Why did you decide to work in Moscow after graduating from Bosporus University in Istanbul?
In my final year I came across a Turkish bank looking for Russian speakers to work in Moscow. I had no economics background but they gave us a two month training course in banking in Istanbul – which was very challenging! Finally I came to Moscow to work for Finansbank (which is now Credit Europe Bank) in 2005 and stayed there for two years, working in the credit department for small and medium sized businesses.
Why did you decide to quit and become a full-time student again?
At some point it became quite clear to me that in order to go further in my job and to advance to working with bigger companies and have a good career in banking I needed to get a stronger education in finance. That’s when I started searching for masters programmes.
What made you choose the Amsterdam Business School?
The school in Amsterdam was one of the first places that came up when I started searching on the internet. I was also looking at London School of Economics (LSE) and at a school in Cincinnati in the States. At the school in Cincinnati I wasn’t eligible for scholarships and it was already the last year that they were running the particular programme I wanted to do. The course at LSE was two years long and it was also difficult to find scholarships. At Amsterdam Business School from the beginning I was eligible for a 40% discount on my fees and also it was a one year intensive course, which is obviously more affordable.
How did you enjoy your time in the Netherlands?
As I had lived and studied abroad before I think I was more prepared for ‘culture shock’ and knew how to adjust to a new environment. Still there were some things that surprised me. For example I had expected all Dutch people to be incredibly punctual, but actually often they were not always so. I was also expecting the teachers to take a very ‘direct’ style, as there is a strong stereotype that Dutch people are very frank, direct and maybe a little informal. However, I found that most of my tutors were much more formal and sensitive about using appropriate register and keeping a conservative level of frankness than the American tutors I had as an undergraduate. Amsterdam is a really great city, not so overcrowded and noisy as Moscow or Istanbul.
Were there many differences that you noticed in teaching style?
The staff there were a very international mix so we had teachers from all over the world and so I guess quite an international americanized style of teaching. In general as the course was so intensive there was a lot more individual study, although we did have a lot of good group work in the practical skills classes such as presentation skills. My classmates were also from all over the world and it was a great cultural mix, so I had the chance to practice my Turkish, learn some Dutch, speak my native Russian and also study in English.
Did you see much of the Netherlands?
I did travel around a little but not much as my course took up a lot of my time, although I have since been back for holidays. I also had a part-time job in a Dutch company who where launching some projects in Moscow, so I was very busy. In general though it is noticeable in the Netherlands that the pace of life is much calmer, people are less stressed than in Moscow.
How did you find working in a Dutch company?
I really like the European work style that is prevalent there and learned a lot from it. The Dutch don’t rush doing things, but they do make sure everything is on time. In Russia people really like to rush at work, they say that everything is urgent and in the end find that things were not actually so urgent or that they made many mistakes and cost themselves more time because they rushed too much.
Did you consider working in the Netherlands after graduating?
After graduating in the Netherlands you are allowed to stay there for one more year and work. I started looking for another job in the Netherlands but it was summer 2008 and the crisis had already hit Europe. One of my classmates got a job at Alfa Bank in Moscow and it made me think that maybe working in Russia would be a more secure option.
And was it easy to find a job in Moscow?
I applied for a job at a Big-4 firm and received a job offer but wasn’t sure the salary was very fair. I sat on the offer for one very stressful week thinking out the situation – in 2008 it was not even that it was difficult to find a job, people were actually being fired too! Then an old colleague tipped me off about a job at Nordea Bank and I went for it and got a good position in the corporate banking section there.
Do you think your study in the Netherlands helped you in your career?
Absolutely! I am really glad to have my Masters and I know that without that education I couldn’t really do the job I do now, it really helped. It is also really important to have some genuinely good working experience too, especially to develop your self-esteem, motivation and confidence. Ultimately though I do really believe at some stage you need a strong theoretical background to do the job that I am doing now and that’s what I gained from the Amsterdam Business School.