"Thanks to the EIT Digital Master School I am boosting my career real fast"

Meet our alumni: Anna Prudnikova

Anna Prudnikova is one of the new board members of the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation. “This is a way to give back to EIT Digital”, she explains her motivation for taking this role alongside her full-time job as Senior Security Certification Specialist at Secura in the Netherlands. “Thanks to the EIT Digital Master School I am boosting my career real fast.”

The EIT Digital Alumni Foundation established a new board this summer. That is a reason to talk to the new board members to ask them about their motivation, their work, and a reflection on their education. Prudnikova is the first of the seven members. She studied Security & Privacy (now called Cybersecurity) at the EIT Digital Master School at the University of Trento and the University of Twente.

How did you learn about the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation?

“That is a nice story.  I first heard about the Alumni Foundation at the Kick-Off in Finland in 2017.  I was impressed by the presentation of Francesco Bonadiman, who was then president of the board. The alumni foundation sounded like fun to me. When I studied in Trento, I met Francesco who lived there. We were hanging out in Trento with EIT Digital people in the EIT Digital colocation Centre that hosted many events. Francesco asked for volunteers to organise the annual alumni meeting in Trento, so I decided to help. That is how I got to know the foundation. At the next annual meeting in Portugal, the previous board was chosen. Then I knew: when I am graduated, I will apply as a board member.” 

What is the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation to you and have been to you?

“The EIT Digital Alumni Foundation is all about network and knowledge, you need that in your life. The focus is to keep in touch with the people you met and enlarge your network. Most of my friends, even here in the Netherlands, are from my EIT Digital network. One of my closest friends, I met via EIT Digital. The Alumni Foundation is about people. We also promote knowledge sharing and promote stories of succesful alumni. We, for example, organise ‘Tuesday Afterwork’, these are meetings which are both about technical talks and soft skills. It is all for free. Also, the board works on deals. We have a Flixbus deal so alumni members can travel with discounts across Europe. Our outreach officer is arranging discounts on software and other relevant services, like a discount on the courses for the EIT Digital Professional School.”

What is your main goal as marketing and communication officer of the Alumni Board?

“Due to Corona the engagement in the network is lower than before. The number of people that are willing to go to online events is low. We know that the students feel less connected than the cohorts who were not hindered by the pandemic. Next month the old and the new board members have a meeting to discuss how we can better engage with the members in these times.  We are planning an annual meeting again, but it is still the question if that is feasible. Furthermore, I plan and execute the marketing and communication. Every two weeks I have a call with the other board members where we discuss action points. It takes me about one or two evenings per week.”

Why did you want to be an EIT Digital Alumni Board member?

“The EIT Digital Master School gave me so much. The fact that I am here, having this job is thanks to EIT Digital. This is a way of giving back. Normally, it would be difficult for me as a Russian to find a job in Europe. EIT Digital allowed me to study in Italy and the Netherlands. I learned that travel is not complicated, travelling erases mental borders.  EIT Digital has been supporting me from the very beginning. I always felt that EIT Digital has my back. First, you get support from the university representative of EIT Digital and on top of that, you can get support from the EIT Digital Master School Office. It helped me with the visa application. The events like the Kick-Off, the Summer School and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship education, has changed me a lot. I was a very technical person but being among younger students pushed me to take responsibility, the education model challenged me to speak up and do presentations. Learning these skills have been very decisive for the future. I am using these a lot now at my work. I am surrounded by technical people who do not have so many soft skills and that gave me a faster career boost.”

How did you get into the EIT Digital Master School?

“This was to me a change-of-life decision. I was 27 and had a really good job in Moscow as a cybersecurity consultant for five years. The problem in Russia is that cybersecurity is not developed that well. I wanted to do more. Also, I like Europe and travelling. So, I started Googling potential master programmes in Europe. That is how I found EIT Digital. The double degree opportunity was one of the reasons to pick this programme in the end. Also, I could apply for the scholarship immediately alongside the application. In other universities, you first need to be enrolled before you can apply for a scholarship. I gave up everything to start again.”

You work as a Senior Security Certification Specialist now at Secura. You started here in October 2019, the year of your graduation. How did you get this job?

“I started here as an intern. Secura is good with interns. The company had a list of topics I could choose from, and I found one I liked so much that I graduated cum laude with this topic. After my intern, I was offered a job as a certification specialist at this company. Because of my experience in Russia, I did not need to start as a junior. This year, I got promoted to a senior position. One of the reasons I got promoted so fast is my education. I learned soft skills and can do project management. I never have a day I did the same as the day before. It is always a bit chaotic. My main job is certification and consulting. 50 per cent of my time is spent with meetings, talking to clients and certification teams, I run risk assessments, and I manage a multinationals project under Horizon 2020.”

How do you see your role /career emerge?

“Security will only develop more. Everything is digital. Especially now in Europe, there will be more rules. There will be way more certification schemes, as I am working on now. Certification will be more in demand and mandatory in the end. Secura has recently been bought by Bureau Veritas - one of the top 5 certification companies in the world. It will be good to work in a multinational company. Maybe I can then work abroad. I like to do something that makes a difference. I want people to be more engaged and see the same as I have learned at the master school: people are so different and yet still the same. Having friends from all over the world opens up your mind.”

The next board member is the previous and the new president of the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation Jeroen van Lent. Stay tuned.

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