Full-time MBA integration week – Block I

86 people. 14 companies. 4 days. 1 final showdown.

What does that line get you thinking? Analysis? Time? Game? Research? Competition? Tension? Whatever you are thinking, you are right.

That represents the stats of our integration week. Block I of our Full-time MBA came to an end on 25th of October 2019 with this incredible week.

The rules were simple:

  • 86 people are split in 14 teams
  • Each team
    • Is assigned a company
    • Analyses the assigned company on three fronts – strategic, financial and organisational behavioural
    • Prepares a 15-minute presentation to answer given questions
    • Answers questions by experts for 10 minutes

And that was probably the greatest catch – the simpler the rules, the wider the scope.

This week taught me importance of:

  1. Precision

When time is scarce, it is important to avoid beating around the bush and boil down the content to what is asked for. Let me try to simplify this by an example:

Question: Tell me who you are and how can you get better at what you are?

Answer #1: “When I was a 3-year-old child, I saw this movie that showcased life of a marathon runner. This inspired me to be a runner myself. I started training pretty early in my life. I used to get up early in the morning every day and go for a run in a park near my home. Sometimes I missed my classes to get better at my running time and speed. But you know, that really did not work out that well. My running times are not that good today, although my stamina and endurance improved over time. Strangely enough, I have been working at it for over 10 years now and I still feel the thrill of running. I have been good at sports all my life. I was even part of my school relay team! I think I should buy a proximity clock. I saw one of those at a store the other day, with a robust terminal, one that’s ISO certified. It also came with a clocking-in machine solution with holiday and sickness calculations. Yeah, I think having one of these will be a good way to improve myself.”

Answer #2: “I am an inspired marathon runner, although my greatest strengths are stamina and endurance, I need to work on my timing – an absolute key for success. A possible solution is to invest in a proximity clock and stop relying on guesswork so that my training is put to a better use.”

Answer #3: “I am runner. I can better myself by buying a proximity clock.”

You want to be Answer #2. First one is unstructured, has a lot of unnecessary information, goes off tangent, and does not correlate. Third one is simple and straight but does not provide a complete picture.

You should be able to balance storytelling and precision. Precision is what your audience is looking for, storytelling is what keeps their attention and binds things together.

  1. Teamwork

I know it is cliché to mention the importance of teamwork. You might ask, am I not ignoring my first rule of being precise? I want to highlight what will happen if team does not work well together:

It is crystal clear that you will end up not being the best. If you do not understand teamwork and do not work well in cohesion, you will:

    • Paint an unprofessional image of not only yourself, but also your teammates
    • End up having an uncomfortable work environment, to the extent that you feel like leaving the room is better than working with people in it
    • May risk your future of being someone nobody wants to work with
    • Feel disengaged, demotivated and burdened your team instead of being part of it

For anyone who is looking out for leadership roles, getting people from different backgrounds to work together efficiently is an immensely important skill. Develop it by using every opportunity provided.

  1. Hard work

There have been plentiful debates and there are roughly three million research journals about smart work vs hard work. From what I witnessed in this one week, given the time crunch, smart work is important. But nothing beats the hard work. The hardest working teams were the ones that won. It is taught to us time and again that “correlation is not causation”. So, this might not be the reason, but it definitely correlates.

 

 

If you want something, you need to work hard to get it. In my experience, there is no substitute for hard work. Yes, smart work complements hard work very well, but does not replace it.

It was a great pleasure to be part of this amazing week. Looking forward to Block II’s integration week.

 

Sushmita “Sushi” Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

Discovering tech for social good in Nairobi

Life is about choices, which career to pursue, graduate school to join, or elective to select – all to achieve the goals some of us are fortunate to choose to set and attain. An elective Technology for Social Good that took place in Nairobi, the pulsing heart of Kenya is new on the MBA curriculum. We sometimes choose our electives by the expected learning scope, not expecting that we can be the living contributor to the course environment itself.

