'The harder you work, the luckier you get'
Diana Ogarkova, a graduate of the Faculty of Economy and World Politics, told us about some fortunate accidents in her employment, the significance of her diploma marks in finding employment, and the importance of keeping your eyes open.
—What is your life like after graduating from the HSE? What do you do now?
—I graduated two years ago, in 2007. Now I work in the Polish Google office as an Account Associate for the Russian market. I work with Russian speaking AdWords advertisers.
—How did you come to be in Poland?
—I spent about two years working at the Client Service department of Euro RSCG creative agency, part of Havas, a French advertising network. I worked with big international clients, had career opportunities, but... I wanted something else. Work in the advertising business is a very narrow field, a sort of routine. A team creates an advertising product - a TV ad or a layout for a magazine - and then they create it once again, and you end up suffering from déjàvu.
—So, you wanted to try something new?
—Yes, I did. But I didn't want to go to another agency, since in general the work in different agencies is still pretty similar. It would have been logical to shift to marketing, but I had no desire to sell margarine, chocolate bars or anti-aging creams.
And it was a happy accident that helped me:I got a message in LinkedIn from a Google recruiter who said that she was interested in my profile and wanted to talk to me. Well, we talked, and after seven interviews (three of them by phone and four in the office in Wroclaw), I got a job offer. Right up to the last moment I didn't believe that I would be selected. For the last couple of years, Google has been number one on the Fortune employers'list of "100 Best Companies to Work For". Everything happened quite quickly:only three and a half months passed from the message on LinkedIn till my move to Poland. It was nice that the company made all the arrangements for my visa, work permit and other documents.
—Did your expectations of the job, the city and the country come true?
—I like the way the business processes in Google are built, their products and the corporate culture - the atmosphere is almost like being on campus. I can boast that I have wonderful co-workers:every "googler"has passed through the "sieve"of the selection, and each of them is an interesting and talented person. One of them speaks five languages, another has been to Africa four times, and the third has climbed Mount Everest.
Besides the office work, there are lots of interesting things going on. For example, since the staff is international, we arrange "tandems"for language exchange. A few of my co-workers want to learn Russian, and I teach it in the mornings before working days. And they teach me German.
I also like the fact that sometimes oysters are served on Fridays (smiles).
As for the city, the life in Wroclaw is of course less "glamorous"than in Moscow, but I personally feel very comfortable here. Wroclaw is a small, beautiful and quiet Polish town near the German and Czech borders. Wroclaw's location is a big advantage:you can make short trips around Europe every weekend if you like. And there are no traffic jams:it takes me twenty minutes to get to the office by tram or on my bike.
—Is living abroad the realization of your dream or was it just the way things happened?
—Honestly, I'd never planned to leave Russia. Just the opposite - I wanted to work in Moscow, since in a developing market one could develop a career faster, and the lifestyle in general is more dynamic and interesting than in the Old World. On the other hand, at the end of the last year the dynamism of the developing market showed its dark side when the "feet of clay"made of oil broke, and a severe crisis errupted. The recession did not hit the economy as strongly in the EU and in Poland in particular. I can say that I left Russia at the right time, and almost didn't feel the recession.
—Do you currently work in your specialty?
—I have a diploma in economics, but I don't work as an economist and I know very few people who do. Seriously, the HSE gives a good education in economics, a broad view and set of skills which can be applied in different fields. I was always interested in advertising, but I didn't expect to get any useful knowledge in this area at the university. The advertising business is a craft. To work in it, you need a set of applied skills which you can gain when you start working.
—You were interested in advertising, so why did you choose the Faculty of World Economy and Politics?
—I studied at two HSE faculties. Initially, I entered the Faculty of Management, but a year later I applied again and entered the newly created Faculty of World Economy. I was attracted by its ‘elitism':it is a small faculty compared to the faculties of Economy or Management. So the teachers and staff paid us more attention. The faculty offers a good level of foreign language training, and this is an advantage. Of course, we were ‘guinea pigs'for testing the curriculum. But we'll always be the first graduates of the Faculty of World Economy (now called the Faculty of World Economy and Politics).
—Many of the HSE students start working rather early. What do you think is more important - to study longer or start working earlier?
