Month: December 2017

Corporate culture, personal branding and authenticity – What the right MBA can teach you

Corporate culture, personal branding and authenticity are just a few of the many buzz words you’re likely to hear if you’re seeking a career change or new role, and, words you’ll never be able to un-hear if you’re doing an MBA. Personally though, I found these concepts often too abstract and hard to grasp.

What does it mean to be “authentic”? It’s not the same as not lying, apparently, and also doesn’t mean you should just be an ass because you’re being honest. And what is your personal brand? It’s what you want to be known for. Easy to say. But when asked what it is for them, most of my fellow students would come up with answers such as being trustworthy, a team player or being authentic (back to that again!). Don’t we all want to be that (or at least appear to be that)? Do we all want to be the same then?

Throughout my MBA experience, I’ve been preoccupied with this and tried to make sense of what any of these things mean. Recently, I’ve turned to look at Cass Business School itself for answers. After all, shouldn’t a business school that is teaching us to become better leaders, be a role model for such things?

I started to think about what makes Cass special. What is it that makes it different from all other schools. Sionade, our Associate Dean, will tell you about the “explorer mindset” Cass tries to instill in its students; Paolo, our newly appointed Course Director will tell you about learning from Professors who are at the forefront of their research; and the latest FT European Business School ranking backs this all, with a ranking 11 positions higher than previously to 15th.

But if you asked me what makes Cass unique, my answer would be completely different. What I have experienced in my three months here is a culture of inclusion that fosters a family-like sense of community, care and dedication.

Perhaps it’s the size of our cohort that makes it possible. Saying our faculty is accessible would be an understatement. There’s a sense that each of us is known to our Professors. I remember in my third year as an undergraduate, walking into a programming class and being told by the Professor each week, “Sorry, this room is booked for a class.” At Cass, we are encouraged to be known by our Professors right from day one with our big name cards on display. Half of the class learning relies on interaction and our Professors listen to us as well as push back when it’s needed. There’s banter with Professors on Twitter. Sometimes it would just be funny comments and yet other times, it would be a full-blown discussion over corporate strategy to be continued offline.

On the day I came to Cass for my interview, I had prepared several pages of notes, thought about the right things to say and the right things to ask. The interview itself ended up being a much less formal experience than I had anticipated and if anything, one of the most stimulating and fun conversations I had in a long while (fellow students confirmed having a similarly pleasant experience with other members of the faculty in their interview process).

But when it was done and dusted, my mind was all ready to leave. That’s when the Admissions Officer stopped at the  sixth floor MBA office and introduced me to Tony.

Tony is our MBA Course Officer. Tony is important. I know that now.

But frankly, when I was there on interview day, I was rather confused as to why I was being introduced to this person and how this interaction was relevant. Wasn’t he some sort of admin person? Now, four months into my MBA, I recognise the importance of Tony.

Tony knows it all. Tony fixes problems. Tony is your man for absolutely everything. Ask any Cass MBA student and they’ll tell you Tony is amazing. Because he is.

When you say “goes above and beyond,” you should have a picture of Tony next to it. He may send around the silliest pictures of our group endeavours or most important updates about exams. He is there for us. There to share the fun but has your back when you need it. Ok, you might say, that’s just Tony. That’s how he is. And I’d argue, yes, it’s definitely a personal trait but it’s also the Cass culture that seeps through every level of the university.

When early in the MBA year, an email came around asking for students to volunteer to write for the Cass MBA blog, I seized the opportunity. I saw it as a way to engage more with Cass members, to reflect on my own experiences and to expand on my passion for writing.

When I signed up, I knew I’d be writing a blog, send it for proof-reading and someone at the other end would do whatever needs to be done before it can be put up in the public domain. In theory, it could have been a very faceless interaction. Just wanting to put a face to a name and to have a better sense of expectations, I asked the person on the other end, Khus, our Marketing Manager, to a quick coffee. He happily agreed and ended up having so many questions about my MBA experience, asking me what my thoughts were on the individual courses, my cohort and my Professors. He cared.

In my ten years of Professional experience, I’ve come across plenty of marketing people and none of them were particularly bad nor did I ever think that they did an inadequate job. But they were all marketing people who remained in their marketing domain without any visible real passion for the product itself. I know that Khus cares about Cass and us.

At some point, I sent a piece that was over 2,000 words. I thought I’d get some feedback on it via email, some changes maybe. Instead, Khus set up an early morning meeting with me to discuss the piece in more detail and handed me a printed version with line by line edits by Khus and team member Mai, respecting all my ideas, only improving the language and structure. I never expected this level of engagement. It’s even deeper than the interaction I had with some of my editors when I was a reporter and I’m loving it.

