Alumni stories

Don't be afraid and start doing

Shodmonbek Khalmetov, recent Graduate of GSPP

I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. From a young age I’ve watched how my farther has been growing his agricultural firm. I went with him to the fields and tried driving every single type of machinery. Since then the drive for creating something of my own has been pushing me to learn more, to acquire more skills and get as much experience as possible from all over the world.

Therefore, prior to studying at GSPP, I have received my MBA from Cardiff University in England, which contributed to my experience a lot. However, studying at NU, gave a completely new perspective. I have been able to link all my prior knowledge with the broad perspective I received at NU and apply in practice shortly after. In particular, I was able to open a few different types of businesses, which I’ve been dreaming about.

One of them is a printing service company called “Super Print”. We started from printing different types of documents and photos. Then we grew to a few more offices and today we assemble outdoor advertising.

The other company that has also been launched recently is Saltiss Coffee Shop. Opening a coffee shop has also been a dream of mine and I personally drink coffee every day and appreciate a good quality of a coffee. Therefore, I wanted to have a place where we would serve top notch coffee and desserts and I’ll be able to spend time their with my friends and family.

Some of the main lessons I learned from all the above activities is that you have to love what you do, otherwise there might be many obstacles that can easily turn you down. Another lesson I learned is that nobody cares about your business more that you, unless they put in as much effort as you. Therefore it is naïve to expect employees to do everything to 100% unless you motivate them and control them all the time. Other than opening a business, the art is to maintain and more importantly find the right people and be able to grow them to their potential.

What I suggest to young alumni most is to not , because the sooner you’ll get out there and start making mistakes the sooner you’ll grow as an entrepreneur.


Alumni Story/Talk Interview by Ariza Bidollina'16 produced by ELS


NU Alumna at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva, Switzerland)

Madina Kabdualiyeva'16 SHSS PS/IR

About my acceptance to graduate school: I graduated from Nazarbayev University in 2016, with BA in Political Science and International Relations, and Sociology as the second major. In my last year at Nazarbayev University, I decided to apply for Master’s degree in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (French: Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement), Geneva, Switzerland. I was the only student from Kazakhstan in the cohort of class 2018, and the third student from our country that attended the Institute since 1927. I got two full scholarships, one from the Institute, and another one from Hans Wilsdorf Foundation (FYI: the latter is named after the founder of Rolex company founder, who decided to organize a fund that will help students from developing countries even after his death). Both scholarships were given on the basis of academic merit and my background: the difference in economic conditions of Switzerland and Kazakhstan are cosmic, which served as a good motivation to provide me with financial assistance. The scholarship is paid during one academic year, and before the beginning of the second year, students need to re-apply. This allows administration of the Institute to see whether a candidate has a good academic record and still needs a financial aid.


About Graduate Institute and SNU: Graduate Institute is a post-graduate research institute, which provides education only to students studying at MA and PhD programs. Each year, around 35 students are accepted to each department, which makes our Institute quite small, even though Graduate Institute was founded almost one century ago. The Institute is considered as the best school in International Relations-related studies in Europe, and stands among the best ones in the world. Due to the research institute organizational structure, you will not be able to find it in the official university ranking. However, its notable alumni and close cooperation with the UN and other world leading organizations serve as a vivid proof of its competitiveness. Ex-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan graduated from the Graduate Institute and is our frequent guest. Also, several Nobel Prize winners in Economics, such as Leonid Hurwicz and Mohamed ElBaradei. My program is multidisciplinary, meaning, it rests on several disciplines at the same time, the most important of which are international relations, economics, and international law. Within this program, three track options are available: global and regional integration, international conflict studies, and global health and environment. I chose the first track, which focuses primarily on studying economics, business, finance, and trade. In addition to certain course requirements, I am expected to submit a thesis in my final semester and to reach C1 proficiency level in the French language.

