Becoming a Professional Coach - Interview With Mariam Tabatadze

Becoming a Professional Coach - Interview With Mariam Tabatadze

Mariam Tabatadze is a professional coach with a rich background in psychology, HR, and Agile project management. She combines her diverse expertise to help individuals, teams, and organizations thrive. In this interview, Mariam shares her experiences, the challenges and triumphs of her career, and her visionary approach to driving positive and sustainable change.

What inspired you to become a professional coach, and how did you achieve this goal?

Growing up in post-Soviet Georgia, at the age of 16, I discovered my passion for listening to people, stepping into their shoes, and helping them to see the way forward. Since then, I have dedicated myself to acquiring the skills needed to become a professional in this field. I’m happy to say that now my passion is my job!

My background in psychology, along with my prior experience in HR and Agile project management, has greatly contributed to where I am right now. However, pursuing my master’s at New York University was truly a life-changing experience that gave me the confidence to proudly call myself a coach. 

Becoming a coach takes hard work. It’s more than acquiring skills, knowledge, and experience; it requires deep inner work and personal growth. I don’t see becoming a professional coach as a destination but rather as a lifelong process that is never truly complete, because learning in this field never stops.

Could you tell us about your early career? 

My career started as an HR generalist at Adjara Group, a leading Georgian hospitality company. While tackling all the aspects of Human Capital Management, I realized my favorite part was talking to people, hearing their concerns, and contributing to creating the environment where they could thrive. That’s why, I quickly grabbed an opportunity to manage the pre-opening process of Rooms Hotel Kokhta to create such an environment from scratch. This experience shaped me as a change agent committed to creating a psychologically safe and inclusive workplace. Returning to Stamba Hotel as Assistant Managing Director, I expanded into operations across multiple hotels and restaurants, collaborating closely with C-level executives. This period deepened my interest in leadership development, but then pandemic hit and everything changed.

After gaining significant experience at Adjara Group, I joined Bank of Georgia as a Scrum Master during their Agile transformation. This role allowed me to leverage my management and operations skills while fulfilling my passion for innovation and coaching. I applied the Scrum framework across three cross-functional teams, educated stakeholders on Agile principles, and trained newcomers. 

My time at BOG was full of learning and growth, but I wanted to challenge myself even further, while I still had time. That led me to Space Bank, the first online bank in the Caucasus region and Central Asia, where I continued as an Agile Coach. Here, I implemented Scrum at scale and fostered an agile mindset throughout the entire organization. After a great year at Space Bank, I left the country to pursue my master’s degree at New York University.

How did you manage to adapt to a new life in New-York and what were the challenges?

Moving to my dream city felt magical at first, but soon reality hit hard. I had to unlearn and relearn everything I knew about myself and the world around me – from how traffic lights work to how people behave here. The primary challenge was identifying my strengths and defining my unique value proposition. I seized every available opportunity – volunteering, joining clubs, startups, and even starting my own company. I went through countless stages of adaptation, faced hundreds of job rejections and unmet expectations, experiencing moments of hopelessness and loneliness. However, the support of people and a clear vision kept me resilient. 

The collective encouragement from my family, friends, classmates, professors, and every person I met along the way fueled my success and well-being. Following my heart, staying true to my purpose, and embracing uncertainty were key to my adaptation. Additionally, practicing gratitude, patience, and consistency helped me progress daily. Life transition is hard and growth is painful, but only overcoming those challenges is what makes it all worthwhile at the end!

As a professional coach, what is your core philosophy when it comes to helping leaders drive positive and sustainable change?

Change starts within. Beginning with inner work and aligning with one’s true self is crucial. Self-awareness is the initial step towards driving positive change. Recognizing strengths, core values, and purpose supports this journey.

Next important part is getting along with others. Cultivating empathy, seeing things from others’ perspectives, and understanding different viewpoints are essential for fostering high-performing teams and psychologically safe environments.

Can you describe a memorable coaching experience where you made a significant impact on a leader or organization?

