Career success story: Mihaela Georgieva Mihova

Curious to embrace the international environment and to leave Bulgaria at only 18 years old, the very ambitious Mihaela has already managed to pave a certain road, which will lead her to an amazing career very soon. Positive, determined and very engaged, she grasps every opportunity she considers will take her to the next level.  She is that kind of person that never stops smiling, no matter how hard the situation is. 

The story before Denmark

She took her really big decision by the time she was still in high school. Even tough she was very young, she decided to choose an education abroad and today, she couldn’t be happier about making this step.  

In high school, she had an opportunity to go for a study trip and she chose Moscow. This is the moment when she realized how much she enjoys the international environment within a university and how much she likes being around people from all over the world.

Almost 7 years ago, her initial consideration in terms of university choice was Russia. Besides Russian, she was also learning English at school, which made her consider studying abroad in English as well. This is how she came with the idea to take into account universities from Northern and Western Europe: I started Googleing the university I attended during my study trip in Moscow and I saw that, instead, there were several Danish and English universities in top 100 in the world. I noticed Aarhus University and looked through the university website. I thought - I would really like to study in such an interesting and also a top 100 university in the world.

And that’s how it all started! She decided to come to Denmark and she looked into the business programmes at AU: It was mainly because of the ranking and because Aarhus University was among the best. Afterwards, I checked the university’s website and I saw that the program I wanted to study all along - Business Administration – was thought in English. I never really planned it for too long. I just saw the university and decided. 

Life in Denmark

Brave and ready for new adventures, Mihaela came to Denmark when she was only 18 years old. She started her bachelor in Business Administration and Economics, at the former Aarhus School of Business. She took the profile called International Management, because she wanted to dive into the global aspect of the programme.

Today, she is a student in International Business and Economics at Aarhus University, in the last semester, writing her master thesis and also working for Siemens, Denmark.

She has had different student jobs, study relevant jobs and many other volunteering activities. To begin with, in Bulgaria, she has worked as a Fitness instructor. Once in Denmark, she started working in a supermarket, because she wanted to be financially independent. Afterwards, she worked with a company called Flintholm Global Telemarketing, within the area of business and research. This very proactive young woman also volunteered for United Nations, for different projects within the area of International Diplomacy and Political Science.

The dream became reality

Last year in September 2013, I started as a Change Management Intern at Siemens A/S in Denmark for a period of 6 months.

She found the position on Graduateland portal and it really stood out for her: It sounded very interesting and challenging for me. I thought I really want that so I am going to apply and… then, I was invited for an interview!

It was only her with the job application: no networking, no additional factors.

The informal Danish interview

Mihaela recalls the joy she felt during the interview and the experience of a nice conversation with two managers. She went to the headquarters in Brande, where the interview took place and lasted one hour. They talked about her professional experience, academic background, hobbies and sports: It was actually a very nice experience. The mangers I talked to – they made a great impression on me. I thought: OMG, I really want to work in this company!

They had an interest not only in her professional experience (student jobs, volunteering, etc), but also in what kind of sports she have been doing, even though the position didn’t really relate that much to the responsibilities she was supposed to complete: If I have to compare it to Bulgaria, it wouldn’t be so informal. In my home country, you would be asked super strict and formal questions. It would be more stressful. While here, I haven’t thought about it to be stressful. I left the room interview very enthusiastic because it was a good experience. However, I am also sure it could differ from people to people. Even though you are within the same company, you can experience different situations.

She also did a personality test, and 5 days later, they called to tell her they decided to give her the position.

The Internship, the Student Job and the Master Thesis

As an intern, she was supporting a project manager in 3 or 4 main projects. In general, the projects were within Country HR, but she worked more with the strategies parts. The department is called HR Performance, and the team Management Information Project, which handles Key Performance Indicators, for strategic decisions.

