NU Alumni careers: I work for Alstom

We continue the series of interviews with our alumni and their employers. Our graduates’ employers  – KPMG, Kazzinc, Korkem Telecom, and BI Group have already taken part in the project.  

The heroes of our next interview work for a major rail industry in the region – Alstom company. More than 900 people work for Alstom Kazakhstan in two joint ventures and two plants: EKZ in Nur-Sultan – for locomotives manufacturing and maintenance; and KazElectroPrivod in Almaty – for the production of point machines.

Alstom is the only manufacturer of electric locomotives and point machines in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the company is a major contributor to the revitalization of the region’s rail industry and economy.

Guillaume TRITTER, Managing Director in Western & Central Asia

– What kind of employees are successful at your company? What qualities are important for good performance and promotion at your company?

– Our company favors career development and encourages internal promotion of our talents.  It is naturally important that the employee demonstrates that he or she has the core academic knowledge and technical competences in line with the job that he or she was recruited for. But it is at least equally important that the employee demonstrates a positive attitude and motivation for work. It is crucial that in day to day work, the employee displays the required level of curiosity and thirst to learn and further develop within the company, by taking up challenges. Collaboration is also a key word in this aspect. It is essential that our employees have the capacity to work within diverse teams, mixing different levels of seniority, origins, competencies and ways of thinking. Developed soft skills are a key asset when it comes to communicating efficiently, engaging people, leading complex tasks, and executing the project. Both know-how and interpersonal skills are equally important, and the latter shall not be underestimated when it comes to selecting or promoting the right candidate.

– How would you describe the culture of the company?

– Our company’s ambition is to be the leading global innovative player for a sustainable and smart mobility. To achieve that ambition, we count on each of our employees, forming one team and being driven by our company’s values: Agile, Inclusive and Responsible. One of the best ways to briefly present our company is to refer to our core values. When it comes to Agility, we surely encourage our employees to act quickly, anticipate, learn and adapt continuously. Being Inclusive is at the heart of our identity, at Alstom we embrace differences and consider them as a real asset, a real chance. Finally, we are a responsible company towards our employees, our customers and society. At the forefront is the absolute necessity to always act with the highest ethical and compliant behavior in our day to day activities. Also, at Alstom, we constantly innovate in order to deliver green and sustainable mobility solutions, which are mindful and respectful of the environment. Our values are at the core of our daily actions and are shared by our employees worldwide – who number nearly 40,000 employees located in more than 60 countries around the world.

– What results do you expect from a new employee during the trial period?

– During the trial period it is essential that the employee demonstrates that he or she possesses the required core technical skills and competences to efficiently perform the job that he or she was recruited for. It is also fundamental that the employee demonstrates the capacity to understand the global picture in which the current job is positioned, its perimeter and interactions with other functions. It cannot be expected from a new employee to be fully operational on the first day of his assignment, but it is important that he or she rapidly acquires the vision and understanding of the global goals and target of the company, and how he or she can directly contribute in achieving them. Everyone contributes to the satisfaction of our customer and must be aware of their direct role in the full process.”

– What qualities are required to cope with responsibilities and move forward?

– As I said earlier, leaderships skills are certainly an asset to deal with increasingly important responsibilities. Leadership skills are not reserved for senior management. Everyone, in his or her role or function, can display leadership in order to push forward an organization, in order to contribute to a collective achievement. This means the ability to work in a diverse team, to collaborate efficiently, to be agile and to engage people by providing them with the necessary daily motivation to collectively achieve an ambitious goal. It is also important to remain open and to continuously learn. The learning process doesn’t stop when one graduate from the university. Learning is a continuous process, particularly in today’s fast-evolving world. Agile – Inclusive – Responsible!

 Samanta BERKALIYEVA, Human Resources Director in Western & Central Asia

– What makes an ideal candidate?

 Highly motivated, result-oriented individuals, willing to go an extra mile to reach the goal and learn along the way. A perfect candidate is a person who responds to our corporate values: being Agile, Inclusive and Responsible. 

