Aleksandra Orlova enjoyed her role as a project manager in construction, but she felt there was something missing. She had a deep, narrow understanding of her area of the business – but says she lacked wider business knowledge, which made it difficult for her to contribute to company-wide initiatives. So when she moved from Moscow to Belgium, it seemed like the right time to make a change.
“I wanted to gain a broader spread of knowledge,” Aleksandra says. “And I knew an MBA would take me to the next level. Vlerick really stood out – firstly for its reputation as the one of the best business schools in Belgium and secondly because a friend who is an alumnus told me great things. It was the best fit for me.”
Aleksandra describes her full-time MBA as the most interesting – and most intense – year of her life. She says: “We learned so much in such a short space of time – from the faculty but also from each other. There were so many highlights, I couldn’t just pick one.”
Finding her focus
One of the most significant things Aleksandra gained at during the MBA was a new career direction. She says: “Through career development discussions and coaching I discovered I had always been interested in sustainability – and realised I wanted to focus on it professionally.”
This realisation was reinforced throughout Aleksandra’s studies. She says: “The corporate social responsibility course helped me see that businesses need to take ownership of their impact on the planet – and the study trip to South Africa opened my eyes to different sustainable business practices.
“Then for my global social project I worked with a charity in Moldova to help it develop sustainable practices. It was a subject very close to my heart and a wonderful way to make an impact. This type of project is one of the great things about Vlerick – it gives you the opportunity to give back some of what you’ve gained from the MBA.”
Working towards a greener future
With her sights set firmly on a career in sustainability, Aleksandra says the careers service Vlerick offers helped her find the right role. “They give you lots of advice – from interview techniques through to writing your CV and LinkedIn profile,” she says. “We also went to lots of networking events, which were so valuable. It can be difficult to make the first move when networking – but now I’m used to it, because I’ve had plenty of practice.”
Now she has her MBA, Aleksandra is still in the construction industry. But now she concentrates on sustainable, green buildings.
She says: “I love my role as a consultant. We have workshops and brainstorming sessions that remind me of the group work in the MBA – there are so many skills I can apply. All the projects I work on now are with diverse teams. My time at Vlerick helped me understand cultural differences and how to work with different people – it’s practice for the real business world.”
A professional partner for life
Aleksandra still has many friends at Vlerick. She says: “The school does a great job of keeping alumni together. I love going to events and meeting students – I’m still in touch with my group and other alumni I met during my own MBA. It’s always good to grow your network, and you never know – you might meet a student who could be your colleague in a year’s time.”