#Cassat50: Sasha Saenko, 2011 & 2012

sashaSasha studied BSc Management (2008-2011) and MSc Supply Chain, Trade & Finance (2011-2012), and is still involved with the Cass Consultancy Society, through which she mentors a current Cass student. She is a management consultant at PwC. We caught up for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I think the main reason was because I wanted to get a really good business management education in London. Cass was an obvious choice and there were not many competitors. I liked the location and the international feel – I wanted to be surrounded by people with different backgrounds, and I liked the access to the city. Also the course curriculum was focused on teaching tangible business skills which are essential in the real world workplace.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

I came for my Bachelor’s degree in 2008 to do Management and graduated in 2011. I enjoyed the learning about Marketing Strategy and Supply Chain Management, and the teaching quality and lecturers were fantastic – really passionate and knowledgeable. Lots of them had industry experience and gave examples of real life problems and situations, which gave us a real life insight into what challenges businesses have.

Wayne Holland, he was teaching Business Modelling and Simulation, not the most exciting subject when you heard about it…but he made it so exciting and also very easy to understand. His lectures went really quickly and we would learn so much in just 2 hours. He was also very good at stretching us. In the first three weeks he would give you a coursework that you’d look at and have no idea what to do! We were all thinking we’ll all fail!

Actually with time and increasing understanding of the subject, we learned that he didn’t want the exact answer, he wanted to stretch our thinking and see how we understand the problem and find the best solution. So we developed our problem solving and analytical skills and were never penalised for a wrong answer – he just wanted to see how we got to the answer – so we had to show our workings and explain how we got there, which was always challenging in a positive way. At the end of the course we’d all submit our coursework and couldn’t believe that we did it. We understood and learned through the process and it was the best type of learning.

Overall all the teachers were friendly and helpful, and happy to give extra advice. Some teachers I would even hug!

What is your favourite memory?

Oooh! There is quite a few, I did so many things! One would be graduation – my Masters graduation. I came back to do my Masters, after my Bachelors, in Supply Chain, Trade & Finance and graduation was very emotional. My family came from Russia to support me; they couldn’t come to my Bachelors graduation because it was too difficult to get a visa. But for this one they came, my sister came too!

A lot of us graduating knew it would be the last time we’d see each other because everyone was from different countries and nobody had a visa to stay, and even if we did we didn’t know if we would get a job. It was very emotional but most of us are still in touch. When I went to China I met up with two classmates, when I went to Belgium I met another, and when anyone comes to London they call me and we meet. It’s an amazing network globally – wherever you are you have someone you know to show you around, it’s definitely a benefit of Cass.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

I remember when we just got to Cass in our first year, our teachers would tell us – ‘you will probably become a management consultant or an investment banker’ – I didn’t want to do anything like that! But during the course I did develop the skills essential to becoming a management consultant, like being really good at presenting, managing teams, being able to negotiate. I thought, ok, I’ll get those skills and I’ll try to do something different – now I’m a management consultant! After a few years I realised it was actually the right path and I’m glad that Cass gave me the skills for my current job success. They were right!

And what does being a mentor give you?

I mentor a second year Business Studies student as part of the Cass Consulting Society and she’s now doing an EY internship – her being a part of the society and also having a mentor who is in Consulting probably helped.

For me, I love to share my experiences and if I can help someone get a job easier or make decisions with better information I will do that. When I was here it was sometimes hard to figure out how to do applications, or what skills employers look for, and how to act in an interview. I wish I had somebody who would have given me that insight so now, after going through the whole experience, I can share it with someone who wants a similar career.

My mentee Dina is also Russian, so we relate on many things. Now that she’s got an internship in consulting I’m very happy and proud of her. It’s great to give back and if I can inspire another female I don’t see any reason not to do it. As alumni we need to support each other and participate in school activities, and strengthen and grow our network which in turn would help our school grow and attract excellent students worldwide.

Your final words on Cass?

It’s a great school and I see a lot of potential. It’s gone from strength to strength. I’ve seen growth in student facilities, teaching quality and I’d love to strengthen the relationship between Cass and PwC and hopefully help other Cass students to get a job at PwC – even more as we are already well represented there.

I think our students are really amazing, smart and well-rounded individuals, and definitely a great employee at any firm. Sometimes firms don’t see enough of the value of the teaching at Cass and instead mainly focus on Oxford, Cambridge and LSE graduates but for me Cass students are different in a very positive way and a great new pool of potential employees for companies who are now increasingly focussing on diversity and better employability skills. Global acumen is definitely our strength, and Cass alumni bring this along with practical skills and a strong business acumen too.