A conference “Students and alumni on the job market” was held by SPbU Alumni Association in February. The organizers set up a discussion platform uniting well-known international companies and University representatives to talk about the opportunities for students which can help them prepare for a successful career. We spoke to PepsiCo, BIOCAD and Veeam Software to find out what they expect from prospective employees and what they have to offer to current students.

Being one of the top universities in Russia in Employer-Students connections (QS Graduate Employability Rankings), SPbU is offering a lot of initiatives that integrate employers into the study process and make it easier for graduates to flourish at the job market. Due to the unique right to introduce its own educational standards, SPbU has an opportunity to develop new formats of cooperation with business and industry. One of such formats involves inviting experts (business, science and culture leaders) to take part in educational programmes councils in order to decide on the entrance exams, develop the content of study courses and provide topics for graduation theses.

CEO of AVRIO Group Consulting, a recruitment agency, Svetlana Kataeva noted that many companies highly favor graduates of St Petersburg University. SPbU alumni have a number of characteristics that set them aside from other applicants and are seen as considerable advantages by HR-managers. For example, they are generally believed to have received fundamental systematic education, to possess far-reaching ambitions and motivation for self-development, an ability to learn fast and professional knowledge of foreign languages.

PepsiCo: nurturing unique talent for unique positions

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo is the largest food and beverage company in Russia.

PepsiCo invests a lot of effort in building close ties with students. Anna Malkova, the Regional Manager for Staff Attraction and Assessment, pointed out that for such a large-scale global company cooperating with universities reduces talent recruitment costs considerably. Moreover, working with students from the start helps the company to hire people for unique positions that would be difficult to “close” directly from the job-applicants market. She mentioned that PepsiCo organizes a lot of programmes for current students and the conversion rate of such initiatives is very high.

Tips and opportunities for students

There are two key student development programmes offered by PepsiCo. The first one is PepsiGo – a year-long internship aimed at preparing functional experts in one of 7 available areas: Finance, Marketing, Digital, Logistics and Planning, Sales, insights, Commercialization and Engineering. The second programme is called BreakOut, it trains future leaders for top-management positions at PepsiCo. Participants are invited to launch their own projects that will solve key business challenges of the company. Interns work closely with mentors, coaches and investors and undergo 4 functional rotations between different departments and office locations in order to get a deeper understanding of the work processes. Both internships require a good command of English.

Anna Malkova also presented the key skills students should master in order to become successful candidates for a global company. First of all, they should know how to create effective PowerPoints and present confidently in front of public. Secondly, students should pay attention to gaining an understanding of Excel and ways of analyzing big data – this is a skill that will come in handy in every position, not only IT-related jobs. Moreover, it will be useful to get familiar with Agile and Scrum project-management techniques, as well as, work on time-management skills before applying for a job where these skills will be highly appreciated. And, last but not least, such companies as PepsiCo are open to hiring students without prior work experience, however, participation in case-championships and leadership programmes is seen as a big plus.

 BIOCAD: cooperating with universities is key for business development

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Maria Petrova, Senior HR-partner BIOCAD

BIOCAD is the first Russian biotechnological company to enter the international market. It is a full-cycle innovation-driven company that carries out research, production and distribution of medicine for oncological, infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Maria Petrova began her career path at BIOCAD as an intern and now holds the position of a Senior HR-partner. She shared that cooperation with universities is the key business development strategy for BIOCAD. The job-world is changing and developing at a remarkable pace, moving more and more rapidly towards interdisciplinarity. As Maria told, five years ago hiring a specialist in the field of Bioinformatics, for example, was a real struggle, it simply did not exist as an established profession. Nowadays, universities are successfully facing this challenge and introducing programmes that combine various disciplines and offer students an opportunity to follow an individual educational track.

BIOCAD is the company that sees people and exceptional talent as the biggest business asset. What is more, it is ready to actively participate in the development of this talent. In 2012, BIOCAD adopted the strategy of collaborating with educational institutions and now has more than 200 staff-members involved in potential candidates training. The types of activities they offer for students include internships, joint educational programmes with universities and supporting laboratories.

