Breaking the Social Class Barrier

Holding an Economics degree from City, my interests have always been skewed toward quantitative subjects. I was anxious to start my EMBA core modules on topics such as Organisational Behaviour. Little did I know that I would learn the mathematical formula that I now use to explain my ambitions during these lessons. In a simplified form, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation states that an individual’s drive to pursue a goal is a function of two variables: 1) the strength of her or his desire to fulfil that goal, and 2) the probability that it will actually happen. It looks like this:

Another subject that wasn’t previously on my radar was our module on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but my interest in the topic has flourished. For our CSR coursework, we were asked to analyse BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to S&P 500 CEOs. In his 2018 letter, Mr Fink called on companies to take a more active role in addressing societal issues and also emphasised the importance of a diverse board.

This prompted me to browse the C-suite composition of the largest banking institutions in the world. I found that banks continue to make progress on diversity of gender, ethnicity, industry experience, and country of origin. When taking a closer look at the early life and education of randomly picked board members, a pattern emerged. Despite the characteristics that make them unique as individuals, most appeared to have privileged backgrounds that led them to receive similar education. How could they possibly not surrender to group think if they attended the same handful of universities and grew up within the same networks?

The reality is that social class is the ultimate barrier to break and that has nothing to do with gender or nationality. The probability component of Vroom’s formula is important in determining people’s motivation to pursue certain careers. Wealthy people with good contacts will have a greater probability to be successful, hence they tend to be highly motivated individuals.

Natalia Lopez

I cannot remember my childhood friends and I dreaming of going to university let alone becoming a chairperson, or a CEO. That is because, just like thousands of teenagers today in Britain, we had zero perceived probability to achieve these goals. Sadly, society labelled us as lazy but we were just a demotivated bunch of youngsters.

With an extraordinary influence on our global economic and political system, financial institutions are increasingly becoming a dominant force directing the world. How can they take decisions that are in the best interest of people if their boardrooms understanding of society’s struggles comes from an economics textbook?

In my opinion, a truly diverse team is one that is made of different social classes and this is something most corporations are getting wrong. Luckily, the desire component of my Vroom’s formula is bigger than a mountain for which I am highly motivated to achieve my goals. We need to show people like my younger self that it is possible to make their dreams come true. This is not just because equal opportunity is a hardly debatable subject but because, without them, the world is missing out.

Natalia Lopez, Executive MBA 2020

The Cass London Symposium: New Directions

When the theme of “New Directions” was set as one of the cornerstones of the Cass London Symposium, minds in the UK were focused on Brexit and the uncertain future of the capital, but speakers and attendees took the theme in their stride.

The London Symposium is now in its fifth year. Whilst it was initially launched for students ordinarily based outside of London, many London-based students now also attend the week-long programme to gain insights on their home city and some of the brilliant business minds within it.

The beauty of an MBA is learning from diverse industries and cultures. The beauty of the London Symposium is to bring those industries and cultures together in one of the most diverse and open cities in the world.

London Symposium Cohort – April 2019

The week started by looking back over the history of London through the eyes of the late Lord Mayor Charles Bowman, the 690th person to hold this position. The trip back in history highlighted how modern-day problems will be a minor blot in the landscape— a message we heard several times during the week.

The enigmatic Vernon Hill took us through the meteoric rise of Metro Bank, a success story following the outstanding success of his previous venture Commerce Bank in the US. Vernon and his team have certainly delivered new directions for the UK banking industry: when he launched Metro Bank in the UK, it was the first new bank to hit the UK high street in over 100 years. In the short time he was on stage, Vernon created a new fan club with dozens of students queueing for autographs of his book!

One of the starkest (but most accurate) messages of the week came from René Carayol – adapt or die – among other short and sharp messages on themes such as agility and innovation. The speakers were fantastic and their presentation styles were interesting to observe. We have long been taught not to rely on PowerPoint and witnessing great examples of the Ted Talk style approach in action was inspiring.

René Carayol – motivational speaker/coach

 

Day two was no less frenetic and covered how technology is taking over the planet, both in our professional and personal lives. For example, EY covered how Artificial Intelligence will undoubtedly take over some professional industries within our lifetime , and more so for our enjoyment the advance of creative visual effects was examined by the CEO and founder of Framestore. Hearing Sir William Sargent speak was one of the highlights of the week for me. He is an incredibly modest man despite creating one of the world’s largest CGI behemoths with a starting team of only four in Soho in the 70s. Now, he divides his time between different branches of the 2,500 strong company across multiple continents. Branding and customer service were addressed during the sometimes light-hearted and sometimes serious approaches of Rebecca Robins (Chief Learning and Culture Officer at Interbrand) and Matt Watkinson (author of award-winning “The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences”).

