Integration Week: An MBA Sprint

It’s been about three weeks since our cohort’s first integration week, as such I’m beginning to feel emotionally prepared to put the experience onto paper.  What is integration week? As the name implies, it integrates your knowledge.

The purpose of an MBA is gaining new skills and knowledge and being able to apply them in the real world. Knowledge on the programme is taught in concentrated blocks of three subjects, delivered over a month. Integration week plays a huge role in putting practical application to the theoretical learned during these blocks in the form of an intense week-long challenge.

I won’t go too much into the nature of the assignment (that would be cheating), but you’ll receive a task and you’ll have a week in which to achieve it. However, what I can disclose are a few of the challenges you’ll likely face and some of my learnings from the process:

  • Focus – You have a week, this is a sprint, not a marathon. Perhaps not surprisingly, the task is business related, so you’ll be given a sector, country or business with a problem. There will likely be a lot of data: financial reports, annual statements, shareholder communications, etc., so it’s easy to get distracted, or find yourself down a wormhole. The problem you’ll be tasked with solving should be relatively easy to discover. Once you find it, focus on it.
  • Answer the question – something I used to hear a lot when I was younger and I’m surprised that I’m still learning this lesson. Simply answer the question. Once you’ve focused on the problem, make sure your presentation is designed to answer the questions you’ve been given in relation to the problem that you have discovered.
  • Simplicity is Key – As the design principle says: “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Remember you’re not an expert, as much as you’d like to be. The work needs to demonstrate your knowledge, and that you’ve learned to apply this knowledge, and used effective research to reinforce it.

As mentioned, this is a sprint. So you’ll be short on time – this is of course by design – time is not unlimited out there in the real world after all. At some point during the week, you will find yourselves over-debating a topic, or running over on time or word count. Concentrate on focusing, answering the question and maintaining simplicity by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Could you explain it to an alien? Is the logic undeniable? Do you have the data to back up your assumptions?
  2. What is the question? Does this sentence, slide, graph or topic answer the question or simplify the explanation? If not, you’d better move on.

In summary – focus, answer the question, and keep it simple.

Peter Walls

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

Time to Refocus: Studying the Modular Executive MBA

 

After a long and diverse career in the automotive industry, developing from a graduate trainee to international roles with a leading global auto manufacturer, I decided earlier this year to take a break from the corporate world and return to academia to finally fulfil a career-long ambition to study for an Executive MBA.

While most friends and colleagues understood the timing and motivation behind my decision, some did question why I would need to go back into education at such an advanced stage of my career. However, my reply was always the same: although there’s no substitute for industry experience, an MBA programme would enhance the next stage of my career through three principal benefits:

1. Content

Providing an academic framework around career experience to better understand why things worked (or didn’t work!) in real-life execution, as well as exploring the most recent best practises in fields such as Business Strategy and Digital Transformation.

2. Cohort

Mixing with a diverse, international group of extremely smart people (who have absolutely nothing to do with the automotive industry!) who contribute different perspectives on business issues, as well as building a close, new network from around the world.

3. Contemplation

Taking a “time out” from a linear career path to reflect on past experiences and reassess the direction for the future, whether it be within the automotive industry or something completely different triggered by the MBA experience.

Is it living up to expectations so far? Absolutely!!

Each module has further developed an area of my knowledge gained through industry experience, whether it be a more structured understanding of finance and accounting, providing a robust framework for the development of effective business strategy or the understanding underlying issues around organisational behaviour.

Nobody could have predicted the disruption to all aspects of work, education and day-to-day life in 2020, but our cohort was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet each other during the Induction Weekend before the first national lockdown was introduced. This enabled us to get to know each other, form our new project groups and subsequently bond as a cohort during the multitude of video calls that followed as the lectures and workgroups moved online.

Any regrets? Only that I didn’t find the opportunity to embark on an MBA earlier to have been armed with these skills for a longer portion of my career. That said, given everything that has happened this year, it may turn out to be the perfect timing to stop, breathe and refocus in preparation for whatever comes next!

Ian Hucker, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

Choosing the Full-time MBA: Follow your gut instinct

Choosing the right business school for you

Selecting a business school can be a very confusing process.

