Conquering Corporate America
Our special guest and author of AUCA success story is Cholponbek Jumashukurov. He graduated from AUCA in 2002, majoring in Business Administration, and currently works as an analyst at Farallon Capital, a private investment firm based in San Francisco. He won an FSA FLEX scholarship to study at a high school in the U.S. and afterwards entered AUCA. He received his MBA from Harvard University and has experience working in the investment and banking sector. Prior to Farallon, Cholponbek worked at Deloitte and Touche, McKinsey and Goldman Sachs.
What was your experience at AUCA?
AUCA was great for me, I wouldn’t exchange it for any other university in the world. I made my closest and best friends there, including Adilet Dadybaev, Taalai Nasirdinov, Kanybek Konokbaev, Azamat Ibraimov, Chyngyz Jamankulov, Bek Chalbaev, Ulan Kojomuratov, and Edil Azhibaev. I met many wonderful and impressive individuals like Almaz Bazarbaev, Asel Kasenova, Aijan Soodaeva, Daniyar Ilebaev, Elnura Osmonalieva, Mirlan Karabukaev, it’s impossible to name everyone, the university was able to gather truly exceptional talent. I hope one day these people will lead Kyrgyzstan.
In terms of education, AUCA gave me a particularly strong knowledge in accounting (Tatiana Filippovna), macroeconomics, (Munara Artykovna), and management and organizational behavior (Kamila Dushebaevna). Later in my career I always felt I had solid foundations in these subjects.
AUCA is obviously a very important part of my background. It is becoming more well-known as more alumni spread around the globe each year. Though the American-style grading system was a big plus, 10 years ago when I studied, it was less known. Therefore, it was important to differentiate myself from fellow students. I was very fortunate. I feel that it played a key role when later applying to these fine institutions.
What are your thoughts about success? Can you claim you are a successful person?
It is too early to tell whether I am successful or not. In terms of my achievements so far, I think they were due to a combination of a lot of luck and hard work.
In terms of hard work it has been important to set the correct long-term direction and be very focused and disciplined in executing it.
I have also been fortunate in having the right mentors at different stages. It is very important to find and stick with a person, from whom you can continually learn. I also keep a list of lessons I learn, but I’m not disciplined in actually reading them later.
In general, I am a relaxed person. There should always be a work-life balance. I like to party and probably did actually party too much during my freshman year at AUCA.
And talking about the years at AUCA – any more fond memories?
One of my great memories is the Halloween party during my 2nd year, when my friends and I prepared a scary room, which was so popular that it caused a long line. We charged a fee to enter and won the best room award, and were rewarded with a huge cake. We used part of the money to buy a large bottle of Coke for us. Sweet memories: fun, cake and soda!
To your mind, what else makes AUCA a special place?
First, what I liked most about AUCA is the lack of corruption and bribes. It is really unique in post-Soviet countries, and AUCA is much different than some other local universities. Secondly, AUCA’s scholarship program and admission process provided great opportunities for students from Kyrgyzstan’s provinces, who usually come to Bishkek with no special social ties to enter better colleges. I saw many talented students from rural areas be able to study and excel there. Finally, AUCA’s care and respect for students makes it a truly special place. I remember how the school’s administration did everything to improve students’ lives, how it increased computer lab and library hours so students could better prepare for exams, how the university assigned a special budget which the student senate could distribute for various projects.
You are an alumnus now and can look back and make judgments about education and its meaning. How do you see the role of alumni in supporting AUCA?
It is a gradual process. As AUCA increases its alumni base and the existing base matures, the alumni should be able to provide more serious support for the university. This will work as long as AUCA keeps providing a good student experience and continues investing in keeping alumni connected. The support from alumni should not be limited to participation in fundraising activities, but more importantly giving back through sharing knowledge and experience with current students. I know some examples of my peers who voluntarily taught subjects in AUCA after earning degrees abroad. Over the years my friends and I did a couple of presentations to current students on the management consulting industry, telecom sector, retail banking, professional services abroad and how to apply to top MBA programs abroad.
We also know that AUCA became the place where you met your wife. Could you kindly elaborate on this?
I met Saltanat in Bishkek, but not exactly at AUCA. We studied there at different times but obviously still share the same university background. She studied economics, and now is continuing her education here in the U.S. Saltanat has a unique personality, which is tough to find; and I am very fortunate that we are together.
If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
I would not really change anything. There are a couple of mistakes, which I strongly wish I had avoided, but they are in the past.
Your craziest dream?
The Kyrgyz Republic proudly entering the list of top 10 countries in the world with the lowest corruption and crime rates; the best education, healthcare, and business opportunities. The fiercest national debates are on how to allocate country’s large reserves and how to more fairly conduct the hugely popular Kyrgyzstan citizenship lottery.
What do “Harvard boys” do in their free time?
There are probably many stereotypes about Harvard and its alumni. I enjoy spending time with my family, reading books, watching movies, playing soccer and watching team sports. I like to read as much as possible. As famous investor, Charlie Munger, says, reading is the best way to become wiser. I have a long list of books I want to read.
Again, my work-life balance is important. Success does not equal happiness. As Ingrid said, “Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.”
So, what's next for you? Any ambitious investment plans?
I like where I am now. Directionally, I would like to continue investing in myself and becoming a better professional. The three best investments in life are your education, your health and your relationships. They all usually pay off well.
Anyone you would like to thank who has influenced who you are today?
Yes, professionally I am thankful to several people, including Tatiana Parfenova and Kamilla Sharshekeeva, my favorite AUCA professors; Julia Mikhailova, my manager at McKinsey; Michael Kho, my senior buddy at Goldman; and Bill Duhamel, my previous mentor and the man who introduced me to value investing. I was also heavily influenced by the books, essays, and speeches of Stephen Covey, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.
By Aliona Kim