Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12pm

How an MBA Enabled My Career Change

Irina Kvakhadze credits her mba with enabling her career change

I was 25, living in Georgia, a determined young woman in search of a fulfilling, intellectually challenging, and diverse professional life. My résumé listed a bachelor's degree in business administration, six years of work experience in the financial sector and my current role at that time of leading a management consulting company, ‘pas mal’. However, the thought of the next step in my career put me in a state of unrest. To move forward – closer to my desired professional experience – more was necessary, a career change which required knowledge and experience that were beyond the local boundaries. I realized that the time had come to go to school, again, for the third time in my life!

My experience in the HEC Paris MBA program

Several months later I learned from an email that I was admitted into the HEC Paris MBA program, my top-choice business school offering a robust academic program with a special focus on leadership experience and development, and an exciting opportunity to learn from the world’s leading CEOs and industry professionals.  

In September 2008, I found myself surrounded by students from all over the world, as we rushed to attend our 8am classes, spending evenings, as well as nights, preparing our team assignments, As a reward, Paris was always there for us, beautiful and enchanting. Years have passed since then, but the experience gained proves to be only more valuable. Looking back, I see my decision to make a career change and join the HEC Paris MBA program as a turning point in my life; the diversity challenges you to constantly push the boundaries you create around the world. It also makes you more open and responsive to those around you, which is a great trait if you want to enjoy your personal and professional life.

No less valuable was the MBA's academic program, which laid a solid foundation for succeeding in future professional roles. In addition to regular classes in finance, marketing and organizational behaviour, we constantly met CEOs of international companies, who shared their leadership experience. When it came to leadership experience, HEC Paris offered a three-day leadership workshop in the form of a military boot camp. At the top of a several-meter high cliff, trembling and horrified by the idea of walking on a rope stretched in the sky from one cliff to another, questions invaded my mind: Do I trust my own self? Do I possess my mind and body? Can I bear the stress? Do I trust my team who are holding the rope? And do we compete within a team or do we support each other? You walk on that rope and find answers by exploring your limits and capabilities. I guess leadership is all about such knowledge.

My new career at the Business Association of Georgia

Six years have passed since graduation and five years since my career change to a job that is fulfilling, intellectually challenging and diverse. I am a deputy director at Business Association of Georgia – an organization which unites large companies that operate in Georgia and advocates private sector needs in front of the Georgian government. It’s an organization that is highly acknowledged among relevant professional circles and a fulfilling occupation that allows me to make my modest contribution to the economic development of my country. The intellectual challenge lies in being involved in creation of macro policies, such as the pension system or tax administration reform, and having an opportunity to be a co-author of Georgia’s Long-term Economic Development Concept is also rewarding. Effective advocacy means working in three directions with senior representatives from the private sector, government officials, and international donor organizations or financial institutions. It’s a diverse role.

The knowledge and experience I acquired at HEC Paris several years ago led me to this exciting opportunity and I feel it has laid a strong foundation for more opportunities to come, as what the MBA gave me is not a static knowledge but an ability to expand one’s capacities.

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Irina Kvakhadze is an MBA alumna of HEC Paris and is now the deputy director of the Business Association of Georgia, an association which lobbies the Georgian government on behalf of businesses in the country.

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