Daria Zarubina, Director of Global Strategy and Leadership at PwC Russia, is an alumna of the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU) and the MBA program of the University of Cambridge. She works in the London office of PwC and has experience working in the Middle East and Russia. Her team is developing a strategic direction for the network, which operates in 155 countries worldwide. She is implementing a program designed for the evolving of senior managers, as well, based on a global strategy.
Daria Zarubina is the co-author of the book "Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions". We talked with her about working in an intellectually rich environment and the importance of maintaining ties with GSOM SPbU alumni.
Is it vital for you to keep in touch with the Business School?
GSOM SPbU has played a crucial role in my career and progress. It's not just about the education, networking and experience that Business School gave me. After studying, I got a job to run the Fuqua School of Business office at Duke University in St. Petersburg. This was due to my career coach at GSOM SPbU. It was she who drew my attention to this vacancy and prepared me for interviews. I am also grateful to those professors who gave me recommendations.
My work included managing partner relations with GSOM SPbU, so after graduation, I remained in excellent working relations with the Business School for a long time. And now, of course, it is my alma mater, which I am proud of and which is still a valuable place for me.
Why did you choose your career in the education sector at that time?
First of all, I wanted to engage in international management, and for some time, I was looking for an area in which this would be in top demand. Working at Duke University meant constant communication with the main campus in the United States and with regional offices in China, India, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. It was necessary to work with the American leadership, partner universities from the CIS, executive MBA students from all over the world, and Russian alumni. It was incredibly fascinating from the point of view of both cross-cultural communication and relationship management with very diverse stakeholders. I directly influenced each student's educational experience and the creation of a local presence — for example, a regional board of trustees. I also knew that working at a leading business school means being in an intellectually rich environment and surrounded by interesting people.
After a master's degree and several years of work, you continued your education and enrolled in Cambridge. What did you get from there?
At that time, I was already familiar with the MBA world and clearly saw the value that it could bring specifically to me. So, it was a reasonable next step to gain further international experience and strengthen my professional competencies. Among the benefits I got, I will name a structured understanding of scientific disciplines related to business, the value of a brand with a centuries-old history on my resume, a network of professional and friendly contacts worldwide, and experience in various consulting projects. And, of course, a lot of delightful memories.
I can't help but ask about Uganda and a spent month in Africa. Why did you decide to go to this continent after Cambridge? What was your mission?
As part of studying at Cambridge for an MBA, all students had to choose international projects (Global Consulting Project). This is both a practical experience of consulting work and an opportunity to prove yourself in the eyes of a top employer or a way to see a new professional field for yourself, as in my case. Like many others, I have always been interested in the world of NGOs working in Africa. That's why I chose a project with a large Irish non-profit organization. We launched the social impact investing fund, which focuses on startups in the post-conflict zone of Northern Uganda. It was a life-changing experience: together with four of my Cambridge classmates, we met with dozens of entrepreneurs, evaluated their business, studied the lives of these people and, eventually, created a fund strategy. Later all this helped me when I worked with PwC in Kenya and Nigeria.
Which project at PwC do you consider the brightest in your career today?
Probably the most striking thing is writing a book. It is based on the analysis of global socio-economic trends, which we conduct to create a global PwC strategy. After the book was published, I led its global campaign and directly helped PwC in 46 countries to use the publication to create a public dialogue about solving crucial problems, as well as for educational and reputational purposes.
Now you have created the GSOM SPbU community in the UK. What made you do this?
After moving to London, it was vital for me to find fellow thinkers, and I knew that I would meet them among GSOM SPbU alumni. And so it turned out. The GSOM Alumni Department quickly helped us find each other, and the first meeting was held in a beautiful atmosphere. Now there are 50 people in the community, and we are planning our further activities.