Alumnus Bazhko: EHU helped me to approach any problem creatively

Alumnus Bazhko: EHU helped me to approach any problem creatively

During EHU's Open Door Days, EHU alumnus Dzmitry Bazhko (BA Cultural Heritage and Tourism, 2009) shared his personal and professional story in an exclusive interview.

- Could you please tell us about your career path after finishing your studies at EHU?

- After I received my bachelor’s degree from EHU, I started applying to master’s degree programs while also working at Merlintour, a travel agency in Minsk. In other words, I was mixing work and studies. Between the end of August and the end of October 2009, I applied for several scholarships. By the summer of 2010, all four universities I had applied to had accepted me, but I only won scholarships from the USA and Switzerland. As a result, I chose to attend the University of Lugano in Switzerland. My colleague from EHU, Lena Solovjeva, also won this scholarship. While studying in Switzerland, I also had internships in Canada and Austria in the sphere of eTourism, which deals with information technology.  While studying, I also worked as a bicycle courier and delivered mail in Lugano and its surroundings. This temporary job helped me learn Italian and get acquainted with the life of the people of Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. After finishing my degree, I got a job at Airbnb in Moscow, and after a year I applied for another position at the Airbnb office in Dublin, which is where I currently work.

- How did EHU help you with the choice of your future career?

- I decided to continue learning what I had been learning at the EHU, which is tourism. My dream was to work in a national park and interpret cultural heritage. I even had an internship in Canada at the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, where there are still ancient virgin forests on islands and the locals have preserved their culture.

- How difficult was it to get used to the life in Ireland? Did you often face difficulties because of cultural differences?

- Ireland is the fourth country where I have lived for more than a year. Before that, I lived in Lithuania, Switzerland, and Russia. That is why I didn’t have any problems with adaptation. I get used to a new place of living very quickly. Right after moving to Ireland, I found lots of friends among both natives and “immigrant workers” like me (laughing). During the first month, when I didn’t even have a place to live, I joined the local bicycle club and started going into the mountains every weekend. Communication with the locals helps one understand the culture more deeply. The Irish are an extremely friendly people who view foreigners with understanding. Almost every Irish family has relatives who live abroad or were immigrants (to the USA, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and other countries). Surprisingly, almost everyone in Ireland knows about Belarus; the wife of the lead vocalist of the iconic Irish band U2 is the head of the fund that aims to help the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. There are no difficulties because of the cultural differences. My girlfriend is from the USA, her parents are Italians, and that is why I feel comfortable among both Italians and Americans. In the office, there are people from all over the world (many countries of Europe, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, and others). At Airbnb, I am the only one from Belarus, though I have Belarusian friends who work at Google and Facebook.

- What skills and experience have you acquired at EHU that are useful in your current profession?

- EHU helped me to approach any problem creatively. It doesn’t matter whether it is the writing of the second diploma in history or the development of the bicycle museum in Belarus. Sociability is what I learned at EHU and is what helps me in my work as project manager, where I need to communicate with different departments of Airbnb. EHU showed me that the combination of self-education with thorough instructor supervision is the best way towards professional development. At EHU I also learned to ask “why?” rather than accepting everything as truth. This helps not only in work, but also in daily life.

- What do you like most about your work?

- Most of all, I like the fact that I improve a product that I use myself. To love the product that you develop is one of the main conditions in the choice of a job. Since 2011, I have been an active user of Airbnb, and it is very pleasant that the site gives people the opportunity to travel and learn about new countries from the perspective of locals. Due to this, you can visit places that are hidden from tourists. You can have a dinner with hosts at their house or at their favorite restaurant. Traveling with Airbnb, I also materially support the local community. Recently, I have become a host at Airbnb, and I try to tell my guests about my favorite places in Dublin and Ireland.

Besides that, I have lots of business trips. While working at the office in Moscow, I visited almost all of the post-Soviet countries including Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. I also often fly to the USA and visit the company’s European offices. Now Airbnb has official agencies in 22 countries. Every three months, employees get a $500 coupon that they can spend on traveling via Airbnb.

When I was working in Moscow, I actively promoted Airbnb in Belarus. One of the most important projects involved cooperating with the Belarusian Association of Agri- and Ecotourism (where I interned while at EHU). Many of the rural estates in Belarus are now on Airbnb. We were also participants at the summer festival FSP on Komsomol Island in Minsk. I like that even though I work outside Belarus, I can come home during business trips and promote my product there.

- How easy or, maybe, difficult is it to get a well-paid job after EHU?

- I think that right after the EHU—as well as after any other university, if it is not an Ivy League university—it is quite difficult to get a well-paid job. To get a job that you like is twice as difficult. You need to spend several years in internships or working at entry-level positions where your income will not be high. After a couple of years, you can expect a job with a high salary.

- Besides your career, do you have other interests and hobbies?

- As I mentioned before, I have joined the bicycle club in Dublin. I bike to work every day. My colleagues and I also bike into the mountains. In the summer, I am going to take part in several amateur races, both 187 and 200 km. This February and last, I biked around California: San Francisco to Santa Barbara and San Francisco to Sevastopol (yes, there is such a city in the USA). I also like cooking Italian cuisine.

- In the end, I think it will be very interesting for students to hear something about the secret of your success or a farewell.

- I think that the bigger success is still ahead! There are several important things that I can recommend to students. First of all, choose what brings you joy and what you are interested in (both while studying and while working). Secondly, listen to other people, but never rely on the opinions of others. Thirdly, surround yourself with people with whom it is pleasant to communicate and who have similar ideas. Finally, of course, travel and learn foreign languages.

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