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Alumni Corner

How this MOT Alumni Made the Most of Her MBA Journey

The CMC sat down with Aina Aliieva to discuss her MBA journey. She discussed the challenges she faced as an international student and what she learned from overcoming them!

Meet Aina!

MOT MBA Alumni Aina moved from Ukraine to Canada to pursue business through completing an MBA. An international student with English as her third language, Aina faced many challenges during her first few months in the new country. However, it was ultimately the sacrifices she made and her eagerness to seek the uncertainty outside of her comfort zone that shaped her into the strong individual she is today.

Throughout Aina’s MOT MBA at the Beedie School of Business, she was heavily involved in extracurricular activities that enabled her to leave a positive impact on the SFU community. We got the opportunity to sit down with Aina and learn how she made the most of her MOT MBA degree.

Aina discussed her change in career objective whilst pursing her MOT MBA:

“Before my MBA, I studied electrical engineering in Ukraine. I was a self-taught project manager and managed over 40 people in a power plant. Although I enjoyed the leadership experience [of a project manager], I did not want to continue working at a power plant; which led me to start my MBA journey.” Aina said.

She further remarked that, “getting involved throughout my degree, I discovered a passion for [giving back to] the community. Currently, I am starting my own business to drive myself towards an entrepreneurial path.”

As an international student, Aina shared how she faced and overcame multiple challenges:

Aina emphasized that, “moving from Ukraine to Canada was extremely difficult. I had to almost learn everything from scratch because everything was different - the language, the transit, even the food. There were many times where I felt like packing my bags and just head back home. However, I realized that if I leave, I would never have the chance to come back. So, I decided to persevere through the struggles and face my challenges head-on.”

Confidently, she further stated that, “by overcoming my challenges in cultural change and managing the difficult coursework in my first year of my MBA, I learned how to be flexible in various situations. By engaging myself in the western culture and bringing in my diverse background from Ukraine, a strength I gained [through this experience] was the ability to think in different perspectives. Now when I encounter challenges, I don’t just see it from one perspective, but from many.”

When asked ‘what was one thing she would have done differently during her MOT journey’, Aina reflected:

“I would have stepped out of my comfort zone more, especially in the classroom setting. I felt like I was often the shy person in the class and who didn’t really speak up during class discussions, also because my English wasn’t as good. I wish I had taken the initiative to participate in class more often, as it would have improved my critical thinking and communication.”

After Aina felt as though she did not gain much value in her first year, she decided to engage in extracurricular involvements:

Case competitions gave Aina the opportunity to apply what she learned in the classroom. “During my 24-hour case competitions, I learned more in 2 days than in 2 years of my MBA. From case competitions, I valued what I learned from my teammates, as they would bring in their own expertise and unique perspectives to the team. Although it was rewarding to place first and second in multiple case competitions across Canada, I learned a lot more from failing and not placing at all. Being able to compare my successes and failures, I can see what went wrong, and improve [that component] in the future!”

Another one of Aina’s most memorable involvements at SFU was Toastmasters. She shared: “Toastmasters is a club focused towards improving individual public speaking skills. From preparing speeches and presenting them in front of multiple evaluators, I got to improve my speaking skills and learn from the feedback provided. There were also activities where the facilitator will pick a student randomly to present a topic immediately, where students can build critical thinking skills on top of public speaking. I now serve as a mentor for current Toastmasters students in order to give back to the SFU Toastmasters community.” she said in an enthusiastic voice.

Aina explains why current students should get involved with extracurricular activities.

She indicated that, “for me, over 70% of what I learned during my MOT MBA was learned outside the classroom. Although lectures taught me a lot about business, it was opportunities outside the lecture, [like case competitions], that taught me how to apply the classroom knowledge into the real world.”

She added, “I would highly recommend students to get involved with extracurricular activities not just because of the new skills they pick up, but also because of the opportunity to meet new people and grow their network! Getting involved is also a very fun experience, because students can experience something they enjoy outside the classroom setting.”

The advice she offers for current graduate students:

“My biggest advice for current graduate students is ‘plan your time in advance’. MBA students often don’t have lots of free time, especially if they have a family. If students find free time, I would highly suggest getting involved with extracurriculars, because this is the best way to make the most of an MBA degree!” Aina emphasized.

Lastly, she expressed to current students that “When you are seeking a career path. Look for a company that really fits with who you are, even if this means applying for multiple companies until you find the right one. Don’t change yourself and your interests for the sake of just getting any job offer, because you are not going like the working there in the long run.”

Thank you Aina for sharing your insights and how you made the most of your MBA journey!