Benefits of MBA

Saturday – the day on which we play football. We rent a pitch, organize an event on facebook and enjoy football for 2 (sometimes 3) hours every week.

Last Saturday after the game, one of the fellows offered to give me a lift in his nice blue Volkwagen Golf. When I got into the car and the car got to move, I said:
“I have to thank you for your advice about MBA and GMAT. After our talk I made some googling and figured out that GMAT is a crucial admission requirement to business schools that I want to study at.”
“That’s right. Besides, GMAT is crucial for getting a scholarship as well,” he said.
“Exactly.”
“When did you start preparations?” he asked me as we were driving out of the parking lot.
“In November.”
“Do you have a tutor?”
“I purchased an online GMAT course. I can’t afford a personal tutor. A course at the GMAT center costs 2000 euros.”
“If their course is really effective, why don’t you invest in it? It will pay off afterwards.”
“I am highly satisfied with my current course. I am doing a lot of practice, lessons are just great. Moreover, I can ask a question through the platform if I don’t understand anything.”

This guy has over 12 years of management experience. He did his MBA at an American school in Prague and he has been successfully running his own company for the past 5 years.

“When did you do your MBA?” I asked him.
“Ehmmm… it was in 2012” he responded very slowly as if not being sure about the year.
“Did you have experience before that?”
“Absolutely. Before that I worked for 7 years on executive positions. I believe MBA is for those who have extensive experience in management. Otherwise, MBA is not going to benefit you very much.”

He talked mixing three languages at the same time: Uzbek, Russian and English. It is so typical for people who grew up in an Uzbek home, went to a Russian school and to English university. I guess I tend to mix the languages myself too. When he was talking English, he used sophisticated English phrases and business terminologies, although he had a clear accent. I thought “It must be easier for him to express his thoughts in English.”

“Did MBA benefit you?” I asked him.
“Of course it did. It contributed immensely to my career development,” he responded.
“May I ask in which way it benefitted you?” I asked despite I felt that I was being a little too nosey. My curiosity took over.
“I benefited from those 18-months program in two ways,” he claimed with his hands in the steering wheel and his eyes on the road. “First, I met incredible people. My groupmates were absolutely smart; they had great time management skills, soft skills as well as hard skills. They then became top brass of the society. One of them, for example, is now a Chief Financial Officer at Tesco. Another is Senior Director at HP. We bacame good friends. During studies we used to go to a bar to chitchat and to make fun of each other. I remember one of them once cried on my shoulder because his girlfried had left him [he laughs]… And we still sometimes meet to chill together. When I see those crazy friends of mine soar high in their careers, I get a kick on my ass [I laugh]. Then I start to think “Why can’t you work harder and be equally successful as them? How are they different from you? You know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do… What about the second benefit?”
“I founded my own company immediately after graduation. We have been successfully operating in Czech event management market for 5 years now. During those 18-months of MBA, I developed a business plan for my company, with the help of business professors and experts at the school. I did a start-up.”
“Did you work during the studies?”
“Yes, I did. I never received financial help from anyone.”
“How busy were you during studies?”
“I was extremely busy. I had to remove all my profiles from social networks like facebook,” he said smiling.

I could not agree with him on that one, but did not want to divert the subject. But he responded to my confusion as though he read my thoughts: “If you want to achieve something, you have to sacrifice something else.”

“I figured out that I don’t qualify for a real MBA,” I said. “Because I don’t have much of management experience (in fact, I don’t have management experience at all)”.
“Right…”
“There are Management courses, though, for fresh graduates. They are hardly different from regular MBAs. The thing is, I want to start my Masters right after graduation from Bachelor studies. Because I want to get over with all the degrees and start working as soon as possible.”
“That is smart of you,” he concurred. “In fact, I highly encourage you to stick to that plan. Because as you get older, degrees will become a much lower priority. Moreover, you will just not have time for it. Especially after you get married. You can trust my experience [he smiles].”

Then we winded up talking about GMAT.
“GMAT is a really effective gauge for measuring the management skills of a person,” he stated being quite excited about the topic. “I rectuited over 500 people throughout my career. I can tell you that those who achieved a decent GMAT score absolutely have the skills to do business successfully. They say, GMAT is the most difficult test ever. By getting a decent score on GMAT, you also prove your commitment to a business school that you are ready to study hard and make necessary sacrifices in order to study at a reputable business school. Have you noticed that you develop business mentality by practicing GMAT problems?
“Yes, I have. And I absolutely agree with you,” concurred I.

