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Refugee, mother and online MBA student

MBA online
Viktoriia Kulish is one of the lucky ten women chosen for the Global Online MBA programme by BMW and ESMT Berlin. Source: Viktoriia Kulish

Getting an MBA online with a top European business school did not cross Viktoriia Kulish’s mind earlier this year.

Then, Russia invaded Ukraine and caused over one million Ukrainians to be displaced. Kulish felt determined to do her part and help her country bounce back as soon as the war is over.

After all, she has the experience and know-how to do this. The 47-year-old had worked in managerial and strategic consultant roles for the past 20 years.

“My key competencies are in strategic planning, marketing, sales, finance, business modelling and transformation, crisis optimisations, change management, performance management, project management, and HR,” she tells Study International.

Rebuilding a war-torn economy is no easy feat — which is why Kulish is arming herself with more skills and knowledge.

“I want to develop myself at an international management level,” she says. “I plan to strengthen my ability to adapt to new challenges and develop my leadership, innovation, organisation, and decision-making skills in uncertain conditions.”

Having previously completed an MBA back in the 90s from Kyiv State Economic University, she was looking to update her knowledge and develop herself. 

However, being unable to leave her home and family during this time, Kulish was unsure how to achieve this dream.

MBA online

Kulish also volunteers on many projects to help Ukrainian businesses. Source: Viktoriia Kulish

An MBA online, a family to raise

Luckily, she qualified as a recipient of the BMW Group Fellowships for Ukraine. A partnership of BMW and ESMT Berlin, the programme pays for Kulish to complete an MBA online

Ranked the #1 business school in Germany, ESMT Berlin aims to develop the skills and competencies these women to contribute to Ukraine’s economic redevelopment.

“Joining the Global Online MBA programme was an important step because I want to develop myself at an international management level,” says Kulish. “I plan to strengthen my ability to adapt to new challenges and develop my leadership, innovation, organisation, and decision-making skills in uncertain conditions.

MBAs today have evolved a lot compared to what Kulish experienced in the 90s. “In recent years, working in management has shown me how businesses can be unstable and new challenges must be overcome every day,” she says.

Markets have become more dynamic, competition is stronger, new technologies have created new markets, and we need to quickly adopt new solutions. The strategies have become more short-term with many risks, and companies implement transformations very actively.”

Kulish started her programme in September and is currently completing her course remotely. “During the first three months of study, I realised how strong, beneficial, and innovative this school is,” she says.

“The programme material and responsible work of the ESMT team consider the demands of modern leadership, time challenges, and virtual global work effectively.”

Although it’s an MBA online, she is especially pleased with the “very warm and trusting atmosphere” between professors and students from all over the world. “Everybody is strongly motivated on a personal level which is what really makes it one of the highest-ranked business schools in the world,” she says.

MBA online

When she’s not studying for her MBA online or raising a family, Kulish enjoys staying active in sports like skiing, tennis and running. Source: Viktoriia Kulish

The challenges of studying an MBA online

Studying an MBA online does come with its challenges. For Kulish, these include balancing her workload while taking care of her family, working around the different time zones with her peers, and not being able to meet up with lecturers and other students personally.  

“ESMT organises so many useful events with partners for students where we can share our experience and develop ourselves,” she says. “But I can’t join in on all these events.”

But Kulish does not let these setbacks stop her from achieving her goal. “I try to keep a strong discipline in everything and actively participate through online tools where I can,” she says.

She also credits her university for making this process easy and convenient for her and other online. “Classes in a group and self-study are conducted on an excellent platform,” she says.

“I receive many recommendations, useful books and videos from the school. Luckily, I can attend events that are important to me online. ESMT creates all the conditions so I feel involved while learning online.”