Azerbaijani Businesswoman Plans New Business in Silicon Valley After Completing Certificate


- Afag Shukurova

Term : October, 2015
Department : Business and Management
Program : Project and Program Management

Before she left Azerbaijan, Afag Shukurova ran her own event planning business. Armed with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree, she successfully led her own team before leaving for California to join her sister and brother. When she arrived in Silicon Valley, she realized that she’d need to update her skill set if she wanted to launch a business locally. She was excited to find UCSC Extension’s Project and Program Management certificate program, which she could complete in a year while gaining a practical understanding of how to effectively run a project team in the United States. She is on track to complete her certificate in December 2015, at which point she plans to launch her own cryotherapy business.

What were you hoping to get from the program?

I realized that the work process is totally different here than it was in Azerbaijan. Even though I have work experience, I didn’t have any experience in America. I wanted to open my own business, and I knew I wanted to work with Americans who have experience here. I needed to know how to manage a team, program and schedule projects—so I decided to study Project and Program Management. 

What classes stood out to you?

I loved “Creating the Successful Project Team” and “Project Leadership and Communication.” The classes are very detailed; the instructors’ exercises and projects are very interesting. I learned how to collaborate with teams, and how to give everyone the right to speak and share his opinion, even if it is against the team opinion. I learned that in order to be successful, you have to choose the right people for the right work.

What techniques or best practices have you learned?

In some countries, you have to work to get to the top, and once you’re the leader that can translate to being bossy. I realized that here, your team members have to trust you; you have to have a good relationship. In Silicon Valley people communicate differently than we did in my country. I learned that being bossy is very different from being a leader. I learned how to work and act in new environments, which has helped me so much. The most important skills I learned at Extension are how to work with a team and how to plan and manage a project.

 What was your experience like as an international student?

Everyone was very nice; the International Student Advisors and the Internship Advisor were very nice, very helpful and kind. They answered all my questions with patience. I liked the ambiance, the people and the place. I did an internship through a friend’s startup, where I learned how to work with suppliers. The timing is perfect with OPT; I can’t officially work yet, so now I have the time to work on my business.

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