Dessislava Kinova ('02): 'Update Your Dreams to the New Reality'
Alumna Dessislava Kinova ('02) is a successful hospitality management professional with over 10 years of leadership experience in the field and an MBA from Cesar Ritz College in Switzerland. In this interview for AUBG Today, she talks about the reasons why she transferred to AUBG from a U.S. university, the impact that her AUBG education had on her personal and professional development, and what led her to pursue a career path in hospitality management. Dessislava, who studied Business Administration at AUBG, also discusses the importance of leading a more sustainable life in the context of today's fast-paced reality that poses "serious threats to the environment and growing social inequality."
You transferred to AUBG after studying at a U.S. college for a year. What was your motivation to make this change? What were your first impressions after arriving on the AUBG campus and starting classes at our university?
Yes, I studied at the University of Maryland for one year – it is a very large school, as opposed to AUBG. It’s a beautiful campus, located in College Park, Maryland, with enrollment of more than 30,000 Undergraduate students, about 10,000 Graduate, and 300 academic programs.
With such large numbers, the education process was mass-oriented and impersonal, which was not my preference.
Then I found out about the American University in Bulgaria – it had great reputation, much smaller number of students, and an international environment (in the UM, most of the students were Americans, mainly from the state). Just the boutique university I was dreaming about.
As I had no plans to stay and work in the USA after graduation, it was an easy decision to transfer to AUBG. I would get better quality education for a lower cost and be ‘at home’ at the same time.
My first impressions were strong and positive: a highly competitive environment with strong students, and teachers with a very high level of expertise – most of them coming from a business in their field, which is extremely useful.
The campus was very well set up – compact, but convenient. And of course, I enjoyed the sunny and relaxed Blagoevgrad – no traffic jams, no stress… At least in the remote past of 1998.
What impact did your AUBG education have on your personal and professional development – both in terms of academics and in terms of extracurricular activities and personal connections?
I met my best friend at AUBG, also a lot of other friends we keep in touch with. This is priceless!
My professional development definitely fostered with the skills I acquired at AUBG, but even more impact had the direct and indirect connections I gained while studying. Because AUBG is at such a high level, most of its students reach a senior management level and above, and certainly these connections have been significant for my work life.
Having a Western type of education has helped me to cooperate with international partners and interact on a profounder level. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be part of this unique community, fostering so many bright minds of the CEE region.
What was your first job after graduation? How has your career developed since?
After graduation I started work in a hotel as a Sales & Marketing manager. I fell in love with tourism and later obtained an MBA in Hospitality Management from Cesar Ritz College in Switzerland. I have been working in a couple of hotels since and have been at my latest position for 10+ years as a Director of Revenue Management for a company with several hotels in Bulgaria.
You recently visited the AUBG campus with your mother and your daughter. What did it mean to you to return to AUBG?
I didn’t have the chance to visit AUBG for a few years (the last time I attended one of the reunions), and coming back together with my family, and having the opportunity to share so many stories with them both resembled an extraordinary time machine, where past met present and future.
Of course, many things have changed since my graduation, but the atmosphere, the way the students interact with each other, and the great AUBG team are still very much the same. Our visit was such a positive inflow of energy, everyone was so welcoming, and I wish myself to visit you at least once a year.
If you could give one piece of advice to recent university graduates, what would it be?
We live in times where life is so accelerated, and not always in the good direction: with serious threats to the environment and growing social inequality. A drastic change of the everyday life and our values is needed to reverse these trends.
So my advice is: adapt your dreams to this new reality. Pursue dreams that will have a significant positive effect on the environment and the society. The benefit is that now there are so many opportunities and funding for such ideas and projects. Find these dreams, then think how you can improve them even more, scale them to have a bigger effect. Don’t stop pushing your limits. Our children and your children will bear the fruits of what we do today.
If you are not already conscious about your daily routines, start today by changing one thing every week that would benefit the environment (such as shopping with multi-use bag, stopping the water while brushing your teeth, showering for less time, recycling everything possible, minimizing riding alone in the car –try to combine with colleagues or family, or using other means of transport, using multi-use metal capsules for your Nespresso or Dolce Gusto coffee machine, etc.). The more you do, the more you see what more can be done. And it’s also contagious.