From Russia With Love – A European Triple Degree Success Story
When Oksana Ponomarenko swapped her native Russia for France at the age of 15, little did she know the personal, educational, and professional journey that she was embarking on. She tells a tale of hard work, learning opportunities and the pursuit of her dream in the luxury industry.
You arrived in France at the age of 15. What made you continue your journey here, through to emlyon business school and beyond?
After my high school studies, I specialised in International Relations and Translation at the “Université Catholique” de Lyon. It was at that point that the stars aligned, if you like. I was juggling in my mind a career in politics or a future in business. I took the latter option and emlyon business school was the place for me. I had already done two internships, one in Arts and Fashion as a coordinator/assistant and another as a business developer in a start-up business development in Australia, so a potentially international career via an internationally-minded school made perfect sense.
What made you opt for the European Triple Degree?
I was sold immediately on the idea after speaking with a student ambassador for the program at a fair. What was made clear and has been confirmed since is that the degree is anything but an exchange. It is about total immersion in an academically intense and highly multicultural environment in your “home school” and then getting the best out of the learning and corporate experience in the partner school where you will spend part of your time, in my case at LMU (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich). I continue to believe that the decision I took was a lifelong investment, one from which I will continue to benefit. You can buy a flash car and it will quickly depreciate in value. You invest in education and the opportunities it offers you will pay dividends the rest of your life.
What would you say were the main benefits of your studies in Lyon?
First off, this program is “serious business”, in all senses. It is a very broad and demanding curriculum but one of the main strengths is the fact you can and have to apply knowledge asap. Within 3 or 4 days of taking on new tools or concepts, you have the chance to apply them. There are also soft skills, which are essential. By being a part of a cosmopolitan cohort, it has made it much easier for me to deal with colleagues and managers from diverse cultures such as Japan, the USA and China. Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills were ingrained in us during the program and have served me ever since. I now work as a Business Analyst intern at Cartier in Paris, which was always a part of my dream to forge a career in the luxury industry. Thanks to my studies in Lyon, I came equipped with the kind of global business intuition that you need for a role that encompasses everything from stats and following market trends to actual analysis.
How did your experience in Munich compare with that in Lyon?
It was very rigorous. However, I took a not only academic but also corporate decision to study part of the European Triple Degree there, so I fully expected it to be challenging. I had already benefited from the expertise of the Munich professors when they visited and taught at the emlyon business school campus earlier in the program. Their approach was rigid in the best sense of the word, meaning full student involvement and participation were required at all times. We were treated as adults and evolved in an environment that was close to that of a company, meaning we were entirely responsible for our own success and brilliantly prepared for the same working conditions we would discover later. In my case I had to handle 20 hours a week in a company along with my studies, which provided the perfect grounding in handling pressure, respecting deadlines, and dealing with the kind of workload I now encounter at Cartier. I received a very comfortable job opportunity in Germany but chose to pursue my desire to work in the luxury industry aspirations in France.
So what challenges and opportunities should prospective students of this program expect to meet?
The level is demanding but also offers the ideal preparation for a career in, let's say, management or consulting. These are not forgiving industries but by taking this kind of program, you'll be well equipped. With this kind of training, you'll learn how to prioritise effectively, hit your targets, and evolve personally and professionally. Opting for this program was definitely the right choice for me and I would heartily encourage anyone with similar international and professional ambitions to do the same.