The Influencers

Natalia Burina


For Natalia Burina, software engineering errs on the side of charisma. As a young entrepreneur, Natalia’s upbringing was rich with her Yugoslavian heritage and an obvious diligence, which influenced her to study applied math and computer science at the University of Washington. It was from this foundation that Natalia worked for powerhouses such as eBay and Microsoft, where she built consumer products used by millions of users. With newfound roots in San Francisco, Natalia co-founded Parable, a photo-networking app fusing users’ thoughts, emotion, and images as one.

Your parents influenced your foray into computer science after immigrating to the United States, but you also have many liberal arts passions. Was it always clear you’d intertwine these interests in your career?

Not at all! Early on in my career I worked as a software engineer. The job was highly technical and required a great degree of specialization.

A successful consumer product inspires strong emotions in its users. I find that studying examples of good design, psychology, architecture, and art is a great guide for building successful products.

I have always been a voracious reader and loved to write. Language is a powerful tool that fascinates me. As someone who speaks three languages, I recognize how language shapes our experience of the world. For startup founders, the skill to communicate and write well is essential. A well-crafted email can change the fate of a business. Great founders communicate effectively with users, press, and investors.

What part did your professional history play in your cultivation of Parable in 2014?

My career has been dedicated to building software products from the very beginning. I have worked in almost all roles in the industry.

In 2012 my co-founder and I built an app called Flockish. StubHub! thought it was interesting and acquired it. At eBay I learned that high quality images have the power to drive a business. This year alone the world will create more photos than ever. With Parable, we applied the skills we learned in building Flockish and set out to take advantage of the visual web.

Describe the experience of releasing an app like Parable, into an industry comprised of your colleagues, consumers, and critiques.

Building Parable has been an incredible adventure! A short time after we launched, Apple featured Parable on the App Store. It meant a lot to us that they liked our design. Parable also garnered acquisition interest from Facebook and Pinterest. At one point we had so much traffic that we reached capacity with our email servers. The greatest reward is seeing endearing and creative posts from our users. Many love it because it is an opportunity to interact with people from all corners of the globe.

In what ways does Parable enable you differently as a professional than in your past?

As a startup founder I took on roles that were new to me. I learned how to market, and work with users, partners and press. I love the breadth of work with Parable. The best part is the freedom to define and build something new.

How do you maintain momentum working in such a competitive industry?

I enjoy tackling hard problems. However, to gain and maintain momentum you have to surround yourself with smart people. A great team will challenge and push you. When everyone on the team has high standards, you don’t have to worry about momentum. 

Do you have a life philosophy?

I believe in simplicity. My favorite quote is attributed to da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It also captures my approach to product development. .

Who are the women who inspire you most?

My mother and grandmother, I owe my success to them. Both faced enormous obstacles with dignity. My mother re-built a successful career as a software engineer at Microsoft after we immigrated to the United States. My grandmother came from a simple peasant background and witnessed multiple wars. She stressed education and forged an independent path for herself. They taught me to persist and manage difficult situations with grace.

Text by Kyle Thornburg
Photography by Coriander Stasi