– What do Recruiting managers want to know about the candidate? What questions are the graduates asked?

– Can you highlight specific traits in your personality or relevant skills that make you the best candidate for the role? Can you highlight your accomplishments that are relevant to the job? What can you bring to the position and how will it help the Company?

– What are the main mistakes that graduates make during the interview?

  1. Arriving late
  2. Not bringing a resume
  3. Seeming unprepared
  4. Not having any questions
  5. Not knowing anything about the Company

– How is an employee’s success assessed?

– The annual performance review which consists of professional and behavioral approach at work.

– How do you introduce newcomers to the team?

– Through the HR induction, onboarding program, mandatory trainings, and having a buddy assigned within the first 3 months.

– What do you look for when looking at resumes of candidates?

– Teamwork, communications skills, creativity, time-management skills, self-motivation are very important.

During their studies, most students had an internship, did different projects, engaged with different workshops and communities to enlarge their activities –  and these types of things also might be very interesting and attractive for future Employers.

– How would you characterize NU graduates?

-Attracting young talent is necessary to secure the Company’s future. While graduates often don’t have the field-related experience, they do have valuable skills that could compensate for the lack of experience and turn out to be beneficial in the long run. Many of these candidates are among the brightest minds and exactly what we need for our company. They are ambitious, tech-savvy, up to date with recent trends and industry best practices.

 Azamat UTEKEYEV, Off-loco Engineering Manager

2016, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, School of Engineering and Digital Sciences

– In your opinion, what university specialties will be in demand during the next 5-10 years considering technological and market developments?

– I think we will see the popularity grow for Data Science and humanitarian sciences. Although, data science may seem obvious because it is a technical discipline, let me explain the likely rise of the humanitarian sciences.  Artificial intelligence and robots will replace a lot of modern workers. However, they are not good at humanitarian disciplines so far.  So, we will need both data science and people who have a background in humanities.  

–  In your opinion, to what should university students and recent graduates pay particular attention?

– Find a field of work that satisfies them and makes them happy 🙂 

– What were your graduation plans, and did they coincide with your career?

– Yes and no, actually 🙂  I wanted to be an engineer since I was a freshman. However, I wanted to work in Power Industry, particularly in KEGOC (electricity distribution), not in Railways as now.

– How many interviews did you attend before applying for a job?

2 official and 1 unofficial

– What difficulties did you encounter during the interview?

– I only remember my last interview in Alstom. My future line manager tried to stump me a lot and I think he succeeded. He asked a lot of technical questions and challenged me to identify the purpose of various components. I didn’t know all answers, but at least tried to find answer logically and using existing information. I think it was a good approach.

– What role did the university play in your professional self-realization?

– Provided a good technical background. Communication in English. Including technical English (jargon)

– In your opinion, what qualities should a student (future graduate) have to get a job in their specialty?

  1. Ability to simplify work by using a computer and other tools
  2. Consider challenges as a game. Sounds strange, but without gamification, you will get stuck in a rut
  3. Ability to learn. For that, I recommend Coursera MOOC which called “Learn how to learn”

– How has your outlook on life changed after graduation? Were there any memorable episodes in your university and postgraduate life that significantly changed your outlook on the world?

– I can’t remember any specific event that changed me, frankly speaking. Regarding my outlook, yes there is one significant change. During university life I was a consumer. I consumed academic knowledge, practical knowledge, scholarship, and so on. And I gave nothing in return. It was normal for me. Today, however, my outlook says that only taking is not fair. In work life, I feel that my work/files/reports have value and provide benefit to other people. And it is awesome!

Aishabibi ABUKHAN, Process Engineer

2019, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, School of Engineering and Digital Sciences

– In your opinion, what university specialties will be in demand during the next 5-10 years considering technological and market developments?

– I think the specialists in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), health, and education are still going to be popular after 5-10 years, at least in Kazakhstan. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed many different fields that need to be considerably improved.

– In your opinion, to what should university students and recent graduates pay particular attention?