There are hundreds within the UK and thousands globally. The top schools will teach you marketing, accounting, HR, entrepreneurship and offer a range of exciting elective modules. They’re triple accredited and rank highly in the FT rankings. They will all ensure high percentages of post-degree employability and have notable alumni and promising partnerships among globally renowned firms.

This can make selection of a business school very challenging. To make the best choice, I came up with the following criteria: location, quality, size and gut feeling, all which led me to study the Full-time MBA at the Business School (formerly Cass).

I hope that this account of my selection process and experience with the Business School can help to guide anyone making one of the biggest commitments to change of their professional career.

Peter Walls

Location

The first level of selection was done purely on location.

I started my professional career in London. As such, I am fortunate to find much of my professional and personal support network in a city which is home to a number of globally renowned business schools. This proximity to my ‘nearest and dearest’ made it very challenging to look beyond London.

I attended a number of open days and even interviewed outside of London, however when it came to decisions and prioritisation, the location put the London-based schools leagues ahead.

Prestige, quality and investment

A second challenge was to find a balance between three measures: prestige, quality and investment.

When looking at such a significant investment of time, opportunity cost and— let’s be honest— money, the return on investment was a key consideration. Programmes vary in length, generally one to two years for full time programmes and financial investment.

In addition to the quality of the teaching, the name and prestige of the school play a significant role in the cost.

There are a variety of scholarships, bursaries and financial awards available, so finding those which I qualified for and could feasibly be awarded also had an influence.

My priority at this stage was to ensure the highest possible quality of education and prestige while remaining in the realms of the financially viable.

By this stage I had a shortlist that you could count on one hand and a very challenging decision to make. I applied to all the schools on my shortlist, attended networking events, webinars, open days and interviews. I asked them about their unique selling points.

Size

Cohort sizes are generally between 50 at the smallest size, up to three or four hundred students for some of the larger programmes. Research within my connections and network lead me to favour a smaller programme.

Size helped me to narrow down the shortlist to three schools – each of which with extremely impressive teaching faculty and wider teams. They all had small and intimate cohorts, guaranteeing a personal experience whilst still ensuring a high degree of diversity.

Full-time MBA: Class of 2021

Gut instinct

In the end, the final decision came down to gut instinct and the quality of candidate experience. The Business School team were helpful, supportive, challenging and genuine. They were always quick to respond to queries and offered flexibility in the application timeline.

The open day was remarkably fun, especially the sample lecture which was delivered by the charismatic programme director. Dr Paolo Aversa’s introduction was entertaining, engaging and down to earth. He described the Business School’s Full-time MBA programme as “the Vodka Redbull of MBAs” and one with teamwork and cooperation at its heart, rather than competition, which greatly appealed to me.

The interview process was informed and caring. My final interview was with a senior faculty member, where other schools had me speaking with another member of recruitment. The interviewing Professor offered me invaluable advice on how to choose a school and his inquisitive nature and passion for his subject and education were highly infectious.

The whole application process made me feel highly valued— a person rather than an applicant, and a true asset to the future cohort. All things considered, when waiting for my final offers, during the agonising days of refreshing my email every thirty seconds, I knew that the offer I was truly excited to receive was the offer from the Business School.

Questions to ask yourself

My advice to business school and MBA applicants would be to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Think about your personal balance of investment, prestige and quality when looking at the schools. Do any of them offer a specialty that resonates with you and your future career goals?
  2. Find potential locations: cities and countries. What about them appeals to you?
  3. Do you want a big, competitive cohort of 300+ or a smaller, collaborative one?
  4. Go with your gut. How do you feel about the interview process? Which school’s email are you waiting for? At this stage, you’ve got to do what feels right to you. 

Welcome!

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

Studying Virtually During a Pandemic: the Cass Modular Executive MBA

Selin Sefiloglu and Lingling Delicata, Cass Modular Executive MBA (2022) are the recipients of the 2020 Professional Excellence Scholarship. Selin works as a Finance Manager at Kingfisher plc and Lingling is the Group Internal Audit Manager at Hyperion Insurance Group. Each have over ten years’ experience and are qualified Chartered Accountants. Coming from different industries, they share a common goal: pursuing an MBA at Cass to develop their leadership skills, expand their professional networks and accelerate their careers. Selin and Lingling reflect on their MBA journey so far and the shift to online teaching.

