Imagine you are a young adult from Eastern Europe. You have just moved to a new country, must adjust to a new language, currency, form of government and a host of other details that face a newcomer.
Add to this the need to launch a career.
Imagine, too, that you have arrived alone, leaving family and friends behind. You don't have much of a professional or social network to help you grow personally or professionally in your new home.
Where do you turn?
These were the questions posed by local attorneys Max Voltchenko, Inez Markovich, Henry Yampolsky and Vlad Tinovsky and financial professional Zoya Faynleyb when they founded the Russian-Speaking Professionals Network of Greater Philadelphia, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve as a key resource for Russian-speaking men and women in the Greater Philadelphia area, helping them build a foundation for their professional, communal and social development.
"The founding members of RSPN saw the need for professionals that immigrated from Eastern Europe to forge connections and networks, which were already in place and easily accessible to those born in the United States," said Voltchenko, who started organizing social networking events in Philadelphia as a way to meet other Russian-speaking professionals prior to RSPN's incorporation.
"We sought to foster interaction, socially and professionally, with other similarly situated people but found it difficult due to a lack of a formal, local resource for this purpose," says Markovich, RSPN's director of public relations, and partner at Deeb, Petrakis, Blum & Murphy P.C.
Hence, the RSPN was formed to fill this void and address the needs of this growing community.
The organization soon expanded to additional officers and directors from different professions. In 2010, RSPN's board grew to include International House's executive director Tanya Steinberg; Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Center's Svetlana Yazovskikh; and attorney Katsiaryna Stelmakh.
"We know that the success of our organization is dependent upon its continued expansion and diversity of membership, and we are always focused on improving the resources we provide to our community," said Yampolsky, RSPN's corporate secretary.
RSPN hosts or participates in business and social events, such as free "lunch-and-learn" seminars, picnics and happy hours at prominent Philadelphia venues like the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Last year, RSPN helped to organize the "Russian Mosaica Heritage Festival," a community event at Penns Landing.
Last month, RSPN hosted its inaugural Business Trends Forum, which featured panel discussions about growth opportunities for businesses in the post-recession economy. The event drew many people from the local area, both Russian-speaking and not, and featured some of the most prominent business and civic leaders in the community.
Arkadiy Dobkin, the founder and chief executive officer of EPAM Systems, Inc., one of the leading software engineering and outsourcing services providers in Central and Eastern Europe, was the keynote speaker.
Marina Kats, a local attorney and reportedly the first Ukrainian-American to run for a U.S. congressional seat — which she did two years ago in a losing bid — was the honorary speaker.
In addition to the high-profile speakers, the RSPN forum featured two panel discussions: "Availability of Credit Markets and Acquisition Opportunities," which was co-moderated by Markovich and Tinovsky; and "Navigating the Evolving Landscape of the Workplace," co-moderated by Yampolsky and Voltchenko.
The educational panels were followed by a networking event that allowed attendees to exchange business cards and stories while they sampled Russian cuisine.
The event's success, says RSPN membership coordinator Steinberg, "is a testament to the fact that all the hard work and perseverance of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union to come to United States really paid off."
RSPN member and Wharton MBA student Sergey Tumakha appreciates and has taken advantage of the various events that RSPN offers, noting that "I personally enjoyed many RSPN happy hours in Center City, the RSPN picnic in June 2010" and last month's forum.
The membership of RSPN includes lawyers, doctors, accountants, entrepreneurs, bankers and other financial professionals, as well as for-profit and nonprofit organizations, such as International House, the law firm of Marks & Sokolov LLC, and Program HOPE.
"Although many of our members are Russian-speaking and from business backgrounds, the organization seeks to grow and serve as a resource for all in the community, from the well-established professional to the students just starting out in their careers," notes RSPN director Yazovskikh.
"The organization sees itself as building bridges between Russian-speaking professionals, the Philadelphia Russian-speaking community and the community at large," adds treasurer Faynleyb.
For more information, visit: www.rspnetwork.org.