Once I graduated from the University of Tartu in Estonia, I wanted to do an internship in the United States. That’s how I ended up In the US and I have lived here for over 15 years now, working in various roles in an accounting function. One company I worked for, Left Right, was a startup at the time and did not have an accounting programme, so I built it from the ground up.
Currently, I am the Manager of Financial Reporting for GPB Capital, so I put together management reports, consolidated financial statements and forecast budgets. It’s a very varied general finance role and standard financial reporting position. Similarly to Left Right, it had a startup culture when I joined the company, so a lot of processes, procedures and internal controls had to be put in. It’s been fun and quite challenging at the same time to be a part of the transformation process.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, I remember seeing the Berlin wall going down and the Iron Curtain falling, allowing everyone to able to travel. I started to travel when I was in high school and I was impressed and fascinated with the world. So I was looking for a programme with an international approach and access to an international cohort – Imperial just fit in.
I talked to alumni and interviewed a couple of people and the feedback was very positive so I decided to just go for it. Also, Imperial has this innovation and entrepreneurship focus to it that gives you the tools to survive in the business world. It definitely helped me to learn how to take the tools and processes that I am being taught at Imperial and immediately apply them to my current position at the company I work for.
A transformative experience
The programme itself changes the way you look at business. The whole experience has been transformative, not just for my career but life as a whole. My cohort has been amazing and meeting different people from different cultural backgrounds and various industries has been very gratifying. Right now I work in the financial services industry, so being able to work with people from industries like pharmaceuticals and engineering has been really rewarding.
One of my favourite modules is Strategy and Organisational Behaviour. One of the things I love about the Executive MBA is that I’m learning about other disciplines. It grows your horizons and you look at things differently. You begin to understand certain decision-making processes made by management.
I have also really enjoyed the Future Vision series. The first lecture we had was on bitcoin, which was fascinating to learn about. It’s definitely been eye-opening as I don’t usually get to learn about other industries and the Executive MBA provides that platform.
What I love about the faculty is that most of the professors have had careers in the subject they are teaching with experience in real-life application. It’s great to learn from someone who is not only really good at teaching but also has this wealth of experience.
Group learning experience
Working in groups has been interesting, we have six people in my syndicate group and everybody is in senior positions at their companies. You have to figure out that there’s no single leader. We have a pretty good dynamic and get along well. Everybody has an opinion on how to do things and what is the best approach, but what it teaches us is real-life application and teamwork. It’s been challenging and interesting but in the end, very rewarding. You have to get over the hurdles and get everything done together.
It was fascinating going to Hong Kong and China for my first International Residency. In my role I don’t work with a very diverse group of people, so it has been a great experience learning about cultural differences. I have learned things that I would never have expected including how to do business, cultural undertones, and the proper way to greet people. It’s a real testament to how Imperial prepares you for the business world. It was interesting to see how Imperial believes that China will be one of the global players and will increasingly be a leader. Overall, the trip was transformative.
London and international diversity
One of the reasons I chose Imperial is because it’s based in London. I believe in diversity, I grew up in a country where you weren’t allowed to travel or to see people, so you think differently. I have always admired London and its diversity, it’s so international. Especially coming from a financial background, it interests me as it’s one of the leading cities in the financial services industry.
It’s an amazing cohort, you have people commuting from Italy, Denmark, and Nigeria – something I definitely would not have experienced in the United States. I am hoping the internationality will prepare me for my next role as I’m hoping for an international post to join a global company and hopefully work overseas, maybe somewhere in Europe or Asia. I am actually working with the Imperial Careers consultants right now to figure out what I want to do next.
Juggling the work-life balance
One of the most difficult things I have found is trying to balance life and the Executive MBA while still holding down a job. Financial reporting is very deadline driven so you can’t drop the ball, but you have deadlines for School as well. So it’s just keeping up with everything and trying to manage everyone’s expectations.
It’s been challenging to juggle my social life and studies and so my social life has almost evaporated! But I simply see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Most weekends I spend my time reading or studying, it’s a balancing act but I make it work.
Looking at the future
I originally wanted to improve my leadership skills on the Executive MBA, but once I joined the programme I realised that just doing accounting is one thing, but I really want to get involved in the business and management side of things. I’m trying to use my background in accounting and financial services to get involved with the operation of a business as a whole. A lot of companies have career and leadership development programmes so the goal would be to join a well-known big company and go from there.
Advice for prospective students
My advice is to just go for it! Look for a school like Imperial College Business School that embraces changes in the world. I can only speak from a financial services perspective, but you can see that the whole ecosystem in finance is changing. Find a school like Imperial that has a faculty who are looking forward and driving innovation. Everything is changing so rapidly, so it is ideal to be somewhere that has the right resources. You want to be a part of something that is changing the world. These are all things that Imperial is famous for and it’s the strength of the Business School.