The main project she was part of was about developing and implementing Key Performance Indicators. These indicators are developed in order to meet the work force decisions. KPIs are performed for also Siemens Wind Power, Siemens S/A, Siemens Healthcare and more. This requires a lot of work with processes, as well as with SAP, Excel, data validation and also a lot of cooperation with the rest of the team – it’s a complex process!

Once the internship has ended, there was a desire from both sides to continue the cooperationAfter the internship, I continued as a student supporter within the same department. My tasks differ a bit but they are more or less the same; I support the same projects and I develop them further.I really liked the team, the department, the mangers I was supporting and also the teams I was supposed to work with and I was happy to continue the collaboration.

Regarding the master thesis cooperation, she is writing it with another department. She had to find the cooperation through another channel. And this is how she did it: I contacted two managers directly, one within Finance and one within Business Development that I thought they would be interested to support the project cooperation. I was really lucky because I managed to find people who were also very engaged into their business areas and willing to support me during the master thesis project.

For this part, the networking helped a lot: If I hadn’t worked for Siemens, I am not sure I would have managed to find cooperation within Wind Power. However, I know people who have managed to find a thesis project on the job portal, so it’s not impossible!

Since she is studying International Business, the master thesis had to be within the area of how Siemens can expand their market presence internationally. Besides HR and strategy, this is another area Mihaela is interested in. Her master thesis is about Market Expansion of Siemens Wind Power within Onshore.

What was her personal outcome from this experience?

During her studies, she learnt a lot about change management processes and how the strategies have to be structured, but she never really knew how this looked like in practice: Now I do, so I think this experience was very valuable! I also had the chance to attend steering committees meetings with the project managers I support. Again, this is super interesting to hear - how they solve issues and how they make the plan for the future strategy for HR.

Another outcome she gained was in terms of operational competencies: working with SAP, KPIs, data and processes.

Danish workplace culture

Describing her own work place, Mihaela summed it up very simple: I felt at the right place since day one!

When talking about Danish workplace culture, she is very impressed with the informality one can get in Denmark:They are informal in that way that I can go to the head of the department and ask for advice, without having to get through secretaries and all these Gate Keepers. For example, in Siemens Germany and in Bulgaria, in general, it’s much more hierarchical.

The language is always a very controversial topic. In Siemens, the corporate language is English, but she emphasizes on the fact that knowing Danish is very helpful: If people were considering career within Siemens, I would definitely recommend learning Danish. Of course, Siemens is an international company and when you work here, you’d most probably work with people from all over the world. However, the company is based in Denmark. There is a great chance, as in my department, to work with a lot of Danish colleagues.

It’s for your own sake to know the language, in a way that it can help improving internal communication, she mentions further. Sometimes she has to read or revise documents in Danish. So the fact that she learnt Danish is helping her as well. Also her entire team is only with Danish colleagues: Most of the time is me understanding Danish when they speak their own language, but my work requires me to speak in English, because I work with different partners that are non Danes too.

Inspirational and Positive piece of advice

Her first recommendation regards the job search and the interview: I would advise students to be proactive and to apply for jobs that they find interesting and they have sincere keen into the positions. I am sure this will be very visible to the interview. When you go there and you have to express your motivation, it’s really better and easier when you find the job challenging and exciting. Prepare in advance how you can contribute to the tasks and to the team, and what else you can bring from your past – abilities that you consider they are core for you.

Further on, she continues talking about the additional help students can find within their own career centreI attended the CV and Cover Letter Seminar from InterResource, which was extremely useful because, before that, my CV reflected the Bulgarian job market. I would definitely recommend these. I also had a meeting with a career counselor, face-to-face, where I could have private feedback.

Last, but not least, she encourages you to be clear of what is your interestI didn’t apply for any kind of positions just to have an internship – I was really picky! I think this is very good because it increases your chances to be invited to an interview. And don’t be afraid to contact companies, even if you don’t know anybody, because that was also my case: I didn’t know anyone before applying to Siemens. I don’t believe you always need a network in order to land a job.