Currently, I study at Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University, at my exchange semester. Many of my friends got confused when they found out that instead of returning to Switzerland, I made my way to South Korea. To clarify, I came here to write my thesis, which focuses on the East Asian economies. SNU is one of the biggest universities in Asia and stands in the world top-30 universities list. The educational system here is more relaxed than in Geneva, I would say. Also, teaching style and structure of assignments differ from Nazarbayev University, Graduate Institute or University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am happy that I have a chance to experience various educational systems, as it gives me a better grasp of how professionals in my field are trained in various countries.


About life abroad: life in Geneva and in Seoul is very different from the one in Astana. Geneva is very calm, and even though it’s the second largest city by population in Switzerland, there are only 170,000 residents. The UN is a focal point in the city life, and you can often see diplomats or other employees with blue badges hanging on their chests. My Institute is located right across the UN, and has WHO office on another side, so you will barely feel lack of motivation here. Unlike to other big European cities, Geneva is never overcrowded, people go home early, and almost no one works on Sundays. Seoul, in contrast, is very vibrant and dynamic. For me, it is like New York, but better. I sincerely adore Asian business culture and attitude towards their work. Regardless of the place, you normally enjoy high-quality services, and local students are surreal in how much time they spend at their universities or workplaces. Both cities are endowed with extremely beautiful nature, so I could not wish anything, but spending two years in both of these places. If you are like me, and you also care about a city where you will study/work at, I strongly recommend considering these two locations. Also, both cities inspired me to try something new, whether it is Spanish or French classes or sports.


About future plans: The more I study and the more countries I visit, the fewer plans I am trying to make. Being a young woman in the 21st century opens multiple doors and opportunities every day, and I just try to get the best from every experience that I have. After completing my degree, I would like to come to Kazakhstan, as I always wanted to contribute to the economic, social and political growth of my country. I hope that with current credentials and knowledge I will be able to do something meaningful and induce positive changes in our society along with other alumni of Nazarbayev University.


Advice to students: It is difficult to give a very useful advice, as I believe that each person should find his/her own way depending on personal choices, values and background. In general, I think that freshmen should mainly concentrate on understanding what they like and what they don’t like. The first years at university are adopted for trying different classes and disciplines, so don’t miss the opportunity to take courses from multiple departments. Make an effort to prioritize the activities that make you happy and will be useful for you in the future. For example, if you like learning foreign languages, sign up for language classes, but think twice before you choose what language you want to learn and where you can use it afterwards. Sophomores, start finding internships, not only during summer, but also during Fall and Spring semesters. Don’t be afraid of contacting big firms or NGOs and ask for a vacant place. The level of competition in Kazakhstan is very low, in comparison to Switzerland or South Korea, so use this situation wisely. Be prepared that barely anyone will assign you with completing sophisticated assignments and do not get disappointed if everything that you do is paper work. Every single experience, positive or negative, will help you to understand something about our labor market and corporate culture, so do not stop just because you had boring job once: you may have ten tedious assignments before you will find what you need. Juniors, start making up a list of universities where you want to apply to or organizations to work at. Do not postpone preparation for GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT or any other test, as all of them require a lot of time and hard work. It is less stressful to spend one year in preparation learning 20 new words and solving 20 Math problems every day rather than trying to memorize dozens of words lists and practicing subject problem sets within one month. Seniors, just do not worry. Most of you have accumulated enough knowledge by this time to enter labor market. Some of you will succeed right away, others will need a little bit more time to clean up their thoughts and find their “selves”. Comparing yourself to your fellows can be a good strategy that may motivate you to work harder, but it also can be a poisonous practice that will engender many negative feelings. Your personality is unique and you do not need to follow the common path to reach your goals.

I am always happy to help our students and to answer the questions they have, if only these are not questions about “how I got accepted to the university” This question is impossible to answer, as only the admission committee knows the precise reasons. In any other case, feel free to contact me. Keep yourself safe, enjoy your youth, be brave to admit your weaknesses and focus on developing your strengths.


Working in Procter&Gamble

Tarishkina Darya'16 SHSS PS/IR

Major in Political Science and International Relations, Minor in World Languages and Literature. Working in Marketing @ Procter&Gamble, Moscow, Russia.