Successful people with extensive experience have always impacted the way I think, the way I look at the world and the way I do things. Those people have always inspired and motivated me.

After this talk I made necessary conclusions. Here are they. You should consider MBA if:
1. You want to recieve deep theoretical business knowledge.
2. You want to make friends with like-minded businesspeople that will constantly motivate you to work hard throughout your life.

How to become a better conversation partner

I went to an Erasmus party. When I entered the hall, there were 30-35 Erasmus students sitting around a long table. Everybody was chatting with each other. There was only one chair empty at the end of the table.

When I took that seat, I felt a little awkward because the folks sitting around me stopped talking for several seconds. Just next to me was an Austrian girl. When our eyes met, she said: “Hi! I’m Gloria.”
“Hello! I am Abdullah. Where do you come from?” I asked her a standard question when two people meet at an international event like this one. We went on talking.

Then for some reason I winded up talking about political conflict between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, because of a small territory at the border that officially belongs to niether party.
“Divide and conquer, you know. This is an ancient strategy invented by empires in order to control colonies,” I told her drawing a map on a serviette. “The empires would create a conflict between two countries by assigning a small portion of land to neither side. The government of one country would claim that land, and the government of another country would obviously claim it too. Once they have this political tense between each other, the empire has no difficulty at all taking a control of the both states”. I kept talking for 5-odd minutes.

This topic was exciting to me. But you might say (and you would probably be right): “Why in the world does she have to listen to all this trash? She is a european, and most probably hardly ever heard of Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. This is one of the topics that she is just not interested in.”

However, that is the funny thing about it. All this time she said nothing, kept looking at me and just listened. She didn’t interrupt me, didn’t try to add anuthing to my story. She just listened and went out of her way to UNDERSTAND.

When I was done with my monologue and saw Gloria looking at me with curious brown eyes, I thought “Wow! I am being understood!” – such a rare feeling.

in my 21 years I’ve hardly known anyone better than Gloria to have a conversation with. I really enjoyed talking to her. But this is kind of strange. Because it was more of a monologue, rather than a dialogue. It was me, who talked all the time. She just listened and just tried to understand what I was saying.

Now I recall the piece of advice that one of my favorite teachers gave me when I was 15: “Listen! And you will be the most pleasant person to talk to.”

Can you find Uzbekistan on the map?

I was sitting at the warm corner of the mosque hall, reading an article about “Britain after Brexit” in The Economist magazine in my tablet. Two cute little kids were running and playing “house” several meters away from me.

An arab came up to the boy, smiled at him and asked teasingly: “Hey, little boy, how are you?”
“Good,” the boy said. He didn’t seem to know English very well. But the fact that he understood the question and was able to respond correctly was pretty impressive.
“Alhamdulillah,” he said, “Where are you from, my son?”
“From Uzbekistan,” the boy responded.
When I heard “Uzbekistan”, the conversion caught my complete attention. I didn’t expect at all that the young gentlemen were my fellow countymen.
“O-o-oh Uzbekistan… from Tashkent?” the arab brother asked. It pleasantly surprised me again that he knew the capital of the country.
“No, from Bukhara” said the little boy with a typical Uzbek accent. And he pronounced the word “Bukhara” exactly the way we say it in our language – “Bukhoro”.
“O-o-oh! So you are from the town where the greatest scholar Bukhariy lived?” the older gentleman claimed.
Clearly, the little boy didn’t recognize the name of the scholar, whom the whole city was named after, and whom the whole muslim world knows as one of the greatest scholars ever lived in history.

I, on the other hand, felt really proud at that moment that I come from the same country, where such a world renowned scholar came from. Bukhari lived in the 9th century.

Aside from Bukhari, we are proud to have other world renowned scholars like Al-Khorazmiy – the Father of Algebra; Beruniy – great mathematician, historian, astronomer; Ulugbek – astrology genious. Ulugbek ushered in a new era of natural sciences in Central Asia in 15th century by making astonishing scientific breakthroughs.

We haven’t had, though, such great world-shaking scholars ever since. Well, this makes a complete sense: we have had a poor economic situation. It is really hard to “do science” when your stomach is churning. All the latest popular scholars came from either Europe or America. Yet, I feel optimistic.