This exciting elective was a result of an ambitious initiative of Professor Alessandro Giudici, who connected his passion for impact entrepreneurship with enormous academic and hands-on knowledge in Strategy; and a masterful on-the-ground course organization by Koby Cohen, a Cass alumni and entrepreneur, to deliver an interactive full 6-day study tour in Nairobi – one of the most vibrant cities in the East Africa.

Our schedule was packed with site visits to tech hubs and coworking spaces – the thriving centres of social entrepreneurship and innovation spread out across Nairobi. One of them was E4Impact Innovation Hub, an accelerator that has been a nest for impact-driven entrepreneurs in sectors like agritech, social housing, and green energy. All of the startups had incredible community outreach and demonstrated social impact. How astonished we were to know that the hub even hosts Nairobi Space Days!

Kenya is tech-savvy. Today the country is home to more than 200 startups worth of USD1bn. With most of these headquartered in Nairobi, the capital has been unsurprisingly named ‘Silicon Savannah’.

Over the course of the tour, we visited successful startups that have over the past decade shaped Kenya’s innovation landscape – such as M-Pesa, an ultimate leader in mobile payments, BRCK – a revolutionary off-grid internet provider and Ushahidi, a crisis management platform. We learned how these success stories reinvented themselves by supporting the startup ecosystem and reinvesting their gains to support the new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. My cohort and I were touched by the questions that were asked to us by the 14- and 15-year old students of the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, a state-of-art high school for high-potential young students from underprivileged backgrounds. They were bold and driven; they knew what they wanted and were unafraid to ask us why and how. In reality, we were lucky to meet these future leaders of Kenya.

One of the hubs, iHub, allowed us to attend a live pitching event for startups seeking seed funding. Kenyans and entrepreneurs from other countries presented to investors, often from a webcam! Their ideas were incredible and their pitches focused on how tech can enhance the lives of the communities, to make education, sanitation, health care and light accessible, or how to make farming more efficient.

I found the biggest benefit of the course was the opportunity to meet many young, passionate entrepreneurs who are thriving despite challenges. It was wonderful to witness how a moral choice to address the real needs and determination to find real solutions through application of technology can generate a tremendous impact for thousands, and millions of people.

A visit to Kenya makes you realise one thing – Africa has unlocked your mind and opened your eyes. And all you want is become part of this honourable journey that will change lives.

Anastasiia Liashchenko, Executive MBA in Dubai (2019)

Networking

A friend of mine and I were having coffee.

She was about to quit her job and was sharing her story: “The Vice President of the company has done a lot for me. I was out of a job and out of hope when he approached his senior management and created a designation that never existed before – just for me. He convinced them and hired me here.”

I was baffled by the fact that someone could just create an opening that did not exist before. Fast forward few years, I was contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn for a job that was not advertised on the company website. Fast forward few more years, I realised that this is not unusual. 60 – 70% of jobs are never advertised. As surprising as it sounds, it is true.

As it turns out, there is a way to access this “hidden” market – networking! A lot of importance is given to this aspect at Cass and as part of this, Mr Will Kintish was invited for a session. Of the many things learnt during this session, here are the ones that I left the room thinking about:

  1. Networking is a gradual process.

 It organically grows over time and we need to be patient for at least eight-nine months. There are three phases:

First – knowing. A good introduction plays crucial part (I talk more about this in my third point).

Second – liking. If I am not sending out good vibes, the other person is neither going to want to spend further time with me, nor is going to be open to listening me.

Third – trusting. In Amy Rees Anderson’s words, “trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” The best way to build trust in professional relationships is by being reliable.

  1. Taking the anxiety out when at an event full of unknown people.

 It is quite natural to be nervous and confused while attending a networking event. Keep in mind this simple three step process for approaching this kind of situation comfortably:

First – Preparing and planning. When planned and prepared for attending any event, one feels far more comfortable, stays in control and enjoys the event. It is helpful to consider these seven key words while accepting any invitation: Who? What? Where? When? How? Which? Why?