I am 17 yo, just finished school and feeling myself as a 5 years old in front of the counter with an ice cream, indecision choosing between marketing, economics, political science…or maybe medicine? Marketing attracts, it seems as something fashionable and shiny, which brings fun and success. But NU attracts more, and NU does not have marketing faculty. Closed my eyes and walked into the opposite side of my dream and went to Astana.

Then, there were 5 years in Hogwarts with International Relations major, which led me to the work in the marketing department of the largest advertising company in the world. In P&G, daily work of the employees is based on the 5 ROCKS principle (for those who did not hear about rocks-pebbles-sand model, I leave the link:

So, today I will share with you 5 priority lessons, which I acquired from my story:

1. Undergraduate degree does not determine your future (especially when you, as myself, humanities & social sciences student).
When you are 17 yo, the choice of a career for life is seen as an incredibly responsible and important step. But the truth is - that no one is insured from an error. The major thing to remember - You decide what you should be. And when You should be. Fortunately, the modern world offers you many opportunities to try again and again. For instance, at P&G interviews, the top management appreciated my desire to be in the profession contrary to the circumstances, seeing in this a demonstration of will and passion for the field I love.

2. In the era of post-labor, personality and character determine the professional success.
Modern employer is surrounded by the plenty of potential workers with the necessary skills. In order to be competitive, you need to offer additional value for your dream company. Often, personality, character, belief and social behavior have an influence on whether the ‘new hire’ will become a leader, leading business to commercial success, or the ordinary worker, doing the official duties. I will not go into the details of how to develop leadership skills in 3 days, you can find lessons on YouTube. For me, the most difficult task was the realization of the strengths of my personality and the subsequent attractive positioning of them to the employer. My extra activities in NU, which I will discuss further, helped me to make my strengths clear.

3. Realize yourself out of the classroom.
NU has always been (and, I'm sure, remains) a unique place for creativity and self-development. The enthusiasm of students multiplied by ambitions, brilliant education and diversity create the ground on which almost any initiative sprouts. I started my way working as a video reporter for the student ‘TiE’ Magazine. Then, there was my own FOCUS magazine in SHSS (by the way, here is a link for freshmen: ..), work as the Minister of Media in the Student Government, the organization of TEDxNU. It was a unique experience in the team, management experience, and attempts to interest others in your idea, the search for like-minded people, and the opportunity to learn and be learnt by others. In general, everything is like in real life, but without risks and in an extremely friendly atmosphere. Ultimately, the experience gained in extracurricular activities in the NU was enough for all 4 interviews in P&G (yes, there were 4 of them). Another inspiring example is my dear friend and ex-roommate Kamila Rollan. On the bachelor's degree Kamila was the leader of the NU Red Cross, and at the Master’s she turned her favorite business into a specialization - she now studies Inclusive Education in the NU GSE and changes the world for the better.

4. Forget the phrase "Forget everything that you were taught at the university".
Yes, my work in marketing has nothing to do with international relations or political science. But what I was taught in NU is so universal that it helps me to compete with the graduates of Top universities with a specialization in marketing.
1) Autonomy: NU students are used to master a 16-week course from textbooks and notes the night before the exam. This skill is definitely useful in a large corporation, where colleagues have neither the time nor the interest in driving your hand. Prepare to master yourself 🙂
2) The speed and effectiveness of learning new information: in the first months in an unknown sphere without education and with great responsibility, you remember your professors who gave 500 pages of reading a week with deep gratitude. It seems that they all knew and prepared us for the worst.
3) Structured thinking and writing: knowingly I wrote long paper sheets for 5 years. Now I can easily write a convincing 1-pager with a proposal to invest 2 million dollars in a new marketing tool. Although, business writing is clearly more pleasant in that it requires a brevity. If academic writing took some common sense from business writing, the world would be the best place.

5. Start early and play!
I got acquainted with the world of marketing thanks to the case studies. I participated in the first Changellenge Cup in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstani students are much easier to get to the finals and win the cup. In Russia, for example, participation in the championships is a highly competitive work. While being a student, you should have a good understanding of industry and methods. In Kazakhstan, things are little bit easier, but throughout the years case-championships are gaining the popularity in Kazakhstan. I sincerely recommend everyone who is interested in a career in business sphere to participate in championships and case clubs. The advantages also include: access to information about businesses, business language and research methods, networking with successful people from the industry and with future successful peers. I, as a winner of the Changellenge Cup Kazakhstan, was offered a discount in a prestigious business school in France.