Sir William Sargent – Framestore

I greatly enjoyed the link of alumni involved in the programme. No less than four presenters were Cass MBA graduates, which is a testament to the draw of Cass and its network.

The varied locations were also a big plus of the programme. The Symposium brought us from the depths of the Tate Modern to the Royal Institute of Great Britain and the National Gallery. The week included 16-odd backstage passes to some of London’s greatest companies ranging from a 300-year-old insurance institution in the heart of the City to a Premier League football club.

My personal favourite visit was a curated tour and presentation from the property and real estate company Cushman & Wakefield. Their analysis of the regeneration of the King’s Cross area was a perfect embodiment of the week’s “new directions” theme. As pretty much a no-go area less than 15 years ago, it has now magnificently transformed into a campus-style hangout for tech giants Google and Facebook, while providing inviting public spaces too. I was also intrigued by their discussion about the future of real estate and their suggestions as to what companies will need to do to survive and thrive, pivoting their way through one of the City’s oldest industries. I took particularly detailed notes here seeing as I work in the real estate industry!

Model of ‘Pancras Square’, with the new Google HQ on the right. C&W

Embracing authenticity was discussed by alumna and successful entrepreneur Davinia Tomlinson, who launched rainchq with the vision of empowering millions of women to take control of their financial future through education, qualified advice and events. Charlie Guenigault, one the heroes who confronted the London Bridge terrorist attackers, was one of the most emotional presentations I have ever experienced. He delivered an uplifting message of overcoming adversity. As an unarmed police officer, Charlie put himself in the face of danger to help others and received five stab wounds in the process. I was privileged to shake his hand afterwards and to be able to say “thank you.” These kinds of discussions remind you to appreciate what is truly important and determine what your values are as an individual.

Bank Underground station – new central line tunnel

 

As one of the “locals,” I was hoping to experience more of the city that I have called home now for the last decade, and I was not disappointed. Seeing first-hand the external realities that future leaders will face opened my eyes. The week ended with two extremes: deep in the underground tunnels of the future extended Bank station (literally creating New Directions) to high above the City in Heron Tower for the closing celebration. Rather aptly for me, in a past life I was involved in the construction of the building. They were kind enough to let me back in to reminisce on a week well spent, reflecting on the contacts and connections made.

Find out more about the speakers here.

An explorer of ideas: from a PhD to an MBA

I have been a life-long student, with an extensive academic career in a lab and a few degrees to my name.

My passion for learning and my ceaseless curiosity has taken me to a variety of places both geographically and professionally. Soon after graduating, as a result of a serendipitous opportunity, I took a job at the California State Senate Committee for Natural Resources and Water. Which, let’s say, is not the standard path for a PhD in Biomedical Sciences with expertise in genetics and metabolic syndromes… But that odd career move that really sums up my career and my thirst for knowledge.

Induction day: meeting my cohort

I am an explorer of ideas, always willing to try completely new things and never afraid to put myself in situations where I need to very quickly become proficient in an entirely new subject area. I now find myself in London, where I currently work with strategy and Smart Cities – can you see the pattern? – and I realize that the fire to learn more and to explore new opportunities has not yet been extinguished.

I have been interested in studying an MBA since finishing my PhD in Biomedical Sciences. However, it wasn’t until the stars aligned that I had the courage to embark on this new two-year journey. I realized that I was growing complacent and needed to find a way to challenge myself again. My hope for the Executive MBA is to unlock greater career opportunities, enhance skills I developed empirically and provide me with a solid foundation to help guide me in whichever direction my interests take me next.

I found in Cass a school which not only accepts my unconventional academic and professional background, but proudly embraces it. Moreover, the Cass philosophy is similar to mine and people here truly believe in lifelong learning, which is something close to my heart.

My Executive MBA has just begun. I am incredibly happy with my cohort and am impressed with the high caliber of the lecturers. They are not only knowledgeable, but also have been able to make the eight-hour marathon sessions we have on weekends dynamic and enjoyable.