– Self-awareness. It is important to know (at least faintest notion) what kind of skills you have, what are your abilities, what is your passion before applying for a job or degree programs.

 – What were your graduation plans, and did they coincide with your career?

I started working in Schneider Electric right after graduation as was planned.

–  How many interviews did you attend before applying for a job?

– I tried several mock interviews that were organized by NU CAC (Career and Advising Center), but I got a job after 1 interview.

 – What difficulties did you encounter during the interview?

I was OK with the theoretical questions (fundamentals of physics, power engineering), but questions identifying soft skills were a bit harder to answer.

 – What role did the university play in your professional self-realization?

– At NU, I learned that I have plenty of opportunities and solutions no matter if it is a job or problem. I am confident because of the skills (i.e., adaptability, fast learning, surfing the internet) that I acquired while studying at NU.

 – In your opinion, what qualities should a student (future graduate) have to get a job in their specialty?

– I think, desire to learn and quick learning are enough to get a job, and of course, students should be able to show it during the interview.

 – How has your outlook on life changed after graduation? Were there any memorable episodes in your university and postgraduate life that significantly changed your outlook on the world?

– I was not a socially active student so that it was a bit difficult to engage with people with different backgrounds. I advise all students to communicate with a large audience, to learn to deal with conflicts, and to never continue to do the job that is not interesting for you.

 Assiya KHASSENOVA, Project Operational Manager

2017, Master of Engineering Management (MEM), School of Engineering and Digital Sciences

– In your opinion, what university specialties will be in demand during the next 5-10 years considering technological and market developments?

– I think that in the upcoming future Kazakhstan will go more and more digital. That’s why my best guess is that IT engineers will be increasingly in demand. However, industrialization is also developing, so other engineering departments will also be a good choice for undergrads.

– In your opinion, to what should university students and recent graduates pay particular attention?

– I had my first specialist degree from Moscow State University, and the most shocking thing during my NU MEM (Master of Engineering Management) experience was the fact that professors are very attentive, understanding, and willing to motivate us, this was way too soothing… In Moscow, nobody cared if I will or will not succeed after graduation. The style of the two programs are at two extremes, but the approach of the Moscow State University helped me to develop some stubbornness and persistence. So, my advice to current students is to try and focus on developing personal skills in terms of stress tolerance and agility, because the labor market is not very stable: a lot of employers are forced to be extremely demanding to newcomers. Life is hard 🙂 

– What were your graduation plans, and did they coincide with your career?

– Since I was studying in MEM while working in Project Management Office in aerospace industry, my plans were to get as much project management knowledge as possible to apply directly to my daily routine life. It was the case, so I can say that MEM program was exactly in the right moment of my life.

– How many interviews did you attend before applying for a job?

– None, I came to MEM already with 1.5 years of experience and I didn’t stop working during my studies.

– What role did the university play in your professional self-realization?

– MEM helped me to sort out my experience-based knowledge about project management into strict order liaised with theoretical basis. Of course, it led to efficiency and gave me new analytical tools and approaches. However, I am convinced that if I came to MEM without prior experience, I would’ve gained less benefits for my self-realization. I honestly don’t know why NU does not require at least 1 year of experience for master program candidates’ application eligibility.

– In your opinion, what qualities should a student (future graduate) have in order to get a job in their specialty?

– The main thing is the readiness to hear a “NO”. I knew some very smart and brilliant grads who became depressed when after first 3-5 CVs sent, they were not even invited to an interview. Wake up, kids! We’re in a crisis, nobody is waiting for us out there outside the university walls!

– How has your outlook on life changed after graduation? Were there any memorable episodes in your university and postgraduate life that significantly changed your outlook on the world?

– I’ve graduated in 2017 and exactly one year after I’ve changed my job from aerospace to the railway industry. During the interview, the fact of MEM degree was considered as my advantage over other candidates. But other than that, I cannot think of any other memorable or life-changing moment… It’s more correct to say that MEM and NU helped me to solidify my life perspective, especially in terms of attitude towards the importance of knowledge and self-development.