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Zhamila Zhakup

Associate, Retail Products Department

From consulting to Big Data. How to find your calling in finances

Getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself isn’t always easy. We tend to feel uneasy when we reach crossroads. But sometimes, an inspirational story, like the one below, can really help you find yourself.

Maternity is a time for personal growth

I graduated from Nazarbayev University in 2016 in economics. In my fourth year I received an offer from McKinsey and spent two years with the firm, after which I left on maternity. At McKinsey I was involved in a number of cross-industry projects, but soon recognised that I needed to focus on one area as knowing a little about everything was really not my thing. I had also began to find corporate finance and developing financial models very interesting, which is why I decided to take a master’s in them.

I found out that the first MSF programme was graduating from the Nazarbayev University Business School, and that many of them had studied with me on my bachelor’s. I was pleased to hear that they had all enjoyed the programme, in particular course discipline, the valuable expertise of the professors, and how practical and applicable to their everyday life they found it.

In my seventh month of pregnancy I passed the GMAT and was selected for the course. I began studying when my daughter was three years old, and I wasn’t the only mum. My course mate had a 9-month child. There was even a married couple on the MBA programme who had a 3-4 month old baby. And they all easily coped with their studies.

Master’s together with my daughter

My Master’s helped me acquire the serious knowledge I was looking for. I thought they’d go on easy on me because I had a baby (laughs). But it was really hard. All those times when I spent more than six hours a day at lectures, my husband and mum walked around the yard with my daughter, and I only got to see her during the breaks. That’s why she graduated with me! I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a financier in the future.

In tandem with the Nazarbayev University programme, I sat for my Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 exam (one of the most prestigious international certificates for financial analysts – author’s note). CFA is pure theory, while the MSF involves using a number of codes in different languages – Python, SAS and SQL. It was great that the school administration began to think about going digital in our year.

We had two residencies: one in the National Bank in Almaty and the second at the Cass Business School in London. When we were at the National Bank, we were taught by Azat Uskenbayev, who now heads the balance of payments department. We had just completed a course on macroeconomics, which included a balance of payments element, and he showed us what that meant, using real cases. They were really impressive lectures.

AIX career

There aren’t that many places in Kazakhstan for financiers that offer really interesting assignments. I wanted to immerse myself in the finance world and learn how securities were structured, which is why I applied to the Astana International Exchange and joined them this February. The AIX’s mission is to make capital “more active” in Kazakhstan through a number of social projects focusing on developing financial literacy and increasing the number of retail investors and issuers.

My favourite AIX project was launching the Tabys mobile application for retail investors. Given the current situation, we really need to be investing in the future, guaranteeing ourselves a more significant long-term return on our savings than we would normally get with a bank deposit.

You can read the full article on Forbes.kz here.