NUGSB Alumni hold prominent positions in various sectors of Kazakhstan. They are employed in Advertising, Agriculture, Charity, Construction, Consulting, Education, Government, Healthcare, IT, Logistics, Mining, Oil & Gas and Postal industries.
In September 2014, NUGSB launched its Full-Time MBA program. The Full-Time MBA requires students to commit to the program full-time, during weekdays. The program targets young professionals, typically defined as those with at least two years of work experience.
Several of our school's FT MBA alumni answered questions about themselves, their experiences with the program and what they have been doing today in their lives.
- What have you been currently doing?
Ulan Karazhigitov, FT MBA 2016: I have been working as Director of Marketing and Product in Smart Remont company. Prior to that, I worked for Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe for 4 years. I am also the founder of an artificial intelligence startup - recordo.me and the Homerun.kz running school. I have experience in entrepreneurship in the field of e-commerce, retail and marketing.
Akmaral Orazaly, FT MBA 2016: I am currently working as a product and project manager at Smart Dubai in Dubai Data. In fact, these are two different positions, but with a small team there has to be the person who has to start the project from the birth of an idea and bring it to a result. Of the projects themselves, I deal with various strategic projects of the city in the field of data and technology regulation. Namely, I am working on projects for data registers, as well as working on the project ethics of artificial intelligence. This area has developed and advanced a lot in recent years, and many interesting developments have taken place in the areas of data privacy protection, data ethics and technology development ethics. I am working on the development of data ethics in Dubai. We have released guidelines and principles for working with artificial intelligence, conducted trainings, created a council and have been working with them for a year on further development. We also cooperate with different cities all over the world and international organizations.
Assem Zhanguttinova, FT MBA 2019: In recent years I have been acting as the partner of a private educational project Finex education.
Magzhan Orazaly, FT MBA 2018: After graduating from GSB, I was selected by Amazon for the office in Gdansk, where I was involved in scripting and machine learning for segmentation and categorization of products in Amazon Poland, Amazon Germany and Amazon Turkey.
I worked at Amazon for 2 years, recently returned to Kazakhstan, at the moment I work as a leading analyst in a Kazakh telecom company for the construction of fiber-optic communications in Kazakhstan as part of a PPP mechanism in order to reduce the digital divide in rural areas, so that there is also 4G and LTE high-speed Internet for our fellow citizens there to have the opportunity to work and study remotely and use all the same digital services that are available in cities.
- Why did you decide to get an MBA?
Ulan: I already had a great entrepreneurial experience. Every business media, including Forbes, wrote about the business I ran.
In the course of my work, I often came across interesting cases and spent valuable time on solving certain issues. I have always understood that I do not solve some unique problems. All this has already been solved thousands of times and it would not have been so much time to waste. This is why I decided to invest 1.5 years of my career in my MBA. Choosing a school in Kazakhstan, I realized that the best option is NU GSB so I entered its Full-time MBA program.
Akmaral: In fact, I probably had 2 main reasons, one common one. I wanted more business knowledge. I worked in the IT field and with each new project I understood how hard it is for me to understand any other area of the company's business, and this was necessary for me in my work, when we were developing solutions for different departments. The second reason is networking. I studied abroad for a bachelor's degree, after my arrival I really wanted to expand my social circle with interesting, ambitious and business-oriented people who have various solid experience of working in local conditions.
Assem: I worked in a national company and it seemed to me that there I was a small screw in a large system. Having over 10 years of experience in audit, accounting and taxes I was aimed at MBA as I decided to try myself in my own business, as I wanted to influence decisions and solve existing issues applying knowledge and skills which I was supposed to be taught during MBA program in NU GSB.
Magzhan: I had been thinking about this for a very long time, because at my professional life in Beeline Kazakhstan I was faced with the fact that I analyzed subscribers, gigabytes and tariff plans, but I did not have the education or skills on how to convert subscribers into money, convert them into ROI, calculate NPV, WACC and etc., thus, in general, I lacked this knowledge. In the reports of colleagues from the financial block, I did not understand these terms, what they meant and how crucial it was for the company so I decided to apply for a master's degree, for an MBA.
