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Galina Antova is an MBA student at IMD in Switzerland. She grew up in Bulgaria before moving to Canada to study for an undergraduate degree in computer science and psychology at York University in Toronto.

Ms Antova has worked in the high-tech sector for six years. Before starting her MBA, she was employed by IBM, the software services company, where her responsibilities included automation and cloud technology consultancy.

In her spare time, she enjoys cycling and reading.

1. What academic achievement are you most proud of to date?

I was awarded the most prestigious scholarship in the IMD MBA programme, the Future Leaders Scholarship. Needless to say, it helped me in a significant way financially. But most importantly, it was a huge encouragement. I was extremely honoured and feel a responsibility to live up to my full potential.

2. When did you know you wanted to study for an MBA?

As my career progressed, I become increasingly more interested in the business processes, not just the end result, of developing new technology. Since I had no business education training I wanted to learn more about strategy, business development and how business sciences are integrated to help us navigate today’s complex corporate world.

I viewed the MBA as a rite of passage that would give me benefits and opportunities as well as the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the business community and assisting with tackling some of the greater challenges we face today. I chose IMD in particular because its management education philosophy fits exactly with what I was looking for from an MBA.

3. Who are your business influences?

Two business leaders I respect deeply are Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett because they have qualities that I value deeply. Steve Jobs is a dreamer and entrepreneur. I have always admired his approach to business, his passion and his relentless desire to generate new ideas.

I also respect Warren Buffett for his disciplined approach to investing and brilliant ability to detect business opportunities. He remains grounded and down-to-earth even though he is one of the most influential people in the world, which says a lot to me about his qualities.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

To change the game I am playing, rather than try to compete even harder in a game I don’t necessarily enjoy. This advice came from our leadership professor Jack Wood, and it resonated with me strongly. Part of what makes IMD unique in my eyes is that we are expected not only to gain business knowledge and leadership skills, but to integrate our career aspirations with our overall life plans, increasing our chances of living fulfilled lives, rather than just having great careers.

5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

To live fully in the present. Living a provisional life where I tell myself that I will do what I really want only after achieving A, B and C leads to chasing happiness without ever reaching it. I prefer to be happy now.

6. What advice would you give to women in business?

Don’t act like men, try to draw on your own strengths instead. Our society has developed the notion that the leadership qualities we usually associate with men (drive, fearlessness, determination) are more important than those we associate with women (empathy, flexibility, consensus-building). In reality, men and women have both sets of qualities, but due to social norms we have developed one at the expense of the other. Women need to develop and encourage that other set of leadership qualities as that will promote balance, instead of trying to be more like men, in order to be successful.

7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

Throughout my university education and my career in technology I have been in male-dominated environments, so I barely pay attention to this aspect any more. I approach the environment as a place where bright individuals have come together to co-operate, regardless of their gender. I try to act as myself, rather than fulfilling some female stereotype.

Experience has shown me that when I first enter a male-dominated environment, there are indeed some who see the female in me before they see the person, expert and professional in me. If you act in stereotypical ways, they might never see any other side of you. However, if you continue to act as yourself and prove yourself, eventually people will see you as a person with a role, rather than just your gender.

8. What is the last book you read?

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This exceptionally brave woman is one of my heroes and her latest book is a memoir of her life.

9. What is your favourite business book?

The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In a brilliantly witty way he talks about the huge impact of rare events and why we are poorly equipped to handle them. I found his research very interesting and applicable not only to financial crisis and business problems, but to a broad spectrum of topics in life overall.

10. What is your life philosophy?

I have always been inspired by how resilient and adaptable humans are. As a society we have gone through upheavals and miserable times, but somehow our drive for survival has proved stronger. I have many examples in mind where humans have defied limits and boundaries and have persevered because they were fighting for something good that they believed in. I find this quality extremely inspiring as it makes me believe in a brighter future.

I try to remind myself daily of what is important and what is not when looking at the bigger picture. I find myself caught up sometimes in the trivialities of life and whenever that happens I try to get the larger perspective.

Interview by Charlotte Clarke

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