Srbuhy Hakobian (MBA ‘94) Credits AUA for Her Career Success5 min read
Currently based in Tbilisi, AUA alumna Srbuhy Hakobian (MBA ‘94) is a partner of Deloitte CJSC in Georgia, a member firm of the leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services. Bringing the multinational professional services network to Armenia in 2012, she became the director of Deloitte in Armenia before moving to the Tbilisi office. In the interview below, Srbuhy recalls student life at AUA back in the nineties, crediting the University for the invaluable knowledge and skills she had gained. Having graduated almost three decades ago, Srbuhy has never failed to give back to her alma mater by donating to AUA funds, stating that it is a natural thing every alum should consider doing in gratitude for all that the University has given them.
Let’s travel back in time. What was AUA like in the nineties when you were a student?
When I started at AUA, I was almost thirty, and I was working as a lecturer at the Armenian National Agrarian University. My classmates at AUA were much younger, which made my student life rather different. The times were very difficult. The University was like a little sunshine in those dark and cold days. Most of the students, most of my classmates, had joined AUA just as soon as they graduated from other Armenian universities, and were spending most of their time at the University. It was such a nice place. There was electricity, the building was warm, and students used to spend the day there. For me, however, the situation was a bit different, as I continued to work and was constantly running between work and the University. Despite the hardships, those were great times.
Did you have a favorite spot at AUA?
Of course. The Large Auditorium. I liked it very much. The last time I was there, it was for my nephew’s graduation, and I still enjoyed being there. The computer lab and the library were the two places where my peers and I would be most of the time. I liked the computer lab a lot, and I think, back then, many of us did. I remember the old computers and the floppy discs. Then there was the student council, a very small room, where we would gather to play monopoly.
What was the role of AUA’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in your career growth, and did you have a professor who influenced you?
I can’t name one person, but we did have a great international community of professors. There were Indians, Americans, Arabs, Europeans. Thanks to AUA, we started to embrace and appreciate diversity. This was a great experience which I think was paramount to my continued success as I’ve always worked for international firms. Also, as I said earlier, though older than my classmates, having earned a PhD and being a professor myself, I still benefited a lot from my AUA experience. The study process was completely different from what I was used to. There were teaching methods and approaches that had a huge impact on me, and still, whenever I conduct training as a managing partner, I use the techniques and skills that I had gained at AUA. Even after almost twenty years, there are things that continue to have an impact on my career – things that I learned at AUA. One of these is teamwork. It was absolutely a new skill that we learned at AUA, because, as you know, in the Soviet educational system there was no such thing as a group project.
Another important skill I gained at AUA is time management: considering the number of tasks we had to complete, and the multiple projects, balancing work and study time was essential. With that came learning to prioritize. The term “deadline” was also new for us and then it became a part of our lives. Thus, teamwork, prioritizing, delegation, work discipline – here’s the set of skills that I acquired at AUA and I still use them in my career.
What has been the most tangible achievement in your career journey?
I can’t really pinpoint one achievement, because I have had such a diverse career. After I graduated from AUA, I joined Oxfam International, a prominent non-profit organization. Then I worked for a number of UN agencies. Later, when one of the “Big Four” companies opened in Armenia, I was hired to work there. I guess it was an achievement that whatever job I applied for, I was accepted. I believe the role that AUA has played was huge in this regard. The University developed in me the ability to understand others, the ability to deliver a message effectively. You know, in the “Big Four” companies where I work, most people come right after graduation from university and they stay there until they retire. I, on the other hand, was able to have a very diversified experience beforehand, and I think that’s my most important achievement.
Speaking of the “Big Four,” I would like to advise students in the sphere to consider it as a career option. I know that consulting and auditing are not among the most prestigious professions at this time, but I believe these specialties boost knowledge and provide great professional experience.
Having served in several leadership positions, and currently being a partner in Deloitte CJSC, how would you characterize your leadership style?
Well, that is changing with experience. I should confess that at first I used to be a very controlling leader, then I went through a self development phase, and life itself also developed me. In time, I understood that the best thing to do is to not get in the way of my staff. I started to trust people more. I would describe a good leader as someone who recruits the right people, who works with them and supports their development, is able to trust them and assist them when they need help.
You are among those AUA alumni who constantly support their alma mater through donations and inspire AUA students and alumni. What motivates you to keep on giving back to the University and the community?
I think that’s the natural thing to do. And I believe that the amount of the donation doesn’t matter. It can range from one dollar to a hundred thousand depending on one’s income. I think that everyone in our society is gradually learning to give – to give not only to one’s alma mater but also to those in need. I can never disregard the role AUA played for me. So I think it’s my duty to give back to my alma mater. I also made some of my best friends at AUA, for which I’m grateful. I think that money can never compensate for what we, as AUA alumni, have gained at AUA.
What would be your advice to current AUA students?
I believe that we live in a time when material things do not play as big of a role as they used to after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I have great respect for the current generation because they have more freedom of mind and they are much less exposed to tangible benefits. Knowledge and time are the most valuable things in life. So, my advice would be not to waste your time on frivolous things. Try to do your best, and believe me, if you do so, you will be appreciated. I never planned to become a partner. I was just doing my best at any given time. You may fail sometimes – life is not without failures – the important thing is to not give up, just get yourself together, get your chin up, and move on.