At that moment, Erlan Meirbek, a graduate of FT MBA 2016 of NU GSB joined our department at Beeline and he helped me a lot advising on the Full-time MBA program at Nazarbayev University. Yerlan told about the program not only to me, but also to our commercial director, Rauan Kabdrakhimov so after he also entered the Executive MBA program in NU GSB. And, by the way, since that time, cooperation started between Beeline and NU GSB in the form of internships by NU GSB students and others, thanks to Yerlan, who paved the way for it.
- Tell us about your experience during your studies? Your favorite professor and subject?
Ulan: Oh, it was a great time. I advise everyone who is 30+ to take such a break from work and devote it to self-development, without being distracted by work. In our cohort, positive chemistry immediately appeared between classmates. It was interesting to study with people with different backgrounds and experiences. Teamwork is a good tool for developing soft skills. Most of all, I liked the humanities subjects like Entrepreneurship and Marketing, but I would also mention Statistics from Atanu Rakshit. Now I understand the Big Data topic better, and understanding the data is a must have.
Akmaral: I really enjoyed the program. After us, the format seems to have changed, but we focused 2 weeks on only one subject, passed the exam and moved on to another subject. I remember very much the group work, team rooms, TA, who stayed and helped us, despite all our complaints and, of course, our professors. It was very interesting and for some reason emotional at times. We were visited by teachers from Duke University. There were a lot of interesting subjects, but the most memorable ones were Operations Management with Kevin Shang and Business Communications with Sharon Eisner.
Assem: Top professional for me was Joe DiVanna. He just turned my whole worldview upside down. By the way, he advised me to start a business. He taught me how to write long essays, read annual reports, introduced me to the world of investment and gave many answers to questions of finance, entrepreneurship and management.
Magzhan: It was cool and fun, as it was gaining knowledge not only from professors, but also from classmates. Both made the program very bright and intense. A lot of experience, because classmates were very versatile, from different areas and industries. There were many interesting subjects. The subject I liked a lot- statistics with Anatoly Colicev, then accounting with Kay Stice. Also 2 courses at Duke university - Emerging markets and Negotiations, these were top courses that I really liked.
I had this great exchange experience at Fuqua business school of Duke university with my classmates: we chose 2 courses, and the rest of the time we decided to devote to networking, socializing and visiting various Fuqua student clubs, like consulting, investments, etc. There were no classes on Wednesday, and all this day we attended events in the clubs, listened and communicated with other students.
Also, as we arrived in September we could join the new MBA cohort at our two courses there. What I noticed that from the very beginning of their studies, they consciously had been looking for work, beginning to prepare in terms of their employment after the program graduation.
The work of the students’ clubs is at a very high level, all run by students with minimal coordination from the faculty. There is continuity of those clubs. They are very helpful, for example, their attendees help each other in passing the selection stages for the desired companies, act as the case partners, many prominent speakers came to share with them on career management, etc. We even had a guest lecture by the CEO of P & G USA.
- How has your life and professional activity changed after the MBA?
Ulan: Through career weeks during the program, I got to know Microsoft recruiters and began the interview process. At the end of the program, I already had a job offer from Microsoft for 2 management positions. I chose Windows Business group Lead. Working for a global IT leader and the most valuable company in the world is a very cool experience, especially in Kazakhstan. I was able to get it precisely thanks to the MBA program from NUGSB, since I got to Microsoft on a special track for business school graduates.
Akmaral: My leadership skills developed a lot, I became more confident and began to take more responsibility for myself. I began to reason and analyze more extensively. I also worked with a blockchain startup, which I would not have dared to do before MBA. I helped with the strategy of companies, and, as always happens in startups, with everything else. It was interesting to see how the organization just grew in front of my eyes.
In my career, I moved from a narrow technical direction to product and project management. In general, I am still interested in horizontal career development, I am interested in technologies and their application, in the creation of products. Knowledge of the MBA helped me a lot when creating strategies, directions, working with stakeholders, working on contracts, with various negotiations and attracting partners. I began to look at things more broadly, and I brought projects to a result without a budget, and without resources, well, or with suboptimal resources, thanks to various skills.