I strongly believe that the economy of the Uzbekistan (with the new government), and of Central Asia in general, will soon significantly improve.

In several decades, perhaps, I will be proud to hear from a European or American “O-o-oh, so you are from Uzbekistan?”

Economics

“Are you sleeping?” I asked Sam when he picked up the phone today. I was walking to University building at 08:10 in the morning.
“No, I am not. I just woke up,” he responded  with a voice as if he was still asleep. Most conspicuously, it was me who woke him up.
“Look, man,” I said, “we have less than 2 hours left until the exam. How about meeting at the Economics faculty to prepare together?”
“That’s a great idea,” he said.
“I will be on the first floor.”
“Give me 20 minutes.”

After 20 minuts he called me back and said, “I am in the building. Where are you?”
He was punctual. That is what I love about Sam: there is no difference between his words and his actions. He keeps his promises, even the small ones.

“The first floor,” I said, “come to the place just in front of the main entrance.” It was a cozy spot with a bar and high-legged chairs. Nice place for a group work.
“Okay, tell me: what are the main factors of production?” I asked him. After he responded to this question, he asked me a question: “What are the key determinants of the aggregate supply?” We kept reviewing economic concepts in this way.

Selva came a little late, when only 40 minutes left until the exam. “Are you ready for the exam, guys?” asked Selva.
“Kind of,” I responded making fun of us. “Alright, Selva, tell me: what is Economics?”
“Man, that’s easy,” said Selva, “Economics is… ahhh… ehhh… uhmmm… F**k!!!” He forgot the defition.
Sam and I started laughing. Sometimes we fail to explain simple stuff. That being said, we all successfully passed the exam.

How much does a woman cost?

If you ever studied abroad, you must know how it is like to live in a dormitory. Rooms are so small and narrow that sometimes you don’t have much space to breathe easily. I was invited to an Uzbek dinner in one of those small rooms yesterday.

The room is designed for only two students to fit. We were seven people in this room: six guys – all good friends of mine – and a lady – one of the guy’s girlfriend. At the middle of the room was a table. The table was “decorated” with salad, spoons, cups, coke, bread, and of course our beloved national meal Plov.

As a famous Uzbek saying goes: “Perhaps our place is narrow, but our heart is wide.”

The friendly atmosphere was just great in the room. In spite of the narrowness of the room and despite being at the center of Europe, I felt pretty much at home – at the very heart of Uzbekistan.

We finished eating after 20 minutes, but we kept talking the next 3 hours. We love talking. We love talking about all kinds of stuff, starting from world politics all the way until new fashion trends on travel bags. But most of the time we just make fun of each other.

I checked up with my watch. It was 23:10. “I have to get up at 6 tomorrow,” I thought.

While others were still talking, I stood up quietly and started cleaning the table. I figured “They invited me. They were amazing hosts. They even cooked Plov. I should at least wash up, to show my gratitude.”

I took the dirty dishes off the table, went to the kitchen, which was a narrow 3 meterish place with two wash-basins. Sponge… detergent… hot water. I started washing up.

After several seconds the lady showed up, leaving the guys in the room.

 

“Let me do the dishes,” she said.

“No-no, I will do it. Don’t worry about it,” I responded without looking at her.

“Why?!” she seemed to be nervous for some reason.
I didn’t know what to say. “I will wash up.” I said being confused, “Take care of the table, if you want.”

She said “Okay” and brought some more dirty cups and spoons from the room.

“I wanted to do the dishes when the guys are done with their conversation,” she made an ‘excuse’, grumbling.

I thought “Why is she making an excuse?”

“Abdulla, let me do the wash-up,” she said once again. “Seriously. I am not feeling comfortable.”

“Use that wash basin, if you want,” I said pointing at the basin just next to me.

“Oh yeah! I didn’t think about it.”

While we were both at the wash basins, we talked a little bit about her graduation from the University. Then I thought “What makes my friend’s girlfriend feel not comfortable, if I wash up?”

So I asked her: “Why don’t you feel comfortable to sit with the guys now?”

“Well, you know…,” she said not looking at me and carrying on with scraping the plates. “I am a girl and I am kind of supposed to do the house chores. The guys [in the room] would look at me like at a girl with awfully unappropriate manners, if YOU, a man, would do the wash-up and I, a woman, would sit with them chilling.”

