Dr Olga Oleinikova, the 280th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is an extraordinary woman who has excelled in both business and academia.

The key is her achiever mindset.

Olga grew up in Ukraine, studied sociology and began her career in market research. But she wanted to do more than just make money, so she decided to apply to leading overseas universities to pursue her PhD.

University of Sydney awarded Olga a scholarship to do a thesis on the history of Ukrainian migration to Australia. And so, in 2012, Olga became Australia’s latest Ukrainian migrant.

During her research, Olga noticed that many of the immigrants she interviewed fit into two groups. 

The first group, who had escaped some sort of serious threat back home, had a survivor mindset. Their world view was quite narrow – they took whatever job they could find, tended to associate with only other Ukrainians and spoke limited English.

The second group, who had moved for economic reasons, had an achiever mindset. Their world view was broad – they aimed to advance their career, mix with locals and master English.

Unsurprisingly, the achievers turned out to have better life outcomes than the survivors.

Olga is definitely an achiever.

After finishing her PhD, Olga wanted to pursue a career in academia, but she knew that would be hard because the demand for lecturer positions far outweighed the supply. So she created her own role – she found two donors who were willing to fund a two-year research project.

Based on that experience, Olga was able to secure her current role, at the University of Technology Sydney, where she lectures in political science.

During her time in Australia, Olga has also co-founded two tech start-ups – Persollo, which provides social media analytics and instant checkout technology for brands, agencies and influencers; and HeyLink.me, a bio link tool used by businesses and influencers.

Somehow, Olga has also found time to write a book about Ukrainian, Czech and Hungarian migration (which is being released in March) and be a mother to two very young children.

Olga is incredibly smart – but that only partly explains her success, because there are lots of smart people who aren’t all that successful. More importantly, she’s willing to learn new skills, meet new people and push her boundaries. 

In other words, Olga has an achiever mindset.