Katsiaryna Pakhomava

Nationality: Belarusian 
Age: 34
Last job title: Principal art auctioneer on cruise ships for Park West Gallery, USA 
Previous degree and university: Bachelor of economics from Belarus State Economic University

Katsiaryna Pakhomava

1. Why did you decide to do an MBA? 

“I managed art gallery auctions on cruise ships for 10 years. It’s an addictive job: it’s well-paid and I travelled a lot. It’s also very hard work, and a very specific niche. Then I took a sabbatical. I was literally climbing a mountain in Nepal when I decided I wanted to upgrade my skills to prepare for the next step. I knew how to reach revenue goals, but wanted to sharpen up my management and leadership skills such as public speaking, finance and negotiating so I can offer more to my next employer and teams. The MBA gives you all of that. The next step is to find a job that is on land, not sea, and more ‘normal’. I want to try out marketing.” 

2. What has been the most challenging assignment or activity?     

“The ‘quantitative platform for business’ course is about statistics. I don’t have a quantitative background, and my bachelor programme was 12 years ago so it’s hard to pick it up again. It’s overwhelming. The professor is a sweetheart, but it’s difficult as I’m a right-brained person and much better at soft skills, like creativity and communication.”

3. How has the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLD) affected you?

“This is one of the reasons I chose RSM. It’s one of my favourite and most useful things here. Finance and statistics are important but I want to learn about my soft skills and leadership. It’s very interactive with role-plays, for example negotiations and talking about working conditions. It makes you analyse and self-reflect. We learned you’re not going to change your personality or perception, but we’re able to rise up and have a bird’s-eye view and not be biased by your own perspectives and experiences.” 

4. How would you describe the RSM MBA experience?

“It’s challenging, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. You cover quantitative parts, and all the topics are in one year. Sometimes we’re on campus for 12-15 hours for lectures, assignments and group work. I’ve worked with many nationalities before, so that’s not new to me. But sometimes it’s difficult to come to a common decision because we all want to be leaders. Things need reflection and compromising. So you have to put down your manager’s crown and do that.”

5. What advice would you give to others to make the most of their MBA experience? 

“Have an open mind and don’t focus too much on grades. You can read all the articles in the world, but bring your experiences and skills and remember that your view is not the only one. It’s about the people. Think about how you will position yourself and grab the opportunities with your new professional network from RSM.”

6. How do you feel about living in Rotterdam/the Netherlands? 

“When choosing an MBA, I first checked which countries do well in terms of economy, employment, happiness index and friendliness towards foreigners. The Netherlands ranked very high in several fields. I feel safe here, that’s very important to me. It’s also clean, organised and structured. And I like that the people are direct, I’m the same and it’s easier to do things that way. Oh, and everyone speaks English, which is awesome.”

7. How do you hope the RSM MBA helps you to be a force for positive change?

“We talk a lot about ethics, also in practical subjects like HR, finance and marketing. The professors make us think about sustainability, and we just covered ‘social innovation’ on a study trip to Lisbon. The future of business is not only about making money, but also about impact. Even through one person at a time. Younger generations don’t want to just work for a company, they want to work for a cause. I want to use that when moving on in my career. No matter how lucrative the business is, never compromise on sustainability and social impact.”

8. After the full-time MBA, what does the future hold? 

“RSM’s Career Development Centre helped me with some ideas. I just started an internship at Unilever, and I hope to stay there so I gain experience at a global company. Then I might try something smaller, like a start-up. The MBA is a bubble. When ‘real’ life starts with a working routine, then I’ll see what happens.”