Alla Alexeeva graduated from the University of Exeter with an MSc Accounting and Finance, 2010. She’s currently Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel
Where do you currently live and work?
I live in Russia. I started my career in the beauty industry when I joined L’Oreal as an Intern just after graduation and was promoted to the position of Budget Controller within a couple of months. Now, I am working as a Finance Controller within the biggest business divisions at Chanel Russia & CIS and managing a team of three finance analysts.
Why did you choose to pursue this career?
My current job is very business oriented. It requires a lot of communication skills. My colleagues not only work in Russia, but also in Paris, London and NYC.
And for those less familiar with the term, what is a Finance Controller?
A Finance Controller is a business-oriented role. A person in this position would be responsible for strategic planning and budgeting, reporting, business analysis and finance key performance indicators.
“My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself… Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.”
Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?
I chose to study at the University of Exeter as it was in the Top 10 rankings in the Times and the Guardian when I started to look for the right place to study. The University provided very comfortable accommodation for international students and the city had good infrastructure. I would definitely recommend a Masters at Exeter due to all the new knowledge I gained, the friendly atmosphere, great networking opportunities among alumni, and the wonderful experience of living abroad in a very cosy city with great history and many places to explore.
Why did you choose your particular degree subject?
I chose to study this subject because I enjoyed studying economics in my bachelors degree and the programme suited these skills.
How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?
The Business School gave me a lot of practice in building strong relationships with people from different countries who spoke other languages. This is a beneficial skill for all young professionals starting their career in any field.
“While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.”
Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?
I started the process when I was writing my dissertation in the library. I initially planned to apply for an internship with L’Oreal UK, but there were no vacancies. So, I sent my CV to L’Oreal Russia. I finished my dissertation in the middle of September in Exeter and joined the L’Oreal office in Moscow starting from 1st of November. The whole of October was dedicated to interviews and assessment days.
Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?
While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.
What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?
It is compulsory to have an in-depth understanding of all international accounting standards while working as a Finance Controller. The knowledge I gained at University was a solid basis to develop my skills in this field.
“Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.”
What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?
I believe that my communication skills are excellent because I spent 2 years in the UK (1 year studying a pre-masters course in London, 1 year doing a Masters in University of Exeter Business School). It also helped me improve my self-confidence and endurance under stress. I also developed fluency in English, a deep knowledge of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and a particularly good command of Excel.
What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?
Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?
My advice for students would be to remember that if you are accepted on a course, you become an asset to the University. It is your right to make your University greater by achieving excellent academic results and taking a breath-taking career path.
What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in finance and wanting to follow a similar path to you?
My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I would hold one of the top positions in Finance at Chanel Russia, I would never believe them. Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.
Our alumni networks are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.
The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here.