Valeria Radchenko is a current student at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) online, who has committed to her degree remotely while working full time in Switzerland. We sat down with her over a call to discuss life as an online student, including her time management tips, experiences with classmates, and more.
This is the first half of our two-part interview with Valeria. In the second, she shares her motivations for studying the course, her thoughts on the material, and the real-world benefits of her studies.
Hi Valeria, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Would you mind introducing yourself?
Hello, my name is Valeria, and I'm currently working in Switzerland in the private banking sector. I have previous experience in FinTech and have also worked at Bloomberg and a Swiss private bank's innovation team in Luxembourg. I joined the course [MSc Global Finance] one year ago, having done my Bachelors in Business Administration in Monaco.
How do you manage studying while working full time?
With its impact on your professional and personal life - I can't say it's easy. It's not. However, that isn't a bad thing. It's a challenge, and I think it's a great challenge. It has made me appreciate my time more.
I had to improve my time management because if you work full time like I do, and study for a Masters on the side, you need to be disciplined. You need to be able to remove any time wasters, know your deadlines, and be very well organised.
It's hard, but it's rewarding. But at some point, you will look back and just think, "Wow, it was a lot of work, but in the end it was great achievement."
Recruiters also know that earning a Masters requires a lot of hard work. I feel really fortunate to work in a great, great bank and I'm really happy where I am now. I'm planning to stay with this institution and use my education to grow within this bank.
I would say that if you don't have a Masters yet, it's a really great addition to your CV, because nowadays education is very important. If you study online next to a full-time job, it's a huge advantage. Employers look at those qualifications, and even my own employers have mentioned that this is a really good step that I'm taking.
In your opinion, what skills would help someone successfully earn their degree?
I think it helps to be very curious. You can use your free time to enhance your knowledge, which will also help with your Masters.
People who do [Bayes Business School’s] programme very quickly experience that it helps them become more independent in their thinking, and they gain confidence in the fact that they can actually do a lot in a day and so many things are possible. And I'm not the only one on my course who's felt this!
What has it been like interacting with your course mates?
This year, we have all learnt how to interact online, even for occasions which you would never have thought you would need to, like with friends, family, or work. We are all equipped with that experience now. It's the same for [our] Master's programme.
We always communicate within our group. We speak on WhatsApp, which is quite helpful because we can ask questions and everyone is active. We also use Zoom, which is used nowadays by pretty much every corporation. We had some Zoom calls, just amongst us students, at the beginning of the course to introduce ourselves.
Have there been any challenges you faced with the course?
In the beginning it was a real struggle. It was difficult because so much was new. I mean, I had just started a new job a few months ago, and there was a lot of learning to do already. Then I decided to take on even more learning and do the Masters!
It felt like it was impossible sometimes. I would think, "How am I going to handle this? Who can I ask for help?" Questions that I think everyone has. But sometimes you have to dive straight into the cold water, and that's when you learn the most.
How has your mentality changed since?
As I mentioned already, you realise that time has a lot of value. After starting, you'll see that you can do so much more than you thought you can. You'll trade off things you don't need with what matters more at the moment, and then find that you can return to them gradually later on. You'll gain that mentality of learning all the time, and see that you have a lot of time - it's just about using it correctly and not wasting anything.
I hit a wall near the beginning because there was an assignment and I just couldn't solve it. And I remember thinking, "It's only the beginning and it's already like this. I'm going to fail." We're all human and we all think like this. But I had to get myself together and decide that nothing is impossible.
That's my attitude now. Even if you don't know something, even if Google can't help you, there are always more resources and people around who you can turn to. So, I would say that the first time you feel very challenged, make an action plan. Ask yourself what steps you can try, look at different scenarios and different options. There is always a solution. Don't stress and just do what you can.
What would you say is your biggest success thus far, on your journey to your Masters?
I've moved five times in the last six years, having to start a new life each time to get my current job. But I was able to experience new things and meet new people, so I think you have to face the unknown and get out of your comfort zone sometimes.
Any achievement is made of many smaller achievements, because we always do things step by step. You can't just achieve the biggest and best task, like we often imagine it for ourselves. So, for me, my success is getting to where I am now.
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