Kamol is Head of Program Finance at Amazon Japan
After graduating from the Master's programme in Finance, alumnus Kamol Khodjaev started at Volvo Cars and ended up as the company's CFO in Japan. He is now Head of Program Finance at Amazon Japan. All thanks to hard and goal-oriented work.
How come you chose Gothenburg for your Master’s?
"Volvo, IKEA, H&M, the Nobel Prize, and a beautiful Scandinavian landscape, I didn’t know much else about Sweden. After doing some benchmarking among the leading universities in Europe, I discovered the quality of education in Sweden. I searched for high-quality international education and possibilities to get scholarships and grants to support the tuition fee and Sweden came among the top countries to offer this. In Sweden, The School of Business, Economics and Law had high ranking, strong references from its alumni, intentional diversity, reputable professors and offered grants to cover education fees."
What was it like to come to Gothenburg from Tashkent, Uzbekistan where you studied for your Bachelor's degree?
"Northern lush forests and crashing Atlantic Ocean waves to solid rocks filled me with breath-taking impressions. I was also impressed by the level of English most people spoke in Gothenburg and the welcoming, warm attitude towards visitors. I was also pleased to see many international students with diverse backgrounds making my education experience truly memorable. Everything was great except finding accommodation in Gothenburg, as it took some time to find one."
When did you start developing an interest in Finance?
"Math was my favourite subject at school. I always thought numbers tell the truth faster than words. I also wanted to learn something I can apply in any industry. A combination of these preferences led me to go with Finance."
What is your impression of the Finance programme?
"I liked the international diversity of my class. There were many talented people from all over the world and I truly enjoyed studying with them in group assignments and spending time in social activities together. I made some friends and until this day we keep in touch regularly. I also liked the finance lab seminars, which provided necessary access to rich data sources and professional financial applications that allowed me to connect theory with practice. Moreover, professors were knowledgeable and always accessible to seek guidance on complex questions. Most of them had business experience so it was valuable to learn from how our learnings/case studies find a real application."
Do you feel that your studies in Gothenburg have helped you in your career? How?
"Definitely! The School was well recognized and I thought it would give me a good chance to start my career in some international company in the Nordics or back home in Uzbekistan. The School was excellent in keeping a strong network with many international companies based in Sweden, they constantly invited companies to give seminars on various topics at campus, arranged career events and provided career services to students. These activities made a difference in my career pursuit."
After graduating in 2010, you got accepted to Volvo Cars Global Graduate Program. Can you tell us what that was like and how you applied?
"I was interested in consumer products and trade, things like cars, PCs and smartphones always attracted me due to their complex functionality, design and brand equity. There were many companies that allowed me to find what I was looking for. Among those companies was Volvo Cars, which showed a strong interest in recruiting people from the School of Business, Economics and Law by visiting the university campus and arranging various seminars. I was very intrigued by their company culture and liked their cars a lot, so I applied. I think being a graduate from this school helped me get the first interview at Volvo Cars."
In 2017 you left your position at Volvo in Sweden to work as CFO at Volvo Cars in Japan. Tell us more!
"Prior to the assignment in Japan, I had worked in various roles at Volvo Cars, in each role I tried to learn key aspects of the job quickly and contributed to making a difference. I always tried to put both short- and long-term goals and worked relentlessly to exceed them. The Volvo Cars graduate program allowed me to experience three different roles in three years including one in the US and undertaking various leadership and business trainings. After that, I landed in corporate treasury where I learned the key essence of financing various investments and lead a team to manage company credit risk and improve its working capital. This allowed the company to make new trade partners to grow and re-invest unlocked cash back to customers. These achievements didn’t go unnoticed by Volvo Cars’ leadership and they honoured me with an international assignment in Japan as a local CFO, in line with my career aspiration."
In 2020 you left Volvo to go to Amazon – can you tell us more about this?
"It wasn’t an easy decision, Volvo wasn’t just a place of work for me, it was a place where I realized my first career aspirations and despite being far from my home and family, I didn’t feel lonely working at Volvo due to my amazing colleagues who became close friends. However, I felt I needed to challenge myself with something new to learn and develop after 10 years in the automotive industry. Online trade and tech innovation have always been catching my curiosity and Amazon was at the top of my list. An opportunity opened in Japan, and I took it. Starting at Amazon was exciting, everything was new and there was a lot to learn. I found Amazon to be very fast yet very thorough in innovating and decision making, with a relentless focus on the customer."
Tell us about your position as Head of Program Finance at Amazon?
"In my current role, I lead a team of seven talented finance leaders. We provide finance leadership over e-com retail programmes focused on growth, customer acquisition and profitability throughout complex sets of inputs to spin Amazon’s flywheel. On top of this role, I have been partly backfilling the CFO role for Amazon Retail Japan since a year back on an interim basis."
Do you have any tips for students on how to get an international career?
"This is very individual; I would share what worked for me. I had a clear preference and an interest in which verticals I wanted to start in while having an open mind on location and company. I targeted companies that could offer me this and that were also specifically interested in graduates from the University of Gothenburg, meaning my chances of being invited for an interview were good. I listed these companies and tried to learn more about their corporate culture and goals. I then connected those insights with my aspiration (if matched) and articulated that clearly in my resume. Networking might help too but, in my case, I didn’t count on it much. Also, I would suggest practising numerical, problem solving and business case interview assessments already now to stay sharp when companies invite you to take them, it is fairly common practice and preparation makes a difference. Besides this, I found it imperative to create routines. In my case, I set clear short- and long-term goals, write down how to achieve them with clear milestones and relentlessly work backwards from each of those milestones."