F1GMAT: SKOLKOVO MBA is known for developing entrepreneur leaders. Do you think an MBA is required to be an entrepreneur? How does SKOLKOVO MBA encourage entrepreneurs?
Anna Shay: To me entrepreneurs are self-confident, untamed, idealists, which are the people that SKOLKOVO attracts. However they need SKOLKOVO as much as SKOLKOVO needs them. Despite the innate qualities, which are much needed there has to also be a sound platform of skills and knowledge. SKOLKOVO attract world's leading faculty to equip the students with the needed skill set, top advisors and experts are there for the students during the projects.
We were lucky to begin our start-up module during our time at MIT. Having the experience of framing our projects in such an environment with the support of MIT professors and MIT Sloane Alumni was incredible. We had a two week course where we worked in teams on our start ups and went through an investor’s pitch intense training. It was definitely a very unique and immensely useful experience for any aspiring entrepreneur. Throughout the American module we worked with start-up companies, I for instance was part of a team developing a strategy for expansion of an E-Commerce Start up. Getting the insight on the types of problems that start ups face and developing ways of solving these problems has also helped to build up the courage and the skill set prior to the start up module. Being in the states and part of the MIT community has influenced us a lot, many start ups were born there and many people have completely changed their start up ideas, partnerships with MIT students have also formed.
Throughout the start-up module, we received consultations from the best experts, which worked individually with every start up. I still tell everyone about the time when my business model canvas was revised by Alexander Osterwalder himself. We had top corporate lawyers come in for individual sessions advising every project; project advisors were assigned to every start up depending on the theme of the start up. A series of guest speakers throughout the module included mainly successful Russian entrepreneurs, who were enthusiastic and open about sharing their experience.
F1GMAT: What were the courses/events and activities in SKOLKOVO MBA that helped you the most?
Anna Shay: It’s incredibly difficult to highlight anything in particular as everything we did has had an impact, yet I think the academic module and the project in India have been truly helpful. The academic module gave us the skills that we need and the hands on approach of project learning allowed us to practice these skills. With professors from LSE, MIT, INSEAD and Harvard we acquired skills in Corporate finance, micro and macro economics, managerial accounting, operations management, risk management and other subjects. Of course 3 months of the academic module is a short time to go into depth, yet our skillful professors managed to create programs, which gave us the fundamental knowledge needed to run a company and start up a business.
Despite the fact that Academics module is about theoretical knowledge, SKOLKOVO still managed to put a practical spin on it. It was all about learning from experience, so we went through endless amounts of case studies with the help of top management from the companies at the centre of the case studies, who were invited as guest speakers. Our risk management professor decided to get us thinking outside the box and invited a real cosmonaut to talk to us about the types of risks that people of his profession face and how to deal with them in space.
We also had a week of “Blue ocean strategy”, we worked in teams developing innovative solutions for top Russian and international companies. Thinking back now I don’t understand how 24 hours was enough and how we survived the intensity, but I guess that’s the SKOLKOVO rhythm that you get hooked on and even after graduation, slowing down that pace seems impossible and completely unnecessary.
F1GMAT: SKOLKOVO MBA is known for being an Experiential MBA program. How has the focus on Emerging economies helped you develop skills essential for being an Entrepreneur?
Anna Shay: India was amazing and not just because of the cultural aspects. We had a rather challenging project – developing a replicable business model for a primary health care centre, serving the rural population. Working in India is definitely the closest you can get to innovation in practice. It’s not because they try to push for innovation solutions, but because there is no other way. In such conditions, you have to think outside the box, it’s the only way out, but this habit stays with you for longer than one might imagine.
Russian public project was also incredibly challenging. We had to develop a mechanism for the popularization of non-financial reporting in Russia, this was done for the Minister of Health and Social development with her personal involvement. Working with public organizations may not initially seem entrepreneurial, yet it’s the reality that most businesses operating in developing markets have to face. One of the main lessons learnt from the public project is the art of stakeholder management. With business this is not that difficult as the end aims are more or less transparent, yet in the public sector everyone has their own motif and the importance of inter personal relationships should not be underestimated.
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