After attending our induction and meeting our fellow cohort, the UK went into lockdown and Cass prepared to switch to online teaching to protect its students and staff.

Leading up to our first week of online lectures on the Modular Executive MBA (MEMBA), the Cass team worked incredibly hard to keep us updated on the lecturers’ arrangements. This included recommended pre-reading (available on our online platform, Moodle), preparations for team discussions and ongoing technology support (thank you Omar Iqbal).

Zoom team meeting

Our lecturers have adapted to the shift to online teaching in light of Covid-19 by using different communication channels to deliver our programme. We are grateful for how they are keeping us engaged with group exercises and role plays– an effective and entertaining method for studying our Strategic Leadership, Organisational Behaviour, Analytics for Business and Accounting, and Financial Reporting modules virtually. Our cohort’s ability to adapt is wide-ranging– one student even participated with class discussions on his exercise bike!

Group assignments play an essential role in our MEMBA programme. Split into smaller teams of five to seven students from diverse professions and cultural backgrounds, we were tasked with our first assignment during the induction weekend: creating a Team Charter.

Meeting our team at induction

The lockdown did not deter us from our MEMBA commitments, and we quickly established the most efficient method to balance our family and personal lives. Following virtual brainstorming sessions on what teamwork means to us at a granular level, our group outlined our ways of working under three main pillars: Thinking, Communicating and Doing. This provided a clear framework for us to operate as a unit, interlinked by our team’s core values.

Open collaboration is a one of the most important factors for success and ensuring everyone stays committed and contributes equally to the group discussions. It’s not about who brings the winning idea to the table– instead, we are creating a safe environment for everyone to present their arguments effectively, contributing to our development as effective business leaders.

Lingling Delicata

As recipients of the Professional Excellence Scholarship, we are both honoured for the recognition of previous achievements in our careers. The scholarship shows how Cass endeavours to empower and support women in business. We’re equally grateful to be on the same project team during the first term, as we are currently in the midst of our Strategic Leadership group assignment with the incredible support of our team mentor, Lisa Delaney.

Selin Sefiloglu

We are looking forward to seeing the final project output and to celebrate our project with team drinks, whether that may be in person or online!

Selin Sefiloglu, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

Lingling Delicata, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

 

Lessons in resilience: using my MBA to adapt to Covid-19 in the travel industry

Growing up in poverty taught me the importance of education.

I vowed to work hard while obtaining professional qualifications to strive for a better life. I am driven to finding the keys to success and my drive has shaped me into a better and more authentic leader.

I have worked as a European tour operator serving Asian travel agents for 16 years and I am passionate about ensuring all of our travellers have the best quality experiences. I endeavour to make sure our travellers enjoy amazing moments as they discover the unique cultures of each incredible travel destination on our list.

Cass provides an exceptional learning journey and powerful networking opportunities. I am inspired by the energy of my cohort: each is a positive professional and an exceptional global leader. My cohort are committed to sharing and contributing their valuable experiences, knowledge and ideas to make the business world a better place. I also love the fact that Cass promotes women’s leadership and provides mentorship and skills workshops for women.

We have now shifted to online teaching in light of the current pandemic situation and I am impressed by how the lessons have remained highly engaging. Our lecturers have demonstrated a world-class example as to how learning should be: dynamic, exciting and insightful. The programme has opened my eyes and taught me how to apply what I have learned immediately into my current organisation during this challenging time in the travel industry. I am learning to assist and support my organisation’s President with business planning for the future. In addition, I have gained confidence in my leadership skills and my ability to develop strategies to overcoming business challenges. I am able to identify the opportunities to restructure the organisation and ensure our business is sustainable and aligned with our global core values and beliefs.

I can’t express how proud I feel right now knowing I am not only making the right choice in embarking on the MBA course. Studying the Modular Executive MBA at Cass has been the best choice because I am surrounded by a good mix of people who have invaluable knowledge and experience from diverse cultures, backgrounds and industries and have the same goals in mind. What could be more exciting than embarking on a new learning journey with a like-minded cohort for the next two years?