Well, in conclusion: the search for work is a long and sometimes a mess business. I began to search proactively in the middle of my senior year. You need to prepare for a number of interviews, learn how to write good resumes and cover letters, do a lot of research about potential employers, and develop skills for successful interviews. And remember that the search for an ideal employer is like a blind date. Sometimes it takes 20 unsuccessful attempts to find your real match. In general, the process reminds the admission to the Western-like college. Finding your place is the first step on the road to great success.

P.S. I decided to add a few words about my work: P&G is an American company with one of the best corporate cultures in the world. In terms of education and self-development: according to P&G employees (former and current), P&G is an equivalent to MBA experience. The company pays much attention to the development of employees. Only in one year, I visited two trainings in the regional office of the company in Geneva, learned the basics of marketing, business rating, and studied the business model of the company. From the point of view of experience: from the first day I was responsible for the marketing budget of about $10 million and for all related projects and programs. Such responsibility over time creates an exceptional possession of expertise in its field and literally spreads its wings. Many things you can only dream about in start-ups are available to marketers in P&G. In P&G, business drivers are Marketing & Sales. To learn more about the work in Sales, you can ask graduate from NU id2011, Rudolph Hayrapetyan. But P&G is primarily a producer, and it is the efficiency of our factories that helps us win the market. A graduate of NU id2011, Merey Balgabayev, is now working at a plant in Novomoskovsk and can tell the engineering students about their opportunities in P&G.

From Nothing to Something. Save It. Iterate

Yerkebulan Saparov'16 SoE EEE

I am 23, older than Iron Mike when he became the world champion, younger than Ray Kroc when he founded McDonald’s. Still it does not matter; the only thing that matters is you being better than you yesterday. Do you miss the time when you were bolder, smarter, more disciplined and confident? If yes, I should congratulate you, you are one-step closer to be a better self today, since you are starting to admit your weaknesses and now you have one more reason to work harder.

When I was at my senior year at Nazarbayev University, I suddenly came up with the idea that even though I have passed 7 different internships (Samruk-Energy business transformation team, KazGaryshSapary national space center, Altel, Mazhilis House of Parliament of RoK, NurOtan party, Samruk-Energy corporate governance, Institute of Energy named after Chokin), I still lack of confidence of where am I willing to work. This is when me and my friend Beibarys started our business project: preparation of high school students to enter Nazarbayev University and pass NUFYPET (previously SET) exam. This was a great experience when we understood that we are capable of doing more than what is already built, we can build something from nothing. This feeling is accompanying every decision we have made since then.

After successfully finishing our project, we moved on to our final year capstone project and graduated after all. While I was in the middle of the final semester comes the next opportunity: 10-week startup incubator organized by Zero to One Labs LLP in Almaty aimed to teach participants mobile apps development and build 50 mobile apps. I did apply and was accepted as a marketer. At the end of the incubator, our app made by 4 people was published at popular news portals for free, such as Tengrinews and NurKz, and allowed our 'Zheti Ata' mobile app become the most downloaded app at AppStore for one week with overall 15,000 people installing it. I felt like if you do something that you love, you would be rewarded in return.

1 month passed and I was able to receive a job offer from top-tier audit/consulting firm PwC and returned to Astana to do management consulting. PwC gave me a great experience of making selling presentations, advanced operation in Excel, practicing Finance and Market Study. Even though, I had no Finance background, online education and qualified management made smooth transition from purely engineering problems to financial. I was promoted from intern to consultant in 3 months, instead of six, and from consultant C1 to consultant C2 in 5 months, following my negotiations with my manager and director, hard work, and Victor Cheng's audio lectures. PwC become an example of how a well-designed and stable company should work.

