CONTACT: LISA GARRETT, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10/18/2018
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- Anastasia Berdan is ambitious and driven. She’s also inquisitive and curious.
“I’m always looking to learn something new. I much prefer difficult over boring,” said the 35-year-old Russian native, who now fondly calls South Carolina home.
Back in 2004 she was the first person from her high school, located in the village of Vanino in Russia, who was accepted to a university-- Lomonosov Moscow State University -- one of the highest-ranked university in Russia. Anastasia is the first in her family to go to college. She earned a master’s degree in social science in 2010.
Now living in the United States, she is a student in Tri-County Technical College’s Computer and Information Technology (CIT) program, where she was named its outstanding student and is the College’s first BMW IT Scholar.
During the week, Berdan is a full-time student working toward completing a CIT degree while maintaining a 20-hour a week internship as one of BMW’s five IT Scholars. She‘s also a self-taught sushi chef and in a former career she was an award-winning nail designer for 13 years in her homeland of Russia.
In 2011 she and her ex-husband relocated to the United States as he embarked on a one-year research project at Clemson University. She says working as a nail designer in Russia was a lucrative profession. “I was earning good money there,” she said.
That wasn’t the case when she moved to South Carolina where she worked in local beauty salons as a manicurist/nail designer. She knew very little English and she says she mastered the English language by listening to and engaging in conversation with her clients. “But I wasn’t being challenged. There was no room to grow,” she said. Although she held a master’s degree in social science, she says she didn’t want to be a social worker.
Again, she elected to learn something new and decided to change career paths.
She visited Tri-County and took tests to learn more about her aptitudes. Her results surprised her – her proficiencies were in science, architecture and computer information technology.
She remarried in 2015 and she and her husband were living in Seneca when she enrolled in college classes. “I chose Tri-County because it was close, convenient and affordable. I didn’t transfer any of my classes from my degree. I started fresh because I still needed practice with the English language,” she said. Before beginning the CIT curriculum, she had to enroll in and complete a Comprehensive Studies Reading 100 class. By spring 2017 she was a full-time student and quit her nail salon job to concentrate on her education.
Through a campus e-mail she learned BMW was seeking applicants for its IT Scholars program. “You don’t get an opportunity like this every day. It was worth a shot,” she said. She passed the first round of testing and was selected to move forward with mechanical aptitude and other tests.
Testing was followed by a first interview. “It was so scary. It was my first-ever job interview.” She received a second interview with a panel of 10 people. “I was nervous because this seemed too good to be true. I told myself I am not losing anything today; I am only gaining experience.” Weeks passed and on a Sunday afternoon, she received a call from BMW telling her she was selected to be a scholar. “I screamed. I was so happy. I felt special,” she said.
She joined the BMW Innovation Lab team, where she works with data analysis 20 – 25 hours a week (they work around her class schedule). “I love my job,” she said. The internship is a paid position, and college expenses are paid by BMW as well. “I am so lucky and fortunate to work for such a great company,” she said.
Although now she speaks fluent English, she says her interaction with BMW colleagues continues to improve her language skills. “I have to communicate with people on a wide range of topics and present my work to my colleagues during team meetings,” she said.
In December 2018 she will graduate from Tri-County debt free and will complete the Scholars Program in March 2019. “BMW is a great company, with great benefits and I work with a great team.”
Prior to working as a BMW Scholar, on weekends she and her husband performed in area clubs showcasing their original songs in their band called Berdan Primer. After graduation, the plan is to revive the band where she sings and plays bass guitar, a skill she learned from her husband. She had never played an instrument in her life until he took one of her poems she wrote for him and put it to music.
“I’m always looking for a creative outlet,” she said. “I’m curious about the world. My mother said that’s why I was born two months early – I wanted to know about everything. I am looking forward to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science after graduation from Tri-County. I love computer programming. There’s always something to learn.”
She also has fallen in love with S.C. “It feels like home. I am happy where I am and with who I am,” said Berdan, who has applied for citizenship this year.