In Love with AUCA
Tilek Mamutov and Aijan Jumukova are both graduates of AUCA. Tilek graduated in 2005 from Software Engineering, whereas Aijan is an alumna of Business Administration`07. They were married in 2009 and now live in Dublin, Ireland. Tilek is responsible for software engineering and IT project management at Google Inc, while his significant other works as an audit senior at Ernst & Young.
Tilek, so how did your story start?
Tilek (T): I do not believe we were formally introduced. She even thought my full first name was Tilekus, because that’s how our friend Boka (Bolushbek Abdyjaparov) wrote my nickname in the official AUCA Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team database.
We first talked to each other, when we were both on the AUCA SIFE team early in 2005. But then I got appendicitis, and she would come and visit me, help me walk and get me better. But when we were just SIFE teammates, I had to do crazy stuff to get noticed! I even sang full songs in Punjabi.
Aijan (A): I remember once we wanted to organize a movie night in the students’ room. We wanted to watch Madagascar 2. So I was inviting everybody to the movie night, but it turned out that Tilek wanted to watch it only with me, and he had to secretly tell people to let us watch the movie alone!
T: It’s very difficult to imagine how we would meet each other if not AUCA. She could have hired me as a web-master though, and for her I would have made the best website ever for free.
What else do you do to make Aijan the happiest woman on Earth?
T: Well, one thing for sure is that I try to make her laugh all the time. It is difficult always to come up with good new jokes though. So while I keep trying and learning, the process may be a little painful for Aijan. But it’s just when she is happy and smiling, I feel like I don’t need anything else in my life. Aijan is a very hard-working and stunningly beautiful sweetheart! What I love the most is that with Aijan I can really be myself.
A: My first impression of Tilek was that he was smart, funny and friendly. I liked the fact that he had many friends and he cared about his friends a lot. Tilek likes surfing the internet, which is no wonder given his profession, but sometimes Tilek loses track of time, he may even forget to eat!
Since you mentioned the work, why did you choose such career paths?
A: Although I specialize in marketing and management, I found it more efficient to build a career from a more specific area like accounting. Having technical knowledge in one area opens doors to many other opportunities in your career. Also number crunching and financial analysis are very interesting and challenging for me.
I have been working at Ernst & Young for 2 years. My job revolves around technical accounting principles and interpersonal client relationships. I have to mention the high quality education I received at AUCA. I have never felt like I lacked some fundamental university knowledge. On the contrary, I often felt that I know more than many of my colleagues at my level.
T: As for me, I loved math in school a lot. When I was in 5th grade, for the first time in my life, I saw a personal computer and algorithms you could write for it. I realized that math is more applicable and productive, and it can really make people happier. This is when I decided that this is something I definitely want to do.
At Google I develop internal web applications, which help analyze and improve search quality. If you don’t know what web spam is and don’t see it in Google search results – it probably means that our work has some effect. Also, I try hard to have as many Google products as possible better localized for Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz language. Unfortunately, I don’t have official time allocation for it, so it is more like my hobby.
And what foundations for your success were laid here at AUCA?
A: I have only fondest memories of AUCA: brilliant teachers, a warm and friendly atmosphere, amazing student concerts, and kitchenette! Entering AUCA was, undoubtedly, the best decision for my future. I did quite well at AUCA, graduated with GPA of 3.56. But studying at AUCA gave me more than excellent knowledge, it gave me this constant need to improve and challenge myself. For that I am really grateful.
T: Same for me, although I did not do exceptionally well in terms of grades. Actually, I had all types of grades including some rare ones like “incomplete”. The explanation for this phenomenon is that I was studying very hard only when the subject seemed to be really useful for me, like software engineering, or interesting like Italian. I definitely made life more difficult in terms of finances for my parents than Aijan though.
I also think a lot of extracurricular activities in AUCA made a big difference for my career advancement, including the SIFE team, where I sharpened my leadership and teamwork skills. Actually, even my first job was at AUCA: I was in charge of our website during the summer after my freshman year!
What do you think makes AUCA a special place?
T: Friends. I made amazing friends at the University, and memories with my best friends and other great AUCA folks are really some of the warmest. The first memory that comes to my mind is how we organized AUCA ski trips with my best friends Boka (Bolushbek Abdyjaparov), Kuka (Kurman Otorbaev), Nurik (Nurlan Kulcharov) and Vova (Vladimir Dolgiy). It was fun to gather very early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, buy some snacks in “Narodnyi” and ski the whole day in our beautiful mountains.
A: Besides excellent professors and computer and library facilities, I think AUCA has this friendly, almost family-like, atmosphere that makes students want to stay there and never go home! It is these little things that made AUCA special for me: posters and photos when it was somebody’s birthday, ski, Issyk-Kul, mountain trips with other students, cozy student room, room #104, SIFE and endless meetings, and many others.