Vivian Kmiotek, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

 

Building a bridge to my future career: My Full-time MBA journey at Cass

An MBA programme is like a bridge that connects yourself from yesterday to your future self. Crossing this bridge is a journey. You unearth your skills of detecting problems and delivering compatible solutions by learning and practising mechanisms, methodologies and frameworks. The ingeniously designed campus life at Cass and studying on the Cass Full-time MBA, ranked top one-year programme in London by the Financial Times Global MBA rankings in 2020, have helped me build this bridge.

To define the trip, I would like to break it into three categories, being described by the triple ‘re’: rediscover yourself, reshape your thinking and mindset and revitalise your transferable skills. The triple ‘re’ happens coherently and cohesively throughout the programme.

Rediscover yourself 

Our magical journey started with a careers orientation week. Self-awareness is one of the most popular words from then on. Truly knowing yourself is easier said than done.

We immersed ourselves into designed activities, including taking personality tests to know our strengths, following instructions to list life goals in time slots, reviewing personal profiles to examine previous performances, attending learning workshops to find out where we may have weaknesses and talked with the Careers and Professional Development Team.

Following all these activities, I got to know what the starting point was in my bridge and what my next steps needed to be to link the two points on this bridge.

Reshape your thinking and your mindset 

As a group of people who had achieved professional successes, we do not lack basic competences. What we are looking for is to become even more competent and to bring our skills from good to great.

What we share in common is our desire to develop a keen eye to see the core causes of work-related issues, to discover the logical structure to analyse problems and to develop our creative thinking to come up with solutions. All these things are already skills we have developed on the programme.

In class, the core modules of the programme have taught us more than technical knowledge. Through numerous case studies and discussions, we learned how to decipher the main clue from an abundance of information, how to draw a whole picture of the situation strategically, build up an independent analysis system and how to create a personal toolkit to solve problems.

Out of class, the two and half days of professional development teach us how to handle the relationship between an individual and a group. We investigated leadership and groupwork models, such as the leadership/followership model, role-modelling, contribution and regular debriefing.

We learned how to find appropriate solutions under strange circumstances by learning about how to choose a correct direction, the best way of doing an appraisal of task, and looking into creative trails, agile progress and independent thinking.

When it comes to soft skills, we learned more about how a good spirits and trust in a team can help individuals and groups under pressure: it is important to remain calm, build trust, collaborate, remain open-minded and to build resilience.

Revitalise your transferable skills 

Practise, practise, practise! Teamwork, exams, integration week, strategic projects, international consultancy week and various events provide loads of opportunities for us to test what we have learned.

Studying and working together with a cohort of 30 nationalities is exciting and memorable. Getting convergencies within a multicultural group needs mutual understanding, smart influencing and persuading and thorough communication. Critical analysis is the underlying skill tested by exams.

Working very hard for four days to solve a mixed problem with lovely group of members from day to night was an excellent and interesting experience. Swiftly understanding the core question, making up a logical structure and defining efficient actions for each person are major factors for success.

The two consulting projects we undertook with real companies were amazing experiences that allowed us to use all of the knowledge and skills we have gained throughout the Full-time MBA, particularly the ability to dig out the strategic problem and use a top-down method to delegate the problem mutually, exclusively, collectively and exhaustively.

I have also found that attending events is the best way to network and learn fresh ideas from talented people.

A special episode of the trip 

When the MBA programme is disrupted by an unprecedented event such as Covid-19, what can we do? There are multiple choices and using the triple ‘Re’ is one option I suggest. Analysing the situation objectively and strategically by using tools learned from lectures made me keep independent thinking.

Our “Achieving Your Potential” week at the Sandhurst Military Academy, which was a key part of our professional development training, reminded me how to make myself become calm, peaceful, positive and resilient under pressure. The week gave me extra energy and taught me how to encourage and console my cohort.