After some time passed at PwC I started questioning myself: "Am I really where I should be at this time?” When answer become more and more uncertain, I realized that some things need to be changed. Why was I willing to quit Big4 firm? Inability to take risks, small range of responsibility and simply not the best fit for someone who is more “zero to one”, rather than “one to infinity”. However, there was a reason for me to spend almost a year at PwC. I did learn to be structured, disciplined, hardworking and use top-down approach in solving problems and rarely boil the ocean to get to the point.

So, here I am now, Assistant to CBDO at, 4-year old IT company with $40 million annual revenue with the ambitions to become an international company founded in Kazakhstan with no external support. Graduating with a diploma in Electrical and Electronics Engineering makes little sense of why am I working at this position. Answer is simple: Ma Yun (Jack Ma). He once told that we should find and follow our mentor from at our 20s. The thing is - the right mentor, in the right industry, at the right time makes a huge difference.

Aviata is a small company: 70+ employees, constantly changing processes, broad-minded leadership, and a startup environment. I am doing jobs here: recruiting, improving internal processes, making business analytics, organizing events, and doing product management. That is what is great about small companies with good leadership! You can do many functions within the organization, develop your breadth of expertise, and simply stay entrepreneurial. We do work with agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban and implement Valley companies' strategies.

Join my personal telegram channel called 'paperAirplanes' where I share my experience, knowledge and finding about business, entrepreneurship, and self-development.  At the end, I want to tell you 13 ideas, you can stick to them or not, the choice is yours:

  1. Learn as you teach others, gain knowledge as you share them (see 'protégé effect')
  2. Interchange bad habits with good ones (The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg)
  3. Leave the workplaces that do not fit you
  4. Fail early, fail fast, fail often, and become ok with rejections
  5. Surround yourself with like-minded people that are smarter, better, and bolder than you
  6. Read, read more than ever (CEO reads 60 books/year on average)
  7. Exchange your youth for better things, time is money, include opportunity costs
  8. Compete with yourself yesterday
  9. Learn how people think and act, find the right approach with each person to cooperate better
  10. Look for drives and motivations that fits you the best, make deals with your ego
  11. Collect your anti-library (Black Swan, Nassib Nicholas Taleb)
  12. Tell people what you think is right, challenge your understanding by others’ opinions
  13. Wake up before the sunrise.

NU Alumna doing PhD at the University of Liverpool

Aliya Sembayeva'15 SST Chemistry
Nazarbayev University was a starting point of my journey into Chemistry World, which is full of challenges and awards at the same time. My memories of NU are strongly connected with a synthetic lab and NMR room, where I spent most of my time doing my first research projects with Dr.Carr, who created the best Chemistry Department for us. When I think of NU, the first person who comes to my mind is Dr.Carr, who was very strict, but at the same time extremely fair professor, who is very supportive and ready to give advice even after our graduation.
I have always loved Chemistry and doing research work during my undegraduate time at NU allowed me to further apply to MSc by Research degree at one of the Russel Group Universities, the University of Birmingham.
I definitely wanted to be involved in pure organic chemistry research and the perfect project to show myself as organic chemist was to choose total  synthesis, which is not usually chosen voluntarily. During my Master’s year, I worked on the synthesis of marine natural product, dictyoxetane, which has promising antitumor activity.
I had finished my research program one year earlier than expected. When I came back home, I started to miss lab and research a lot. So I was confident that I am ready to start my PhD and that I cannot imagine my life without Chemistry and Research.

Currently, I am doing PhD at the University of Liverpool in the area of mechanochemistry on a tuition-waiver based program, where we synthesize and study our systems from a physical perspective. Our research group is diverse, and projects include organic, physical, computational, polymer and mechanical areas of Chemistry. It is such a unique experience when you have all the opportunities to develop yourself as a researcher, to find out new things and to have the freedom to pursue new areas and to have this feeling that we might help the human condition.