I believe every coaching experience is unique and affects people and organizations in diverse ways. However, one particularly memorable experience was my very first coaching engagement, with a leader at a major transportation company in New York. When we began, she was exhausted, struggling to balance work and life, and unable to envision her future clearly. Over six weeks of consistent sessions, she had a breakthrough in multiple areas of her life. She gained awareness of her self-limiting beliefs, adopted a more positive inner dialogue, and boosted her confidence. This transformation led to improved relationships both at work with her team and at home with her family, as well as improved well-being and productivity. She even started preparing for a promotion! I was really impressed by her dedication to change. For me, coaching isn’t about me making an impact, it’s about empowering my clients to improve their lives by finding answers within and taking intentional steps forward.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced as a coach and how you overcame it?

During my studies, while I was interning as a coach, one of my clients exited the coaching program after just two sessions, which left me feeling devastated. I began to question my coaching abilities and competence. In such challenging times, having a support system is crucial, and I was fortunate to have my classmates and professors by my side.

Through our discussions, I came to realize that my client wasn’t open to change at that point in time. In our language, he was not coachable. This experience taught me an important lesson: you can’t help those who aren’t ready to help themselves, no matter how hard you try. It was a valuable experience where I learned to accept and respect my client’s decision and find peace with it.

What inspired you to join Rethinkly and how does it transform individuals and teams?

During the Metaverse Bootcamp at NYU, I tried Virtual Reality for the first time and was amazed by its potential. I saw how VR could transform coaching by transcending the boundaries of reality and helping people unlock their meta selves. That’s when I discovered Rethinkly, the only evidence-based immersive coaching platform in the world.

Right after graduation, I joined the team to help them grow in the US, and also became a certified Rethinkly Coach. I can talk about the benefits of Rethinkly tirelessly, because its impact is profound and I truly want the whole world to know about this magical tool! Whoever has experienced it will agree that it’s deeply transformational in a very short time. 

Rethinkly empowers people to visualize their inner worlds. It’s like minecraft of coaching – a video game, where your thoughts, feelings, and relationships come alive on your laptop screen, where you can step into different roles and scenarios that you create from your work-life, in the past, present or future. We’re all about helping individuals and teams to create self-awareness, deep shared understanding, accelerating insight and transformation. We use techniques such as psychodrama, visual storytelling, perspective-taking and many more to accelerate transformation at scale. But you can’t really understand what I’m talking about unless you experience it. Reach out and I’ll give you a free demo anytime!

What drives your passion for helping individuals, teams, and organizations unleash their full potential?

I love humans. I deeply believe in human potential, and it is my greatest desire to promote human-centered mindsets within organizations. People are the core strength of any company, and I firmly believe that happier and healthier individuals achieve greater success together. It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

You recently started working at Yahoo as an Operations Manager. Can you share more about your role and how you plan to contribute to the company’s evolution?

It’s my third week at Yahoo, and I’m excited about what lies ahead. My role focuses on fostering team culture and community, enhancing connectivity and information sharing, and supporting the design team’s programs and operations. It’s a perfect blend of my background in HR, Agile project management, and coaching. The openness to new ideas and innovation here is inspiring, and I look forward to seeing how my role evolves as we go. Yahoo is coming back for more, stay tuned!

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in the field of organizational and leadership development in the coming years?

I recently participated in the Coaching and Technology Summit at NYU, and it sparked some new insights. One of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing us is AI. Accepting and adapting to this new realm, and integrating them in our coaching practice, while preserving human-to-human connections is a dual challenge and opportunity.

I think technology allows us to democratize coaching and development, and create personalized experiences on scale. However, we still have a long way to learn how to utilize AI in a way that serves leaders and organizations best. 

What are your long-term goals? 

I see myself as a driver for change – a global coach, with the aim of maximizing human potential in workplaces. While living in New York offers invaluable learning opportunities in this field, my ultimate dream is to apply my knowledge in Georgia. That is a crucial milestone for my future. 

I strongly believe that successful organizations play a pivotal role in a country’s development and sustainable future. Currently, Georgia needs coaching more than ever as we navigate challenges towards progress. There is significant work to be done in achieving successful human capital management. Through coaching, I aim to contribute to Georgia’s advancement by empowering leaders and their teams to challenge traditional work models and attitudes, and move towards more agile and high-performing organizations. This shift towards contemporary mindsets is essential for nurturing growth, fostering innovation, and driving overall development across companies throughout the country.