Tips and opportunities for students

BIOCAD organizes internships twice a year: in winter and in summer in all professional fields from PR, HR, IT to Biotechnology, Research and Development and Finance. The programme lasts from 1 to 3 months and provides interns with real-project work tasks, a chance to study in BIOCAD corporate university and work on the premises of high-tech laboratories, guidance from mentors, an individual development plan and a monthly scholarship of 20 000 rubles. Approximately 30% to 40% of the interns end up getting a job at the company. Of course, applicants must go through a competitive selection process with 17 people applying for one spot.

This year BIOCAD is strengthening its cooperation with SPbU even further. Apart from regularly taking part in Career Days and holding open lectures, the company is starting a new Bachelor programme “Biology: Bioengineering Technologies” in partnership with St Petersburg University. Maria Petrova told: “The programme will focus on Bioinformatics, Genetic Technologies research and Bioengineering. We are planning to enroll 15 students. Half of the courses will take place in SPbU and half on BIOCAD facilities taught by the leading company experts. The tuition fees for a number of students will be covered by BIOCAD grants. We don’t want to restrict the students of this programme to only work in our company, we would like to give them a freedom of choice upon graduation. One thing we are sure about is that with the gained competency they will become desirable candidates for any high-tech pharmaceutical company”.

Veeam Software: IT-company not only for IT-graduates

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Evgeniya Goloskochenko, HR Director Veeam Software

Veeam Software is a technological company operating in 160 countries with offices in more than 35 global locations. It is the leader in backup solutions that deliver Cloud Data Management.

The idea that the company wants to bring across is that the IT field is not limited to graduates majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. It is a broad and rapidly developing professional area that can offer exciting job openings for students of Humanities and Social Science disciplines as well. What is more, Veeam Software is open to welcoming students without prior work experience, which helps to break the vicious circle of “To get a job you need work experience – to get work experience you need to get a job”.

Tips and opportunities for students

Evgeniya Goloskochenko, HR Director at Veeam, outlined five key elements the company is looking for in successful applicants. The first one is the good command of foreign languages: while English is an established must, German is seen as a significant plus due to the specifics of Veeam product. The second characteristic is international outlook. Being sensitive to cultural differences, having a broad background and ability to communicate your ideas across a variety of audiences is something that will come in handy in any position – from development to sales. Intercultural competency is closely related to the third skill a successful candidate should possess – effective communication. Even the most introverted IT-company staff members end up facing the necessity to work in teams and discuss the most efficient solutions, let alone those who get to negotiate upfront with potential customers. Therefore, communication is key and no one in search of a brilliant career can go without mastering this skill. Moreover, the company expects to see a spark of motivation and willingness to accept knowledge gaps and learn. Being a fast-learner is essential in a fast-paced work environment, besides, it is one of the easiest skills to master while being a university student.

As we can see, successful candidates can win Veeam HR-managers over not only with their technical knowledge and extensive professional background but rather with their soft skills and by being what Evgeniya calls “a cultural fit to the company”. Corporate culture, therefore, is an important asset that helps to understand whether the work placement is right for you or not. The best way to discover the corporate culture is, of course, by following an internship within the company.

Veeam Software, following a recurring student request, will open its first internship programme in 2020. Applicants will have to go through a series of interviews, language tests and business games during the selection process. 15-16 interns will be chosen to spend 2 months actively learning, adapting to the company processes and implementing the first contacts with customers by the end of the internship.

Veeam is working closely with St Petersburg University focusing not only on its graduates, but also on 2nd-3rd year students. The company is developing a range of recruitment-on-campus activities. What that entitles is giving open lectures for students, taking part in the development of educational programmes, providing real business-cases as topics for theses and participating in the University Career Days. Evgeniya Goloskochenko pointed out that they are specifically interested in SPbU students and graduates due to their high level of language competency,  intercultural skills gained through international exchange programmes, profound education and ambitious attitude to life. Moreover, Veeam representative said that SPbU was the only university in Russia that paid sufficient attention to the development of soft skills.