What You Learn at HSE - St Petersburg and How It Helps You After Graduation
Elvira Spasskih, an HSE alumna who earned her BA in International Business and Management Studies, spoke with HSE News Service about how her career trajectory is evolving. Elvira shares her impressions of studying at the HSE Campus in St Petersburg and talks about what skills help her on the job.
- Elvira, you recently earned your bachelor's degree. What are your plans for the near future?
Yes, I just graduated, but I've been thinking about what I would like to do long before graduation. When I was writing my thesis, I realised that market research is of great interest to me. I started to look for jobs in this area, but it became apparent quite quickly that there were no jobs in St Petersburg at the time. I even despaired and started to look for similar jobs in Moscow. At the same time, friends were asking me what my plans were after graduation. I told a friend about my job search in market research and it turned out that she had an acquaintance who knows someone who works in this sphere. I managed to connect with the director of a marketing agency in St Petersburg, and I was very excited! I came for an interview and the director told me, 'We don't have vacancies for entry-level specialists, but there are some in Moscow. Talk to my colleague at the Moscow office.' I then had a conversation via Skype with the head of the research team of the Moscow office. After that, I decided to give myself some time to think. The real reason was that I applied for a job at another company (Kantar) and was hoping to receive an offer. I took the assessment in Moscow Kantar's office and they hired me. I declined the offer from the first company. For now, I plan to work here in marketing research. After one year of working as an intern, I plan to work at Kantar in a different position.
- What are the key skills you acquired while at the BA programme in International Business and Management Studies?
There are skills that I acquired thanks to HSE in general, not just the programme. Perhaps, these most involve handling stress and being flexible, because something unexpected can always happen at HSE. For example, the rules can change and you will have to adapt to the new ones. In my job, I use a lot of what I learned while studying management, such as how to deliver a good presentation. Since I work in marketing research, a lot of what we were studying during the 'Research Seminar' course came in handy, although some students considered that course superfluous. A theory which seemed to be unnecessary at the time actually turned out to be quite useful. Mathematical statistics and econometrics are of great help to me in my job. It is also very important in management to be able to present, just as we did at the university. Speaking English is also really important - when I was taking the assessment, the presentation was completely in English. HR also gave advice on how to prepare for the assessment and rehearse the presentation text, but I didn't do that at all because the assessment was very similar to what we have been doing regularly in our seminars at HSE.
- Last year, you won the Student of the Year contest. What achievements of yours were noted by the contest jury?
The jury was impressed by the scale of events organised by ESN. We organised a trip to Moscow for a group of 30 people and a trip to Murmansk for two groups of 30 people. Murmansk turned out to be a town that is not well-equipped for a sudden influx of foreign tourists—locals speak very little English. We (ESN; see the group's pages on VK and Facebook) also started to cooperate with St Petersburg State University and organised joint events. These were city-wide events since students of Smolny College, Polytechnic University, and Herzen University also took part in it. For example, we organised a Boat Party for 110 people in October, which was exciting. In general, it can be stated that our activity contributed to the development of international student life in St Petersburg as a whole, not just at HSE.
- During your studies, you were actively engaged in supporting foreign students. With your direct participation, Buddy Club has become an official section of ESN. What are some of the section's current plans?
Today, the section is something quite stable, because we have an established programme of events, a number of agreements with people who organise these events with us, such as agreements with bars and travel agencies. On the other hand, a section is such a dynamic organism, because every year new volunteers and foreigners come, and every year is different than the previous one. In general, we are constantly evolving and I want to believe that the section will be even better than now in the future. Two years ago, we did not hope to take part in international events, and last year several people attended various events in Europe on behalf of ESN. We also organised the national ESN platform, in which more than 40 people from three cities of Russia and two European countries took part. As for the plans for this year, we are recruiting new guys who want to develop the international movement at HSE and make friends from all over the world. Everyone is welcome!
- Any advice for current students of HSE University - St Petersburg?
I would advise all HSE students, as well as students from other universities, not to be idle and to do something beyond their studies. Nowadays many people graduate from universities and their degree does not actually give them a big advantage. This is not to say that a degree is useless, but one should participate in extracurricular activities. This applies to the HSE Campus in St Petersburg because here you can find anything that strikes your fancy, or, if something you like isn't offered, you can easily start it yourself. For example, when I was a second-year student, first-year students organised a chess club. They were fond of chess, but no club for it existed at HSE, and they created their own. So go for it! If you don't want to organise events, do sports or something else extracurricular, and if you want to get involved in academic life, you can write articles and participate in conferences. When you graduate, you should have a CV that is not embarrassing to show to a potential employer. Be an intern and do something other than study! However, one should not forget about studies.