sectors.

The right time to acquire an MBA / EMBA degree is after you have accumulated a number of years of experience, three to five as a minimum. The best programs admit people with experience in order for them to be able to contribute strongly to the group dynamics and to take back the most out of the interaction. Also, the right time is when you are on a crossroads in your professional career or want to switch the industry.

Examples of strong programs in Europe are AUBG’s EMBA program in Sofia, IESE Business School in Spain, INSEAD in France, London Business School and Bocconi in Italy.

What are some of the highlights of your professional experience at XEROX, Avon and AUBG?

My professional career has felt like a rollercoaster. I joined Xerox Corporation in 1995 a few months after graduating from AUBG and worked through 10 different positions (seven from them in a leadership role) in sales and sales management in the region of Central Eastern Europe, Egypt and Turkey. In 2005, I was headhunted by Avon Cosmetics and held four leadership positions there in the region of Southeast Europe, with the last one being Director for Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia. In 2010, I agreed with Avon on a one-year career break that was later extended to a second one, and that has supported me in finding what I really want to do for a living. During 2013 and 2014, I have had the privilege to support the former President Michael Easton during his last term at AUBG and to serve as VP for Institutional Advancement with a key focus on fundraising.

Currently, as an executive coach and leadership trainer, I work in three areas, all related to leadership development:

  • Personalized workshops and different programs for leadership teams;
  • Individual coaching or mentoring sessions with senior leaders;
  • Teaching.

I have been extremely lucky to work with three different industry leaders - Xerox, Avon and the American University in Bulgaria. I am thankful to those three organizations for the opportunities, challenges, lessons learned, friendships, and support to become the person and professional I am today.

What are the most important business and life lessons you have learned over the years?

I have learned five key lessons, some of them the hard way, as follows:

  • Don’t compromise on values and learn to say “no” to people, proposals and situations;
  • Do work hard and never give up. Every mistake and failure is an opportunity to be better next time;
  • Find at least one area for personal and professional improvement for each year and work on it to become better;
  • Being down to earth and not taking oneself too seriously is a real gift. Having fun is a key part of being motivated at work;
  • For a happy life, every week one must feed their body, mind and soul.

How did you become a leadership trainer and executive coach? What motivates you in this role?

The short story: with lots of mistakes, hard work, support from a number of great people, and trust from my clients. The long story: during my time with Xerox and Avon, I had the chance to be supported by coaches and mentors and discovered the power of these development instruments. I started to join internal mentoring programs where I supported colleagues of mine and really enjoyed it. Early in my career, I started taking days off to lead different workshops, first related to sales management and motivation, and later to people development and leadership. In 2000, I was invited by AUBG to teach a class in “Management of Service Organizations” at the Bachelor level. From 2008 till 2017, I was a faculty member of the AUBG EMBA program at Elieff Center (thank you for the trust to Prof. Lucia Miree and Prof. Milena Nikolova). The main courses I taught were “Leadership Communication” and “Business Communication,” and an elective, “Coaching for People Development.” My work colleagues told me that I am crazy to take holidays to work (teach); however, I have never regretted it.

Throughout my two years of career break with Avon, my consulting and mentoring projects have increased steadily and I have realized what I really want to do - to support leaders on their journey. During 2012 I undertook a certification training program of “Solution focused coaching” with Erickson College International; in 2014 I covered the requirements for an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and in 2017 for Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF). With the help of my partner, in 2018, we created and rolled out our own nine months-long leadership development program, “Leadership journey with Vladimir Borachev.” The program has turned out to be surprisingly successful with two graduated cohorts in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and a full Cohort 2020 in line.

My motivation as an educator is twofold. On one side, when I work with individuals or teams and see that they have made a step forward as professionals and people, that gives me enormous satisfaction. On another side, my job as an executive coach and leadership trainer is very diverse and challenging. There are no two days and two projects alike, which entitles me continuously to challenge myself and improve, and I love it. Simply said, I have been lucky to discover my professional hobby.