When looking at companies to work for, we’re often told to talk with people there to see whether the culture they are trying to portray is truly the culture they are living. Come to Cass and you’ll see the culture of dedication is not only lived by the faculty but is reflected through all other teams that support this institution. When I look at my next job, I’d love to see this sort of culture and I know that it is one of the things I will take away from my MBA. A good culture can exist and be lived through the entire company.

Working your way down from corporate culture, personal branding comes next. There’s no one better to teach you about that than Paolo Aversa.

Paolo has personal branding down to a tee. By the end of term one at the latest, you will know what Paolo stands for, what he’s passionate about and what he wants from you. Whether you like his style or not, you’ll learn to respect it because you can see that he’s all in 100 percent, all the time. He’s passionate about Formula 1, strategy and teaching strategy.

When you sign up to his course and login to the course page, you’ll discover a Spotify playlist students can contribute to and a filmography of strategy-related movies. He’ll encourage you to get engaged with him on Twitter, talking about the lectures, talking about strategy, talking about anything to get us all involved beyond just the classroom hours.

Some of it may seem silly to you. You may even think all you want from your Professor is to teach you strategy and nothing else and it might just not be your kind of thing. But there’s something about Paolo’s energy, coming at you every day that you won’t be able to deny. What’s driving him is his deep-rooted desire to make Cass better. And you’ll find it in so many of the Cass faculty. They have their own individual style, unique to them and yet fitting the Cass family, whether that’s Laura Empson, the face of professional women in finance or Arthur Kraft, the most laid back accounting guy.

And what makes it really work is their authenticity. I don’t always think Paolo is right. We do have our fair share of confrontations but at the end of it, I still respect him because I know he comes from a place of personal conviction. That’s a trait that’s visible in so many at Cass. I saw Sionade in an interview on YouTube for the very first time when I was deciding about applying. She struck me as very kind and open. Marianne, our Dean, is always buzzing with energy when you see her walking down the corridor, always a smile on her face looking straight at you.

Everyone must have some sort of a welcome dinner at the start of the MBA with some speeches and there’s nothing special about that. What was special about both Sionade and Marianne, was that I felt like they were opening up their heart to us. The vision they shared with us about Cass and our future came from a place of love and hope. When you love something, you are authentic.

I often get asked by friends who are intrigued by MBA courses, what we actually learn from it and what the classes are about. I sometimes have a hard time telling them the full story. I could list all the courses I did in Block 1 and 2 and it wouldn’t even reflect half of where my learning comes from. Teaching and learning in an MBA goes way beyond what you learn in the classroom. It comes from the institution as a whole and from everything everyone shares with you each day.

Experiencing concepts such as culture, personal branding and authenticity is another part of the learning that will never be found in any of my textbooks. I didn’t actually look too far for my MBA and rather got lucky to have ended up in the midst of all these dedicated people who are teaching me so much. If you look for an MBA, look out for that.

Don’t just check league tables but rather look at the people and think about whether you could learn more from them over reading books. Look at whether they are the people you want to tell your family and friends about. If you’re lucky enough, they’ll become people you want to stand up for and defend in front of others because you know they’ll do the same for you. They will be a second family you’ll invite to your Christmas party. Learning what a good company can feel like; therein lies a lot of the value I see in my MBA.


Full-time MBA (2018)

Cass Modular EMBA: starting block two

The last six months has flown by and I can’t believe that I have started block two of my Modular Executive MBA!  Everyone is feeling more assured that they know what to expect in terms of reading, coursework and exams.  As a cohort, we have bonded making it feel like I have 39 friends that I can count on to support me, have fun with and stretch me academically. Cass seems to have some magic formula or perhaps the equivalent of the ‘sorting hat’ from Harry Potter that enables them to attract and bring together exceptional individuals who complement each other.

After, what feels like a long break since exams, we launch into block two on a high and with much to look forward to. We have been informed that the 2017 Modular MBA cohort will be in Vietnam for our consulting week in March 2018. As part of the consulting week, Cass is offering students an optional professional development opportunity – a leadership expedition day in Sa Pa. The aim is to build and test our resilience, determination, collaboration and personal leadership: all of which are sought-after qualities in MBA graduates. The consulting week is a highlight that we are all looking forward to; and many of us have also put ourselves forward for the leadership expedition to test ourselves outside of an office environment. Personally, I can’t wait to immerse myself in this experience.

But coming back down to earth and block two itself. The first two modules, Human Resources Management and Business Economies dive straight to the heart of what makes organisations successful. Understanding the people – any firm’s most important resource – exposing us to economic principles that shape competition and firm performance in the marketplace.