T: Academic freedom, free of corruption, academic honesty, especially on teachers’ side, is a great example for Central Asia of how institutions can be of a great benefit to society! It is really inspiring to be together with great people and extraordinary students from many different countries, most of whom have scholarships for academic achievements. Great international and local teachers who helped us see where we stand in terms of knowledge and where we should aim. I hope other universities in Central Asia will learn all those things from AUCA.
Mind sharing with us your key ingredients of success?
A: I cannot point out a specific number of ingredients of success. However, I know for sure that hard work, self-confidence, and being a kind and approachable person are a good start.
T: I wish I knew the ingredients! Some of my recommendations, though, would be:
1) Be very positive! Since all events and things have positive and negative sides, make sure you are aware of negative ones, but concentrate on the positives. This approach should reflect, for example, when applying it to your resume. Remember all the good things you have done and what the most positive thing about them was. Being negative is definitely not an ingredient for success, in my opinion.
2) Find what you love, what motivates you, what you want to achieve. No need to set exact deadlines, but at least choose a general direction. Actually, none of my career paths were exactly how I planned, but I realized later that it was exactly what I wanted. For me, what I love is programming, and what motivates me is the awareness that I help people by means of technology.
3) Always continue learning, both theory and practice. For IT specialists, practice is especially important I think. Also learn things outside your core profession! In my case, knowing at least on a basic level several languages always helped me in my career and personal life. In general, try to always be as curious as a child.
4) Work as hard as you never worked before, when you need it the most. I may have been lazy sometimes or not organized, but when it came to crucial moments like graduation exams or going through the Google job process, I tried harder than ever.
5) And the last, but not leasT: be nice. Unfortunately, many people forget about this while working hard on climbing the career ladder.
Sounds very inspiring and optimistic! Let me ask you this question: if you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
T and A: We would try to meet each other earlier.
A: You know it feels absolutely awesome to be married! Not only did our marriage make us happier, but also I think it made us better people. Of course, there are small bumps on the road, but we try not to sweat the small stuff and enjoy our lives.
T: Marriage is the thing for us, I think. We like to try new things together. Together we quite often run, play tennis, surf and wind surf. During the winter we love to ski. We both had no hesitation and got married relatively early – when we were 24 and 22. We are aware of many difficulties that marriage brings, especially over time. But we are confident that love and huge mutual respect will keep our marriage amazing, until we grow old together, live happily and die on the same day.
So what's next for you?
T: My plan is to move Google Headquarters to Issyk-Kul, and I would allow not only dogs in the office, but also sheep. Drinking kumys will be a required part of the interview process. I also dream to create a free electronic education system for everyone in the world. You would be able to choose any courses to study from any type of educational system. Those courses would be provided and recognized by different educational institutions. But speaking seriously, together with Aijan we dream of opening a resort in Issyk-Kul.
Anyone you would like to thank who has influenced you to be who you are today?
T: Parents, parents, parents. They spent enormous amount of effort to raise me and my brother.
Teachers of course played a big role: my high school math teacher Svetlana Eduardovna Mirau, teachers at AUCA, especially Sergey Nikolaevich Sklyar and Nancy Leland who were very strict, but, apparently, it was very useful for my development. Many other teachers! And the AUCA staff was very helpful! I am sorry I can’t list all the names, but please believe me, I remember you and I am very, very grateful! Of course, my friends were always there for me in the most difficult moments, and obviously Aijan.
A: Parents, of course, first of all. My sister Nurzat who insisted on choosing AUCA when I graduated from school! The whole business administration department was always supportive. Also Elmira Tursunbekovna Musuralieva – for her shiny personality and excellent lectures. Mahinur Asanovna Mamatova – I absolutely enjoyed her classes; and Galina Gavrilovna Tremasova – she was the best English language teacher I have ever had.
T: Also, a memo to all alumni. The mentorship role from the alumni side is very important. While professors try hard to teach the most important and core subjects, it’s difficult for them to be fully updated on recent needs from employers’ side. This is one of the fields where alumni can help students to grow. Also, from my experience, I remember that it feels very different to hear about the “real world” and how to become successful from people who went through the same system and almost through the same courses as you do. Financial support of AUCA is obviously important, even small support, I think, is nice in terms of expressing care, which is important not only to university staff, but also to students who are studying at AUCA.
A: I also see great opportunities for alumni in supporting AUCA. I think AUCA would appreciate not only financial support for high-achieving students’ scholarships, but also non-financial support. I realize that all alumni are busy with their lives and work after graduation, but I think many AUCA alumni would be flattered to participate in career fairs, share their ideas, advise them to visit as guest lecturers, and talk about practical areas or new methods that they apply at work.
By Kemel Toktomushev