Alumni stories

From NU to Duke University

Akbota Anuarbek, id2010, SST 111               My name is Akbota Anuarbek. I graduated from Nazarbayev University in 2015 with major in Economics and minors in Mathematics and Computer Science. Currently I am a student in MSc Economics and Computation program at Duke University. This is a joint master’s degree program in economics and computer science. The reason I chose this program is obvious: it perfectly matches my background and interests. I always used to love mathematics and enjoyed solving analytical problems, so it should not be surprising that I decided to study computer science. With increasing importance of computers today, familiarity with computer science is highly valued independent of the field you are studying. Graduate stude­nt life is very busy, but I can confidently say that Nazarbayev University provided me all the important background knowledge to become a student at Duke. In addition to attending various classes in different departments, I work as a research assistant for one of my professors in econometrics. If your eventual goal is pursuing a PhD degree, research assistantship or any experience with research will make your application more attractive. Duke has a magnificent campus mainly constructed in Neo-Gothic style. It is located in a small town Durham in North Carolina. North Carolina has an extremely beautiful nature and mild climate. Apart from academics, I take swimming classes and enjoy going to Duke Basketball games.  Duke has a very strong men’s basketball team that won 5 National Championships. My advice for students applying to graduate schools: I know everybody says this, but again it is important to prepare all parts of your application in advance. Recommendation letter is one of the most important parts of your application. If you are applying for economics, try to take as much courses as you can in mathematics, including Real Analysis, Probability, Linear Algebra and Statistics. PhD level classes are usually very technical and abstract. Try to be involved in research projects and think about possible research ideas. Sometimes you can directly contact professors. They will explicitly write in their website that you can contact them, so do some research on this! If your field is technical as economics or computer science, where you need to type a lot of equations, learn how to use LaTeX and Beamer before going to graduate school to make your life easier. Finally, believe in yourself! You can do it! Good luck!   

"Aquapoint" project by NU alumnus Galym Baitimbetov

Galym Baitimbetov, id2010, SEng

NU Alumnus Galym Baitimbetov was selected as a short list candidate for "Build you business" contest organized by Saby Charity Fund with his "Aqua Point" project. A 24-year-old chemical engineer founded “Aqua Point” company, which represents devices with a high-quality drinking water. Installation of such devices in the most crowded places - commercial buildings, schools, universities - will allow solving several problems at once.

"Our device is unique because we do not have this kind of devices in Kazakhstan, but this technology exists in the world, and in practice it has shown its effectiveness for the population. It gives free water to the public and solves the problem of plastic waste pollution, developing students' culture of water consumption. This is a Kazakhstani product, and it is cheaper than foreign analogues", - says Galym.

Incidentally, plastic bottles intended for a single use, when multiply used at a certain temperature, emit harmful substances. According to the young engineer, the device invented by his company has a tap-water bottle, which will allow consuming the water without utensils, and other type of the device has a special cup.

At the moment there are 33 projects in the shortlist and final results of the contest will be announced by February 28, 2017.

In November 2016 this project was presented to the administration of Astana at the Startup Weekend. 

NU alumnus in Microsoft

Adilet Gaparov, id2011, SST

My position is called Account Technology Strategist, which is a part of Sales department. Did you know that about 70% of jobs in tech industry are non-technical?
The whole recruitment process was consisted of 4 steps and took about 2.5 weeks. I will be joining Microsoft team on May 23rd and now trying to pass all courses and successfully graduate.

To be honest, I did not think about applying for Microsoft or any other tech company. Even with my tech background (Robotics major), like many our students, I thought about working for consulting firms. When CAC sent the information about Microsoft Academy for College Hires program, designed for graduates, I initially met this news with little enthusiasm, because at that time I was focusing on applying for McKinsey & Company and paid all my attention on solving cases and writing cover letter. But I think it is smart to have options, and, thus, I gave it a try.

The first step, the online application was very easy: basic personal information, CV, short motivational letter, and online test. The questions of online test were like “choose the action you’d do in this situation…”. It’s worthwhile to say here that motivational letter should not be fake and, instead, represent your true attitude toward the company.

I thought the review will take week or so, but in 2 days I received the e-mail with invitation for the 2nd step, video interview. During video interview, you record your responses to pre-recorded questions, which you don’t know in advance. What you can do to prepare for such interview is to write down the answers for typical interview questions and just be yourself. Learn to improvise: Comm Foundations II, Toastmasters, teaching, mock interviews or any other class/activity that enhances public speaking skills.

Again in 2 days, I received the e-mail with invitation for the 3rd step, Skype-interview. At this moment, I started to get nervous. It appeared to me that I can get this job and actually build all my career in tech industry instead of finance or consulting. I scheduled the Skype interview for the following day and spent all day reading about interviews (“How to interview like Top MBA”), reading blogs and news on Microsoft, reading about sales (“Personal MBA” by Kaufman) and etc. The Skype interview took about hour and all questions were about my resume: “Why Nazarbayev University?”, “Do you like it?”, “Why this major?”, “tell me about your experience in this exchange program/company”, etc. HR manager wanted to know the rational behind my career decisions and thus know me better as a person. I think that clearly understand why you do what you do is very useful.

In 3 days I received good news with invitation for the last step, Assessment Center, which was planned to be in a week. The Assessment Center is one-day event for finalists, when recruiting managers evaluate candidates during different exercises. Out of 200 applicants, 10 finalists were selected: 4 NU students and alumnus (2 Robotics, 2 CS), 5 graduates of US universities (all tech majors), and 1 KIMEP student (management major). Not sure how NU experience helped me in the process, but this statistic shows that we are competitive.

The Assessment Center took place in Almaty and was consisted of 5 exercises: homework presentation (“how Microsoft products can transform a business/organization?”), group exercise (2 groups competing with each other), scenario exercise (6 scenarios, 30 minutes for preparation), and two personal interviews.  As any candidate would tell you, the whole process was stress-free and interviews seemed like friendly conversations. Moreover, the relationships among candidates seemed more collaborative than competitive. In fact, we helped each other to perform better. We were all convinced that we are the winners despite the final decision and went out from the office with confidence of being selected. The best recruitment process in my life, for sure! Here I would add that it’s worth making friends with other candidates and networking with current employees (not only recruiting managers) during breaks between exercises. You don’t know for sure whose vote weighs more and who might impact the final decision.