David Macleod gave a compelling account of employee engagement as a way of improving a firm’s performance

Professor Nick Bacon organised three visiting speakers who gave fascinating insights into some of the fundamental components of managing people: David Macleod gave a compelling account of employee engagement as a way of improving a firm’s performance; Linda Holbeche illustrated linkages between HR to Business Strategy; and Marc Meryon introduced how to manage industrial relations.  Three eminent speakers in their field added depth to this module that you cannot achieve from a text book.


Linda Holbeche illustrated linkages between HR and Business Strategy

In Business Economics, Professor Andres Hervas-Drane brought to life concepts around prices and perfect competition by getting everyone involved in pit market trading. Simulating a scenario where some of us were sellers and others were buyers led to organised chaos with hardcore negotiations and deal making to rival the traders at the London Stock Exchange.  More fundamentally we experienced how the firm determines the market price.

Marc Meryon introduced how to manage industrial relations

November takes us to Corporate Strategy and Corporate Finance, both of which build on modules in block one. With more guest speakers and an interesting syllabus to look forward to: roll on next month I say.


Radhika Narasinkan
Modular Executive MBA (2019)

Exploring Leadership at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

The Cass Full-time MBA cohort at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

As I approach three months at Cass, one key pillar of the School’s philosophy continues to become more and more apparent. There is some education that requires that you leave behind your textbooks and go out into the world. What’s more, some of the most impactful learning can happen when you go to the places where that learning is most valued.

Take, for example, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the venue of Cass’s  professional development week.

Sandhurst is the training academy for all British Army officers. With the motto “Serve to Lead,” the Academy develops military leadership that is grounded in the service of others. If you are first discovering Sandhurst in this blog post, I do suggest that you read further about the Academy’s unique value system and its transformative impact on leadership. Or, you could just enroll in Cass’s Full-time MBA, where you can experience Sandhurst’s ethos firsthand.

The ‘Achieving Your Potential’ professional development week functions more as a leadership retreat than as a traditional professional development workshop. While we participated in lectures and discussions that focused on fundamental themes of leadership and followership, what made the three-day trip incredible were the many opportunities to put these themes into practice on the grounds of one of the world’s most celebrated leadership institutions.

I must admit I am sworn to a certain degree of secrecy regarding the details of the week. Cass’s partners at the Inspirational Development Group (IDG), who designed and led the week’s activities, made us guarantee that we would not give away too much about the individual activities, for the sake of future Cass MBA students. What happens at Sandhurst must stay at Sandhurst, if you will.

But I can say that IDG does an outstanding job of integrating Sandhurst’s military leadership roots, storied history and breathtaking grounds into a series of experiential learning opportunities that illuminated our strengths, weaknesses and potential as leaders and team members.

We were placed into teams at the start of the week, largely with cohort members whom we had not yet worked with in our studies. This allowed us to start afresh, with no team roles established or expectations to build on. We could be aspirational when approaching each activity, experimenting with the sort of leaders and team members that we wanted to be.

As one might expect from a retreat at a military academy, we were asked to stretch ourselves both physically and mentally. There was more than one hill to climb and heavy thing to carry.

But these challenges developed a certain camaraderie within the teams and the cohort at large that we simply could not have built in a lecture hall or study room.  We had to lean on each other in ways we normally would not need to in an academic setting.

Aside from the real leadership development that I gained through our trip to Sandhurst, this sustained period of cohort-wide camaraderie was also an outstanding chance to see how we function as a group when we are together around the clock. With international consultancy week and the international electives looming in the spring, it has been great to see that we can depend on each other from sun up to sun down (as well as toast our successes at the hotel bar after hours).

Although I am sure it is impossible to fully espouse Sandhurst’s “Serve to Lead” ethos in just three days of professional development, I do think our ability to depend upon each other was strengthened by the fact that it was acquired at an academy so committed to selflessness. It is also a learning you do not usually associate with leadership development workshops.

Such workshops usually focus on I, rather than we. How can I be more influential or motivating or respected? That simply is not how the Royal Military Academy views leadership, and they know a thing or two about how great leaders work in some of the most challenging of situations.

The ‘Achieving Your Potential’ week was one of my favorite experiences provided by Cass thus far, because I was able to explore this powerful and unique perspective on leadership at an institution I may never have been able to visit otherwise.

Cass recognises that such opportunities are some of the best for real, transformative learning. I look forward to seeing where the programme takes us to next.

