MLS European Business Law alumna
What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
The stages in my life that have had the greatest impact on me have always been related to changes in my environment and circumstances including healthwise, when I have been exposed to different cultures, values, political and economic regimes, or challenging personal and professional experiences. All of my experiences have helped me grow and become a stronger and better person. I was born and grew up when Bulgaria was still a communist state and when the communist regime fell in 1989, I was just out of high school – old enough to remember the communist times and young enough to embrace the opportunities that the changes brought. In the very first years after the fall of communism I went to the US to complete my BA degree. Being exposed to the American values and culture during this first time in the US was critical for my personal and professional development. It gave me a very strong work ethic, taught me to be open-minded and inclusive, to accept and communicate with different cultures, to express my opinion freely and to respect the opinion of others, to respect the law and to be accountable. However, it also made me appreciate the value of social democracy and the perils of consumerism among other things. The time studying for my MBA degree in London in the early 2000s was another stage that significantly impacted my life, not least because it again involved a transition to a completely different environment that took me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to pursue an international career outside Bulgaria. I have to mention also a very challenging time in my early investment banking career when I had to step in and lead the team after the sudden departure of the head of the team, which was the first successful test for my leadership and managerial skills. The MLS EBL degree provided yet another challenge that I had to tackle under demanding personal and professional circumstances.
Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?
After I graduated from high school in 1991, I was accepted to study law at a Bulgarian university. One day I heard on the news that a new Bulgarian-American University was being established and was enlisting for its first class at the same time that I had to start my legal studies. I decided to apply and subsequently enrolled to study there. While it was a big risk at the time as basically it was a start-up venture financed partly by the US government to support the democratic process in the country and I had no idea where or what it will bring me, it put my life on a path that brought me here today. Studying business administration first in the US and then in the UK, I became very interested in investment banking and decided to pursue it as a career. Although I did not become a lawyer, I still pursued my initial interest through the MLS EBL degree at the WU Executive Academy. I have a very open mindset and believe that many things are possible with hard work and resolve.
How and why did you come to work for Q-Advisers?
In 2007 I was working in M&A advisory at CAIB in Vienna when UniCredit took over Bank Austria. There were a lot of changes at all levels of the organization and many of my colleagues were leaving. I moved to London in 2018 to work in a different department, but then the financial crisis hit and there were again changes within the bank. I was considering my options when I was offered to join a small advisory boutique set up by some colleagues here in Vienna. I decided to take the opportunity and this is how I came to work for Q-Advisers.
What has changed in your career as a result of your MLS EBL degree? How did the program (state-of-the-art knowledge, skills, networking) support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities (promotions, new responsibilities, etc.) have opened up for you?
When deciding to do the MLS EBL program I was motivated by both a long-standing personal interest to study law as well as by a professional need to develop a better understanding of law and to further develop my skills. Working as a corporate finance adviser I have had to deal with various legal issues related to regulation of financial institutions, term sheets and purchase contracts, real estate deals, capital market transactions with securities, investment funds. In many of these areas legal developments are driven by the EU. Brexit all of a sudden brought to light the fact that EU law has become an intrinsic part of the legal systems of the Member States. The MLS EBL degree compliments and builds on my corporate finance experience, giving me important understanding of law and additional skills, as well as more confidence in dealing with legal issues. It also expands the potential opportunities for the future development of my career.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
The latest personal success of course is completing the MLS EBL degree that I had to do while I was working and dealing with some personal issues. It really pushed me to organize my time better and to be more efficient and focused. For me there is always something more that I can achieve, and I will probably continue looking for new professional and personal challenges.
What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?
My main goal for the coming year is to finish my Master’s Thesis for the MLS EBL degree. I am currently researching and analyzing the EU regulatory framework for FinTech – as it turned out, quite an ambitious albeit a very exciting subject. My interest in the topic is driven by the disruptive potential of technology and I still remember a class on disruption innovation that I took during my MBA degree, which left a very strong impression on me. I have also some professional interests that I still want to pursue, among which is getting more involved on the business side in a more entrepreneurial role.
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
For me right now time is a “great luxury” as it is not only a scarce resource that I have to prioritize how to use, but it is also one-directional. Yet I am thankful for everything that I have and try to keep things in perspective as more than anything else today we have to be aware, conscious and engaged with what is happening in the world.
What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
I recently saw Black Panther as I was very curious to see why it is considered such a game changer for black people and the movie industry. It represents a cultural shift in the dominant “white view” of the world and is interesting how this would develop in the future. I love watching movies in general and especially movies from different countries as they are imbued with specific cultural sensitivities that are so vastly different from the American style cinema.
How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
My philosophy of leadership has evolved through my own experiences as a leader and as an employee. It reflects my own values as well as the qualities that in my view make a great leader. Some of these qualities are integrity, empowerment, accountability, purpose and humility. Integrity for me is the most important leadership quality as it inspires trust and respect. As a leader I try to empower my team – to motivate them to take responsibility, to care for what they do and to want to do it well, I guide them and provide feedback, but I am also ready to stand up for them if required. I see way too many people that equate confidence with leadership or mistake confidence with competence. A confident leader for me has the humility to be self-aware and aware of the others and to be open to become a better leader.
How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
I love being physically active and do a variety of sports that challenge my body in different ways and keep me fit, strong, flexible and agile. I do a lot of HIIT lately that is not very demanding on my time, keeps me in shape and gives me a great boost of energy. I also like to explore places, learn about history and culture, and enjoy good food and red wine in a good company.
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I admire strong women who are changing people’s lives and having to choose only one is incredibly difficult. I would probably go for JK Rowling whose Harry Potter books I immensely enjoyed. JK Rowling has not only an amazing “rags to riches” life story but is also doing great charity work through her Lumos foundation that aims to eradicate child institutionalization around the world.
Why would you recommend the MLS EBL of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
The WU Executive Academy is probably the only institution in Europe that offers an executive, on-site law program for non-lawyers in English. I did an extensive search and was considering (rather unwillingly) doing an online program with a university in the UK, when I came across the MLS EBL program. It provided exactly what I was looking for and I am proud to be part of the first class of the program. The MLS EBL has a broad course curriculum that covers all the major areas of law using a comparative approach and with a specific focus on EU law. The program combines several elements that make it a compelling choice for professionals like me who want to develop an understanding of legal topics –it provides a good overview of general legal principles and fundamental concepts in law, discusses the main differences between common and civil law and provides examples from the most important legal systems, critically evaluates the history, organization and functioning of the EU, offers detailed analysis of the most important EU legislation, with the additional benefit of several management courses. The program benefits from excellent academic faculty and legal practitioners as guest lecturers and provides for active class participation and interaction with the faculty. The diversity of the class contributed to the overall experience of the program and expanded my professional network. Last but not least, the amazing university campus offer excellent facilities and of course Vienna is a beautiful city with rich history, culture and excellent cuisine.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and alumni here.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and alumni here.