Rimma Valeeva graduated from St. Petersburg University with a degree in Psychology and a year later enrolled in the Management program at the Graduate School of Management St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU). In an interview, Rimma talked about the reasons for the specialty changing, how the skills of a psychologist helped her study for a Master in Management, and shared her impressions of admission and study at St. Petersburg University.
Why did you decide to enter to St. Petersburg University after school?
In the ninth grade, I set a goal: I want to study psychology at St. Petersburg University. The choice was easy: I have strong biology, like people, and want to understand them. Of course, I paid attention to the scores and entrance exams, but thanks to good preparation, there were no problems. Admission was the easiest test in my life.
What are the primary skills you have gained while studying psychology?
The most important thing is that I understood what a skill is and how to master it. The Faculty of Psychology gives very strong humanitarian lessons and an idea of how science is built. For example, what is an experiment and a scientific method: all this is cross-disciplinary knowledge needed everywhere, even in marketing. In my third year, I decided to connect my life with organizational psychology: employee motivation and staff development. It became interesting to me what the company is in terms of human resources. The Department of Ergonomics and Engineering Psychology is one of the strongest in the faculty, and now I have an excellent base for studying in the master's program.
Then you entered GSOM SPbU for the Master in Management program. What is the reason for the decision to radically change the educational track?
I try to make decisions consciously in life, set goals, and go towards them. As soon as I chose organizational psychology, the further educational track became clear. My eyes literally rested on GSOM St. Petersburg State University! I decided to go into management because I felt the strong makings of a manager. This manifested itself during business games in pairs, in the fact that I became a class president, and so on, including professors, who advised me to pay attention to management. In addition, I was interested in the team as a phenomenon. I devoted my thesis to team processes: how personality traits affect the effectiveness of the group. I felt that I should definitely link my work with this topic, but at that time, I was very lacking in experience and some skills. There was a lot of theory but little practice.
What areas of knowledge did you have to expand for subsequent admission to GSOM SPbU?
Of course, few "non-psychologists" imagine psychology more than a conversation in the office. Psychology as a science is special because it is literally a reflection of statistical formulas in real life. A very strong bias in science characterizes psychology training at SPbU. In addition, serious methodological training is given, mathematics accompanies students at every step. In my first course study, I studied the effectiveness of media marketing tools — how consumer attention is distributed in the new digital environment. It would be impossible to do without mathematics. Of course, the available knowledge was still lacking. I have a weak side — I can't prepare alone, so I found a group for myself. For four months, we solved tasks twice a week. Personally, social motivation helped me be in the flow, not be late for the group, and compete for the best scores. As a result, I passed the GMAT pretty well and mistakenly believed that I was ready for a Master program.
Did you also need to study English additionally?
English was the easiest. Teaching in English has become one of the decisive factors when choosing GSOM SPbU. This is my strong resource. Besides, I know French well. I acquired an intensive conversational experience in the SPbU dormitory - in a club where students meet to communicate in English. It is very important that in preparing for the GMAT exam, new words are stored in memory in English, not in Russian. If you have to translate tasks while preparing, you are going in the wrong direction.
Was it important for you to stay to study at SPbU?
I was glad to learn that one of the best business schools in Eastern Europe is located at my University. It is a great success to discover new opportunities for yourself in a system that you have already studied and where you know how to swim. I am rooting for Saint Petersburg University in such difficult times for the entire education system, and I want to continue to participate in its life as a student of GSOM SPbU.
You entered the GSOM SPbU a year after receiving your diploma in psychology. Why not immediately, and what is the reason for such a decision?
You need to go to the Master Program with at least minimal practical experience. I remained a child, did not know life and was very jealous of the guys who managed to work during study. Combining work and study is not for me. I need focus and priorities. I took a year to work and prepare for admission to GSOM SPbU, and it was the best decision in my life. At work, I got the quintessence of practice and theory: I thought it worked like this, but in fact, everything is different. I had to adapt quickly, suffer, overcome myself and destroy illusions - now I know, then, I can do everything. I had to learn everything anew, but this experience was superimposed on theory and practical training skills. Where is the school that will give the closest knowledge to work? It seems to me that I found exactly such a practice-oriented training at GSOM SPbU.
In what field have you worked?
My friends and I started our own media business — we had to do everything ourselves, motivate ourselves and each other. However, we immediately got the result in material terms.
We found a difficult time in the labor market: it was not easy to keep a job at the beginning of the pandemic, especially to find a new one. It is quite challenging to find a job with only a psychology degree. Finding an application for your knowledge is a real test, like the Hunger Games. If you want a fast career, you will most likely be disappointed in the modern market: the opportunities do not meet expectations and demotivate you to study psychology further.
I see all these problems in my fellow students, many are now changing their profiles. When you find yourself not "in the flow", you quickly grow up and start inventing something yourself. I think anyone who tries to open their own business will not regret it.
Please tell us about your impressions of studying in the first semester of the Master Program.
Studying, as I expected, turned out to be the most difficult in my life. In the middle of the semester, I had to reconsider my learning strategy: not to wind myself up on one hundred percent academic performance and isolate really important things from the entire flow of information. When you just entered, motivation runs ahead of your capabilities, there is a risk of not calculating your strength and burning out. This is especially dangerous in the middle of training, when some control points begin, which if you miss, you will not be able to catch up. We are running fast, and there will be no time to get knowledge later: either you will study it now, or never.
Did you have enough time and energy to participate in extracurricular activities?
I participated in GSOM Family and CEMS Club events, applied for a joint CEMS diploma, and passed the competition for an exchange program in Paris. My classmates and I also managed to participate in the BCG Idea Challenge. Our team brought together a psychologist, an economist, a technician, and an international specialist. Doing something together was an inspiring experience! There are a lot of interesting events, if there is a desire, then you will have time for everything.
Was it possible to apply the psychologist's knowledge to the MiM program?
That was my surprise while working on a human resource management project, the customer asked me to use the custom development model, which I studied in my second year of psychology. Building a model of the employer's needs and compiling a questionnaire, I got real pleasure combining marketing and knowledge in the field of HR and wrapped it all in a complete case. I was the team leader: I built the project strategy and literally juggled the motivation and skills of my classmates. The team included students from Africa, Spain, and Russia — it turned out to be a great challenge for me to combine these completely different mindsets. Someone needs an authoritarian position of a leader, and someone needs a lot of freedom. I had to remember everything I was taught about the influence of the difference in mentalities on the leadership style.
Do you have any career plans for the future?
I have a lot of plans, I try not to fall into the void. I think I will go into product development with the team: I want to start applying managerial competence and English as soon as possible. I want to go to the exchange and to CEMS. I chose two different countries for two different exchanges - France and China (Hong Kong). I hope to eliminate my multicultural bug so that I can work in an international company later as a full-fledged manager who does not give up at the sight of different people. I am for a difference of opinion and freedom of imagination, which is important for innovation in any business. I'm going to continue promoting these values in my career. The values of GSOM SPbU and the University correspond to mine. I think I will be able to gather some people from GSOM Family to go further together because we are cool. GSOM SPbU has its own special atmosphere and culture. If I manage to invest something else as gratitude to this school, then of course I will do it.