For some reason, this compelled me to think about my mom.

“Interesting…. But don’t you feel “low” and inferior?” I asked being curious about her personal feelings about this.

“Absolutely I feel inferior! I feel sometimes very low,” she said smiling. Sometimes people smile in order to hide their deep feelings.

These feelings are, most of the time, associated with childhood traumas, and by smiling we hold ourselves from bursting into tears.

I don’t think that this lady was about to burst into tears. Nor do I think that she had some childhood traumas connected with washing up. But I do think that at least she felt really bad about the current situation.

There was a long pause after that.
“How about the country you come from?” I asked. “Would you feel and do the same if you had a similar situation in Tatarstan?”
“Well, there are some other cultural nuances, but basically – yes: that would be the same problem,” she responded.

This is the approximate attitude towards women in my country and Tatarstan.

And I am going to guess, it’s a similar case in Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China, India, Bangladesh, African countries, Middle East, perhaps even in some parts of the western world. I believe this is really unfair towards women. Why in the world should they ever feel inferior? Women are those who brought you and me to this world.

Think about this: When mothers give birth to a child, they endure such pain that they almost die. Don’t they deserve a little more respect?

Beautiful blonde in library

She was sitting several tables away, with her back to me, in front of a computer screen. Her hair was just gorgous: long, thick, and yellow. Not a regular yellow, though – a different yellow. I don’t even know how to describe this charming color.

“Man, you have to focus,” I said to myself. “You came to the library in order to study, remember?” (Yes, I talk to myself sometimes).
I was preparing for my Math exam.

I didn’t notice how quickly 2 hours passed. Only several students were still sitting in the library, including that blonde. “We are closing the library,” the worker said hinting that we should leave the hall. Everyone went out. She was the first to leave the library. I was the second.

It was dark and snowing outside, so she put on her cap and gloves. So did I.

I thought, “How can I start the conversation?”
I sped up my pace. When I almost reached her I said, “Hey!” Music was playing in her headphones, so she didn’t hear me. “Hi!” I said again smiling in her face. She noticed me and smiled me back. It was such a relief to see her smile to me. “Hello!” she responded, taking the headphones off, with a calm and pretty low voice. She had big blue eyes.

“You have beautiful hair,” I said.
“Oh, thank you,” she laughed.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“From Russia. And you?”
“I come from Uzbekistan.”
“Uzbekistan? You should speak Russian then?”
“Yes, I do speak Russian. But… not very well.”
“Not very well…,” she repeated. “But you speak English very well.”
“Thank you. What do you study?” I asked her as we walked along the road.
“Ehmm… I don’t really know how my faculty is called in English.”
“Say it in Czech or Russian. Perhaps I will understand.”
“Kon’evodstvo.”
“Horse breeding… I see. I didn’t know we have such faculty at our University.”
“And what do you study?”
“Computer Science.”
“Wow! That must be very difficult.”
“Well, not really. So long as you have some interest in IT, it’s not difficult at all.”
“And what are your plans for the future?”

I didn’t expect such personal question at that point, so I was a little bit surprised.
“Shall I tell you my detailed plan for the next 10 years?” I asked playingly.
“Well, yes. I mean, if you want.”
A quick thought flashed in my head: “What’s the point of hiding my plans?”
“Alright,” I said, “in 2 years I want to get my Bachelor degree. In 4 years I want to graduate from Master studies. The next 6 years I want to work for Business Consultancy company, like Deloitte, as Business Analyst in IT sphere. When I am 30 years old, I dream and plan to run my own company.”
“Wow! That’s so great that you have a definite plan.”
“How about your plans?”
“Me? Ehmmm…”
Then there was a meaningful pause for several seconds. I felt her facial expression changed. She lowered her head, as if pondering about something.
“What?” I said as if being surprised.
“I will tell you later. Not now,” she responded looking up at me.
“Why?”
She sighs.
“Is it so complicated?”
“Well, yes. Kind of.”

More than a week passed after that conversation. Since then, I have seen her several times from a distance in the campus. Whenever I see her, she is always alone. I have never seen her talking to anyone. Now I am getting curious: what is it that makes the life of a blue-eyed young blonde so “complicated”?

