Alumnus of the month

Aisulu Sanat

Age: 25
Current location (city, country):  Atyrau/Astana, Kazakhstan
Degree, School, Year of Graduation:  MSc in Educational Leadership, Class of 2015
Career (Current occupation): Branch Director “Bolashak Engineering” LLP, Founder of “Sanat Jewelry”
Interests: ceramics, yoga, theatre, and reading about business and marketing.

What is your current position and how is it connected to ceramics or jewelry making?
I have a project commitment in Atyrau where I am working as a Branch Director of Bolashak Engineering LLP to deliver a social project Zangar. Zangar is Chevron’s initiative that brings innovative and interactive education to young people in Atyrau. In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), Akimat of Atyrau Region, the initiative combines interactive training, practical experiences, and community engagement to provide unique learning in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Our team delivers intensive courses to youth on programming, 3D Modeling, Engineering and Robotics.

This year, however, my idea is to bring the ARTS part to STEM to make it STEAM. On April we are having first STEAM festival in Kazakhstan and one of the projects I am going to organize is hand-built pottery, as well jewelry making. The idea behind it to show that ceramics is not only about art, but also it is about science, like chemistry and math.

How and when did you decide to start creating jewelry? Was it your childhood dream?

When I had a chance to study metalsmith at my University in the US, I definitely chose ceramics over it. The reason why I started making jewelry was a lack of ceramics studios in Astana. My hands needed some stretch and all these artsy feelings were piling up inside, so I needed to release that tension. Luckily, with my Mom’s help I found about polymer clay and how it can be used as a great substitution for pottery clay. Obviously, it is nothing like making ceramics out of red, gray clay or porcelain, but still, it is important to respect the material while working on it.

When did you officially found Sanat Jewelry?   

It was established much earlier than it was officially registered in 2016. I started making jewelry for myself first in 2014. It is important for me to like my own art and to make sure that I would wear these pieces myself. So, when people started asking me about my unique art, then I realized the importance of developing my own brand.

 Do you remember your first steps and how you started your own project? What was it like? 

Startups start small. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started in garages. I started in a kitchen. I did not plan to open a business. I gave away all my first jewelry pieces as gifts to my close friends. But like we know, dreamers never stop. The whole branding and marketing came out later, when we realized the importance of naming and position my art somehow in the market.

The future in the beginning looked uncertain. I just did not want to stop. It was about me, my growth, and my story. And I already had a job in an HR field and was happy with my profession. I never thought of making it that big. A great story of how your life calling became a startup.

You are also working on opening a ceramics studio. Tell us more about this project. 

I learnt ceramics when I was 16 during my studies in Canada. Since then it became my life calling. So, owning a ceramics studio was always a part of plan. And in order to achieve that goal, I am doing several things at the same time. Knowing how to juggle becomes pretty handy, you know.

First of all, I am clearing up the logistics of how equipment and products are going to be delivered in Kazakhstan. So, I already contacted places and we are in a discussion process. We are also working on expanding our products to accessories, like purses and wood clutches. I am now designing patterns and ornaments myself. They will be unique just like all our products. Moreover, I started working with silver and gemstones, like emerald and agate to offer rings and bracelets. It is a lot of fun. We, as a team, can see a bigger picture now. We already have not only local customers, but also international buyers from all over world. And we do not want to stop there.

What did you get from studying at NU?

First of all, I got an extraordinary education in the field of educational leadership.  I met great Professors, talented students, and most of all, I was pushed to think outside of a box.

What was/is the most challenging in your life after NU?

I guess, the most challenging part was adapting me to a work system in Kazakhstan. Before I used to work in the US, and the corporate culture in KZ is different. Nevertheless, it is all about getting out of your comfort zone. You stretch out your wings and learn to fly. Taking my own quiet time was a challenging thing, because there was no time to stop and reflect on your past actions or decisions. So, over time you learn how to respect your own mind and soul.

What lessons have you learned?

Networking is a key to a successful professional and personal development. If you have a new task in front of you, face it with confidence, because if it becomes challenging, it teaches you how to be patient.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my approach to embrace life joyfully regardless of what it shows me. My life challenges, achievements, or how I go about them are what makes me different from others. I am also proud that I have built an amazing team and extraordinary people with beautiful hearts, passionate characters, and joyful spirits surround me. They make me happy every day.

What drives you?

My commitment to a dream to make this world a better place.

How do you balance work and life?

You learn an effective time management techniques to tackle your tasks. Juggling is a great skill to acquire though.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?

I am delightful with my professional development, and I do not think I regret anything in my life to the extent where I would like to change something. All my life choices were/are mine, and I take a full responsibility for them, so there is nothing I would want different.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?

Someone who is still ambitious, strong and full of dreams.

Your three goals for 2017 are:

  1. Successfully educate 800 students in Atyrau on STEM education.
  2. Make Sanat Jewelry a well-known brand in Kazakhstan and beyond.
  3. Open a ceramics studio.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?

I cherish every past moment I spent there. It was beautiful.

What are your favorite memories of life at NU?

I have tons of beautiful memories of my life at NU as a student and as an employee. All the best memories are about me being with close people, great professors, Administration, and my colleagues.

What advice would you give to new NU graduates?

Face failures, take responsibility and persevere because survivors achieve more goals.