First Careers Beers networking event

Although the MBA is a time when one needs to balance coursework, lectures, and personal life, my cohort bonded immediately. We take advantage of the amazing networking opportunities and social gatherings the school organizes. Having an environment and a school that is so supportive and encourages these social interactions is ideal for networking, which is another one of my reasons for selecting Cass.

I don’t know what to expect next in my career, but I feel there is enough gas left in the tank to propel me again into new challenges and exciting situations. I know this MBA will lay down the business foundations I desire to acquire. Studying at Cass will guide me towards the skills I’ll need to once again set sail in my lifelong journey of personal development and fulfilment.

Leonardo G. Alves, PhD

Veep, collaborative leadership and the MBA

**Warning.  This blog contains spoilers.  Read on if you’re okay with that. **


Artwork by Jin Kim

There’s no shortage of stuff to remind us that collaboration matters.  Being a good ‘team player’ is shorthand for the qualities needed to work with other human beings and get things done.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Mix up a bunch of people with different skills, experiences, and objectives; chuck in conflicting priorities and time pressures, and what do you get?  It’s the reason shows like The Apprentice are so compelling.  Collaboration is rarely about caring and sharing.  The fact is, proper collaboration – and leadership – is tough.

Politics is a brilliant case in point.  But let’s spare ourselves from partisan ranting and instead, focus on a perfect example of collaborative leadership gone wrong: the finale of Veep.  After seven seasons, former president Selina Meyer (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a shot at a second term in the Oval Office.  What stands between her and returning to the White House?  Her fellow party nominees.  The 2020 national convention is at a deadlock.  None of four candidates have the 2368 majority needed to get the party’s nomination.  The only way to get on the ticket is to cut a deal with another candidate.  They need to sort it out swiftly, or face another four years with President Montez at the helm, and their party pushed to the margins.  It’s a classic opportunity for collaborative leadership.  By working with the other three, Selina can minimise power struggles and increase the odds of a successful outcome for her party. 

Obviously, that’s not what happens.  Selina rejects the ‘simple solution’ of asking her opponent – and personal nemesis – Kemi Talbot (Toks Olagundoye), to be her running mate.  Instead, she makes a bunch of explosive choices which get progressively more divisive and dubious.  Tom James (Hugh Laurie) enters the race as a fifth candidate at the last minute, and Selina quickly rips him from the running by persuading his chief of staff to accuse him of sexual harassment in return for a top job in her White House administration.  She promises to ease fracking legislation in New York state to get the governor onside, and outlaw gay marriage to get Buddy Calhoun (one of the three remaining threats played by Matt Oberg) to back her and step aside.  She makes Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) – described as ‘an unstable piece of human scaffolding’ and a ‘sentient enema’ – her running-mate, to the complete disgust of her campaign strategist and Jonah’s own campaign manager Amy (Anna Chlumsky), who basically begs her not to put such a vindictive narcissist anywhere near power.  And to put some awful icing on this dicey political cake, Selina shops her personal aide Gary (Tony Hale) to the FBI, has him jailed for the misdeeds of her dodgy ex-husband to make allegations of financial impropriety go away, and has it happen WHILE SHE’S ONSTAGE ACCEPTING THE PARTY NOMINATION.


Collaboration in action: consultancy week in Vietnam

I’m not even going to try and pitch this as a morality tale where good triumphs over the most Machiavellian political operators, and bad behaviour gets punished in the end.  The fact is, Selina wins – though the top spot is pretty lonely as she’s kicked all the support from under her on the way up.  No, the point is  there’s never been more of case for collaborative leadership in 2019.  Partnerships and collaborations – especially between sectors – are vital for creating change, and creating social and economic value.  However, collaboration is HARD.  There’s no guarantee it’ll succeed, and no formula for doing it well. 

Jennie Albone (Modular Executive MBA, 2019)

Over the last two years, my Cass MBA colleagues and I have combined full-time work with intensive study.  Our achievements are a combo of results from individual assignments and group tasks.  When we graduate in July, we aren’t just celebrating our own successes; we’re recognising that we worked together to make this outcome possible.  From co-writing essays, to working with Vietnam’s first unicorn tech company on a consultancy project, group work and collaboration was a staple of the course.  You’ll be pleased to hear my experience in no way resembles the brutal hard knocks doled out by President Meyer.  Instead, I had the chance to work with a cohort who bought diverse talent, experience and views to everything we did.  Sure, there were times when it would’ve felt easier if we’d thought a bit less divergently and just got on with it.  But diversity is massively important.  Working with people who approach problems from a completely different place helps you to check your assumptions, reveal your blind spots, and reach a better result.  It’s taught me how to recognise and value the skills others bring even more, which is something I’ll take with me to the next stage of my career.  So, does that mean a Cass MBA the answer to all of our leadership challenges?  Well, no – nothing is that simple.  But opportunities to hone our personal collaboration skills matter.  And for many of us, the MBA’s been an intensive chance to reflect on our approach. 