—When I was a student, I had no doubts:of course, it is more important to start working as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the better it is for your career. That's why I joined AIESEC student association, where I obtained the basic skills of projects organization. After the 2nd year of education I started working at Media Arts advertising agency. In the morning I went to the office, then to the university to attend the most important classes, and then back to work. I spent almost a year this way, and then my English teacher told me:"Diana, you'll have time to work later. Study while you have this opportunity". Honestly, this simple idea made me rethink, and in my 4th year of education I took a timeout for studies. And I never regretted that. The knowledge we gain at the university is hard to get elsewhere after graduation.
—What were you lacking in the first steps of your career? Today, after two years of working in a big company, can you name any courses that should be added to the faculty curriculum?
—During my early years of education I always wanted to "grow up"faster:I wanted to learn how real business works, not microeconomics or mathematical analysis. I agree that knowledge of theory is what distinguishes a professional from an amateur. But I think it would be more interesting for students of the first year, who are eager to know everything at once, if they could add a couple of applied subjects, so that we could see the connection between economic models and the real world.
Ideally, I would be happy to learn a third foreign language at the HSE, and it would be good to add more classes for a second foreign language.
—What course or professor do you remember most of all?
—One of the most impressive and favourite teachers was Alexei Igorevich Rey, who was a lecturer in the US economy in our third year. He is a man with an encyclopedic knowledge, he constantly learns and develops, and in addition he is very modest. He is one of those people that you listen to and understand that he is on another, higher, level of understanding the world, so you just hang upon his words. I always left my work to attend his classes. By the way, he is under 30, just a little older than us. Recently I read on his website a message to his students who are preparing essays:"Using Wikipedia is the last refuge of the incompetent". Can you really argue with that?
—In your opinion, do the grades in your diploma matter?
—Depending on the field of your activity, your diploma may be absolutely unimportant, or play a key role. I experienced both situations. For work in the advertising agency my diploma was not important:nobody was interested in my marks, only my skills and experience mattered. But when I was interviewed at Google, the recruiters were highly interested in the marks in my diploma, since they had a wide choice of employees. And, all other things being equal, a high achiever has more chances, since he has already proved his analytic skills and ability to learn.
—Diana, what is the most important thing the HSE gave you?
—Absolute confidence that my way, and in particular my choice of university, was right. I've always been proud of the HSE, both when I was a student, and now, when I read news of how it has developed. I am glad I made the right choice.
By the way, I think that during the interview process at Google, the HSE's reputation helped me:my foreign recruiter, judging by her positive response, knew what the HSE was, and I think that's why she gave me extra points. I also used my Stanford certificate, which I got after completion of the International Conflict Management course, as "heavy artillery". By the way, this joint course with Stanford is only one of the multiple opportunities available at the HSE;you should keep your eyes open for these chances.
—Would you like to come to the university again? To attend a graduates'meeting, to become an HSE professor, to participate in the Yasin's conference, to bring your children to study at the HSE?
—Undoubtedly, yes. I would be happy to attend a lecture by Evgeniy Grigorievich Yasin, whom I greatly respect, or a lecture by Sergey Karaganov, the dean of our faculty. I'd like my children to enter HSE if they were interested in economics.
—Imagine yourself in five year's time. What do you do? Where do you live?
—Life constantly offers new amazing opportunities, that's why I just keep my eyes open and can only plan, not try to predict events. I plan to work for Google for at least a couple more years. I'd like to travel more:if possible, to work in a Google office in another country.
—Are you an advocate or an opponent of the office dress code?
—I am for a dress code that allows jeans (laughs). Honestly, I am happy that Google has a relaxed dress code. But if you are a bank clerk, you have no choice - otherwise, no one would bring money to your bank.
—What do you need to be happy and how much of it you need?
—I can't tell you the quantity in grams, but I can say that to be happy I need a constant feeling that at every moment of my life I‘ve done as much as possible. And that I can do more
—What advice could you give to future HSE graduates?
—Make strategic investments in yourself, regularly update your profile in the professional networks - and you'll get what you want. Well, I can't say it better that Steve Jobs in his speech addressed to Stanford graduates in 2005:"Stay hungry, stay foolish!".
Lyudmila Mezentseva, HSE Web News Service