Darya Zakharova, MSc Finance & Accounting 2019-20, student at Imperial College Business School
MSc Finance & Accounting
Undergraduate education:

BSc Economics, University College London

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

Prior to joining Imperial I was working for an oil and gas company in Kazakhstan. Initially I was working in procurement and supply chain optimisation, but later on I embarked upon a role as an Economist. Figuring out suitable cost models for projects was a challenging task, but I thoroughly enjoyed thinking on my feet and having a high level of responsibility.

Why did you decide to study MSc Finance & Accounting at Imperial College Business School?

The company that I worked for was very innovation-driven, often launching new creative business projects. I understood that economics was an excellent knowledge base, but I lacked the financial modelling skills and a cohesive understanding of how a business operates, which is where accounting knowledge was required as well. MSc Finance & Accounting seemed like a perfect choice to fill in those gaps.


What aspects of the programme do you enjoy the most?

The vast module selection is one of the best things Imperial College Business School has to offer. You are constantly driven to strike a balance between the academic approach and practical applications. The programme allows for nurturing of this invaluable skill and, alongside world-leading expertise on the subjects you are studying, allows for immense growth potential.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

Financial Accounting was my personal favourite, taught by an exceptional professor – Michael Wells. It helped me understand the root causes of financial reporting anomalies as well as critically evaluate modern financial reporting frameworks. The module has completely transformed my understanding of accounting and made me realise that what is revealed on the balance sheet of the modern company may not match what you would think should be there in terms of its true economic value.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

The most rewarding part of the programme is the outcome you achieve at the end. You grow as a person through the process of continuously working in a dynamic environment alongside outstanding academics and peers, as well as through working to tight deadlines and facing your own challenges.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

It was very difficult to return to student life after three years of working. Your schedule can be completely messed up and a lot of work depended on your collaboration with your study group. I found that at the Business School there was more emphasis on the group work than in my previous working environment. Achieving successful team collaboration is not always easy if you are striving to achieve the best learning outcome for everyone as opposed to just getting the grades.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

The first thing that amazed me was how everyone was prepared to start their journey at Imperial. At Master’s level, it is different to undergraduate level as everyone is making a more conscious choice to study here. This allows for a more professional yet friendly environment in which you can thrive as an individual. I cannot emphasise enough how extremely open everyone is, which has provided great opportunities for making connections and friends for life.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Dr Savitar Sundaresan surpassed all my expectations in terms of how teaching should be. He was not only able to explain complex derivatives pricing in detail but also provided us with a broad understanding of the subject and what the most significant results and interpretations were. By constantly refining his teaching approach, he imparts a holistic level of understanding onto any student.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

Being able to create a network with professionals and alumni across the energy sector, in which I am hoping to work. In addition, Careers provided me with the insights into job opportunities and sectors I didn’t know about before.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

Assessment centre workshops and interview practice sessions from Careers were invaluable. In addition, the series of guest lectures in the Corporate Governance and Stewardship module provided an exclusive opportunity to learn directly from professionals in the sector about their governance practices and challenges.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I had the privilege to be a Vice-Chair for the Student Staff Committee as well as a Dean’s Student Advisory Council member. I constantly strived to improve communication and collaboration between the student body and the School to make sure students’ voices were heard and future students’ experience would be improved. This year we have achieved a lot of changes and I sincerely hope that future students get the experience they deserve.

Have you had opportunities to work/socialise with students across programmes within the Business School?

There were numerous opportunities to socialise with students from other programmes at various leadership and society events. As a Student Staff Committee representative, I had a chance to attend a School-wide student leadership day full of activities for aspiring future leaders. In addition, being a member of the Energy Society allowed me to meet students who are really passionate about leading the energy sector towards more sustainable practices.

How did you find the unprecedented switch to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

It all happened very suddenly. I had just sat two of my four spring exams before the announcement of the lockdown came on 13 March. It was very hard to comprehend that the rest of the year, including exams, would be online. Luckily, the Business School was well prepared to deliver all of its learning remotely and we were allowed to ‘attend’ any elective across the finance suite programmes. Overall, lockdown definitely had advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, we lost all face-to-face interaction but, on the other, we gained extra time to learn even more as the lectures and activities became just a tap away.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

I am hoping to work as a finance professional in the energy industry, helping to launch new innovative projects in sustainable energy. Since being at Imperial, I have gained a broad understanding of the finance and accounting side of the business as well as a lot of career insights about the energy sector.

How did the services from Careers help you secure employment/in your professional development?

Careers’ insights were invaluable. They provided a longer-term perspective for my job search by making sure that I set my careers goals in accordance with what I really enjoyed doing. Careers also provided me with useful insights about how to approach my job search, allowing me to focus on my strengths whilst working on my weaknesses.

London Location

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?

You definitely have to factor in how big London is, especially if you have never lived in such a city before. Commuting to and from campus may be time-consuming, so I would advise that you consider your options beforehand and get tips from current or incoming students to find a suitable location.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy finding quiet places in nature where I can switch off from the busy student life. Luckily, Hyde Park is right next to campus and I often go for a brief stroll and enjoy the greenery. It has been my peaceful sanctuary to recharge. I also love exercise and running in the park or going to Ethos (the university gym) early in the mornings when it’s still quiet.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

I visited campus in person in January 2019. I met a current student via Unibuddy, she was extremely helpful and answered all of my questions as well as showing me around the campus. This gave me a good idea of what Imperial was like, and I did not apply anywhere else. I also attended online webinars on admission guidance by the student recruitment team as well as the Women in Finance webinars organised by the students at the time.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

Think carefully about your current aspirations and future goals and, if the programme feels right for you, just go for it! Chances are, many years later, you will look back at this time as one of the best times in your life.

MSc Finance & Accounting
Undergraduate education:

BSc Economics, University College London