For an interesting primer on the four areas that make for an effective collaborative leader, try this.  

Find out more about opportunities to study an MBA in London or Dubai and continue your leadership journey here.

Jennifer Albone
Modular Executive MBA (2019)

 

 

 

Real-World Consultancy and Expert Insights

Studying an MBA is a big decision and a huge investment. The reasons for doing an MBA are varied, but I have found one common thread: the desire to build a successful career! Prior to starting the degree, I was working in insurance in India, primarily in Product Development and Management. My motivations to pursue an MBA were to gain international experience from a top school, to bolster my technical knowledge, and to increase my business acumen. After months of research into business schools, I selected Cass Business School and I must admit, this is the best decision I have ever made.

Cass has taught me many things. As a top-ranked school, especially renowned for its expertise in strategy, academic rigour and excellence are high. Apart from the world-class faculty members teaching us, we also have the privilege of having renowned academicians and industry experts from around the globe give guest lectures. I was gobsmacked when Professor Robert M. Grant, author of the bestselling strategy book “Contemporary Strategy Analysis” conducted one of our strategy sessions. This was one of the many amazing external sessions we have had so far during the course. Gaining insights from experts is not only beneficial for our learning but also it highlights the credibility of the institute in the outside world.

Nikesh Das and cohort meet Professor Robert M. Grant

London is a place where there is no dearth of opportunities and Cass has the great advantage of its location between the financial and tech hubs of the city.

Arriving here from India, the biggest cultural difference I noticed in a professional context was the importance of networking and presentation skills to land a dream role. The careers team at Cass does a fabulous job in ensuring that the tenets of successful networking and effective public speaking are ingrained within us from the day we start our course. The team organises networking sessions, presentations, and public speaking training sessions and events. One such event was the ‘Tallow Chandlers Contest’ where we were asked to present solutions to a challenging strategic issue facing British Petroleum (BP) without the help of any slides or hand-notes. To my good fortune, my team won the competition!

Many business school candidates aspire to work as consultants. If the opportunity arises, I too would like to work in consultancies because of the variety of project opportunities you receive. Here again, Cass has an upper-hand! We recently concluded our International Consultancy Week in Dublin, Ireland. It was an exceptional opportunity for us because we did consultancy for innovative products and service offerings for different Dublin-based start-ups. In an educational setting, this is one of the most practical consultancy experiences one can get. The challenges of a start-up are unique because their products and services are novel and therefore lack historical data. Delivering a solution for a complex problem as a team, within the short span of five days, is a perfect simulation of what to expect in any big consultancy firm.

Nikesh Das and his MBA cohort

So far, my journey has been enriching. Learning from experts, developing personally, and solving the very real and complex problems of start-ups are the kinds of thrills I was expecting from my MBA. If “Extraordinary Calling” had a face, then it is Cass Business School for me!

Nikesh Das (Full-time MBA, 2019)

My eye-opening experience on the UAE study tour

I had just dropped off my children at school. Pulling out of the school’s driveway, I took a right turn, abandoning my familiar route to the office. Fifteen years after my first degree, here I was, driving myself to school too. I relocated to Dubai in 2017 as an expat from my home country, Nigeria. Shortly afterwards, I enrolled at Cass Business School for the Executive MBA in Dubai programme.

My cohort recently completed just over one year of “academic workouts”. I have to say, writing exams with a pen after a decade and a half of using computers required “workouts” on a digital level (think finger digits), not to mention juggling work, studies and family commitments.  I was all too glad that the first phase of the MBA was over, and we were moving on to international electives, such as the UAE Study Tour.

Members of the Cass Executive MBA in Dubai cohort on the UAE Study Tour

This elective presented an opportunity to gain practical insights into how businesses operate within the UAE’s cultural, economic and regulatory environment. Being a resident of Dubai, I was quite familiar with the general cultural and regulatory framework. Therefore, I was more interested in learning about the economy of the UAE. The UAE stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best countries in many aspects, including tourism, security, infrastructure and leadership. I was curious to learn more about how they did it in a relatively short space of time.