What advice would you give to recent graduates on building a fulfilling career? 

In April 2013, I was invited to speak at the Honors Convocation and my advice builds on my words from that day.

Fellow alumni, winning in life is both a recognition and a responsibility. It is a recognition for your efforts, hard work, sleepless nights and dedication. It is a recognition for your strengths, ideas and achievements. Winning is a recognition for your passion because passion is what differentiates good work from great work. It is a recognition for all those who have and who would support you on your journey.

Winning is also a responsibility to accept that sometimes winning is the other side of losing. It is when we make mistakes that we learn the most. Winning is about getting up when you are on the ground and continuing to fight for your beliefs and dreams. Winning is a responsibility to find the strength to say, “I am sorry, I have made a mistake. I have areas for improvement as well and will work on them”. It is a responsibility to work with humility, ethics and integrity in the academic, corporate, entrepreneurial, or NGO sectors.

Winning is a responsibility to be an example to the ones that would come after you and the ones that you would guide. It is a responsibility to win in life in a positive, fair and human way. It is a responsibility to extend a hand to the ones that would fall behind and to give back. Please, join hundreds of other alumni and me and give back via the Alumni Pledge in support of AUBG! Choose your cause after you click on the “Donate now” button on the AUBG Alumni Pledge page. Thank you!

Do fight for what you believe in! Find your passion and follow it with stamina and dedication to become the best you could! Play fair, win fair, and be an example for the ones to follow! Have fun, no matter the age, and never forget to feed your body, mind and soul. That would help you to have a fulfilling career.

How did you decide to study at AUBG? What impact did your AUBG education had on your career and who you are today?

In 1990 after two years in the Bulgarian Army, I applied at Sofia University and Veliko Tarnovo University to study Bulgarian and English Philology. Following an “F” on the history exam (I was sure that the period after 1944 would not pop out), an “F” in Bulgarian literature (my two pages with bullet points didn’t meet the requirements for an analysis of an Ivan Vazov’s book), and a very good grade in English, I have been admitted in Veliko Tarnovo. It took me a year to realize that my potential to become a good philologist is close to a zero. The news got out at the beginning of 1991 for the opening of a new university, AUBG, and I thought, “I want this!” The rest is history.

To answer your question on the impact of AUBG education, I would like to come back to a text I wrote some years ago on my AUBG memories, that still reflects how I feel about my Alma mater: I do remember the sense of being part of something new and exciting. I still remember the classes in English literature, Anthropology, Political Science, Business Law, Accounting and Economics. I do remember writing essays, working on group projects, trying to understand strange terminology, practicing baseball, and being challenged to change and grow. I do remember Prof. Bobby Phillips’ quick talk on international relations. I do remember sitting in an accounting class and wondering if I was “an admissions mistake.” I do remember how lost I was in terms of what I would like to do with my life and Prof. Mark Stefanovich’s advice.

I do remember, because AUBG challenged me, shaped me, opened new doors for me, gave me friendships for life, and helped me in becoming the person I am today. I was given a chance of a lifetime for quality education and will make sure to continue supporting others to have the same chance. AUBG will always have a special place in my heart and I hope that one day my kids would also have the chance to go through the same exciting journey.

With respect to my school and hope to see you at the AUBG Alumni Pledge Gala & Party,

Vladimir Borachev

Proud member of Class of ’95

Interview by Dimana Doneva

Photos:

№1

In action as a motivational speaker

Photo copyrights - Noble Graphics

Photographer - Rosina Pencheva

№2

In action as a motivational speaker

Photo copyrights - Noble Graphics

Photographer - Rosina Pencheva

№3

Opening of the "Leadership journey with Vladimir Borachev" program

Photo from personal archive

№4

In action as a motivational speaker

Photo copyrights - Noble Graphics

Photographer - Rosina Pencheva

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