Jan 16, 2015
I owe ICEF an eternal debt and HSE my deepest gratitude
Andrei Kaplan, ICEF graduate, is currently studying for an MA at MIT. In this interview, he considers what he learned at HSE, how that helped prepare him for taking on a demanding postraduate course in a foreign country, and how US and Russian approaches to education — and jobseeking after graduation — vary.

— What did you get from studying at ICEF?

— Studying at ICEF gave me a solid foundation in Economics, Finance and Econometrics, which is something I’ve started to appreciate now that I am studying at MIT Sloan, especially just having the opportunity to be here in the first place. However, I would not limit this to ICEF, but would rather talk about HSE as a whole, because it gave me so much more than this one discipline. It gave me incredible teachers and experience of real student life, it gave me some of my best friends, and last but not least it is the place where I met the love of my life. Due to all this I owe ICEF an eternal debt and HSE my deepest gratitude.

— To what extent does the approach to teaching at HSE correspond to that in the West?

— There are two parts to this answer. In terms of the quality of professors and the knowledge that they impart, the experience and intensity of studying, the learning skills that we gain at HSE, it definitely meets the best world standards. At the start of the MA programme at MIT, when some of my fellow students were struggling with math, introductory accounting, or finance, I was really grateful that I had studied at the HSE before, as it made my life and studies here easier than it otherwise would have been, especially in the first two months.

However, in terms of careers and the way the whole careers process is structured, there is a huge difference between MIT and HSE. Here it is an essential part of the learning process: students are encouraged to spend equal or even more time on finding a job than on actual study. As an example, networking here is a religion, a way to survive. If you want a job in a good company: IBD, a hedge fund, consulting, private equity — it’s not enough just to be super smart and intelligent, as they already assume that you are all that; you need to be extremely able at networking, which could take a large amount of time, nerves and effort.

— Is there any advice your teachers gave you that you still recall? What did you learn in a more broad sense?

— Not to study just for the sake of passing the exams, but for the sake of learning. They might not say it directly, but you could feel it in how they teach.

— What plans do you have for the future? Are you considering any concrete projects or positions?

— My future plans are taking shape quickly. I was lucky enough to receive an offer from a leading economic (litigation) consulting firm in Boston, so over the next three years I plan to work there, and then possibly find a company to sponsor my PhD or MBA degree.

— What have you found difficult about studying abroad?

— As I mentioned before, finding a job for many students here is a big challenge. You would expect that the very fact that you’re attending MIT or Harvard automatically simplifies this for you, but this is not true. Mainly because there is more competition here than in Russia. Being a student at MIT or Harvard opens the doors to any of the best companies in the world. However, it just gives you a place in the queue, but there are dozens or even hundreds of other students who are just as bright as you. To get it you first need to change your attitude towards the job search process. And they do a great job here at MIT to make you understand this and help you get the job you want.

— Is there anything else important you'd like to share?

— Before starting an MA programme after studying at HSE, be it MIT or some other place, you should ask yourself why you are doing it. Here in Boston I had dinner with a partner from the Moscow office of a leading management consulting company. When he heard that I had studied at ICEF he asked me: “Why did you come to MIT Sloan? What are you learning here that’s new? You could have come to us straight from ICEF”. He might be right in a sense. Education at HSE gives you enough knowledge and skills to secure a job in best companies in Russia. Doing an MA is all about the opportunities it creates. It is up to you to decide whether you want these opportunities or not, and you should weigh them against the commitment (both financial and personal) that studying any MA programme implies.  

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service

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