2016 Best EMBAs: Zhanna Kryuchkova, IMD

Zhanna Kryuchkova IMD

Zhanna Kryuchkova


“At the age of 22, for the first time in my life, I visited a casino. That night I played blackjack and won enough to allow me to buy something I wanted so badly — my first car. I have not played in a casino since, but my further professional life became firmly connected to cars.”

Age: 44

Location: Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

Family Members: Oleksiy Shokh (husband), Leonid Shokh (son)

Education: National State University, Odessa (Spanish language and literature); State Economics University, Odessa (Accounting and Finance); IMD Business School (Program “Advanced Strategic Management”)

Where are you currently working? My career is multi-tiered. I am the co-owner of Almaz Group, a holding exclusively focused on car sales and services for world-class automotive brands in the Ukraine. I’m also a founder and managing partner at Jansen Capital Management, a management consultancy that specializes in talent development and strategy for maximizing success. In addition I am a member of the board of directors for the construction company Stikon Ltd.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Aspen Ukraine Graduates Association, Audit Committee Member

The mission of the Aspen Ukraine Initiative is to contribute to the promotion of value-based leadership, and to the establishment of a dialogue culture for dealing with critical issues in society and in the formulation of public policy.

The mission of the foundation is to engage children and develop their potential through the game of chess. I have been recognized for my contribution to the game of chess by seven-time World Champion for Chess Composition Valentin Rudenko.

The Forum encourages productive dialogue between the business, government, and professional communities about new sources of economic growth for Ukraine.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Two years ago, we invited a leading international business consultancy to perform a company valuation of our construction business. Emerging market companies are not easy to value. The principles used are the same as those for valuing developed market companies, but the estimation challenges are more daunting. Our CEO harshly criticized the results of the valuation: “Western methods do not work well in Ukraine. There are nuances that just do not fit the standard algorithm.” The report was banished to our archive and the reputation of Western practices was undermined. During my studies in Finance at IMD, I obtained the methodology for the company valuation and decided to engage the top management in the valuation exercise again, under the “do-it-yourself” principle. The process was both useful and intriguing. On the one hand, we came to a totally different, completely justified result; and on the other hand, the knowledge we gained from measuring our own business worth became a highly valuable asset in itself. We employ these business valuation findings as a planning tool for the future. Since we better understand what drives our business value, we now readily make value-enhancing changes in the business. The result has been increased business worth.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the early stage of my career I worked for Toyota Tsusho Corporation, a job I greatly enjoyed. After three years, I got the promotion of my dreams. I was excited and flattered, but nevertheless I declined the offer and instead ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. I fought through the fears of giving up my generous salary, of not knowing quite where to start, and of upsetting my family. However, that bold decision, and what has resulted from it, is the most significant achievement of my career.

Favorite MBA courses? Strategy, Finance.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? There were several factors that led me to this program: I was looking for a diverse representation of nations and industries, which IMD offered; it had been strongly recommended to me by a former IMD student, a bright and successful entrepreneur whom I respect; and before I decided to enroll in the EMBA program I attended several short-term programs with IMD and found those to be a great experience. It was “real world, real learning.” I followed my heart and my head and have been extremely satisfied.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Working in dynamic teams with high-caliber classmates who have strong entrepreneurial interests and come from diverse backgrounds and industries.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I highly appreciate that IMD engages not only our minds but also our bodies. No matter how exhausted from a long day in the classroom, I was proud when I mustered the willpower and participated in evening sports with my classmates. The physical activity and the joy of play renewed our energy for each next intensive day in the classroom.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Ideally we should move away from viewing the situation as juggling work, family, and education and embrace the mindset of “life balance” so that we can take a holistic view of our lives instead of departmentalizing them. My advice is to integrate all elements whenever possible and to enjoy the flow. Life will be much easier if you write your assignments for the company you work for, so there is no big gap between your work and studies, and probably it can be rewarding to share what you are learning at business school with members of your family. It can be great fun.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? The executive MBA is a great experience, which will develop you professionally and interpersonally as well as open new career doors. But in return, you will need to be prepared to sacrifice socializing with your friends, your hobbies, your sleep, etc. Make sure you are aware and willing to give all that up as you make this 1.5-year commitment, otherwise you may end up frustrated and reversing gears in the middle of the journey.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” Our country became embroiled in political and economic crises. The situation created more free time which I found to be optimal for learning.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would …” Be busy searching out and developing new lines of business.

What are your long-term professional goals? I don’t have a specific long-term plan. I may start a new business, work for a nonprofit, or head a state-owned company. For me, business and knowledge are the primary tools that can be leveraged to aid and advance our society.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? In my childhood I used to hear from my mother: “Go ahead, try different things, I’ll be at your side whatever you do … I forgive you in advance.” I always remembered those words when I was at a decision crossroads.

Fun fact about yourself: At the age of 22, for the first time in my life, I visited a casino. That night I played blackjack and won enough to allow me to buy something I wanted so badly — my first car. I have not played in a casino since, but my further professional life became firmly connected to cars.

Favorite book: Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha

Favorite movie: House of Sand and Fog. It’s so rare to find a movie that doesn’t take sides

Favorite musical performer: Lately I was impressed with the song and clip of Pharrell Williams’ “Freedom”

Favorite television show: Where’s the time? I do not watch television shows

Favorite vacation spot: Any place around the globe with tennis courts and a good spa


  • I play tennis and enjoy participating in tennis tournaments
  • I am an author at “The Dream Society” on Facebook (Russian only). This is an environment for inspiration. We post quotes, news and materials related to enduring values, innovations, world practices, and ecology

What made Zhanna such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“With more than 16 years as a business professional, Zhanna has experienced a rich and diverse career including work in large ‘corporate’ industry, being a successful entrepreneur and directing as a board member for a large construction firm in the Ukraine. Her varied career path says a lot about who she is — a talented and accomplished global executive. Her diverse experience adds to the rich learning environment of her class of 50 professionals — with an average age of 41 years old — who represent 28 nationalities and as many industries. Twenty-five percent of Zhanna’s class are accomplished female executives. Zhanna adds a philosophical calmness with a brazen pragmatism to the class and a valued perspective from Eastern Europe with a strong passion for actively contributing to the welfare of society and her country.”

Terry Akitt

EMBA Program Manager



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