My story is still continuing, but I strongly feel that being one of the graduates of Nazarbayev University opened me a wide window of opportunities for my future path. After my graduation, I definitely feel that all this pressure put by Chemistry professors developed a strong immune system towards the challenges of Chemistry World.
Personally, the PhD program is not only about science and research, but also about balancing social, research and mentoring activities.
Currently, I am involved in and learning to balance my research work, social and mentoring activities. Me and Adil Zharmukhanbetov organized the first events of the NU Alumni Chapter in the UK and currently involved in the organization of annual research forum in the UK, which could serve as a platform for young scholars from Kazakhstan to discuss preliminary findings and have strongcollaboration with UK Universities. Currently, I also gathered PhD students from Kazakhstan and we created Kaz PhD association in the UK, which will functionalize after New Year 2018 as a mentoring
program to help high school and undergraduate students.
In my opinion, a successful scientist cannot only rely on luck, but needs to be hard-working, ambitious, smart and creative. Nazarbayev University taught me to work hard, not wait, embrace the challenges, move out of the comfort zone and look ahead! The main lessons I learnt at NU are to be committed to your work, be open to learn new things, not ignore professors’
requests/suggestions and build trustful relationships with people you love and respect.

NU alumnus at North Caspian Operating Company

Tazhi Kulzhan'15 SoE Mechanical Engineering

NU Alumnus from Kazakhstan oil and gas industry

Hi, My name is Tazhi Kulzhan’15 and I am a Rotating equipment engineer (Machinery, whichever way you want to call it) at North Caspian Operating Company (I hope you heard about Kashagan project) and I would like to share some ideas and thoughts from my personal experience. I hope they would help you to make your future choices. I graduated from the University in 2010 as a Mechanical Engineer, so this overview will be from an engineer position.

First of all, Internships did help me to find my first job; so, it is a very effective tool to identify which industry you would like to work in. In total, I did 5 internships during my university years:

  • Tulpar-Talgo engineering department (Talgo manufacting plant in Astana).

This internship helped me to understand that automotive industry of Kazakhstan still requires significant development and I decided to try something else where I can develop faster;

  • AgipKCO in reliability department (former operator of Kashagan);

Internship in AgipKCO helped me to explore oil and gas industry, international standards, multinational environment, importance of HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) aspects, as well as how people are treated in international companies and, after that, I decided to try myself in oil and gas. Interestingly, I found the sizes and complexity of Bolashak process operating facility quite impressive.

  • Robotics lab internship (because I was always interested in Robotics projects);
  • Shell Kazakhstan Development - SKD (responsible for the share in Kashagan project);
  • AgipKCO in Static Mechanical Maintenance Engineering.

Second internship in AgipKCO was more conscious in terms of activity/discipline choice, much more technical and oriented at getting a job in the company. I have spent one month working on the project of planning pressurized bottles storage at an offshore island. Project implied consideration of safety, feasibility and cost aspects and development of proposals with different options as well as their evaluation and final recommendation. I really enjoyed doing this internship, and I was grateful for the fact that I was doing project of a senior engineer level. This internship helped me to get a job offer after my graduation.

It has been 2 years since my employment and I can say that the exposure to a variety of problems - is the most amazing part of my job. It sounds strange that problems can be amazing, but maybe this is what makes engineers different from other professions. Currently, I am a Focal point for Offshore rotating equipment, looking after the highest pressure sour gas injection compressors in the world, working closely with co-venture partner experts, getting a lot of commissioning experience, frequent flights to offshore islands. In the end, it is all about being in the right place at the right time and it is start-up of a huge project, which is not so frequent now in this industry.

There are certain things that I really like about international oil and gas companies in Kazakhstan – high Safety standards, working culture, reasonably good salary and good opportunities to develop.

  • Safety is really one of the priorities and I can feel it every time I come to the site. All the international oil and gas companies have quite a strong safety culture, because their reputation on the market can be affected by any of the incidents. Every site management decision is done with care of people working there.
  • Talking about work culture, it is quite friendly and informal. At the same time, it can be very challenging and stressful when production is at stake, which is normal for all operating companies.
  • With regards to the salaries, such companies as TCO, KPO and NCOC do provide good social package (gym fee, medical insurance, kinder garden, school allowances and etc.) and reasonably high salary, which is above than average in Astana or Almaty.
  • If taking into an account a Professional development, I would say that this industry is probably one of the fastest way to learn about the existing technology in the related disciplines and its application in the industry, which I felt was lacking during some of NU courses. Despite these are not really state of the art technologies, it can be a good foundation for the future development. Moreover, I developed a lot in interpersonal skills as well working with different people from different cultures, backgrounds and experience.

