There are no universal “tools”, everything you have learned must be tested/ We want to nurture “technology entrepreneurs”
Representative of the Special Economic Zone Alabuga (Republic of Tatarstan) Anna Kosurina about the practice in the SEZ, HSE students and prospects for working in the SEZ.
This year, two students of the master's program "Business and Politics in Modern Asia" had an internship at the SEZ Alabuga (https://spb.hse.ru/ma/econasia/news/589488470.html). The students passed the selection and interview and were able to fly to the Republic of Tatarstan to have internship in the SEZ. Anna Kosurina, being a junior head of the HR department of the management company of Alabuga, selected students and helped them in the process of internship. In addition, Anna is responsible for cooperation with universities in the SEZ, so she shared with us the further plans of the SEZ to expand cooperation with HSE.
Anna, what do you think are the main advantages of the Special Economic Zone?
The SEZ is a large territory where the real sector of the economy is located, and the status of its resident allows the enterprise to receive certain tax preferences. This is very good for business development at certain stages. Imagine: a business has just appeared, it needs to develop in order to produce products, but even at the initial stages it is necessary to pay taxes. Due to the status of a resident, an enterprise can forget for a while about it, develop comfortably and use its financial resources specifically for production.
Why did Alabuga decide to conduct educational activities and also invite students for the interships?
We have two our own educational projects. The first one is Alabuga Polytech, where secondary specialized education is provided. Some time ago our residents voiced their frustration with the lack of qualified staff, namely in industry 4.0 that is robotics, automatics, chemistry and so on. We understood that to realign the educational system completely is a long-term objective, but decided to partially cover the need for specialists. That is how Alabuga Polytech appeared. It is important to note that here students are not only taught to work “with their hands”, but their business skills are also developed. Often even in the controlling company it is hard to find someone full of enthusiasm, who at the age of 18 or 19 will be ready to study what is going on in the market, who can analyze and propose ideas. As a result, this project solves 2 problems at once: assistance to our residents and attracting future specialists to our company. Students of Alabuga Polytech are our interns from the first year and come to us twice a week, and from the second year they become our employees. Thus, they do not only apply the knowledge they have learnt at Alabuga Polytech, but also get acquainted with project activity of our company.
The second project is a leadership development program. We provide the opportunity for young people to apply their knowledge in practice. Unfortunately, not all employers trust young specialists who have just graduated. They are not entrusted with ambitious tasks; they are not given a chance to propose ideas. We on the contrary reach out to young specialists especially when they have a desire to do something. Sometimes it happens that they have a desire but lack experience. In this case we are ready to support them, provide guidance and channel their energy into the right direction.
It should be noticed, that it is interesting to communicate with our 18–19-year-old students: they are versatile, they read books, they know how to analyze numbers, they are interested in economics, even if their specialty is not related to it. If we compare them with graduates of other educational institutions, the difference is noticeable: our students already clearly understand what they want, know how to achieve it and know how to plan.
Let me give you an example: on the territory of the SEZ, UMATEX company (an enterprise of the State Corporation Rosatom) has put into operation a plant for the production of PAN precursor (raw material for producing carbon fiber). This is a strategically important project for the entire country, and it was attended by graduates of our leadership program who completed in 2020-2021. So, the young people at the age of 22-23 already have experience in a project that is strategically important for the country. Behind them is a colossal experience, and they can safely say that they left a legacy. Our projects give you the opportunity to feel part of something bigger.
Why do we need it? We want to nurture “technology entrepreneurs” who, at a young age will be ready to invent something new and implement projects.
This year two students of our Master’s program “Business and politics in Modern Asia” had internship in Alabuga. How do you think it was successful experience of cooperation?
I think it was successful, we and the students were satisfied with the internship results. Veronika Chechetko and Bulat Gilyazeev contributed greatly to the projects their departments were working on. For example, this year we set a goal to invite 150 foreigners from different countries to study in Alabuga Polytech and Veronika was responsible for cooperation with the embassies of these countries: she answered all the questions, talked about the project, invited to meetings and organized it. It was a lot of responsibility and without this stage of work the project was impossible to implement.
Work in the SEZ is quite intense: certain tasks are set that need to be solved very quickly. Veronica and Bulat have just come to us, they haven't managed to figure everything out yet, but it was already needed to show some results. But here colleagues come to the rescue, they supported interns, showed and explained everything. We are focused on the result, but at the same time we always try to help a person gradually integrate into the work process.
To became the intern in Alabuga, every candidate needs to pass the selection process. The selection includes several stages: a business-simulation, then CV review and a job interview. Based on the results of the interview a department manager decides whether to offer an unpaid or a paid internship. For example, in case of the HSE students Veronika was the one to whom we offered the paid one. After the internship we even offered her a constant job and hope that she will return as a full-time employee.
Do you plan to further cooperation with the HSE and invite for internship the HSE students next study year?
- Yes, we do plan it. We are preparing the analytics, we have sent a small survey to the departments to find out their needs for interns.
How do you think, why internship is such an important part of educational process?
When there’s theory, but it’s not put to test, how can we figure out if it works or not? People often search for universal instruments while not even trying to implement them in life. I tell everyone: there are no universal instruments and everything you have learned should be tested out. That is the only way you’ll understand if it works or not. The same is true for university education. There is certainly some basis which you need to know and understand. But how will it work in particular conditions? You can only learn it if you implement it in real life.
Anna, how do you think, what students need to know or be able to do before going for intership in Alabuga?
I’d say it’s more of soft skills. It is not only about our company, but about any. To start with you need to learn everything about the place where you’ll have internship, study all the possible resources: websites, news and so on. Perhaps even speak to someone who works there. Therefore, you’ll have the whole thing tied up. And you’ll come already prepared and won’t say something like “okay, I know nothing; please explain what you are doing here”.
What is also important is that you need to understand why you are going to internship, what for. You should have a specific goal. To learn about a company is not a goal. To work on some skills – cool, great. To become a full-time employee is the best variant. Of course, it’s quite often that students who come to internship are not yet sure, whether they’ll apply for the job afterwards. Then you can focus on acquiring or reinforcing some skills. And you need to understand this very well to not waste your time and achieve a result. Internship is not just a formality. It’s given for you to learn something new or apply the knowledge you already have. That’s why you need to keep your goals in mind and use your time wisely.