Those are the words of Elena Shabrova, a Linköping university alumna. For the past ten years, she has been working in global IT giant Google’s European office in Dublin. She is one of the alumni who returned to Linköping for the SMIO programme’s 15th anniversary jubilee in Studenthuset on 3-4 March 2023, together with some 80 alumni from across the globe.
Chose Linköping“It was so much fun seeing everyone again. We still have some contact with our fellow students from SMIO. But this is a very nice opportunity! I’m also happy that the programme wants our input and suggestions for future improvements. I’d like to give something back,” she says.
Elena Shabrova comes from a small town in central Russia. She moved to the big city for a bachelor’s degree at the country’s oldest and largest technical university. But she wanted to study and work abroad.
“I looked at different places. I wanted a master’s degree and I wanted to study in English for two years. An ideal programme for me would have a strong international focus. There were some alternatives in Europe, but I picked SMIO in Linköping. I also received a Visby scholarship from the Swedish Institute,” she says.
SMIO is an acronym for the master’s programme Strategy and Management in International Organisations. It was launched in 2007 as part of LiU’s initiative involving international exchange studies via ERASMUS. The programme educates future managers, strategists and organisational developers. Most of the students are from other countries, and international organisations is a common thread throughout the programme.
“This was perfect for me. And completely different. Some 20 nationalities were represented on the programme. In my home country, I was used to studying alone and doing all the assignments by myself, such as examinations, essays, projects and degree projects. When I came to Linköping it was a huge change for me to commit so much to teamwork and getting tasks done together with my fellow students. I think this prepared me for working in teams at Google, particularly in an international environment.”
Dream jobFollowing her master’s degree, she worked for a year on a research project at LiU, on handling acquisitions of companies in transition economies. This was presented at the International Management Conference in Estonia in April 2013. Elena also took a one-year intensive Swedish course and passed the Tisus test.
She then received an offer she could not say no to:
Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar “Google offered me a place in their customer sales team at their European head office in Dublin. That’s why I moved to Ireland. Studying at LiU gave me the opportunity to work for a fantastic international company and travel the world. This was a big step in my professional development and in my personal life.”
Elena has worked with Google’s advertisers, traditional media agencies, independent agencies and advertising technology partners in Russia. She also had a brief spell at their Stockholm office as a YouTube specialist. In 2022, she moved to a team supporting the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. She is now a strategic agency manager, building long-term partnerships with advertising agencies to help them become successful.
Never boring“The MENA team consists of some 50 people. My teammates are from different countries in the Middle East and all over the world. It’s a fantastic mix of cultures and very international. I think that what I learned at SMIO helped me adapt faster to a new business environment and new cultures, and to be open to learning more about the MENA region.”
What is it like working at Google?
“It’s a fantastic place to be! I like being part of a team of very professional and fun people. They’re all very ambitious and have a passion for their roles and for helping customers. That said, technology is a very challenging and fast-moving environment. You have to be prepared for changes and be able to learn something new every day. If I go on holiday, I feel that I’ve missed something when I come back. But it’s never boring!”
What does the term "Googleyness" mean?
“There’s no definition, and it may mean different things. It’s a quality we look for in people when we hire or interact within the company. To me, having ‛Googleyness’ refers to someone who can work efficiently in a team, is aware of the company’s values but also takes risks and always puts the customer’s/user’s best first. To me, a ‛googly’ person is someone who cares about the team but is not afraid to speak up when needed.”
About 5,500 people work at Google’s office in Dublin. The sales teams play an important role in supporting more than 100 markets.
“If you’re looking for case studies and examples of how to work in a specific market, or if you need advice, there’s always someone who knows the subject and is ready to share their experiences.”
A gigantic after work
What does a typical Google fika look like?
“We have nothing like Swedish fika. In my team, we try to get together at around 4 p.m. every day to process the day. We also try to schedule regular one-to-one coffee chats with colleagues from different functional areas to network or share experiences.”
Instead of fika, there is an after-work event, every week, for the entire (!) office:
“After the pandemic this was moved to Thursdays, as we can now work from home on Fridays. It’s called TGIT, a "Thank God it's Thursday" event where our entire office gathers for some snacks and drinks. It’s a very good opportunity for meeting people from different parts of the company.”
Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar What is your dream, your next step in life?
“I have many ideas, not always realistic ones. But lately I’ve been reflecting a lot on my education. I came to Moscow from a very small town of 30,000 people. My university studies have developed me academically and professionally, and have given me new opportunities in life. I’d really like to contribute to education initiatives for underprivileged groups, especially girls, around the world. It would be fantastic to see how more of them could have the opportunity to study and have a career, create their independence and reach new heights in their lives.”
What memories do you have from Linköping?
“I have so many good memories! Ryd, where I used to live. And Gamla Linköping, my favourite place in town. I also have fond memories of the SMIO teachers, who guided us through the programme: Marie Bengtsson and Jörgen Ljung. I am so grateful to them and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them,” says Elena Shabrova.