What makes you want to press pause on your career and choose to study for a full-time MBA programme? An increase in salary rise; change in industry; or change in job function? What will you consider when you choose an MBA course? Ranking, location or tuition fees? In the face of all these questions, I was happy about how clear my thoughts were before I decided to come to Cass Business School.
I studied in Sydney, lived in San Francisco and I worked in the retail B2B business of a multinational oil and gas company in Beijing. As a Chinese national with over four years of experience in bridging the interests of Chinese national companies with those of global organisations in my previous roles, I have always been driven to succeed in my career and I was glad that I had a position within an organization that could utilise my skills and knowledge. I had great fun too and a sense of achievement with all my colleagues. However, with a curious mind, I kept wondering what was happening in other sectors of the business world and what other people were doing in an international city like New York or London.
Why an MBA?
Having an MBA degree had always been at the back of my mind. Frankly speaking, I did not think of it as a career or salary accelerator, rather I knew my knowledge and skill gaps and I needed to fill in those gaps to make myself a better employee to any of my future employers. Besides, I love learning about people from diverse backgrounds and I love the dynamics of a group of passionate experts and what I could learn from them. As my parents always tell me, “your happiness does not come from anyone else or anything else”, I know that having the experience of an MBA in a world-class programme is for my own benefit. In other words, sometimes you really need to sit back and listen to what your heart wants. Because that is the thing that makes you commit the most.
I made the decision of coming to London before EU referendum happened. However, I do not think Brexit would have caused me any hesitation to come to London. Having worked in an Anglo/Dutch company, I travelled to London several times. I love visiting museums; I love learning about the rich history just by travelling, I love walking past those old lanes full of happy people partying, I love watching the world change in such a cosmopolitan city. Although people have varying viewpoints about life after Brexit, London was the city that overtook New York as the financial centre of the world and it is still one the greatest cities in the world for business and innovation.
As stated previously, you really need to know what you want and what will benefit you the most. Cass was recommended to me by my friend who graduated from the MBA course almost a decade ago, now he is the Strategy Director in a multinational energy firm. I didn’t rush to start my application, I did enough research about Cass Business School before I made my decision.
It’s not about how much money you are prepared to spend or about how high the school sits in the global ranking, every business school is different and you need to find the one that fits you. I wanted to fill the gaps in my skill set and I knew Cass would be the perfect place for me. Located in the City of London which is one of the oldest financial centres and today remains at the heart of London’s financial services industry.
The practical business knowledge is just within our reach each day. These days I have been busy meeting professionals from different industries and most of them work around the local area or within a short tube journey. Cass also arrange seminars for us almost every week on a variety of topics.
The twelve month course is a challenge for most of us and we find ourselves running around here and there learning from different contacts and gaining a wealth of new knowledge. However, isn’t this the real world? Have you ever had a time at work when you wanted to ask for more budget for your marketing projects but felt weak when talking to the finance team because you didn’t have the financial knowledge to really negotiate and leverage?
The Cass MBA programme is comprehensive in terms of subjects and the soft skills that are taught. We had a networking skills workshop at the beginning of our course to teach us how important networking is and how to properly network under different circumstances. We have had many business leaders coming to our classes talking to us about real world business decision challenges. We have had company CEO’s talking to us about how they dealt with brand crisis, investment issues, leadership and the importance of people in businesses. We went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for leadership training. We learnt strategy and harnessed our teamwork spirit through baking cakes. We worked in different teams on consulting projects for companies that are facing challenges. We learnt so much about how to present ourselves through various presentation skills workshops. We have experienced so many special moments that are going to be valuable memories in our lives.
There are only six months left on my MBA journey. Next week I am going to Durham with my team to meet a company in FinTech and an Open Banking business to talk about our strategy project. Next month, we are going to Iceland to have a business consulting week with a company and also to conquer a volcano together as a team. In two months’ time, a group of us will go to Silicon Valley to learn Digital Transformation from the companies that sit at the forefront of digital innovation, while other members of the cohort will go to Israel, Cuba, China, Dubai or South Africa for courses on different subjects. Cass gave us so many opportunities to choose from in this part of the MBA programme, so we can tailor our learning based on our interests. Confucius says “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. We have a very professional and supportive careers team at Cass to help us shape our career and choose the industries and companies which really match us.
Before my MBA programme I never thought I would be interested in the financial services, investment or consulting sectors. What I want to say is that we don’t know what we don’t know and the MBA course at Cass enables me to learn from diverse people, learn new things that I didn’t know before and really build on who I am as a professional and as a person.
I am grateful for my decision to come to Cass. I often reflect and think “what would have happened if I did things differently at my previous job”, I note these reflections down, then I continue to strive for my career.
Dear readers, please, always remember, the person that can make you sing is you!
Liying Hao, Full-time MBA 2017