Anna, Product Manager of Public Programmes, Synchronization
We met Anna Sedova shortly after Synchronization’s (RU - Синхронизация) third birthday. What began as a ‘project for friends’ has now grown into an innovative informal educational platform that meets the demand for self-improvement from Moscow’s active audience of post-University professionals who want to keep learning about culture, the world around us and themselves.
The idea was the brainchild of Andrey Lobanov (Андрей Лобанов) who moved from a consultancy career with McKenzie to being a now serial-startupper in the informal learning field. It started when he wanted to understand more about art, quickly and in an engaging way, with leading experts. He went on to found Synchronization, an informal education start-up, where themes on the arts, humanities and sciences could be explored in engaging and interactive lectures, with experts, at an affordable price and at times that suited a professional audience. Meeting this gap in provision is the reason why the team - a ‘big family’ - are celebrating their exponential growth to an organisation that holds around 120 events per month. Meet Anna, who’s been there from the beginning.
What brought you to Synchronization?
I feel in love with the concept after attending one of the first courses, on poetry. When I approached Andrew and asked to be involved, he said yes and I joined the team. Now, as Product Manager of the public programme, I manage the programmes that people can attend in person - ‘offline’.
I first studied psychology, a way of understanding what a human is. I then studied languages, which are a means of helping us understand each other. Art takes us further, in helping us understand each other and ourselves. I find inspiration for my work both in books about culture or fiction and in business management literature.
What does Synchronization do?
Synchronization has been built with a social purpose, providing learning experiences that we hope that can change people’s lives and help them understand who they are. We believe that these learning experiences should be available for everyone, of any age and background, wherever they are, in the format that is most comfortable for them.
We offer lectures on varying topics at different levels of intensity (from one-off specially curated events to a 12 week series of three-hour lectures). These are usually held in two lecture spaces in our offices near Kropotkinskaya and other great spaces, like in cultural institutions or other interesting meeting spaces.
We create the programme that we know our audiences want. Programmes can be on broad subjects, like the history of art (around 30% of our content), or on specific subjects or people in art, history or science, like Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (the most popular art programme to date - we’ve ran it over 50 times due to demand). We also have more intense lectures that cover topics in detail - a bit like university, but more engaging and with less advanced language.
Most of our core set of 45 lecturers are art historians, but they also include specialists in cinema, music, history, psychology and the sciences. We want people with charisma, who present with logic and structure who communicate effectively with their audience. They take a month to get from the topic choice to the first event. We follow a specific methodology in developing every programme of lectures:
Meet a basic principle for every lecture - you have to leave with five new things in your head;
Find the right lecturer - a practitioner or academic (the practitioner view gives an inside insight into the cultural world);
Discuss and rehearse the content with the lecturer to make sure it’s perfect for the audience.
We do this for every set of lectures, and we develop around 10 a month.
What’s the joy of working in Synchronization for you?
The team. We’re a family. We say almost everyday that it’s a miracle that we’re all working on this at the same time. We also say that if people don’t need lectures anymore, we’ll work on something else together (ed: sounds like the dream team!). We have a feeling that we have the ability to do anything: I like to think of our team like super-heroic avengers, saving the world. We’re flexible, ready to adjust and follow the direction we need to follow. We might not be a new start-up (at three years old) but we still have that approach at the heart of everything we do.
What is the highlight of your role?
It’s my job to ensure that the lectures are of the highest quality. For me, it’s amazing to be inspired by and learn from the content we programme. Equally important is to meet the participants and lecturers and to understand their experience. That makes our job easier and more rewarding.
I used to write all of the content for our website, and still have overview of almost everything that’s published online. Writing about what we are programming means that we have to get to know the topic in a convincing way. This is inspiring and presents opportunities for us to learn as a team.
For example, one time, I couldn’t get my head around Einstein’s theory of relativity - part of a physics programme. I tried, tried and tried again to understand it. I started with Wikipedia, where separately the words made sense, but together - no. I took it to my marketing team (some of whom studied maths and physics), then to peers in another project in our building (a coding school for children, also founded by Andrew). Little by little, I learnt more until finally I understood the concept (and ran around the office in celebration). The diversity of what we do really gives each of us opportunity to be inspired and to learn and grow as individuals.
How do you see Synchronization’s success as part of the broader cultural and educational scene in Moscow?
We have achieved a lot in three years, and part of that is due to changing dynamics in Russia. It’s a pleasure to look at the change that is taking place in Russia, and a joy to be part of it. Even conservative cultural organisations realise that they need to adjust and become more creative, and respond to the desire of their audiences for creativity. Russians are eager for art: we have an understanding in Russia that culture is important. This is a big driver, and another perhaps is that art can make life more colourful, more rewarding, giving us a connection with the past and with something bigger than daily life.
We’ve also put a lot of effort into researching the needs of our audience:
Feeling like you belong to part of a wider social group is really important
Attending a lecture should be an experience, where people come to have a great time with friends or to meet others with similar interests
Class sizes should be small
Lectures should be interactive - both the lecturer and the participants can ask questions at anytime
Learning should be practical - for example, you could first learn about an artist’s techniques and then put them into practice yourself.
This is the type of learning that people want now - it’s more fulfilling than just receiving information.
More information about Synchronization
You can find the full list of available lectures on their website
They host 120 events every month at their office and lecture spaces near Kropotkinskaya Metro and other great venues across Moscow
48,000 followers on Facebook, where they publicise their upcoming lecture series