AltWork | Brooklyn, NY
Tanya Medukha is changing their relationship with work
The structure and environment of the American workplace has been under scrutiny lately, but Tanya Medukha has been thinking about how to make work better for years. In 2019, they launched AltWork, an online platform centered around helping its users do work outside of the “toxic office culture” that makes working harmful to workers’ health and well-being, not to mention their work. AltWork aims to create a community of freelancers who encourage each other set meaningful goals, follow through, and live from joy.
“As years went by I picked up on patterns within other organizations that hurt the very people that contribute to them.”
In many ways, Tanya’s journey into entrepreneurship began when they were a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. Tanya was a good fit for the work. They felt fortunate to graduate from college without debt, and wanted to pursue educational freedom for others. They were excited to see how the educational system functioned in Ethiopia. Within three months there, they were thriving: “I ran teacher training modules throughout the day, English clubs after school, and sipped tea at lunch meetings with the administration. I had an incredible mentor and two very strong local counterparts. When I submitted my periodic report I felt proud.”
Outside of work, Tanya spent time in circles of all-male friends, went out after dark, and consumed alcohol, all behaviors which are "not recommended" by the Peace Corps, but only for women. “This did not constitute defiance for me. I just continued to live my normal life.” The Peace Corps country director didn't stand for it and removed Tanya from their town. Facing relocation to a different town and and a behavioral contract, Tanya left the county and went to teach English in China instead. After that they got a master’s degree in the UK and then returned to the US to work as curriculum creator for adult ESL programs.
“What I found through my freelance journey is that the work culture hasn't changed, it merely left the office.”
Soon Tanya was living in New York City, working in an office, and feeling stifled. When they were finally able to generate enough income through freelance work, Tanya moved to the mountains and expected to feel a kind of freedom they couldn’t get in New York City. However, they realized that the things about the office that they didn’t like were still happening when they worked for clients in a freelance capacity. That’s when Tanya knew they had figure out a way to change the work atmosphere. They set out to adapt the way they earned money and help others do the same. Tanya focused her project on the need “to build an online economy that truly allowed freelancers to be free.”
Like other Sky’s the Limit entrepreneurs, Tanya has struggled with logistics and finances. What they didn’t struggle to find was support: “AltWork and I have survived on the grace of people who believe in me.” Their immigrant parents put their savings into AltWork, and eventually Tanya moved back in with them to focus fully on the platform. Eventually, though, Tanya got a full time job to better support herself and her company, but this seemingly-solid plan ran into COVID-19.
“Sky’s the Limit has played a monumental role in my development as an entrepreneur.”
In the midst of their unemployment benefits running out during a pandemic, Tanya found Sky’s the Limit. They connected with a developer who could help her build out the site, and they learned about the Friends and Family Fund that could help them stay afloat financially. And they found a list of mentors to help with all aspects of her business. Nilesh Thali, Agile Coach at Accenture assisted them with development, while Amanda Brino, Senior Legal Counsel at Accenture, supplied with legal help. And they worked with a team of mentors to refine her business plan, including Accenture Senior Technology Analyst, Jack Prommel and Accenture Managing Director, Chaitanya Geddam. Their financial advisors and Gettha Chitti, Application Development Specialist at Accenture, and Iona Branescu, Agile Coach at Accenture, helped in reviewing AltWork’s financial projections.
With this coterie of mentors at their side, Tanya’s vision for the future of AltWork is solid. The site is currently open to people who are familiar with the freelancing world and are looking to direct their knowledge and income to create self-sufficient lifestyles. An invitation can be requested on the homepage: alt.work. To start, Tanya will work closely with first 2,000 peaceful warriors to build AltWork as a strong system that serves its people.