Today, we are learning to exercise our leadership skills during group assignment remotely. I found more extensive engagement, trust and positive spirits in my group, which we have used as pillars to maintain collaboration when face-to-face meetings were replaced by virtual ones. Our great effort in adapting to a challenging time and new ways of working meant my team was awarded a distinction as part of a recent team group project.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the School. The dedication, support and collaboration of the staff has helped us continue studying the programme in these unprecedented times and has also taught us how to cope with unexpected global crises.

As I reflect on what I hope to be the next point of my bridge, I hope to be a person who has strong insight into the essence of things in this changeable world. My MBA journey is leading me to that point. Covid-19 can disrupt our physical distance temporarily but cannot disrupt the pursuit of our dreams.

 

Lin Yang, Full-time MBA (2020)

Induction Week: Joining the Cass Modular Executive MBA

The induction weekend was a great way to break us into the Modular Executive MBA programme. The study skills session taught us the key principles required for overall success, including speed-reading, mind-mapping and improving memory. We were also granted the opportunity to meet our lecturers through a series of enjoyable interactive induction lectures. There was a clear focus on teamwork and group activities where debriefing and discussing various viewpoints with our cohort was endorsed.

Meeting our cohort was the best part. We have peers from all over the world, with a vast and varied background. Leveraging each other’s experiences and understanding was embedded from day one. I look forward to getting to know everyone better and building a lasting network of highly skilled professionals.

After having our photos taken, meeting our cohort and an intensive day of lectures, we headed to our induction dinner to wind down at the Crypt. Here we met with our mentors and better connected with our teams.

During my application process, I was honoured to be awarded the “Cass Rising Stars Under 30” scholarship. This scholarship was open to candidates exhibiting an outstanding early stage professional track record, showing potential for future success. Being identified as a “Rising Star” is a prestigious award, further motivating me to be the best that I can be.

In these unprecedented times, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cass have been quick to meet the learning needs of its students. With additional software and web-based library services being made available, lecturers and support staff are doing their upmost to ensure a smooth transition. Our MBA Course Office Coordinator, Lorraine has been absolutely great, thank you all!

Our first session of web-based learning starts next weekend, wish us luck!

Soroosh Keshtgar, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

Top 5 Reasons I Chose the Cass Global MBA

Joining an MBA was not a snap decision.

I’ve been thinking about it for a number of years.  Obviously, I wanted to be associated with a programme that stood out in terms of quality and reputation, and that’s how Cass came into my life. But there’s more, of course! Here are the top reasons why I joined the Cass Global MBA.

1. Delivery

I currently work at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, as the Content Management Manager based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I knew I wanted to further my studies and I knew I didn’t want to give up my job, because I have bills to pay!

The blended delivery was really an attractive option because it allows me to juggle between my studies and work.  Another aspect of the programme that I find interesting is the international electives in which students travel to different destinations around the world and get hands-on experience from those unique destinations.

Plus, when I am in the city for the on-campus sessions I can utilise my staff benefit and stay at our London property!

2. Location! Location! Location!

London City

The view from Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

It’s London! Based in one of the world’s leading financial cities, Cass is perfectly positioned both physically and strategically to provide a top-notch business education. However, it’s not just all work and no play for me. London as a city has given me so many wonderful memories.

I attended my very first concert here at the 02 Brixton Academy to see Amy Winehouse play. I also met my idol Stan Lee here! Now, as I pursue my postgraduate studies, the city continues to provide me with unforgettable experiences which I am sure this programme will do as well.

3. Support

So far, the support has been phenomenal! The academic staff as well as the support team have been receptive to the cohort’s feedback. When I encounter an issue, they are just an email away and will check up on me to ensure I am getting the assistance that I need.

4. Rankings

As mentioned earlier on, I chose Cass because of its reputation. I am officially two months into the programme and I am loving every moment of it! I am learning so much but more importantly, I am able to apply it while at work, which I believe is this programme’s greatest advantage.

5. It’s my birthday!

Birthday

Celebrating my 34th birthday

I wanted to do something significant this year, both personally and professionally, and this felt like it was the best choice. Coincidentally, the first on-campus session fell on the same day as my birthday!

Danny Lau, Global MBA (2022)

Achieving Your Potential Weekend

The first term of the Executive MBA was as expected, busy and full on. Back studying while balancing work and life was a big change, so the Achieving Your Potential (AYP) weekend came at the right point to be able to reflect on the last six months, and take time to understand the direction that the MBA was helping to lead me in.