Not long after handing over my car to the valet service at the Roda Al Murooj hotel, I bumped into Professors Steve Thomas and Roy Batchelor in the hotel lobby. The duo would chaperon a class of 20 odd MBA students, on an exciting four-day tour of selected parts of the UAE. Rain showers on the first day, a rare occurrence in these parts, set the ambiance for the week, peeling off the rustic silhouette of dust from the surrounding Arabian desert. The first two days were spent gathering first hand insights on the Dubai and Abu Dhabi brands, products of cleverly integrated branding, innovation, marketing, strategy and investment principles.

Memorable stops in Dubai included visits to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, a digitally advanced city branding and marketing company that promotes and regulates all tourism related activities in Dubai, and the leadership institute/innovation center of Majid Al Futtaim, the leading retail and leisure pioneer across Asia and the Middle East. In Abu Dhabi, First Abu Dhabi bank (FAB), impressed strongly with its Aa3/AA-/AA- credit ratings by Moody’s, S&P and Fitch respectively. We also visited the Emirates Aviation College where I got to play pilot for a few minutes.

Emirates Aviation College.  Inside a simulator

The other two days focused on the Arab consumer, Dubai real estate, and the Islamic economy. The ingenious expansion of Dubai’s coastline, and other man-made land-marks like palm Jumeirah and the world islands left me with zero doubts about the relentless efforts to diversify the economy, creating a model for the region.  It was eye-opening to see how concepts in marketing, big data, economics and strategy were being brought to life at dizzying speeds in virtually all aspects of the economy. Visits to the Dubai Expo 2020 site, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center (DIEDC), and Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), made me understand more clearly the role of the government and their plans to remain relevant in all aspects of life and living.

The UAE is definitely a reference point for countries in terms of articulating and actively following a focused development agenda. They are so far on track to meet or exceed the development objectives laid out in the country’s 2021 and 2071 master plan.

The awe-inspiring Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

International Consultancy Week: Discovering Dublin

Dublin International Week

As the end of the Full-Time MBA programme approaches, my cohort and I visited Dublin for a week-long consultancy project. International Consultancy Week gives MBA students the opportunity to apply the academic theory we learned over the previous four modules in a real-world setting. My cohort and I were on hand to consult for a pool of start-ups and larger organisations and help them resolve issues as diverse as business development strategy, human resources, marketing and operational challenges.

During the initial selection of companies, it was no surprise that The Project Foundry, a professional project management services provider and the firm I selected to work with, was among the most sought-after projects. The business was seeking an optimal market entry strategy in the cloud-computing space within existing parameters such as budget restrictions.

This project was of personal interest to me because I created and executed a market entry strategy in a new segment for my previous company. I was excited about the opportunity to broaden my understanding of the niche field of cloud computing.

Meeting the The Project Foundry team

My team: strength in diversity

This project’s success ultimately hinged on the team I had and the various skill-sets and expertise we could collectively leverage. We had Filippo Capirone, whose knowledge of the telecom industry and cloud computing were key for our understanding of the market. I also got the chance to work again with Lina Rahmanian, who had been a part of a gruelling three-month long strategy project team in which we developed an award-winning project. I had also worked previously with Rhiannon Ludlow, who was part of my team during the professional development training workshop at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and is someone I knew I could count on under strenuous circumstances. The only person I hadn’t worked with previously was Steve Le, but his expertise in the finance world along with his PowerPoint skills won my trust. Based on the diverse skill-sets and industries represented by my assigned team, I was confident in my team’s ability to deliver a solid project.

Meeting our client

Our initial contact with our client came via WebEx a week before we flew out to Dublin. Declan Ryan, Managing Director of The Project Foundry, gave us a better understanding of the project scope and the deliverables. We also started doing background research on the cloud computing market under the guidance of our faculty supervisor, Dr Senem Aydin, to get an accurate idea of the industry.

Once we arrived in Dublin at The Project Foundry Office, we had the chance to meet Declan and the rest of his team. We met the Director David Laird, who helped us get a strong understanding of the company financials and projections; Mark Carragher, Chief Technology Officer, whose industry expertise on cloud based platform gave us great insight on future of the business; and Sai Srinivasan, who helped us with the coordination of the project as the rest of the team was constantly on the move. We also had the chance to chat with a few members of the project management team and The Project Foundry’s marketing agency to get their insight on the business.

