Michael Zdanowski

Michael Zdanowski

PhD in Russian and Slavonic Studies

Summary: Michael shares his experience as an undergraduate and postgraduate student at Leeds and shares his experience of interviewing leading government officials during his year abroad!


I decided to study at Leeds because it offered me three main things – a fantastic university and campus in which to study first-rate courses and electives led by leading academics in the field of history, languages and political sciences as well as a vibrant and rapidly-developing city.

I’d recommend that new students to Leeds embrace the wider opportunities in and around the University and clubs and societies are a great way to do this. Whilst study is important it’s not the be all and end all.

More broadly volunteering for Staff-Student committees is a good way to build core skills relevant to the business world for free. Employers are not necessarily hiring people on the basis of a First or 2:1 degree, they’re looking at employing people with wide skillsets and those people who’ve developed interests away from the classroom.

As part of my PhD studies at Leeds I studied in Estonia over two summers – in 2003 and 2005. Whilst much of my time in Estonia was spent in Tallinn’s central library, I also interviewed leading government officials, NGOs and academics about their views on the integration of Estonia’s Russian-speakers into both Estonian society and into the European Union. During my undergraduate studies I enjoyed being able to study such a wide range of subjects. I studied everything from Mongolian history to Czech language. Believe it or not it’s all been useful somewhere along the line.

The highlight of studying at Leeds was being able to study with like-minded people day in day out; it really contributed to the great academic experience I had at Leeds.

I’m currently a Director for Corporate Communications at PBN Hill+Knowlton in Moscow. PBN H+K is the region’s largest and most well-established PR and Government Relations agency which operates as part of the wider Hill+Knowlton network. In my time at Hill+Knowlton I’ve advised international companies such as Rio Tinto, Petrobras, Rosneft, Nord Stream, EVRAZ, Platts and many others.

My main professional specialisations include developing Strategic Communications Campaigns, Media and Crisis Training, Message Development, Copywriting and Stakeholder and Analyst Relations.

During my time at Hill+Knowlton I’ve been lucky enough to work all over the world including time on secondment in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Russia and Ukraine.