MALINA KROUMOVA (’98): ”I recommend AUBG to young people who are looking for higher education that would equip them with strong skills and prepare them for the ‘real world’.”

Name: Malina Kroumova
AUBG Class of: 1998
Major: POS and SES
Graduate/Advanced degree: MA Democracy and Human Rights in South East Europe from the University of Bologna and University of Sarajevo
Home country: Bulgaria
Current occupation: Chairperson of the State Agency Road Safety

• Where do we find you at this moment?

Having in mind that it is a Thursday, you find me at the office, working.

• What was your first destination after AUBG? Describe your career path.

Immediately after graduation I returned to Sofia, where I am from. My first job was as and administrative assistant at Dimi Panatza’s Free and Democratic Bulgaria Foundation, while I was also continuing my studies, initially at the New Bulgaria University and subsequently in the University of Sarajevo and University of Bologna. I have had an intense, diverse and in my opinion interesting career path. Initially, I spent some time finding my “element”, looking for new challenges and experiences. I worked for several NGOs, moving from project to project, always seeking to grow sectoral and project management expertise.

In 2007, when Bulgaria joined the EU, Cohesion funding opportunities were open to Bulgaria. It was then, when I decided to put the experience I have gained to even better use and applied for a job in one of the Managing Authorities of Operational Programs, namely that of OP “Environment”. Between 2009 and 2013, I was the head of the Managing Authority – a challenging, but also very rewarding period. Subsequently, I was for a short period at a more horizontal structure – the Central Coordination Unit, responsible for the overall coordination of EU Funds in Bulgaria. Briefly in the beginning of 2017, served in an interim government as a Deputy Prime Minister responsible for EU funds in a very important time when Bulgaria was finalizing the negotiation on the new programming period. In May 2017, I became Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works and was responsible mainly for the development of the water sector in Bulgaria, only to leave that job and accept a new challenge, namely road safety, with which I have been dealing since February this year, heading the newly established State Agency, responsible for the overall coordination and leadership of the road safety policy in Bulgaria.

• How have the years at AUBG prepared you for your career?

I’ve often been asked to comment on my experience at AUBG and whenever I can, I recommend it to young people who are looking for higher education that would equip them with strong skills and prepare them for the “real world”. It is not the knowledge and the information that has proven important in the long run, but rather the instruments that our university training provided. AUBG has given me the skill set to be able to find, process and present information. In the contemporary, fast-changing world information is everywhere. The question is what you make out of it, and how you communicate it with others convincingly.

• What class had the most significant impact on you?

There is not one specific class that has been most significant to me. Rather it is the mixture, and the ability to cook it yourself that has impacted me most.

• Knowing what you know now, what would you want to tell your student self? If you could change something back what would it be?

There is not a thing that I would change in my experience at AUBG. Both the studies and student life were always satisfactory and full of excitement. Perhaps, had I had the chance when I graduated, I might have continued to the EMBA program. But that is just life, things at AUBG are developing and that is making it better for the students to come.

• What are the things that make you tick? What is your greatest passion or motivation at present?

I find satisfaction in many things. By nature I am curious and always looking for new challenges. It is therefore no surprise that I find pleasure in traveling to new destinations, meeting new and interesting people and finding new ways to experience life. Workwise, I am passionate about what I do right now. Road safety is a challenging topic, because of its complexity, but I find pleasure in breaking down big problems that seem unsolvable into simple achievable objectives.

• Future projects and plans that you look forward to with anticipation?

Personally I try to live in the “now” and enjoy the moment. So my plans are rarely very forward looking. This also give me the flexibility to change them if new opportunities arise. In effect you could say, I am very opportunistic. Nevertheless, there are thing, that I am looking forward to – like my next travel destination, the start of the new theater season, the next meeting with good friends.

• May fellow alumni keep in touch with you for mentorship and career advice?

It would be my pleasure to be able to support my fellow alumni, or students for that matter. It’s not only a matter of giving back what you have gained. In the years I have found that supporting the growth of people around you and transferring knowledge and experience is not only good for them, it also makes your life easier.

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