On a work trip to Basel, Olga Kotenko fell in love with Switzerland. “It’s extremely beautiful, people are very polite—and everything works!” she laughs.
At the time, Olga was working in financial regulation, developing international standards with the Central Bank of the Federation of Russia.
“Although the work was interesting, I felt it was quite a theoretical field, and wanted to see something more tangible,” she remembers.
Hoping to broaden her expertise and find a new career, attending business school was a natural next step.
It was also the perfect opportunity to move from Russia to Switzerland.
Poised in the middle of Europe, Olga was excited by the country’s highly international business environment, as well as local innovations in the tech and finance spheres.
While researching Swiss programs, she discovered the Strategy and International Management (SIM) Program at the University of St Gallen, and quickly decided to apply.
“The decision was not a hard one,” she recalls, “SIM was just the best program.”
After graduating from St Gallen in 2018, Olga successfully changed her career, landing a job with tech giant Apple in Singapore.
An international mindset
When she arrived at St Gallen, Olga found herself surrounded by a diverse cohort, around 90% of whom were international students like herself.
The experience, she says, helped her develop an international mindset, which has stayed with her long after graduation.
When students finish the SIM program, working internationally is common. In fact, 55% of alumni move to a new country soon after graduation.
When Apple reached out to Olga, she joined their number, relocating to Singapore to work on the company’s supply chain.
Olga had visited Singapore once before, undertaking the double degree program on offer at St Gallen.
This meant studying at Nanyang business school, which gave her the chance to explore the country’s culture and business landscape.
Olga's time at Nanyang also connected her with Apple, as the company is one of the school's business partners.
Restarting a career
With its large international community and prominent manufacturing economy, Singapore has a surprisingly similar business environment to Switzerland.
Despite these parallels, though, adapting to a new continent proved challenging for Olga.
“It was a huge cultural shock,” she recalls, “I had to learn how to communicate in a totally different way.”
Through the SIM program, though, Olga had developed some useful insights, teaching her to interact with people from diverse backgrounds with diverse interests.
This ability has helped Olga succeed at Apple too, she says.
In her current role as planner, she helps Apple to launch new products, open new stores, organize promotional events, and ensure that everything runs smoothly.
A dynamic work environment
For Olga, Apple’s fast-paced environment delivers an exciting and challenging work life.
“What I do today, I can see the results of tomorrow,” she says, “it’s a very rewarding feeling.”
Joining a large, innovative company like Apple is not unusual for SIM grads. Google, HP, and E-On all regularly take on St Gallen alumni.
The soft skills that students develop on the program are one important reason why graduates succeed in these businesses.
“Apple culture is quite similar to SIM culture,” Olga observes. “People constantly look for improvements and challenge the way things are.”
Because her work involves collaborating with different parts of the business, effective communication is another key skill for Olga.
Modules like ‘strategic management’ helped Olga to refine these communication skills, but she believes that her peers were just as instrumental to her overall development.
“The greatest growth I experienced was thanks to the people I studied with,” she reflects.
Taking the leap
Olga plans to stay with Apple in the coming years, exploring new locations and functions.
The SIM program gave her the confidence to go after this completely new career, she says.
“If I didn’t study the SIM, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I’m really grateful to SIM for the opportunities it opened up,” she reflects.
Although she was anxious to set out on a new path, Olga is satisfied with the new direction of her career.
The SIM program helped her to make the leap, she says.
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University of St.Gallen - SIM-HSG
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