Kalina Blagoeva was born in Bulgaria and graduated from the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) where she majored in Business Administration in 2001. She worked for her Alma Mater, in charge of accounting and finances and moved on as an accountant and finance manager at Leo Burnett advertising agency in Sofia, Then she was an Analyst – Strategic Planning and Development at Mobiltel, Bulgaria’s largest mobile operator. Seven years after graduation, she enrolled in an MBA programme with Concentrations: Finance, Marketing, Strategic Planning at Chicago Booth University. She is currently employed in the USA as a Business Controller at Microsoft Netherlands, Enterprise Partner Group (EPG).

What prompted you to pursue an MBA degree?

I would love to say that my MBA was a well thought out next step in a systematic career development plan. It wasn’t. I wanted to do something different, questioned my current career choice, felt the need to “spreadmy wings” and see what was out there. An MBA across the ocean seemed like the perfect way to do that, while also providing me with the sought after academic challenges and related professional development opportunities.

What was your ambition for after graduation?

I wanted to work in Consulting. After a summer internship on a consulting project I changed my mind. This is the great added value of a two-year MBA compared to a one-year one. You get to experiment with your “dream job” and find out first-hand whether you are really cut out for it, and it – for you.

What professional doors will an MBA degree open for you?

The opportunities are endless – the only limitations would be your own doubts. In my class I saw a film producer become an investment banker, many engineers becoming consultants, a few military guys who went “corporate”, as well as a large number of people who started their own businesses. You have access to many people with various backgrounds, extensive networking opportunities and a ton of industry knowledge and experience at your fingertips.

Did you choose an MBA in the same field as your BA studies?

I have a Bachelor in Business Administration and completed concentrations in Finance, Marketing and Strategic Management during my MBA, so I guess that is a Yes.

Do you think an MBA degree would be useful to you if you decided to start your own business?

Definitely, especially if you chose a school with a strong programme in Entrepreneurship like Chicago Booth. An MBA also gives you a strong network which could prove to be quite valuable for a start-up.

How are you funding your studies?

I funded my education through a loan with CitiBank, the acquisition of which was aided by the University Finance Office. If you get admitted - you are guaranteed a loan package to cover not only your studies but also living expense, health insurance etc. 

How long after MBA graduation did you find a job?

I received my job offer with Microsoft, where I currently work, about 2.5 months before graduation.

What in your curriculum was the most useful in work afterwards?

I wouldn’t point to a specific subject as most useful and relevant to my current job. There are many: negotiations, managerial decision modelling, regression/statistics. What my MBA gave me was an increased confidence and deep knowledge of myself, my strengths and weaknesses and how to market myself in order to be successful in my current environment. The brand name and the alumni network is the second most important benefit, I think.

How would you describe the learning environment at Chicago Booth University ?

Chicago is a “challenge-everything-and-learnhow-to-think-for-yourself” place. There are no required courses besides the leadership effectiveness and development workshops that start off the programme in the first few weeks. The curriculum is entirely flexible so that you can tailor it to your own particular needs. The environment and your peers will challenge you to your limits but will also provide the nurturing atmosphere and support for you to overcome them.

Would you recommend your MBA programme to others?

Wholeheartedly and sincerely. Booth is an amazing place to be if you like analytical rigor and quantitative focus. And my MBA degree resulted in a higher salary by a multiple of many!