Even though I was asked to write about industry as a whole, I would like to differentiate between international oil and gas companies or their joint ventures and national or local companies, because I know that these two environments are quite different and I don’t know much about the second one.

However, there is always another side of a coin.

There are certain things that are more on the negative side, in my opinion, like high HSE risks, not the best location of a business, current industry crisis, lack of science and technology in the problem-solving approach.
- First of all, Oil and gas industry, especially in Kazakhstan, especially these 3 major projects, does imply very high risks during operation. Sour gas, high pressure (650 bar at the surface), high temperature, chemicals and acids, flammable gases, all these hazards make this business very risky from health, safety and environment point of view. Despite it does add some romantics into this industry, everyone wants to return home healthy.
- Secondly, most of the time oil and gas companies are located not in the best cities. It is not the exception for Kazakhstan either, because the industry is concentrated on the western part of Kazakhstan and cities like Atyrau and Aktau are generally considered as less attractive for living than Almaty or Astana. There may be several reasons for such a trend like lower leisure opportunities, less developed infrastructure, harsher weather conditions and etc. So ask yourself whether you are ready to sacrifice metropolis comfort for faster experience and better financial conditions instead?! This trend also in some way resulted from the current oil price crisis.
- Thirdly, current crisis does make oil and gas industry less interesting to an employee by forcing companies to perform cost cuts and business optimizations. It is more of a comparison question with the times when oil price was greater than 100$ per barrel. As a result, there are less financial rewards, less trainings provided, same amount of work distributed among less people, almost no new projects going on in the world. Moreover, it has also affected the way that companies try to approach problems.
- Finally, industry is very conservative and does not require a lot of scientific skills and knowledge in problem solving, which makes it even less interesting from engineering point of view. This point may be more relevant for NU students in Kazakhstan, because we were taught to be engineering scientists, but not really technicians. However, industry does dictate very practical approach that is based most of the time on previous experience and proven technology. You will not feel that you are pushing boundaries of the science further away working in the industry, because the main focus is to always have stable production. You rarely will see hi-tech products on the project, because they are not proven. Calculations is not something that frequently used here, but the rule of thumbs, standards and experience. Specifically, for mechanical engineers it will require a lot of work involving spare parts, which is not the best part of my job. Vendors do design and develop their equipment, while we need to understand the main features, reasoning behind design without going into very small details. Sometimes it may require more project management skills than actually engineering, since multiple disciplines are involved. You will hear saying “it is not rocket science” quite frequently and it is true.

So, if you feel that you want to develop something completely new, then I would really recommend options closer to science or academia. Industry experience still may be very useful in order to understand reality of engineering to avoid unrealistic design proposals. However, if you want to use all your brain potential, develop something completely new and you think that you may be pushing boundaries of science and technology, then I would recommend you doing Postgraduate degree (Masters or PhD) or join R&D companies, which are not located in Kazakhstan.

To finalize, I would like to share an interesting facts from my working experience:

  • NU is already considered as a fabric for high potential local employees in NCOC and TCO (as far as I am aware about TCO, they do employ a lot of NU grads).
  • Toxic alarm at site, every alarm is really a small interesting story. Having a breathing apparatus on, walking to the safe area, understanding that there may be a fatal toxic gas outside of your mask do bring very special feeling of profession importance.
  • I would say that NU students are smart enough to easily become high performers in oil and gas industry. When I just joined NCOC, I had an impression that all the expats are very smart people and super engineers; however, I do realize now that it is not always the case, but just a matter of years of experience. So, recalling my fellow students NU, I would say that industry work will not be a problem.

I wish you all the best in your beginnings, do the right choices, follow your heart and don’t mind my bad writing. Hopefully my message will be helpful.

In case if you have any questions, I am glad to help (


NU ALumna at Duke University

Akbota Anuarbek'15 SHSS Economics 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!   

NU alumnus in Microsoft

Adilet Gaparov'16 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.