Conversation with Liudmila Veselova

Let’s learn a little bit about the person who makes a study process at Master's Degree Programme interesting and helps students to make their first steps in their career.

Conversation with Liudmila Veselova

Liudmila Veselova's photo archive

Liudmila S. Veselova is an Academic Supervisor of MA “Business and Politics in Modern Asia” at HSE campus in Saint-Petersburg. Today, we will talk with Liudmila Sergeevna, ask her about her job and professional achievements, remember her student years and first experience of living in China and get to know what main skills and values students should have to build a brilliant career.

Why did you decide to work at HSE and become an academic supervisor of MA Programme «Business and politics in modern Asia»?

I have been working at HSE for about two years. Before I had worked in a private company as the Head of Logistics and Purchasing Department and taught at Saint-Petersburg State University. At the same time, I was often invited to different events, open lectures, conferences, theses defenses and graduating papers defenses at HSE. So, I was aware of the study process at the programme and had good relations with HSE colleagues and professors.

When professor Sergey Akopov decided to leave his post of the Academic Supervisor, he offered me to take this position. I considered the post to be very interesting since it matched my specialization of Asian and African studies, and secondly, I have a big experience of working in a leadership position in business sphere. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to realize myself in an administrative position that includes a scientific component as well.   

Which of your professional or scientific achievements do you consider the most important?

I think it is a PhD thesis defense. For me as well as for my colleagues writing such a big scientific work is always a challenge. We have to combine different tasks such as teaching activity, writing articles, participating in conferences. So, it was really difficult to write the thesis. Moreover, when I was a post-graduate, I actively worked in a business as well, so it was a real challenge for me. But now I am very glad that I was able to handle it.

It sounds inspiring and seems that you know some secrets of time management. Do you have any advice how to organize your time in a right way and do different tasks simultaneously?

Honestly speaking, I do not think I am a good adviser in this field since I am just a workaholic. I like to spend my time writing articles or reading something. So, I think the only advice that I can give is that if you want to work effectively, you should work hard. Besides, if we are talking about teachers and professors, we do not have such meaning as weekends. We are in touch every day: during holidays or weekends we check emails, consult our students, do paper work and so on.

So, the main idea of time management is to use every minute efficiently and rationally. There is a good Chinese saying: “Only by following the example of the best you can reach the average; imitating only the average, you will achieve small”.

What gives you the energy to work efficiently?

I try to spend my free time with my family and friends qualitatively. What does it mean? When I meet with my family or friends, I try to put my phone away, do not use it at all. On weekends, usually on Sunday, I do not use my computer, do not check emails, do not work at all, and just spend time with my family and friends. During a day when I go for a walk with my dog, I try not to use my phone as well, and just relax and enjoy the environment.

Let’s come back to the past. Do you remember your student years? How can you describe that time?

Yes, of course I remember. I still communicate with my university friends almost every week, so they do not let me forget that time. I was lucky to be a student of the faculty of Asian and African studies of Saint Petersburg State Ubiversity. We had great opportunities to study abroad and I had a chance to live in three countries – China, Finland and Germany, to study at different universities and get a great experience.

I also met people who became my friends. Moreover, professors who taught me at that time, nowadays became my colleagues, and some of them even became my good friends. Student years are always wonderful, and we were lucky since we do not have pandemic, so we spent much time together.

You mentioned your study in China. What do you remember the most? What did surprise you?

It was 2007 and I really did not understand how our parents could let us to go abroad. I was studying in Wuhan, and to get there, firstly, we had to fly 8 hours to Beijing, and then buy tickets to Wuhan by ourselves in the airport.

In 2007 it was not possible to buy tickets online to one of the Chinese cities outside of the country, you could do it only inside China. So, our parents sent their 19 years old children just with one ticket to Beijing, and then we had to figure it out by ourselves.

There was no WhatsApp or Viber, we could just make a brief call to our parents, and then survived as we could. The best advantage of this trip was total ruining of the language barrier, because you needed to speak Chinese everywhere. At that time nobody speaks English in China and even in Beijing airport, so we could use only Chinese, and we had to get used to it very fast.

Everything was surprising for us. The previous generations did not have a possibility to study abroad, and in a reality, we saw different China, not the one that we were told at the university.

Was it difficult for you to make friends among the Chinese?

There was no difficulty for me. The Chinese people have a different mentality, but quiet quickly you start to understand them. When we came to Wuhan in 2007, for example, there were a few foreigners, and each time we went for a walk, it was a kind of show. Chinese people came up to us, touched hair and asked to take a picture.

When I studied in China, I lived in a dormitory for international students and I mostly communicated with them, so I made more friends among Europeans and Americans rather than Chinese at that time.

Besides, Chinese people have a slightly different model of friendship in comparison to Russian. They wanted to meet us and spent time together almost every day, but we were not used to that. In Russia if we are friends, we can keep in touch, but it is not necessary to see each other every day or every week.

Nowadays, of course I have Chinese friends. We congratulate each other on holidays, send photos. On the one hand, the Chinese people like all Asian people are rather closed, they do not invite you at their home, for example, but on the other hand, they always ask you about your health and always are willing to help you. And from this point of view, I think they are reliable friends.

How does a «perfect» graduate of your programme look like? What skills and values should he or she possess?

Firstly, it should be said that our programme “Business and Politics in Modern Asia” is developed and implemented as a practice-oriented one. The main task for us is to teach and educate the students so that they will be able to find a good job after graduation very fast.

When I was working in business as a Head of the Department, it was difficult for me to find well-qualified employees. It was a real surprise for me. We did not have extraordinary requirements to them: they should just know English and Chinese at a proper level, have basic knowledge and skills in economics and logistics and that is all. But we could not find employees on the position, despite on good salary.

It was surprising for me for a long time, and then I understood that specialization of our graduates did not meet the market demand. So, when I became an Academic Supervisor, we stated to update the study programme together with my colleagues.

A great role in changing the study plan was played by professor Aleksey Maslov who is an outstanding sinologist. In several interviews Prof. Maslov is talking about the lack of professional orientalists, who could help Russian business. So, we implemented such subjects that would provide students with an opportunity to be confident in communication with representatives of Asian business, to understand common processes in Asian countries and to be in demand on the labor market.

So, in my opinion, the “perfect” graduate should know English at a proper level as well as Asian languages, and possesses knowledge in economics, management and so on. The last things, of course, depend on students themselves – what exactly they want to do, in what sphere they want to work.

Therefore, our programme is a starting point that helps graduates to make the final decision about the sphere he/she wants to work. Moreover, each year we develop relations with new partners, which provide students opportunities for internships. We already have a tendency that after internship our students receive job offers, since the employers are satisfied with their work. If we are talking about personal skills, of course, we want to see motivated students who understand their strong points and realize what they really want to do. I think nowadays motivation is one of the keys to success.

What is the most important thing in our life? What are we living for?

It is a very deep and philosophical question. I think the main thing in life is  love in its wide meaning. It is love to your family and friends, love to yourself, love to your job and so on. I think it is very important to be in love with life. Sometimes life can be difficult, but if you love yourself, you can make your life and life of others much better. If you possess such feeling, then you will be kinder and more respectful to other people. Unfortunately, this is what our society still lacks.

Interview by

Vlada Pivovarchuk