RSU teaches how to understand business on a deeper level
“Nowadays, when for the sake of successful communication, communication specialists are more frequently included in company management teams, understanding the specific features of business management and legal aspects seems a logical step,” views Liene Dupate-Ugule, who graduated from the Master’s study programme International Business and Law at the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Faculty of European Studies. Liene was moving onto the home stretch with her Master’s studies, when she took on the greatest challenge of her career so far – Liene became the communication manager at Maxima Latvija. This conversation was about what she learned during her studies and the opportunities to apply that knowledge.
You have graduated from the RSU Bachelor’s programme Public Relations. What encouraged you to return to the university after nine years?
I started my studies at the RSU Faculty of Communication in 2003, straight after secondary school, and had public relations in mind. After graduation in 2007, I started working in a field that was related to my studies. I became a corporate communications representative in one of the leading international Latvian enterprises – airBaltic. Respectively, my further career was associated with the field of communication. After seven very intense years at airBaltic, I had a very appealing job offer from Samsung Electronics. I had been working in different leading positions for this company from 2014 up till this year. I was heading various projects and public relations campaigns there. At the beginning of this year, I was approached by Maxima Latvija and was asked to become their communications manager. The choice was not easy, however, after I verified that the company has long-term and sustainable goals, I made a decision that I haven't regretted since.
The main reason for returning to the university after almost ten years was my desire to improve my knowledge and professional qualifications. Although I believe that one can learn much by doing and working, there's a moment when you want to study and learn even more.
Why did you choose to study international business and law?
Business and law are at the core of every business. By gaining deeper understanding of these two areas, one can fully understand the internal processes in the company and for this reason it was very important for me to study this. Nowadays, communications managers are more frequently included in the management teams of companies, because companies are getting an increasingly better understanding of the importance of successful communication both for the domestic and international business environment.
What was the most important thing that you gained from these two years of studies?
To schedule time for my work, two children and my husband, so that I could successfully learn all the subjects without adversely affecting the quality: from economics, management and basics of international law to financial management and accountancy. Some of the teachers were truly excellent. If I had not decided to study, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to listen to their lectures and advice. There are things that I'd like to change slightly in the study programme; however, I look back on this two-year experience as positive. Every student weighed up what's most important for them and allocated their time accordingly, of course, without losing quality in other subjects that are not so useful for their studies.
During your studies, you changed from your long-term employer, the electronics manufacturer Samsung to Maxima Latvija – that’s a completely different industry.
Yes, the industry is different. Furthermore, the work at Maxima Latvija is very intense in general, because we are the leading retailer in Latvia with the largest number of employees in the country. Therefore, the media shows great interest. We have a great team, and that is the key to our success.
This time when I took up a leading position in a new industry was very intense – it was the last stage of my studies, when I had to write my Master’s thesis. Frankly, it wasn't easy, but I presume that this is what 99 % of the students think. So, I don't want to put myself on a pedestal. Just remember that it's easy to turn around and give up, but it's not the kind of attitude that allows one to achieve something in life. If one has a goal, then one has to go for it, no matter how hard it is!
How hard or easy was it to combine work and studies in general?
In my case, it was not just about work and studies, but also about my family with two children. There's no single recipe. One must do everything in order to reach one’s goal. The study schedule is important on this road. Classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays until 14:00 were comfortable for me. It was one of the reasons why I decided to return to RSU for Master’s studies.
Your CV shows that you have a special affinity with sports. You have been an extreme sports journalist and wrote articles for the magazine “Sports”. Tell me, do you still have time for sports, now that your career is running at full speed?
Our family has a tradition to go on a surfing trip to some exotic country at least once a year. Last time we travelled to Indonesia. We also go snowboarding in the mountains at least once a year. Active recreation allows you to switch to another reality for a moment. It takes your mind away from other thoughts. It allows you to relax completely and recharge for what's in store in the future.
Liene Dupate-Ugule, graduate of RSU Master's study programme International Business and Law
Now: Communications manager at Maxima Latvija
Previously: marketing and communications at Samsung Electronics and airBaltic