The main reason I chose INSEAD was the school’s ambition to make the world a better place.
Hometown: Almaty, Kazakhstan
My parents, my sister, two brothers, a nephew, a cat and a dog, and many more relatives who are all very important for me.
Fun fact about yourself:
I always thought the corporate world was not for me and that I will not be able to sit in an office from 9am to 6pm. I was right. I’m spending many more hours at work.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
KIMEP Bachelor of Science in Marketing
Where are you currently working?
Metro Cash and Carry LLP, Chief Commercial Officer
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
I’m taking care of my wider family (in Kazakhstan it is not unusual to look after seven generations, in my case only three) and support all the kids to get the best education they can have.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
I led the COVID-19 crisis team in my company. We could save all the jobs and continue paying salaries to all our employees.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
I’m most proud that I could bring together two departments that had been continuously in conflict: Procurement and Operations. Through my intervention, they started to listen to each other and work together for the success of our customers.
Who was your favourite MBA professor?
I was particularly impressed with Associate Professor of Marketing Hilke Plassmann, because she was able to connect all the different dots and bring together theory from all the core courses we have had.
Why did you choose INSEAD’s Executive MBA programme?
The main reason I chose INSEAD was the school’s ambition to make the world a better place. I could feel it already during admissions process. Secondly, I was attracted by the strong alumni network, and have found that the alumni are very open and supportive.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general?
I most enjoy the interaction with my classmates. We went through a fantastic transformational journey together and I can feel that these connections will last very long.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your EMBA and how did you apply it at work?
Before the EMBA, I was quite an opinionated person and used to manage based on my experience. Through the INSEAD Executive MBA, I became a more inclusive leader and gained a much wider and more objective view on the business.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education?
Just one year before my EMBA, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to travel back and forth to Germany for treatment every week while continuing full-time as a director with more than 700 people reporting to me. This experience helped me a lot during my studies.
To stay on top of things, I stopped relying on my memory and started using to-do lists and reminders, and utilised the early morning hours for all analytical and strategic work. I also made sure to spend quality time with my family who always give me a lot of energy.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? (and how was it the same or different than what you experienced)
People always say it is much more difficult to study when you are older. And it really feels like that during the first few weeks. But after a while, it will become natural and, honestly, it will be difficult to stop!
What was your biggest regret in business school?
My biggest regret was that there are not 96 hours in one day. Honestly, there are so many great things you will learn, and you will want to apply them right away. But for this you need time, and to explain your new ideas to others you need time. On top of that, you have your normal business to manage, so it was really difficult to tell myself: “Wait. Be patient. You will do it when the time comes”.
Which classmate do you most admire?
Anjali Chhabra is the lady who was always well-prepared, and always ready to help with great empathy and compassion.
I knew I wanted to go to business school when…
I knew I wanted to go to business school the moment I graduated from the women leadership programme at METRO. This programme brought together female leaders from different parts of the world and different departments of our company. This experience helped me to realise that I wanted to get more of such interactions with other talented people and that I wanted to refresh my knowledge in all the fields of business.”
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?
I want to become the CEO of an international company.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?
“She gave me the most valuable feedback and it helped me to develop myself.”
What are the top two items on your bucket list?
The first one is: Make sure my family has everything to live a happy life. And the second one: I want the orphanages in Kazakhstan to be empty.
This interview was originally published in Poets&Quants Best & Brightest Executive MBAs