An E.M.B.L.-HSG Alumni's Experience - Ekaterina Smirenskaya

Jun 11 2013

Ekaterina Smirenskaya is Head of Legal at Printing House Extra M in Moscow and alumna of the year 2007/2008.

Why did you choose to do the Executive M.B.L.-HSG program?
What was your motivation in applying for the program having a law degree already?

The program, offered by the University of St. Gallen  attracted my attention by its uniqueness. Its structure is meeting my view of the worth-while post-graduate education, which I was considering to pursue for some time.

The University of St. Gallen is accredited by such well-respected organizations as the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and the American Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and has an excellent reputation on the European continent.

The program is designed for specialists who already earned a higher education degree and have a job experience. In the course of the University of St.Gallen's 18-months program, 9 weekly modules are offered  in different countries on three continents, and the location of the module is related to the topic of study. For example, law and business of China is studied at Fudan University located in Shanghai;  finance -- in Vaduz (Liechtenstein);  M&A deals -- in Frankfurt am Main.

What did you get out of it – professionally and personally?
You being an in-house lawyer – what was the additional benefit for you?

The program was very useful and interesting in professional and personal development.

The program is taught by the world's best specialists in the field: lawyers, businessmen, politicians, scientists, judges of ECJ and EFTA Court, which allows to experience different cultures, values and ways of thinking.

The program provides education in different areas of international law (competition law, international taxation, corporate governance, IT and energy law, finance), which allows to view a problem and seek its solutions not only from the position of a national law, but globally.

The modules include contextual cases on actual juridical, economic and social problems, which are analyzed in detail by instructors and students; group projects and presentations are conducted.  Students are taught to apply the gained knowledge in resolving actual problems, which arise in their everyday work, and make the right decisions.

The company that I work in is the partner of major manufacturers in the EU. Undoubtedly, the knowledge gained during my studies facilitated a better mutual understanding between my company and our partners in the EU.
Of course, gaining new friends during my studies from many different countries (U.S.A., Norway, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Mexico) was a huge plus.

How did you benefit from the different professional, educational (lawyers, business people, public administrators, engineers) and national backgrounds in the course?

The program can be taken not only by students with a degree in law, but also with other academic degrees (economists, engineers, etc.). Various background of students gives a wonderful opportunity for exchange of information with specialists from other areas from different countries around the globe.

You worked 100% during the program. What were the challenges of combining job and studies?

The program is structured in a way that there is one bimonthly internal module which ends with an exam. Between the modules, students complete homework and study a large amount of preparatory material for the next module. The volume of information is very extensive and required a lot of time to study.

The structure allows to continue working, which is undoubtedly a very important benefit of the program; not everyone who desires to obtain a master's degree has an opportunity to leave work for one or two years and to dedicate oneself to study only.

I would like to thank the organizers of the program for its virtuosic planning: the exact schedule of modules was available in the very beginning of the program.  It allowed an advance planning for work and personal business during the period of studies.

Would you recommend the program to colleagues/friends? If yes, why?

Yes, I would recommend my colleagues and friends this program with no hesitation. The globalization of economy is linked to the transnational projects, which require an understanding of European and International business law. The networking opportunities play a very important role. The membership in the alumni association provides great opportunities for expansion of professional contacts.

What did you particularly like outside the classroom (e.g. field trips, free time with students, receptions, dinners, cultural events, city tours, course locations)?

As I mentioned before, the organizers did an excellent job, and the same can be said about the cultural program, which was very extensive. It was very interesting to visit such landmarks as World Trade Center in Geneva, the factory and an exhibition of contemporary art in China, the office of a well-known law firm in downtown Manhattan in New York City, and to take segway in downtown Austin in Texas. During the receptions there was an opportunity to socialize with fellow class mates and instructors.

How did you benefit from the networking opportunities given (co-students and faculty)?

The graduates of the program are the alumni of not only the university itself, but also the EMBL-HSG program, which has tens of thousands of members.  Membership in these alumni associations makes it easier to establish contacts with the specialists from different countries for business solutions and other tasks.

The associations hold regular alumni meetings. We, as alumni of the EMBL-HSG program, meet regularly in the most interesting cities of the world. During the last few years our meetings took place in Athens,  Moscow, Berlin, Paris. Every meeting offers an intensive and diverse program. It is always a pleasure to meet with my friends in a new and interesting place!
For example, if I need to resolve law or other problems, related to German or Austrian law, I can easily find colleagues, who always will be happy to respond to my requests. Alternatively, an alumni can always contact me, if my professional help is needed in Russia.

Which was your favorite module and why?

It is hard to choose one particular module because all of them were very interesting. The organizers of the program thought through very well both the program of study and the outside of the classroom activities.
Perhaps, the Shanghai module was especially memorable. It was the first time I visited China, a country which differs from Russia very much.  It was very interesting to study the peculiarities of the Chinese law under the direction of Professor Allen Chan.