The project

During the initial few days, we started by identifying strategic issues faced by the firm, identifying the key industry trends, conducting competitor analysis, and rounding off with the strategic approach and financials to support our findings. This research was done in conjunction with the input we received and the conversations we were having with TPF. We drafted up an action plan for TPF for the way forward, looking at both the long-term and the short-term picture. By Friday, we had an amazing presentation deck (thanks to visual expertise of Steve Le) ready to present to the TPF team. We had a great discussion with the TPF team following the presentation to get their general feedback and answer any queries they had. This was an intriguing session where each member of the group pitching in to lend their expertise and helped wrap up an amazing consultancy project. Special thanks also goes to Dr. Aydin who offered us useful advice during our daily meetings – enabling the development of the recommendations!

Umar Mahmood and his consultancy team hard at work

Discovering Dublin

The Dublin Consultancy Week was not just about work! TPF hosted many fun social occasions, and Dublin is a young, vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Highlights for me were seeing the sights the city had to offer such as Trinity College and watching football matches in the historic Temple Bar Neighbourhood.This trip did culminate in a self-guided tour and a group dinner at the Guinness Storehouse. All groups got the chance to talk about their experience working with their companies and delivered some memorable presentations. This was also when the realisation sunk in that this was probably the last time all of us would be in the same room together, as just around the corner our international electives and the BMP Project are set to begin.

The International Consultancy Week will be a cherished highlight of the Full-Time MBA programme to me. Specifically, it was great to work with a fast-growing start-up and to learn more about how business is conducted in Ireland. I got the chance to work with an amazing group of individuals. Despite the hectic work schedule and the sleepless nights that came with it, I wouldn’t trade this dynamic experience for anything.

Fun in Dublin

My top three insights from International Consultancy Week

  1. There will often be times when you have to work with limited information – making a “decent” plan based on existing parameters is often more prudent rather than waiting for the “perfect” plan to develop, as the situation continually evolves.
  2. In the spirit of Leading the Adventure: always keep an open mind and be willing to learn something new, or have your viewpoints challenged.
  3. A unified team makes even the toughest jobs enjoyable.

Umar Mahmood, Full-time MBA (2019)
Contributions from Oliver Yogananthan, Full-time MBA (2019)

Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership at Cass

Nina and her cohort

My MBA experience is coming to an end. I am about to graduate this summer. Reflecting back, I can only say that my experience was mad – good and bad and crazy and intense and really like a roller-coaster. But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, it was exactly how an Executive MBA is supposed to be. Except, my class had a higher proportion of men to women. Let’s talk about diversity and inclusion for a minute.

I am a proud recipient of the Women in Business Award by Cass. A few of my cohort members are. My school is extremely supportive of female leadership starting from a female dean, female board members and offering many scholarship opportunities to women applying to various programs. As with many schools, during the application process we are given an opportunity to apply for a multitude of scholarships, and us women have an opportunity to go for the diversity awards. Like in many boardrooms, business schools seem to struggle to entice working women to join the classroom part-time on top of their full time careers as professionals, and most likely even fuller time careers as mothers and wives. Therefore, many business schools will offer various awards to supports future female leaders and our prospect achievements in our individual fields. What a tremendous opportunity for us, but are we discriminating men? Who cares, you are thinking, women have been discriminated for years, it is our time to rise and shine!

#CassWomen

Hey, I don’t disagree. Give me an opportunity to shine and I’ll take it, nobody can stand in my way. Except, I don’t see the world with ‘men vs women’ eyes. I see an opportunity to grow personally and professionally, perhaps competing against other people, but their gender doesn’t bother me. I see an opportunity to shine, not because I am a woman, but because I have a unique perspective, and unique experience and knowledge that I bring to the table. That is what others should see too. Those that are incapable of seeing past my gender are not worthy of my time, and certainly organisations that recruit me because I am a woman and they ‘lack female leadership’ are not the places I would fit in. Not because I don’t bring a female touch to anything I do, trust me, I am emotional and I don’t hide those emotions, but that is also my choice. These are not the places for me, mostly because they care that I am a woman, and don’t care that I am an experienced professional. That is where I want equality.

