From Kazakhstan to London: A Sloan Journey of Transformation and Success

Our next alum in the spotlight series is Timur Naizabekov, a recent Sloan 2023 grad from Kazakhstan. Having recently secured a new role as Senior Director at Alvarez and Marsal, he shares his experience on the Sloan programme and how it has helped him progress to the next step…

Could you please tell us a little bit about your background? What were you doing pre-Sloan?

I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, and before banking, I had a background in maths. I’ve done a lot of different jobs in my work, from investment banking to managing funds to being the CEO of a real estate investment trust.

Before starting my journey with Sloan, I was a senior executive at a private equity firm that mainly invested in real estate and telecommunications companies. I’ve also been honoured to serve as a non-executive director at top Kazakh companies like Kazakhtelecom and Kcell. These roles let me help shape the strategic direction of these “blue-chip” businesses. 

On a personal note, living in Almaty (Kazakhstan) has been a joy. The city’s proximity to a fantastic ski resort allowed me to spend quality leisure time with my family and friends, balancing the world of finance with the serene beauty of nature.

When and why did you decide that Sloan was the next step?

When I thought about my journey, the choice to follow a road through Sloan stood out as a turning point, especially as I got closer to 40. With a strong desire to add more international experience and exposure to my work, I was at a crossroads. Even though the business world is very big and complicated, I often felt limited by what I already knew. My dream was to be in a place that valued differences in all kinds of ways, not just culture. A place where learning new things and getting better at the things you

already know were not only promoted but also built into the very fabric of the place. With its great name and focus on the world, Sloan seemed like the light I was looking for.

My talks with Sloan alumni helped me see things more clearly and find my way. They talked not only about the tough academic path but also about a life-changing event that helped people find themselves, be real, and rethink their goals. The idea that Sloan could help you start over with your job and give you the chance to make deep, meaningful connections with people from all over the world who share your interests struck a chord with me.  I was excited about being in an environment that encourages open-mindedness and curiosity, surrounded by a diverse group of students, and working with world-class professors.

What were the key goals you had before studying the programme, and have these been achieved?

When I started the Sloan course, I had a lot of goals in mind. Each goal was a different part of what I wanted to get out of this life-changing experience. I wanted to do more than learn a lot of academic information that Sloan is known for. I also wanted to become part of London’s rich cultural mix, make deep ties and networks, and make friends that would last a lifetime. Also, the desire to become a cultural chameleon who can quickly adapt to different world settings was very important. Another important goal was to look for a job in London, which was seen as a place of great professional growth and new ideas.

When I think back on my journey, I can say with great satisfaction and thanks that the Sloan programme has not only met my goals but also greatly exceeded them—by what, three times? The experience has been truly unique and has helped me in ways I hadn’t fully expected in my studies, career, and personal life.

The daily conversations I’ve had with students from India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, the Philippines, Nigeria, Pakistan, Israel, and some other countries have been especially helpful. These interactions have given me a more global view and taught me a lot about different countries and ways of doing business. The relationships I’ve built with these amazing people from all over the world have brought me joy and inspiration, and I treasure every moment I’ve spent with them.

The support system that Sloan has set up has been amazing. Everyone in the London Business School—from the programme office to the professors, instructional assistants, and coaches—has helped make the school a stimulating and helpful place to learn. London Business School’s facilities, resources, clubs, networking events, and especially its job support have been critical to me on my path. Together, these factors have led to a complete change that has affected every part of my being, including my spirituality, intelligence, and academic performance.

Some of the goals I set for myself initially were mostly met, but one is unmet: finding a job in London. But this doesn’t take away from the huge value and effect of my Sloan experience. Instead, it led me to join one of the most famous companies in the world. Even though it wasn’t in my original plan, this chance shows how the course can lead to success in unexpected ways.

You’ve managed to secure a role soon after you finished your studies! Were there any resources or courses in the programme that helped you navigate finding employment after the programme?

Getting a job as a Senior Director at Alvarez & Marsal in November 2023 was a big step forward in my career and the start of a fun new stage post-Sloan. When I think about this accomplishment, I can see that the Sloan course was a big part of how I got to this point. The course helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my career and gave me the tools and guidance I needed to do well in the tough job market.

The personalised help and resources I got from Sloan’s career management services were very helpful in figuring out my job goals and the steps I needed to take to reach them.

However, combining frameworks from both core and elective classes really changed how I looked for a job. As an example, Jessica Spungin’s strategy class taught me how to ask the important questions of who, what, and how when it comes to business models. In my job search, I used this framework to help me figure out who my target companies were, what I could offer them, and how I could best place myself to get a job. This methodology helped me concentrate on what I needed to do and make sure that my applications were tailored to both my strengths and the needs of possible employers.

Another game-changer was what Herminia Ibarra taught about “dormant ties.” Getting in touch with people I hadn’t talked to in years gave me access to a wealth of information, trends, and chances I wouldn’t have had I not done so. These talks weren’t just a way to reconnect with old contacts; they were also important strategic touchpoints that helped me learn more about the business and possible career paths. Instead of seeing these encounters as transactions, I tried to build real, long-lasting relationships with them. This way of thinking and the lessons I learned from inactive ties were very important in getting me to my job at Alvarez & Marsal.

The leadership course, also led by Herminia Ibarra, instilled in me the belief that leadership is synonymous with change. Reflecting on my career, I recognised that I had always been a change agent, whether as a CEO, investor, fund manager, or now as a turnaround advisor. This realisation was further reinforced during the BCG Turn case competition, where my passion for restructuring and turnaround advisory was ignited. The competition was not just an academic exercise but a clarifying moment that solidified my desire to pursue a career in this dynamic field.

What piece of advice would you have for any upcoming Sloan candidates?

Understand that the Sloan programme is more than an academic endeavour; it’s a personal and professional metamorphosis journey. You will encounter moments of discomfort, doubt, and challenge. These are not signs of failure but indicators of growth. The process might feel painful and desperate, and at times, you may question your path, feeling adrift in the middle of an emotional and intellectual storm. However, remember, the vessel you are aboard is the Sloan Fellowship, a ship designed to navigate these waters, guiding you towards realms of unforeseen growth and opportunities. The journey requires courage, resilience, and an open spirit. As you embark on this path, hold fast to the promise that the destination will be a beautiful and unexpected place in your life despite the storms you may face.  And when you graduate, you’ll look back with pride and say, “I have been there, and I have done Sloan.”

For more information about the learning experience on the Sloan programme, click here.

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