Milena Grayde (‘95): AUBG Is a Big Springboard to a Very Successful Career
AUBG alumna Milena Grayde has every right to be called successful.
Managing Director at JP Morgan, she works with the company’s most important clients for Central and Eastern Europe – governments, corporations and financial institutions.
Grayde’s professional journey began at the AUBG Job Fair, where she met her first employer Shell Bulgaria and since then the road has only lead upwards. She remembers fondly her time at the company, which was just starting operation in Bulgaria at the time Grayde acquired an internship as a business analyst and marketing coordinator. Grayde found the job a “super interesting experience” that gave her the chance to work with an excellent team and inspiring mentors. “It was basically going from the AUBG family into the Shell family,” she said.
Grayde’s enthusiasm quickly paid off. She was shortly given the opportunity to be Shell’s Marketing Manager for CEE and Russia and, at the age of 23, she headed for the division’s office in Warsaw, where she ran successfully the business for Shell lubricants for 14 countries.
After spending three years in Warsaw, Grayde decided to pursue an MBA and she was accepted to a number of schools. She chose a full-time program at London Business School, from which she graduated in 2001.
Meanwhile, Grayde found herself in the heat of the job market, where people were interviewing actively for dotcom and ecommerce businesses as well as investing and consultancy companies. She interviewed across the board and got offers from seven companies. She chose a summer internship from the JP Morgan M&A business in CEE and it turned out to be one of the best decisions she could have ever made.
Grayde loved her new team and obviously the feeling was mutual. She was offered a job upon receiving her MBA degree. “Since then, I have been working with JP Morgan and it has been a fantastic experience and a great ride,” Grayde said.
In the meantime, she specialized in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of banks and insurance companies and did some amazing transactions in the CEE region. Grayde was initially offered to run a few countries, which initially were the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. With the years she expanded her country coverage to more than 10 countries in CEE. “Basically, today I run the investment banking business for CEE for JP Morgan across all products – M&A, equity, debt, risk management,” Grayde said, adding, “It was my way to give back to the region.”
She feels very strongly about contributing back. “At the end of the day, I do feel very Bulgarian and very CE European. (…) Through my work and the advisory services we provide I feel we do give back to the region and that’s very important to me.”
Grayde eagerly shares the other details on why she loves her job. One of them is the fact that she deals with “very smart and intelligent people” across a number of countries. Another is the thrill of winning the next big deal and making the new big difference, “because the deals we do make a really big difference in the geographies we operate in.”
Hard work pays off in exciting opportunities. “I was recently given another challenge at JP Morgan and was asked to take another job in addition to what I am currently doing,” Grayde explained. The job is to cover family offices. “Family offices are the investment vehicles of high-network individuals, who seek investment banking services.” JP Morgan provides these people with direct investment ideas as well as buys and sells companies for them. “And that I am doing across Europe, Middle East and Africa,” Grayde elaborated.
Work is not all and Grayde recognizes her accomplishment at raising a family as well. “I am very proud of the fact that (…), in the midst of all the investment banking craze, I’ve managed to raise two beautiful children; I’ve managed to get married and (…) have a very happy family,” she said.
Friendships are that important as well. “I keep in touch with a lot of my AUBG friends,” Grayde said when talking about the University, adding that her AUBG acquaintances have spread all over the world, becoming remarkable professionals. “I still go on holidays with some of my friends from Bistritsa,” she added, pointing to some of the heartfelt, family-type moments she and fellow students shared at the Bistritsa dormitory. “That unconventional place created a lot of long-lasting friendships,” Grayde cheerfully concluded.
Looking back at the AUBG days, she notes her enthusiasm for Radio Aura and how pleased she is to hear about its progress. Talking about student clubs and extracurricular activities, she added, “I don’t know if they call it an activity, but we had great gatherings at the Vodenitsata.” Vodenitsata is a local restaurant in the Bulgarian folklore tradition, which still welcomes its guests amidst the green scenery of the Bachinovo Park.
On a more academic note, Grayde said, “I think AUBG is definitely a fantastic platform to start or continue your education, and a big springboard to a very successful career.”
In her words, it was the self-assurance she gained at AUBG that gave her the wings to follow her dreams. “AUBG gave me the confidence. We did feel on top of the world when we graduated. And I think that feeling, whether justified or not, gave me the confidence that, frankly, I could do anything I put my mind to,” she said.
“I think we all have had fantastic memories and AUBG gave a lot to us, so we really need to remember to give that back,” Grayde said when addressing other alumni.
Think big and aim high is her message to current and prospective students. “At the end of the day you’ll only be where you’re aiming at and where your dreams take you, so dream big."
Story by Despina Koleva-Hristova