It helps a lot that an MBA program teaches you to think from the point of view of what is best for the business, what the CEO thinks about, how I can solve any important strategic problem. This perspective helps to find more lasting solutions to pressing problems. Working in different groups helps a lot with stress resistance: there was a funny case when I had a deadline soon, a presentation to important high-ranking people, and the vendor asked to talk to me at 7 pm, and said that they are generally having holidays and everyone went home and they couldn’t make any promises. There was nothing left but laughter.
I must say that even my colleagues, my managers often come to me for advice on their business ideas. Most of the knowledge that I thought I had forgotten long ago pops up somehow automatically.
Assem: I think that there are no previous fears of failing anything, because there is a team of peers and friends from our NU GSB Alumni community
Magzhan: Before the program, I knew what knowledge and skills I wanted to obtain, what I needed to focus on. After the program, I did not intend to change the industry, I planned to stay in the same IT and telecom in the field of analytics, which I still follow.
In addition to academic knowledge, I gained self-confidence, overcame internal fears and went to work for a multinational company, Amazon. I would like to note that among our guys there is a stereotype that geniuses work in leading international companies, and that they are smarter than us, that we are a cut below them, which is actually not the case, we may well compete abroad.
By going to work at Amazon - so I broke my ceiling for myself. And I advise many guys not to be afraid, and go all the way, try. If you entered the NU GSB Full-time program, if you have gone all this academic path, then you can compete with the guys from Europe, USA and others.
- Do you keep in touch with your classmates and, in general, with the NU and NU GSB community? In what way does this communication take place?
Ulan: Yes of course. We are more or less in touch with all of us. Someone has already managed to change several countries of residence. It's always nice to meet classmates abroad.
Akmaral: We keep in touch with classmates. Due to the pandemic, I have not seen them for a very long time. But when we find ourselves in the same city, we will definitely meet. We support general chat. There is also the alumni group which actively involves us in all its events.
Assem: For me, first of all, this is a powerful energy exchange with our Alumni. We not only became friends, but also business partners. For example, by now we have been developing an investment course with my classmate.
Magzhan: After the program completion we keep in touch. My classmates do their joint projects. Now after returning to Kazakhstan, I plan to actively communicate with Alumni and get to know them better. It is useful not only for me, but also for others - I hope that I will be useful. I want to support the GSB, as a lot of work has been done by launching world class business school here in Kazakhstan.
- What are your further professional plans?
Ulan: I would like to put my hand, head and heart into a startup with global reach.
Akmaral: Can I keep my plans with me for now? :)
Assem: There are many plans, there is potential. It is necessary to assemble a highly effective team for its further implementation. Have ideas for scaling or diversifying my business.
Magzhan: Foreseen future I will continue with this telecom company I am working with at the moment. There I am mainly engaged in creating new businesses and streams of income, since our project is already at the final stage, now the company has the right to monetize the remaining volumes in these networks, i.e. we can additionally provide services, for example, the provision of an Internet connection. Within the framework of PPP, free services are provided through subsidies from the state for schools, hospitals, akimats, police stations, etc. But we are also capable now on a commercial basis to connect and to provide with Internet local enterprises and individuals, but the price for them will be even more affordable than in the cities.
- What would you like / recommend to candidates for admission to NU GSB?
Ulan: You are making the right choice!
Akmaral: If there are those who are less sociable like me, it was so hard for me, but nevertheless, networking is important. You can learn more and better prepare for an interview simply by asking someone who is already there or has been there.
Assem: Use your time wisely. NU GSB teaching staff and candidates can assist you in your professional career.
Magzhan: I would like to recommend future students to study what you will study and build a certain clear plan and understand what you will get at the end, which is what you are striving for - changing the industry, or closing some knowledge gaps or professional networking.
Build your academic path according to these goals. Because the studies will be very intensive, you need to be ready to sacrifice many things during your studies. Your family, parents, children, spouses should be ready to support, take on a certain load while you study. Immerse yourself in learning and move, be ready for difficulties. The second is to ask questions and enjoy the learning process. There are no stupid questions, ask professors, groupmates, because this is the place where it should be done. And third, start employment almost immediately from the beginning of the program. Already keep in mind in what area you want to work and study this area. Communicate, learn insights from professionals, friends, one student, as time passes very quickly. Try, structure, apply the skills, hints, life hacks that you are taught.