The knowledge and skills Anna Kovalenko, MA’13 learned at Brandeis paved the way for an unexpected career in big tech
By Douglas Moser
Anna Kovalenko, MA’13 loves the practical side of economics. So she was puzzled when a friend suggested that she apply for a job at Google.
“At first I just left it in the back of my mind because I’m not in IT. Why would I work at Google?” said Kovalenko.
That was a decade ago. Shortly after graduating from Brandeis International Business School, Kovalenko was hired by the Internet search giant as a digital marketing strategist. She now works for the company in Munich as a program manager.
“Some students look for a direct line. They study corporate finance — they want a job in corporate finance after graduation,” said Kovalenko, reflecting on her career at Google. “If you can do that, great. But keep the bigger picture in mind. How can you apply these skills you’ve learned at Brandeis?”
Born in Ukraine just before the fall of the Soviet Union, Kovalenko said she grew up amid economic turmoil.
“When the Soviet Union broke down, the economies of all the independent countries collapsed and there was lots of inflation,” said Kovalenko. “Money didn’t work. People were getting their salary in butter or chairs. One of the motivators for me for what to study was, ‘What will get me out of poverty?’”
Kovalenko pursued economics and finance at National University of Kyiv, and then worked for a couple years for a Ukrainian energy company. But she knew she wanted to go further, and started looking at graduate programs in the United States, where she had visited multiple times.
“I wanted a degree with practical aspects, not just heavily theoretical,” said Kovalenko. “I won a Fulbright scholarship and on the list of partner universities with a good reputation, Brandeis was a top choice.”
When she arrived at Brandeis, Kovalenko focused on the practical. From studying the fundamentals of economics to using statistics to gain insight into problems to forming a new student club, she took a hands-on approach to her graduate education.
Through a class, Kovalenko discovered the National Association of Business Economics (NABE) and attended a conference.
“They’re focused on the practical application of economics, and I had this strong feeling of how undervalued business economics was,” said Kovalenko. “Business economics is so practical and fascinating, so I decided Brandeis needs a chapter.”
One of the most popular activities the Brandeis NABE chapter hosts is the annual Crisis Game, a team competition that gives students the chance to analyze a hypothetical economic crisis and propose solutions to a panel of expert judges.
“We invented the game at the club,” said Kovalenko. “We wanted something to stand out. We were excited to own a particular element of it.”
Although she started in digital advertising at Google, Kovalenko said the knowledge, skills and critical thinking she honed while studying in the Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance (MA) program made the transition easy.
“The broader skills absolutely applied and helped me find the path I wanted,” she said. “At a company like Google, everything is international. So the skills I learned at the International Business School had a direct connection there.”
This article orginally appeared on the Brandeis International Business School website.