Joseph Cassidy
Full-time MBA (2018)

Tick tock

I’ll always remember a conversation with a friend who is a mother of three. She told me she managed her time in 10 minute blocks. Because every minute counted. If you wanted to get anywhere close to achieving your to-do list, you made sure that every 10 minutes was used for achieving something. The dishes. The school drop off. Adding the sugar spun fairy wings to the cupcakes for her daughter’s grade two garden party (yes, she is an overachiever).

I’ve found myself remembering that conversation more and more as the initial adrenaline of the MBA wears off, and it shifts from a new challenge to a lifestyle. A lifestyle that has to be carefully managed if you want to keep your sanity and relationships in tact.

The thing I heard most in the induction, at the open day and from everyone I’ve met who has either finished an MBA or is part way through, is that I should expect to be busier than I’d ever imagined. I guess I should have realised they were serious when we learnt how to speed read as part of induction!

Because the facts are simple: there is only so much time in a day.

In my ‘old life’ pre-MBA, my days were pretty full and organised in a (relatively) balanced way.

There was my job. My full-time job. For most of us doing the MBA, our jobs are not exactly a walk in the park. I can’t remember the last time I took a lunch break, or stuck to my standard hours.

There was my consultancy business that my partner and I run alongside our jobs.

There was my social life. Ahh, the days when there was time to, you know, just hang out. Without a text book in arms reach.

There was sleep. I’m a big fan of a good eight hours a night.

There was a healthy lifestyle. Going to the gym, cooking healthy food.

Then the MBA kicks off. And at first you think you’re on top of it. You’ve done the pre-reading for every class and you’re taking it all in. No loss of sleep and you’re still making it to the gym. Winning.

Then week five comes around, and we have readings or assignments due for six different modules at once, along with professional development courses on weekends.

Suddenly you’re less up to date with the pre-reading. Financial Markets and Instruments starts to sound like another language. You’re tired. All the time. You start to wonder how it’s possible to fit everything in.

Hats off to everyone who is doing the MBA with kids (and one with a newborn!). Heroes, every one of you.

Because we’re human. There is only so much we can do and take in before exhaustion hits. When we reach that point, we might as well not have bothered with that pre-reading, because we can’t remember any of it anyway.

So years after that conversation with my friend, I’ve found myself thinking about managing my time in 10 minute blocks. Pre-reading on the tube. Writing the structure for my next essay between the gym and dinner. Proof reading an assignment before my first meeting of the day.

There are times when this doesn’t feel like learning. It feels like rushing at full speed from task-to-task, more worried about what’s on the ‘to-do list’ than how I’ll apply what I’ve learnt at work tomorrow.

So is it worth it?

No question. Otherwise it would just be some kind of strange self-inflicted torture!

But it does mean extreme prioritisation. It means knowing when to stop and take time out (I’m still working on that one). It means compromise. It means not giving up brunch with that friend you haven’t seen for months. Then after your first unsteady steps, you find some semblance of balance.

There are lots of things about Cass I expected. The level of professionalism. The slick induction process. The quality of the course materials. And Cass has some rockstar lectures in its ranks.

But the one thing I wasn’t expecting was the sense of community Cass aims to build between the students and staff. One of the first things we were told was that “you can’t do an MBA alone” (they were right by the way!).

Cass puts a lot of effort into making sure that you’re not alone. A big part of induction is getting to know your classmates – a great bunch of friendly, smart and interesting people from all over the world. You’re allocated to a group on day one, with a mentor. The course coordinators are always on hand. Lecturers know your name, start the class by asking how your week has been, and make themselves available if you need more support.

It was a nice surprise to find a human face behind the slick brochures and the corporate website.

It makes it that little bit easier when time is of the essence and you feel the pressure of the clock ticking on your next 10 minutes.

Tara Anderson
Executive MBA (2019)

Discovering the ‘new busy’ on my MBA

I’d been thinking about doing an Executive MBA (EMBA) for years, scanning prospectus’ and attending open days here and there but always questioning deep down if I could realistically make the considerable commitment.

I tried to picture if I was one of ‘those’ collated people, managing their busy lives whilst also carving out space to study for a Master’s degree.

And then, when looking over the Cass website, I noticed an advertised scholarship which really spoke to me. It was the Coca-Cola Global Women’s Leadership Scholarship.

The scholarship is linked to a Cass initiative aimed at supporting and nurturing promising women to further their own growth and ambitions. I hadn’t seen any other top MBA school in London with a programme as focused as this one.

As the economic and societal benefits of increased female professional participation garner increased levels of publicity and validity, I saw Cass’s deliberate move to connect female leaders of the future with their extensive network of corporate contacts as responsible, forward thinking and opportune. It was like a sign! I had to apply and I told myself that if I was successful, I would bite the EMBA bullet. And here I am.

