Add more spice

MBA takes Polina Popova beyond the legal sector… and to Paris

Polina PopovaCareer growth opportunities may not be immediately obvious when you have a particular specialisation. With a law degree and over seven years’ experience offering legal support in the banking sector, Polina Popova was well versed in her field and had an interesting job, but was looking for a way to add more spice.

“If you want to get your career moving, you need knowledge beyond your own area of specialisation. I felt I needed to learn how an entity works, and find out more about finance, human resources, IT and marketing. They weren’t the sort of subjects covered during my law degree in Russia, so taking an MBA now seemed a logical choice.”

Understanding management

“I liked the concept of Vlerick’s part-time MBA. A high-ranking European institution using English as the teaching language and offering a modular format that fitted in with my work. It was the ideal structure.” An added bonus was that her employer, BNP Paribas, is one of our Chair partners so management were already familiar with us. “I love my work in the banking sector, but I wanted to go further in management. And in that role, it’s not just my wish to be a good manager, it’s my obligation. I have to know how to motivate staff, deal with different types of people, and so on. The first few modules of the MBA have taught me a lot as a manager. And it’s continuing to give me a broad picture of how an entity works – it’s taking me beyond the legal sector.”

Seizing something different

Polina was brought up in St Petersburg but moved to Moscow in 2007 when she joined BNP Paribas. “My plan was to finish my MBA and then try to find work in Europe. However, at one point the BNP Paribas’ mobility programme was offering a temporary position in the legal department at the Paris head office. It’s quite a different job but that’s what I wanted – something different, both professionally and culturally.”

Applying theory to practice

“Right from the start of my MBA, I’ve been able to apply what I’m learning to my work. Before I moved to Paris, I was involved in a project between BNP Paribas and a Russian bank. The project happened to run parallel with the MBA project management module, so I was immediately able to put the theory into practice. Now I’m in Paris, I’ve switched to the Vlerick campus in Leuven and we’re covering the Monte Carlo simulation. Not surprisingly, the method has also come up in discussions at work. The MBA is proving highly relevant.” 

Moving forward

“An MBA is life-changing: not just because of the new knowledge you gain and the network you develop, but also because during the programme every free moment is spent studying! Yet you see the opportunities opening up in front of you. I really enjoy working in the financial world and particularly at BNP Paribas. It’s a forward-thinking company, at the forefront of change, and although the economic crisis is complicated for everybody, I really respect how BNP Paribas is moving through it. It’s going forward and this demonstrates our high potential.”

& Rankings

Equis Association of MBAs AACSB Financial Times Economist Intelligence Unit