I recently read an article in which a personality scientist states that if you are a woman and you popularly ‘lean-in’ you will become a dysfunctional leader. This scientist further states that most people have little insight into their leadership talents, and those that believe that are the best leaders are in fact the most incompetent leaders lacking self-awareness. Statistically, those leaders are most likely to be men – whether women have chosen a different path, chose to stay at home or were just not interested in leading, we are still working in a male dominated business environment. So if we are to lean in, and mimic the behaviours of these dysfunctional leaders, won’t we become dysfunctional as well? That is not my goal. My goal as female leader is to be humble but also to utilise my strengths: communication, passion, endurance, emotional intelligence, empathy, the ability to listen and connect, and the ability to think about my bigger picture, but also to think about the picture of the people I touch and bring on the path with me.

Nina Kerkez (Modular Executive MBA, 2019)

Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani education advocate, who at the age of 17 became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is a true inspiration in leadership for me. She has overcome adversity, she is standing up to her rivals and she is overcoming diversity, whilst fighting for girls to pick up the books and pens, and get the education that they deserve. There are many things we could all learn from Malala, but as I talk about diversity and inclusion, in words of this wonderful woman it is important for us to remember: “Dear brothers and sisters, I am not against anyone… There was a time when women social activist asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it for ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights rather I am focusing on the women to be independent to fight for themselves.”

So, in my view, my MBA class was extremely diverse containing people of all genders, many races and nationalities, and many professional backgrounds. It consisted of a group of 38 amazing individuals, each and every one of us unique in our own way. We have learned from each other and built relationships that will last us a lifetime. Perhaps, I am finding it harder than I thought to be at the end of this journey. But those connections built in the two years of classroom activity, travel and, let’s face it, pub activity together, give me the feeling that this is not quite the end.

Post-study drinks

UAE Study Tour : A Gleaming Exposition of the Emirati Model

“An easy life does not make men, nor does it build nations. Challenges make men, and it is these men who build nations.” Such words, stated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, could not more succinctly encapsulate the ambitious spirit of Dubai. As a city, in the Sheikh’s words that was “founded on trade, not oil,” Dubai has joined the ranks of other premium global destinations like Singapore in becoming highly competitive and deeply globalised – boasting high living standards within a relatively short time span. Such was certainly witnessed by myself and my fellow MBA classmates who embarked on the Cass UAE Study Tour in February 2019. The impressive Emirati Capitalism was plain for all of us to witness and appreciate over the duration of this tour. Whether it was admiring the scope and the grandeur of the Burj Khalifa, or enjoying the sumptuous buffets at various hotels – it was clear that this city had burgeoned into an economic behemoth in the Middle East. This growth came to be through its citizens leveraging the myriad of strengths and expertise of a large and ever-growing expatriate population. The boom of highly-skilled expatriate communities is predicated on a state-driven investment strategy that is focused on trade and export in sectors such as logistics, healthcare and financial services ultimately enabled by ambitious leaders.

Oliver and his MBA colleagues in Dubai

True to the Cass MBA’s motto of “Leading the Adventure,” the tour was nothing short of an amazing experience for all those involved. Over the span of five intense days, the tour treated my colleagues and me to countless interesting highlights – namely site visits to organisations which facilitate and sustain the success of the “Emirati Model” such as Expo 2020, Nakheel and Emirates Aviation College.

MBA students visit the Emirates Aviation College

Expo 2020 was one of the key facets of Dubai’s competitive growth that the cohort witnessed in the context of the tour. The theme of the Expo was “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” and focused on three distinct factors: opportunity, mobility and sustainability. This in turn will enable multilateral collaboration between Dubai and the world. This collaboration spans a gamut of areas of expertise, from logistics to communications to 5G networks. The building plans of the Expo were breath-taking – both in the layout and in the proposed architecture of various structures. The building plans symbolized an homage to the heritage of the UAE and Dubai as well as an image of a bright future for Dubai.

MBA students visit Expo 2020

The next facet of the tour that struck me as interesting was the site visit to Nakheel, which is single-handedly responsible for extending the coastline of Dubai from 70 km to more than 300 km. Nakheel is the state-owned development company which famously constructed the Palm Jumeirah. My colleagues and I witnessed how the company is making headway with other large-scale real estate projects such as Deira Islands, the Palm Jebel Ali and the famous “The World” island development. More impressive still was the emphasis Nakheel placed on its developments being sustainable and eco-friendly – especially in the way the foundation of the Palm Jumeirah was turned into an artificial coral reef.