Organised by Cass Careers and iOpener, AYP is a weekend off site and outside London, giving the whole cohort real space to rediscover goals, to connect them with the learnings from the MBA so far and align them with future ambitions to maximise, as the title suggests, your potential. This is everything and more from what I gained from the weekend.

Coming from a background in luxury fashion product development and production in small-medium size companies, I chose to undertake the MBA to further my career with the goal of being a COO. However, having experienced a lot of change and challenges over the last few years within my roles, I had lost some clarity, especially with the new knowledge and skills I had learnt from the course.

The different elements of the weekend allowed me to process in a way to help strengthen my on-going development and learning, with a better ability to assess the future, where my drive was and what motivated me. Talking through “Strengths”, “The Happiness Model” and “Values and Purpose”, really gave me clarity to help me move forward with my career goals for the future, and while looking at situations through “The Sphere of Control and Influence” it really put things into perspective and gave me an opportunity to look at things from a different angle.

Not all elements were focused on personal insights. Workshops on “Coaching”, allowed me to develop new skills that I will be able to apply right away within my day-to-day, which is invaluable in being able to become a better leader.

The benefit of working with different cohort members was a lovely experience, bonding with people in a new way, and overall bringing the whole class closer together. The support and judgement free set up of AYP, allowed for an openness which helped maximise the most from the weekend.

For me the AYP weekend, was, as simple as it sounds, just what I needed, time to reflect and take solace in where I had been, understand how these plus the MBA are supporting learning experiences to guide you toward the future to achieving your full and true potential.

Victoria Hind, Executive MBA (2021)

Global Women’s Leadership Programme Scholar: You can read her profile here.

Jump into London’s fintech ecosystem with Cass

We have an incredible opportunity to be studying here in London, the financial technology (fintech) capital of the world. Located right in center city, Cass neighbors some of the fastest-growing fintech startups in the market. Our fintech society is a campus group designed to connect Cass students to this fast-moving fintech ecosystem, learn about new trends affecting different fintech verticals, and develop skills to help break into the industry.

As an American moving my life abroad to the UK to study, I experienced so much frustration with traditional banks and financial institutions. Setting up a student bank account wasn’t easy, and transferring my tuition money overseas was nothing short of a nightmare.  What was taking weeks with traditional banks took me about 20 minutes to accomplish with UK fintech firms like Monzo and Transferwise. These personal experiences of startups solving real-life challenges combined with my background in finance spurred my interest in running our Fintech Society.

A few weeks ago we hosted our first event titled “Disruption in Banking: the Future of Finance” at the Cass Bunhill Row campus. The Fintech Society collaborated with the Cass Careers team to set up an incredible panel of fintech experts including:

Eleanor Hasler – VP of Growth & Product Optimisation at Dozens
Martin Griffiths – Head of Fintech at Barclays
Murali Akella – Former Head of Banks at Transferwise
Valentina Kristensen – Director, Growth & Communications at OakNorth
Aaron Block – Project Leader for Fintech Operations at Expand Research, a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Company

I was a bit nervous hosting a panel in front of over 100 people, but we quickly jumped into a lively and thought-provoking discussion. Our panelists debated what has driven this disruption since the financial crisis, and how in just a few years small, innovative startups have fundamentally changed the way people interact with money. We touched on how large financial institutions are responding with innovation of their own, and how some fintech firms are staying ahead by focusing on profitability instead of just user growth. What really sparked our audience’s interest, however, was an honest discussion about the realities of working for a fintech startup. While the hoodies, bean bags, and office dogs are a plus, these can be challenging and demanding environments that require a broad set of skills.

After some great audience questions, we opened up our event for a fun networking reception with our speakers and other members of the Fintech Society. This gave all of our members an easy way to make real connections and take steps towards breaking into a career in fintech.

For more opportunities like this in 2020, please join the Fintech Society on the Cass Campus Groups website. We plan to host some more great events like this, so be sure to sign up and learn more!

Kyle Griffith, Full-time MBA (2020)

 

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