One Must Learn to Cooperate and Present Complex Ideas for Professional Success. Strategic Corporate Finance program prepared me for this
Vahhab Irani is about to be a second year student in the Strategic Corporate Finance master program. Currently apart from studying at HSE, he is also working at Ozon.ru and pursuing additional educational programs in Finance. Today he shares his story with us
What drove me to study finance in Russia
Back in Iran, I had been pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Construction Project Management, and at the same time I took part in a major construction project as project coordinator. During my work and study, I was fascinated by the complexity of how projects are implemented and I enjoyed the entire process. Later on, I realized that the construction is the implementation phase of the entire project cycle, and the existence of the project relies on the financial feasibility of the project itself and there are a lot of project and financial knowledge involved in the financial evaluation of projects. Thus, I was interested in obtaining financial knowledge which I lacked to land my dream job in Project Finance.
By the time I made my decision to study finance, I was encouraged to also learn an additional foreign language and Russia is a familiar but yet still a mysterious country for me at the time, so I decided it’ll be a great opportunity to learn Russian and know more about Russian culture.
How did I decide to study at HSE University
The next thing I need to decide is which university to choose. At that time I was not very sure about whether to study in Russian or English taught program. With this question in my mind, I reached out to Ms. Oxana Budjko from the International office of the Faculty of Economic Sciences, and she had detaily explained the pros and cons of each option and helped me in making this decision, I also learned that HSE University has a very international environment and many exchange program opportunities, thus I decided to study at HSE University. Apart from this, Oxana suggested that I apply for both scholarships from HSE University and Russian Embassy in my country. Later on, I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from the Russian Embassy for both Russian language preparatory program and Master program.
Studying at HSE University
In the Russian preparatory program, we have been studying in groups of about 10 students. During the first semester, all the lessons were dedicated to Russian language. Our teachers would also organize excursions to different places in Moscow and It is an unforgettable experience learning Russian not only in the classroom, but also in the living cultural environment
Starting from the second semester, we have also had courses on Russian history, as well as other specialized courses to prepare us better for our main program. I really enjoyed the course on Russian history as I was really interested in the historical events in the modern history of Russia.
At the start of my master’s study, I had prepared myself for the possible tough courses. But as it turned out, the first semester was very challenging and even tougher than what I had expected, and of course it was also tough for other students. The most “notorious” course is definitely microeconomics. Upon taking a quick glance at previous exam papers and answers at the beginning of the semester, I thought that the “high school math” should be manageable, but then I realized that this subject is difficult in the logical sense, rather than mathematical. Nevertheless, I enjoyed some of the topics from microeconomics, for example, Game Theory. The second semester is more manageable and due to the possibility of online working and study, many students are able to study and have a part or even full time job at the same time.
Apart from studying together in the classroom, I and my classmates hang out together quite a lot either for sports or chatting in the café, especially before and after the exams. My Russian classmates are so considerate that they invited me home to celebrate the traditional holidays with them, so that I would not be staying alone in the dormitory. Likewise, we international students help each other in terms of study, daily affairs. Russian classmates are very familiar with winter sports. With their help, I started snowboarding this year and it has become my new hobby. Moreover, there are a variety of clubs in HSE University, from them I have joined the Ultimate Frisbee Club, and I have been offered the chance to travel around different cities and play in the student tournaments.
The curriculum in the first semester is more dedicated to basics of finance and economics and starting from second semester students are able to choose more elective courses based on interests. Lately the program provides many disciplines that are designed for different career paths. For instance, as I was interested in valuation and investment banking, I have chosen Financial Modelling and Consolidate Financial Statement courses. Apart from the above, it is also possible to choose disciplines from other faculties as it is important nowadays to also acquire knowledge in data science and programming.
One other special feature of the program structure is that there are many group projects and project presentations. Personally I find it really beneficial later at work.
In order to be successful professionally, one must be able to work in groups and learn how to cooperate with team members, and from the other, he or she should be able to present complex ideas through a concise presentation and Strategic Corporate Finance program prepared me for this.
Apart from studies at HSE University, there are other additional educational programs and case championships available to gain more practical knowledge, among them, the most famous ones are IB-Club and School of Finance. Even though the working language is English in these two programs and in the finance industry in general, materials are also mostly written in English, but sometimes discussions and some courses are carried out in Russian. Thus, some knowledge of Russian definitely provides additional opportunities and I have participated in the IB-Club case championship and I am currently preparing myself to participate in the School of Finance program.
Landing a job
HSE University is among one of the target schools of most reputable local and transnational companies in Russia and there are regular career events that are held in HSE University either in online or offline format. Moreover, the International Office at the Faculty of Economic Sciences offers frequent “Meet our Alumni” online events, where the Faculty of Economic Sciences HSE University alumni share their first-hand experiences and advice, and it is also a good opportunity to network with alumni. Some offer internships and direct recruitment to jobs and graduate programs.
Since August 2020, it is possible for international students to obtain a job with a student visa without obtaining a work permit. Currently not all firms are familiar with the details of this law, thus it will take some effort to explain to them about it and it is possible to consult with the Faculty of Economic Sciences International Office or HSE University Career Center on the details.
As there was less study workload during the second semester, I started looking for part-time and full-time job opportunities. One of the most popular choices among foreign students is to become an English tutor. Personally, I was more interested in finance and business, thus I was searching for vacancies in these fields. I found out that the job market in Russia is very competitive, so it is more ideal for foreign students to apply for vacancies that need an international background.
After a few months’ effort and with the assistance from Oxana, I have finally got a job as International Business Development Manager at Ozon.ru. My duty as Business Development Manager includes conducting overseas market research, formulating, implementing business plans and holding business negotiations with overseas clients. The Strategic Corporate Finance has helped me in forming a mindset that can transform ideas into numbers, and thus the business plans that I formulate are more visible and specific. Before joining the SCF program, I never did any presentations, but after presenting many projects during my first and second semester, I have gained enough presentation skill to be able to present my ideas and plans confidently at work.
Currently, I plan to study and work in Russia for upcoming years in order to further improve my Russian and also to accumulate more work and life experience. Upon my graduation from SCF, if I have enough spare time from work, I think I might consider applying to the HSE University PhD program in Economics.
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