The final part of the tour that stood out was how it showcased the significant role tourism plays in Dubai’s economic development. This was especially evident during the visit to Emirates Aviation College – Crew Training. Emirates places great emphasis on developing a cabin crew that is dynamic, multilingual and always prepared to go above and beyond to offer excellent in-flight customer service. Through rigorous training, the cabin crew plays a pivotal role at Emirates in attracting, retaining and subsequently growing its network of customers.  The lengths through which the airline made customer loyalty a cornerstone of its brand image gave me a clearer understanding of how Dubai will continually be made into a viable destination for tourism. Through this attention to detail, Dubai is able to consistently transcend cultural boundaries in order to optimally cater to a customer’s need.

Students take on the desert with a safari tour

Besides the company visits, the cultural activities further enriched the experience of the tour. Specifically, the UAE Tour culminated in a desert safari which entailed the conquest of desert dunes in 4X4 SUVs, along with an evening of shisha and belly dancing. Although Dubai has grown exponentially, the city’s and its people’s deep connection to the desert and traditional Arabian values cannot be understated. The enriching and exhilarating nature of the tour could not have been made possible without the support of the students and the staff members of Cass in Dubai.

 

Oliver Yogananthan, Full-time MBA (2019)
Contributions from Lynal Low, Full-time MBA (2019)
Zafar Hassan, Full-time MBA (2019)

Building a bright future

International Consultancy Week in Dublin

Typing down a reflective essay could take a great deal of time! And why not? After all I was scrupulously penning down a yearlong journey of my MBA at Cass Business School that concluded on 22nd January this year. Collecting my degree as a Full-time MBA with Distinction in the presence of my cohort of qualified MBAs and Executive MBAs from Cass Business School, family, friends and other postgraduates from City, University of London was truly a proud moment. The Reception party organised by the School was equally quintessential.

From classroom lessons to leadership training week at Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and Digital Innovation elective that included a notable Design Thinking seminar at Stanford University in San Francisco, Cass MBA proffered a plethora of experiential learning at each stage of the programme.  Some of these learning experiences culminated into great successes and were directly entered in my resume. Working with the C-suite as a Strategy Intern at a London-based travel company and as an external MBA consultant at a health-tech company for my International Consultancy week (arranged by Cass in Dublin) are a few to list. The icing on the cake for me was getting a chance to learn about the different industries in which these companies operate.

People make the difference. Cass Business School made me feel this much more than I had thought. The school’s fantastic academic staff assisted me round the clock for all official activities, well-qualified professors offered exceptional teaching in core MBA subjects and welcomed after class discussions; and well-trained external faculty from iOpener Institute offered personality development workshops on when and how to lead and follow teams. Jorgen Sundberg’s session on ‘How to Build a strong and an attractive LinkedIn Profile’ and David Ohrvall’s ‘Crack the Case’ session were truly skilful and elucidating to leverage my professional profile.

To top it all, MBA classes were a complete fun with an energetic cohort of 70+ people from 23 countries. How could I miss bringing up here ‘The Great Cake-Baking Event’? It was the most frenzied way to learn strategy while baking cakes in groups. Besides giving weight to group exercises, the Cass MBA geared me to look at the business world with a unique lens through its Business Mastery Project. My project demanded understanding of concepts from several subjects – strategy, operations and digital innovation and the MBA programme had underpinned this right in the first half of the course year with its four learning blocks of 12 subjects and 6 electives where I covered all managerial subjects from HR to Corporate Strategy.

Study tour in San Francisco

For obvious reasons (MBA fun – activities, classes and exams), time flew very fast in those 12 months but that same clock ticked unrushed at the very end of the programme aka the job-hunting process. To make this process seem quite effortless, Cass Careers department provided me with copious amount of guidance and motivated me how to key-in my tech experience with management studies for various consulting roles. I’d like to give a special thanks to Laura Levy, MBA Relationship Manager for this! Starting with getting my resume and cover letters apt for these roles to preparing me exhaustively for assessment and partner rounds, the team helped massively before I accepted a role in a Big Four professional services firm in London. Ever since I’ve been on the job, the combined learning experience of the MBA networking events as well as the classrooms sessions of Digital Technologies and Business Innovation, Operations, Analytics and Corporate Strategy have been immensely useful.

Cass FTMBA is a fast track MBA in its complete sense. It opens up a whole new set of interesting alumni benefits, such as attending one free elective per year, which is rarely offered by other business schools. It has brought a great opportunity for me to learn something purely for my own personal interest or curiosity. Just last week, I started studying an elective on fast track venturing. As my learning continues – be it on a new role, project or industry, I look forward to build a positive future in the business world!

Finally, we graduated!

Prerna Thitme
Full-time MBA, 2018

 

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