Irina Cherkasova may be new to the role of Brevity's Chief Operating Officer, but she’s neither new to Brevity or to positions of high responsibility. She’s also not one to shy away from challenges.

Irina arrived at Brevity four years ago and has since made her mark on the organisation, firstly as finance manager, then as our commercial manager before being chosen to lead the operations.

While Irina describes herself as ‘anything but a public person’, don’t be fooled, she is very much a people person and a strong leader. She is also exceptionally talented, with an impressive background built through hard work. 

An Engineer First

As a child, Irina loved playing with cars and building things with her dad. This love of creating and building, along with a highly analytical mind made engineering the perfect fit – and an easy choice for her degree in mechanical engineering. 

However, living in a small town on the Far East of Russia, there were not many opportunities for women in engineering. This challenge was less of a road block and more of a stepping stone for Irina. She had enjoyed an economics module in her engineering degree and went on to do further study, hoping more opportunities would be available to women in finance. 

Recently married and having just had her first daughter, Irina found herself working, parenting and traveling long distances to study. An almost impossible challenge, most of us would agree. When asked about it, Irina’s answer is that “If you have a goal you just make it happen.” As it turned out, this wasn’t to be the only time she found herself in this position. Irina has followed this approach throughout her life, overcoming huge obstacles and succeeding time after time.

A move to finance

Her first job was in finance, and not surprising, her analytical mind and amazing work ethic meant she immediately impressed and was promoted quickly . In her late twenties, Irina found herself managing a team of over 20 employees, many who were decades older than she was. Irina took a pragmatic approach to the role, and the respect she had for her team was matched by the respect they had for her and for her work. 

Further promotions meant Irina was responsible for significant budgets. At this point in her career she found her engineering background came into use, as she understood what was involved in large construction projects and could speak the language of those running them.

A new home

While Irina’s career flourished, her strong family values meant she always put her family first. Her brother and his family had moved to New Zealand and so Irina and her husband decided to join them. Arriving with exceptional work experience, impressive post graduate education and successful people management skills, Irina accepted this was not enough. Being new to the country her first priorities were to improve her English and understand the country she was going to call home.

Working in a shop gave Irina the opportunity to talk and communicate with people everyday. She found the Kiwi accent difficult at first, but her co-workers were welcoming and helped her. She felt extremely lucky that they went out their way to introduce her Māori culture and the New Zealand way of life. Irina says “Meeting such lovely people was a welcoming way to put down roots in Aotearoa”.

There’s no doubt, explains Irina, that life is tough for immigrants. While she was working at the shop, she also undertook a diploma in Professional Accounting and became a chartered accountant member. She loves accounting and says it doesn’t deserve its boring label! In addition to studying and working, she also had her second baby. Life included sleepless nights, working weekends and evenings and completing her studies as well. But she had a plan and she made it happen. 

A return to engineering – but in a new capacity

Then four years ago, having worked as the finance manager for a community trust for almost a decade, Irina was ready for her next challenge. She saw an opportunity with Brevity and jumped at the chance to use her financial skills in an engineering environment. She says that while she loved her job, she felt ready for change. “You always need to be ready to face new challenges. If you are not challenging yourself and making mistakes you are not learning.” A philosophy that mirrors the approach fostered at Brevity – making the move a perfect fit.

In her new role as COO, Irina explains that she is passionate about ensuring “ we have the best environment for our people to thrive and creating a business culture supports that.”  She is passionate about building a strong values-led company based on a strong work ethic and high standards of personal and professional integrity. The team is young and dynamic and eager to change the world. Irina is proud to have the opportunity to help them reach their potential, and in doing so to create an extraordinary organisation with a diverse and inclusive culture.

Irina says “The easy road is not always the right one to take and to achieve your goal always take the high road.” A philosophy that has seen Irina succeed through the most difficult of times, and will no doubt see Brevity go from strength to strength as the organisation forges new paths and new approaches in engineering, construction and professional services.