"One of the best things in AIESEC is meeting people who have the same values and are like-minded people, which is not always easy to find. It really brings together smart and ambitious people who want to change the world but also like to have fun."
When you meet Svetlana Zhukova today, she is a successful female leader in Getty Images Australia and New Zealand. But her inspiring journey started far from Australia.
Svetlana grew up in Minsk, Belarus, where she pursued a Bachelor of Marketing in a local university. “There was nothing global [in Belarus], and the only reason people would travel overseas was for a holiday”. But she was striving for more. "I just liked the idea of changing the world... and the concept of international leadership really connected with me". She joined AIESEC in 2000, and 3 years later became the National President of the biggest youth-led organisation in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. “My first time overseas was for training people in sales and marketing in Poland, where I had to deliver sessions while not being entirely comfortable speaking in English. It was quite a stretch out of my comfort zone, but it turned out to be a great experience”.
After moving up to work for AIESEC International, Svetlana was part of a collaborative team working on AIESEC’s digital marketing strategy, event management at international AIESEC conferences, and other projects. “You may not notice, but you are doing a lot of different things while in AIESEC that are actually expanding your skills”.
An exchange with AIESEC brought Svetlana to work in a marketing company here in Sydney, and she decided to stay. She never expected to end up where she is now, and she considers herself very lucky to make all the right choices that brought her here. “The only thing you can do is to make aware choices, and AIESEC definitely taught me a lot about self-awareness and critical thinking which helped me to make those choices”.
When asked whether experience gained in AIESEC helped her in Getty Images, Svetlana responded sincerely:
“Definitely. I think overall, AIESEC has a unique approach, where through its partners, AIESEC has access to a lot of quite advanced systems of planning and talent management. Once you go out into the corporate world, there are actually not a lot of companies that have those systems. For example, we used Balanced Scorecard for planning – it’s quite an advanced strategic planning tool, and we had the whole global AIESEC team following that. If you ask someone in a regular corporation about planning, people may not have an idea about such tools, so it was great to have exposure to that so early in my career. While everyone else was trying to find a job when finishing university, I was actually already working with global organisations using the best practice in the field. Another tool we used was the Competency Model – again, it’s quite advanced, and through its global partners AIESEC got access to that in order to chart the talent within their organisation.”
The sales and networking experience gained in AIESEC helps Svetlana in her current role of Marketing Director in Getty Images. She is able to communicate with customers more effectively, and it helps her to collaborate with Getty Images team in better ways through that experience.
“The learning and development in AIESEC is quite advanced, and it’s the core of the organisation. Very few organisations have this ethos of having learning and development so embedded into everything you do every day. So the more time you spend in AIESEC, the more opportunities to practice these advanced technologies you have. And it is quite an invaluable experience.”
This is why Svetlana believes that AIESEC played a major role in developing her global skills. AIESEC, facilitating global leadership through cross-cultural understanding, grew to be a powerful youth movement in more than 126 countries worldwide. And not only has it made a difference in the business world, it also contributed to personal development and success of globally-minded individuals like Svetlana Zhukova.