Call for prayer

It was still 30 minutes left until the prayer time, when I entered the mosque. I took a seat at the warm corner of the mosque, decided to use that 30-minute window to prepare for my Math exam. So, I fished my tablet out of my bag, opened the University system, downloaded the needed lecture, and started reading. When 10 minutes left for the prayer, I moved closer to the mosque microphone. In this way, I showed the other several guys sitting in the hall that I want to make the Adhan (a call for a prayer).
Traditionally, if you are in a muslim country, there is a person in each mosque responsible for making a “call”, which is called “Adhan”, for each of five daily prayers. Since I am in Czech Republic, where the muslim population constitutes only around 5000 people, poorly financed mosques over here cannot afford to employ such “Adhan worker”. But you know what, that is even great.
Before each prayer there is always someone who volunteers to make a call. I consider making the call as an honor. Sometimes there is even a sort of a “friendly competition” between brothers: “I will make the call” a brother would claim. “You made the call last time. It’s my turn now” another brother would mess with his pell.
I was sitting under the microphone, reading Math lecture slides. I look at the digital clock hanging on the wall: 2 minutes left. I could hear people entering the mosque behind me. I look at the clock again: 1 minute left. It’s almost the time for a making the call.
At this moment a brother passes by me and stands just in front of the microphone. He looks at me. I look at him. I smile and say “Will you let me make the Adhan?”. He smiles back to me and says “Of course I will. You were the first to come into the mosque”. Anis, who was sitting next to me, started laughing after these words. I stood up and made the call. Anis led the prayer of 15 people. After 5 minutes we finished the prayer and everyone went out of the mosque: some to work, some to university, some home.
I am just in love with the friendly atmosphere in a mosque. And I feel so bad about its negative reputation brainwashed by mass media.

“Abdullani uylantiramiz!” or My beloved son, I’d like to introduce your wife to you

I am 20 years old. Because I went to school at an unusually early age, most of my schoolmates are now 21 or 22.
In my motherland, Uzbekistan, it is “inappropriate” not to be married after the age of 25. If you are still not married when you are 24, when you see someone in the street, the first thing they ask is “Qachon endi?!”, which means “When will you eventually get married?“. On one hand, it can be incredibly pleasant to be asked that question. On the other hand, sometimes it is really irritating.
Sabine, a nice german lady who lived in Uzbekistan for 6 years straight, could never make sense of this peculiar culture when one of the guys (at our regular German Speaking Club events at Goethe Institut) claimed confidently “I plan to get married when I am 23”. Sabine was always confused: “How can you PLAN to get married? You are not even in a relationship with anyone!”.
Several month ago, one of my close friends in Tashkent messaged me saying “O’rto, uylantiramiz diyishvotti”, which means “Dude, they are saying they will marry me soon”. Yesterday, another true friend of mine, who is studying in Malaysia, told me that he is going back to Uzbekistan for a couple of months, justifying his trip by saying “To’y boshlab quyishibdi!!!”, which means “They started my wedding!!!”.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Chances are, one day my beloved grandma will state at a family dinner “Abdullani uylantiramiz!”, which means “We are going to marry Abdullah”. 
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am proud to be Uzbek. I love Uzbek culture entirely. But no culture is perfect, isn’t it?

Why would you admire a student?

The last two months I have been doing my studies only at coffeshops. It’s so peaceful and great “learning” atmosphere in there. Since I have been visiting predominantly only a couple of places, people started recognizing me in those cafés.
For instance, earlier this week as I was doing my online GMAT course with my iPad, a notepad and a pen, and a cup of tea in a coffeeshop in the downtown, Umar enters the café. He notices me and comes up to say hello with a smiling face. After some time he offers to buy me a lunch. I respectfully refuse. Yet, he insists and brings Turkish dessert Baklava onto my table.
Another day, Ribah – a worker at the café – gave me a cup of fresh banana juice for free. Another day, though, a guy, whom I barely know, put a few banknotes into my pocket regardless to my hostility, saying “For your lunch, brother”. They are all working people with families, being old enough to be my father. One of them, who seems to be freaking rich, once told me with such a happy face “I admire you when I look at you studying”. “Why would you admire a student?”, I asked. “Because I’ve never had a chance to be one”, he replied.
On one hand, I feel so good when people care about me. On the other hand, sometimes I have a feeling that they look at me like a “hungry student”, who is in sore financial need. I don’t enjoy the latter feeling of accepting a “charity”.
And if anything, I myself would be willing to help students financially if I am well off in the future.