‘Business Informatics Gives You Great Freedom in Your Career Choices’
Maria Fay earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Informatics from HSE University (2013). Today, she works at SAP and is in charge of innovation projects in Central and Eastern Europe. She recently earned her PhD from the University of Liechtenstein. Maria has talked with the HSE News Service about combining education, work, and research.
Why HSE University and Why Business Informatics
I was applying to university from a high school that specialized in linguistics, so the choice of business informatics might have seemed strange to my former classmates, but I have always been interested in working at an intersection of disciplines, rather than one specific subject. In fact, first, I had to choose a university. I, of course, was also considering the usual places, Moscow State University (MSU) and Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). But when I came to HSE University for the first time, I immediately knew I wanted to stay here, and only after that did I make the decision about what faculty I wanted to study in.
In my last year of high school, I took a career guidance test at MSU, and, according to the test, logistics was the field I was best suited for. That’s why I narrowed it down to either logistics or business informatics at HSE University. At that time, business informatics was a new field, and the curriculum looked exciting and offered a wide range of courses, so I took a chance! And only later, when I was studying and went to work at the end of my third year, did I understand that this field was exactly what I was cut out for. I applied to master’s and PhD programmes in this field, and ever since I’ve known for sure that I made the right choice.
At HSE University, you can get a practical education, which will prove useful every day
This field provides a great atmosphere and lots of opportunities for further development. Business Informatics is versatile and, in a certain sense, gives you great freedom in terms of your career choices, from metallurgy to retail, production, consulting, start-ups, and finance. A degree in Business Informatics will always be practical, since technology is all around us, and it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our life with each passing day. Business Informatics gives you the power to know how to apply and manage countless types of technology.
A Network of People
Above all, HSE University is its people. We had some professors who had cult followings in certain subjects, such as ‘Mathematical Analysis’ with Professor Bykov, ‘Enterprise Architecture’ with Professor Oleynik, and ‘Institutional Economics’ with Professor Dzagurova – I remember her very well, since her exams were not easy. I remember a lot of courses and people, not only teachers, but students as well.
It often happens that I arrive to a meeting with a client and see that it’s an old classmate
It becomes very clear that HSE University students and graduates are quality professionals, who are forward-thinking and achieve success.
During my third year of my bachelor’s studies, I joined the student club ‘Business in .ru Style’. I worked on different projects as a participant, and then as president. For example, we organized an interview with Eugene Kaspersky: we took a camera and a microphone and asked him questions. We also organized public talks, for example, on e-commerce and semantic analysis. One of our speakers, Ilya Gelfenbeyn, worked at Nanosemantics at the time, and now he heads Google Assistant Investments in Palo Alto. Even back then, when we said we represented HSE University and its Faculty of Business Informatics, it was easy for us to get very cool speakers.
On Working Abroad
During the final years of my master’s programme, I worked full time at a few large companies. I liked my job, but understood that if I wanted to get international experience, I would have to try it as early as possible, and not 30 years later. Then, I found a course in design thinking in Germany, which looked very interesting and useful for my future career: in 2012, this field was only gaining popularity.
I was considering different options. I chose SAP, signed a temporary contract, and a mere few months later, applied for a PhD programme.
I didn’t want to just get bogged down in presentations and slides, I wanted to develop new approaches and methods
This is what research consists of. On the other hand, I didn’t want to leave the industry completely. SAP gave me an opportunity to work on my thesis and continue my career in consulting.
How to Get a PhD
My initial preconception of what doctoral programmes are like turned out to be quite different from what they actually are. I had compulsory courses only during the first year. Then there was a preliminary defense, and after that, I didn’t need to come to university. Rather, I had to write papers, speak at conferences, and talk with my academic supervisors on a regular basis. The University of Liechtenstein requires you to have at least two advisors—one from the university, and the other from another university or country.
I met my University of Liechtenstein academic supervisor at work: he cooperated with SAP in several studies and conducted training sessions. His and my second supervisor’s field of research – big data analysis – seemed very interesting to me. I also was drawn by the fact that they were starting to work on statistics and econometrics as research methods.
In my thesis, I wanted to not just speculate but rather work with data. This was exactly what I managed to do
I am still in touch with some of the HSE University lecturers as well. Yury Kupriyanov has worked at SAP for a long time. He supervised my research paper when I was an undergraduate, and now we sometimes work together on SAP projects. Evgeny Zaramenskikh works with one of my professors today (Jan vom Brocke), and we are planning some joint publications.
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