Over 80% of MBA alumni are satisfied with their career growth. 47% of them rate their growth as excellent, 30% as good (according to mba.su). Sometimes a promotion or transition to a higher position in another company occurs even during training. Vyacheslav Inzartsev, an alumni of the GSOM SPbU and SKILLBOX joint program "MBA — Leaders of Change", talks about how the knowledge he gained helped him become a product manager with the prospect of moving up to a product director.
Could you please tell us how you chose the program for training and what were your expectations?
I've been thinking about getting an MBA for a long time. As a leader, I have enough managerial experience, I managed but I lacked some kind of formal managerial education, I am a programmer. Two things attracted me to the “MBA — Leaders of Change” program: the training is conducted on the basis of a reputable organization — GSOM SPbU, and there is an online format — I could not study full-time. These two factors were the main ones.
The result exceeded expectations. At the beginning of my studies, I was a project manager in an IT company, and now I am developing my own digital product (mini SEO) for a company that is a leader in the metallurgical industry. If my new position had been offered to me before training, I would probably have refused.
How is your new job different from your last one when you were a project manager?
A project is a piece of work with a clear beginning and end: a manager needs to organize a certain amount of work in a certain time. And if we are talking about a product, then it lives as long as it has value, there is a beginning but there is no end. If we make a product, we are not concerned that it meets the criteria of the customer but that it benefits the end user. You need to think about a product like a small business, it means to think about its economy and about managing a team; it must be planned both tactically and strategically. Product management is a complex process but after so much knowledge was gained, an innovative project was made, and we defended the consulting one, it became obvious that everything would work out.
What are your impressions of learning?
By the end of the first module I was seriously considering quitting. It seemed to me difficult to build classes into a schedule — training is serious, and it took a lot of time. Also, studying basic subjects was not easy for me to stay motivated. But, when the “innovation project” began — a team project that lasted 5 months, I realized that it was needed.
Could you tell us more about the "innovative project"?
An innovative project differs from a graduation project in that you can choose a topic yourself. We are a team of 4 people, first we did a series of interviews to understand what the market needed, and we saw that it was difficult for companies to organize the work of freelancers. Finding a freelancer is not a problem, it is difficult to combine them into product teams or connect them to existing ones, to manage them in general.
Therefore, we started making a platform for freelance teams, and even after the release now we continue to work on this project and prepare a set of materials for investors. Since it was an educational product, there is still something to be clarified, finalized, further researched, but the idea is good and I would like to implement it. Professors, of course, helped us a lot all the time and we stay in touch.
What courses do you remember and what was useful in your work?
Everything that we studied as part of an innovative project came in handy: empathic interviews, how to think about the user journey, and all business cases — step-by-step instructions: take it and do it. The course on presentations was very useful for me, where it was told how to prepare documents and show the project to investors. The most interesting courses were "Public Speaking" and “Negotiations". I really liked the course of the economist Vasily Dermanov, he is my favorite teacher. Financial analysis is a new world for me, I am glad that I discovered it, although it was difficult at first. “Team Management” is also a very cool practical course.
Were you able to begin applying knowledge in practice immediately?
It works like this: you take a course without understanding what it is and why, but after about six months the seed germinates and you begin to apply the acquired knowledge. The effect is delayed but it is definitely there. I can cite as an example the course “Skills for solving complex managerial problems” — interesting, but rather voluminous methods were given there. At first it all seemed like something superfluous. But after three or four months, thinking about the next working task I decided to try to apply them and in the process I realized that the problem was solved in a completely different way. If you use the right tools and approach, the quality of decisions changes dramatically. And there are many such examples.
Could you tell us more about your graduation project?
Working in a team on an equal footing is a separate interesting experience. Usually you are in two positions in professional activity: either you are a subordinate and just do what you are told, or you are the boss and your staff do what you say. And when you create something together with people who are on the same level with you, you need to learn to negotiate. It seems to me that it even became more pleasant to communicate with me.
We were developing a strategy for managing digital products for a large retail chain, the subject area overlapped with what I do myself, and by solving the customer's problems I solved mine. As a result, the customer was satisfied,and our consulting project became not just an academic one, it became a table - everything we did would come in handy.
What is the main learning outcome?
The main result is that I have changed a lot myself during one and a half years. No matter how pathetic it may sound, I reached a strategic level of thinking: I really began to look at what is happening around me differently. It became clear to me that the world around me is bigger and I can do more than I thought before. From the knowledge gained, everything was useful, especially the graduation project.