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"Create Your Own Opportunities" - Advice for MBA Students

World Ready Alumni - Q&A with Alexei Ponomarov, MBA '12

Alexei Ponomarov, MBA '12

January 8, 2016

Prior to attending the Brandeis IBS MBA program, Alexei Ponomarov sought change. He had spent his childhood in Ukraine and Romania and completed an undergraduate degree in economic cybernetics before working at an international trade and brokerage firm in Bucharest. Brandeis IBS was a way to take the next step in his education toward a defined career path. 

How was your adjustment to the U.S.?

Everything was new – my time at Brandeis IBS was my first time in the U.S. It was a very welcoming experience. I had no trouble adjusting, and it felt like home in a week’s time. I grew up in an international environment, so joining the Brandeis IBS community was a natural continuation from the cultural standpoint. The school does a great job of combining academic and non-academic events to make the learning and adjustment experience exciting for all students. 

Describe your career path.

While I was a student at Brandeis IBS, I was offered a job at the Ammonia Group of Trammo – a global fertilizer and chemicals trading company. I worked at their Tampa, Florida, location for two years after graduation and in 2014 was offered a position on the Global Ammonia team in Paris. It was a no-brainer, so I moved to France and have been living in Paris since then.  I currently handle ammonia trading in the Middle East, India and South Africa for Trammo. My work is closely tied to maritime shipping – an industry that I have learned a lot about since taking on this role. I am glad to be part of a small but highly creative group that has a significant impact on a global industry.

What’s the most important lesson you learned as a student in the MBA program? 

I learned that the best way to succeed is to create your own opportunities and take on as many tasks and challenges as possible. I learned this on my own but also observed that my peer students worked incredibly hard and stayed highly motivated throughout the MBA program – a testament to their success after graduation.

You’re someone who has worked and studied in multiple countries. Any lessons to share?

It has taught me how to build my own luck and open myself to new challenges, people and cultures. The latter may sound obvious, but it’s critical in adapting to new environments. Redefining the notion of “normal” is always part of the transition process. For Brandeis IBS students who are far away from home, it’s hard to travel back to families that are thousands of miles away. I recommend finding a balance between the school/professional and personal/family life, and exercising a lot of patience. Moving to a new country is a challenge, and it does take time to accept a new living and work environment. The compromise is worth it in the end.

What’s your advice for current MBA students? 

Don’t fear job opportunities with small and medium sized companies. Many students dream of working in big, well-known companies, but these can often be highly bureaucratic and inflexible – they don’t always allow young employees to perform impactful tasks. Smaller companies, on the other hand, do provide these opportunities and offer significant gains through hands-on experience.