BSc in Economics and Business, Stockholm School of Economics Riga
Country Manager, Civitta UK
After graduating from Stockholm School of Economics in Riga in 2013, I joined a leading Management Consulting company in the Baltic states – Civitta. I had an internship with them in the penultimate year and was offered to join as a Graduate Analyst. In order to better leverage my people skills and add value to the team, I quickly got promoted to Business Development Manager for the international office where I helped the owners of the company develop the organisation in the Baltics and Western CIS.
I was very lucky early on to get a lot of responsibility and flexibility in my role, which in retrospect is the best job you could wish for at the beginning of your career. I travelled quite a lot, we opened new offices in Eastern Europe, restructured and adjusted the business model to accommodate the diversity of cultures and empower local employees. In parallel, I was working on client engagements where I could better my project management and data analytics skills, including working with innovative start-ups and helping them raise funds. As of today, the company has outgrown its initial format of a boutique consultancy and now counts more than 250 people in 12 countries. I’m quite proud of leading the company’s regional expansion efforts up until moving to London and establishing Civitta’s UK office there.
The London network
I decided to pursue an MBA because I felt the need to better understand the UK culture. Most of my career and network was in Eastern Europe and I knew the culture, environment and people of that region. Once I moved to London, it seemed a bit different – not better or worse, just different. I thought I needed more understanding of how to do business in this country as well as build a network that I could leverage going forward.
When I was considering the MBA, I was asking myself whether I am entrepreneurial and skilled enough to run an office, or do I need to be working in the industry for longer, learning more from others and engaging in new ventures? I have worked for the same company since graduation and it became a bit tiring. Even if it’s the best job in the world, you still feel like maybe there is more and maybe you’re not aware of it until you go and try it out.
I always thought Imperial is more entrepreneurial and innovative than the other MBA programmes in London. I learned about the school during my BSc degree from a visiting professor and was quite impressed by her outstanding ability to mix science with business during lectures and coursework. After researching a number of schools in the context of an MBA, I chose Imperial College Business School because of the opportunity to reach out to all the other faculties and learn about big data, healthtech, robotics, AI, computing and all the other scientific breakthroughs that drive the world of innovation. It was a good choice, Imperial is in the best position to give you all this breadth and depth of different sciences, not just business. It also helped refine my career choice: initially I thought I would go into healthcare, which changed to technology midway through my MBA.
Wider College Life
I tried to go to most of the events organised by clubs in the wider College, including the Enterprise Lab, because you meet people you would not find within the cohort of the Business School. We had the Idea Marketplace and you had the team who wanted to compete with Elon Musk and build satellites in space. For me it was just mind-blowing, I cannot believe all of this is so close here, you don’t have to go out of the campus. It helped me understand how fortunate I am to be studying at Imperial College London, you do not get that anywhere else.
We had a short trip to Berlin to explore the start-up landscape in the European context and a week-long trip to Chile. Our Global Experience Week to Chile exceeded all expectations. Starting from the fact that we didn’t know much about Chile, we had to learn about its socio-economic and business environment in advance and prepare to act as an expert in an industry of our choice by arrival. We got real life exposure to a variety of national and international companies that would help us identify an issue at hand and propose an innovative solution. It was a very accelerated week packed with guest visits to companies, a lot of group work and presentations.
Before the Global Experience Week, about 25 of us went to Peru and six of us hiked the Machu Picchu trail. We hiked for four days, 90km with altitudes up to 4580m until we reached the sunrise in Machu Picchu. It was hard as we were not very fit during our MBA year but we learned a lot. If you want to teach an MBA student about resilience, I think it should be something like that! Go hike a mountain with your team!
Early on, I knew I wanted to help the cohort find their jobs and facilitate the discussion on what do we have to do next after the MBA. I applied and was voted the Careers Chair representative. I benefited a lot by working with the Careers team because they have the experience and knowledge on how to best help the cohort navigate their career journey during the study year.
From my work as Careers Chair, we have been successful in creating a collaborative, and not a competitive environment, that you would find in other schools. We make sure we help each other and we’re actually happy for every success we achieve as individuals or teams. We have group chats and sharing tools, we have also rolled out a “Person of the Day” initiative where everyone got a chance to pitch their story and career aspirations to the cohort. It was essential to understand that these are the people you will do business with further down the road. By making sure you are happy and helping colleagues get the jobs they want, you are building a stronger, more diverse network for when you happen to need it.
Living in London
I live in Canary Wharf. I like it there because it’s new and shiny, I also find it amazing how clean and behaved Canary Wharf is. Maybe this is because of my background, I am from Moldova, I travelled quite a bit but I lived for extended periods only in Chisinau, Riga, Granada and Kiev prior to moving to London and in neither of these cities you get so many shiny skyscrapers.
I love everything about London because it’s uniquely diverse and extremely hectic. This is what made me feel good in London, just seeing so many more people who are not from here and building a life here makes you feel at home.
Half a year after moving to London, I was definitely very stressed about where to go and what to do in this huge city. But when you find your regions/areas in London, you feel better. I like Greenwich, Shoreditch, Borough Market, St. Katharine’s Dock and all the restaurants around there. My favourite restaurant is Bravas Tapas. South Kensington is a different vibe and being a student at Imperial makes you appreciate its location. You get to know the more authentic side of London and really enjoy a Londoner’s life around Kensington.
I would describe my cohort as adventurous and fun people to be around. The most rewarding part of the programme is the people we’ve met and the friendships we made. This is something that we will take with us, not only from our cohort but also from the other programmes we’ve been part of at Imperial College.
Funding my MBA
I got a part scholarship from Imperial, the rest I funded from my savings and a family loan.
Life after MBA
I am looking forward to join Microsoft as a Partner Marketing Manager within the Productivity and Business Processes segment in the UK. I was quite lucky to get a job offer from the first company I put my eye on!
To be frank, I didn’t even think I would go to a large corporate. I have worked with corporates in the UK as a consultant before and I knew this wasn’t the environment I want to be in. I am grateful to my career consultant who encouraged me to explore all opportunities that might fit my personal strengths and career ambitions.
The Careers service brought in Microsoft for a company presentation, a hackathon and a couple of industry panels that helped me meet company representatives and get to know about the company and its environment. It clicked! Starting from company’s mission: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” to what the company is actually doing in its day to day activities and how the employees are feeling about their impact.
Don’t lose sight of why you’re here
The most challenging part of the programme was putting everything together and not losing sight of why you came here. You have to set priorities early on, either you want to change your job, network or learn some new material. We changed our priorities on the way. At some point if you are more into your studies, you forget that you actually want to change your career or build your network. You also forget there are so many opportunities in the wider College and if you’re not active enough, they will never get to you or you’ll never get to them.
My advice for future MBA students
Apply! You have to set your priorities and expectations in line with what you’re ready to actually go for. If you have expectations that you will build a huge network, but at the same time you study a lot in the library, maybe this is not going to happen for you. You have to make sure you are setting your priorities right and you are double-checking once in a while to see if you are meeting what you have set for yourself to do in this year. Just enjoy and make the best opportunities for yourself!