Second – working the room. Every room has:

  • Individuals – they don’t know anyone and don’t know how to break the ice. They are praying for someone to talk to them.
  • Open couples and trios – feel free to go over and join them – they want to meet you like you want to meet them.
  • Closed couples and trios – their body language is saying we are comfortable as we are for the moment but come back later.
  • Bigger groups – only enter when you know someone.
  • Rude people – don’t give them a second though, just move on.

Knowing this structure helped me better understand my audience and know where I will have higher chance of being welcomed.

Third – follow up. For this, exchanging business card and writing down details on it is a good way to remember the details and not miss out on following up.

  1. How to introduce yourself effectively?

Introduction can be broken into four parts:

First – name. Repeating the name “I am Sushmita. Sushmita Nad” helps the other person remember it, while creating an effect.

Second – title. Saying what defines me, for example “I am a recruiter,” will help lead to a conversation post-introduction.

Third – what problems do I address? Your job title might not be very clear or it might mean different things to different people. Adding little description like “I like to find people and then help them find what they want” will serve as ice breaker.

Fourth – prompt. Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves! Ending the introduction with “tell me about yourself” and taking genuine interest in the answer opens the person up for further conversation.

It was helpful to know that networking can be broken down to such small yet effective steps. Now, it is time to work on these and inculcate them.

Sushmita Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

Visualise, Hear, Feel

Ever heard of the 60-30-10 rule? No, I am not talking of the classic décor rule. I am talking about the Harvey Coleman model.

According to Harvey Coleman model, performance is just 10% when it comes to career success. Pretty disappointing, isn’t it? After all that hard work you put in to do a good job, and then, a little better.

Well, the good news is that we know what the key is! The large 90% chunk (30% image and 60% exposure), is presentation. Presentation here does not just define a PowerPoint presentation slides you talk though during meetings, it defines YOU. It defines the way you present yourself to others. It defines how engaged you are and how well you project your good work.

Harvery Coleman Model

Harvery Coleman Model

One of many interesting takeaways I have had from presentation sessions at Cass by iOpener is that the abbreviation VHF does not always stand for Very High Frequency, it stands for Visualise, Hear and Feel. These three words define the only three categories of audiences you will come across in any kind of presentation you deliver.

To be an effective presenter, it is important to understand, connect and engage with your audience. To do so, knowing and learning about these three words becomes important.

Visualisea picture is worth a thousand words

From a formal presentation perspective, this means you need to include pictures wherever possible. Although, keep in mind that slides are just an aid and you are the presenter.

From a general presentation perspective, this means the way you stand, walk and use your hands.

  1. Stand – Stand on both legs, roll your shoulders back and keep your hands in Pivotari position.
  2. Walk – Stay grounded. Don’t move around much, this will affect the way you think and projects you as a nervous and confused individual.
  3. Use hands – Free up your hands, let them flow naturally and take the space to convey your message effectively.

Using these techniques adequately projects you as a more confident person.

Hear“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”- Peter F. Drucker.

Throughout evolution, we were designed to hear what is not said; you are conveying a lot more than just your words. The PPPE – pitch, pace, pause, and emphasis tell a lot more than your words do. Be sure to be low and slow most of the time. A slight rush is fine when you are excited about something.

Pausing at right places can create a tremendously different effect on the speech. Often, doing so helps to regain the attention of your audience.

Feel“They may forget what you said; but they will never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou.

This category is a tricky one. People notice almost everything. Your facial expression, your tone, your body language, and the words you use. If you are saying something that you don’t believe in – trust me, it will come out quite evidently. Practice is the solution here.

As our Leadership Development Specialist Lorraine Vaun-David says, “people who get invited to Ted Talk are great presenters. Even then, each one of them is required to practice at least once with the Presentation Coach a day before they are on stage.”

I hope you found this useful and that next time you present something, you will remember these tips.

the good news is that we know what the key is! The large 90% chunk (30% image and 60% exposure), is presentation.

Sushmita Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

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

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