EMBA’s & Time

Rapidly approaching Christmas, having somehow managed to hand in three assignments and looking forward to a much deserved two week break, I can reflect on my EMBA experience thus far and notice that many notions link back to one topic – time.

When I speak of time, I’m mainly referring to a perceived acute lack of it! But I’m also thinking of the passing of time and what I hope to get out at the end of this endeavour, the relative concept of time and how much faster the last two months have felt compared to the months prior.

‘The new ‘busy’’

It’s a vaguely famous anecdote amongst my cohort that a previous EMBA class walked into their induction to a welcome of ‘you’re going to discover a whole new version of busy’ sprawled across the white-board rather intimidatingly in bright red marker pen.

Before this year’s course started, I remember reading a Cass EMBA student profile where the line ‘you quickly learn that you can manage on much less sleep than you previously thought necessary’ threw me into a mini-panic mode only shaken off with a cold glass of Chenin Blanc.

Luckily, I can confirm that I’m now so busy that I don’t have time to worry about being stressed about being busy! Once you kick off, you do naturally adapt.

Everyone’s in the same boat and everyone still wants to have some form of a social life – you learn to incorporate your extra workload whilst still fitting in going to the pub by finding new and efficient ways to utilise your time.

Moments in my day that I hadn’t noticed really existed, are now valuable time pockets not to be wasted. When my Uber audaciously skips from three minutes to eight minutes away – that’s enough time to scroll through my Cass inbox and see if there’s anything new in there that I need to be aware of.

Wistfully day-dreaming of blue skies, white sands and the sun’s warmth whilst half freezing to death waiting for the 158 bus to work in the morning is actually the perfect time to quickly take stock and make a mental plan of what I need to achieve and tick off by the end of the day.

Strangely, I’m somehow managing to do better at ‘fitting in’ aspects of my week that require a certain level of dedication and discipline – like going to the gym or doing my physio routine. I can only conclude that my enhanced time management skills are spilling over into other parts of my life!

Time flies when you’re having fun

In agreement with my grandparents who’ve been lamenting it for years, I’ve recently noticed that time does in fact start to move quicker as you get older. Every year Christmas shocks me all over again by appearing on the horizon despite only having occurred what feels like a couple of months ago.

Starting an EMBA is a sure fire way to accelerate this phenomena. Weeks absolutely shoot by and even though it’s nice that Friday re-appears much quicker than anticipated, I’m also trying to consciously remind myself to enjoy the moments as I’m in them.

So far, the nicest part for me has been the satisfaction of learning new things, and the mind-opening effect of garnering fresh perspectives from lecturers and EMBA colleagues.

Looking to the future

In two and a half short months I’ve already learnt time management skills to rival the Tsukaba Express, and completed courses in Accounting (a totally new language for me), Organisational Behaviour, and Financial Markets.

Despite the pace, I also feel content that I’m utilising my time so productively – every night I go to sleep knowing there’s not much more I could have been doing in the day to further myself or give myself the best chances for the future.

At the moment, I’m mainly focusing on looking ahead to the next two assignments we have due in after Christmas and our first half exams at the end of January, which I know will come around in a heartbeat.

But whilst I’m concentrating on these immediate challenges I’m pacified in the knowledge that I’m simultaneously working towards a longer term goal which has the potential to open up any number of exciting doors.

Kylie Poole
Executive MBA (2019)

One more beer!

Beer, friends, laughs. The bar is full of MBA students. “Okay, the last one before I leave, we still have to read six chapters of the markets and investments book, and prepare the slides for the economics presentation. Also, it would be great if I make some time to do the statistics exercises, if not, I wouldn’t be able to understand a word from Malvina”.

"One more beer, please"

The alarm clock goes off, my head aches for silence, and my body begs not to get out of bed. But I desperately need to drink water. I finally get up. Besides, the lecture starts in an hour. “I should have come home early,” I think. Of course, after that “one last beer” came a few more, at least.

In a programme like an MBA, where the workload is huge, there is no place for much more, and one should choose between sleep and socialising, but doing both, while saving time to study, is impossible. As you might have sensed, I discarded the sleeping option, but I promise it is worth it. Luckily, people in Cass are aware of this, and everywhere we go, we are provided with a free mug of coffee.

"Mornings at Cass"

“Lord its freezing”, I think while hitting the street. I stick my hands into the pockets, “I must buy some gloves”. I can’t get used to the London weather, “at least, this morning, the sky is clear, and I can feel the sun heating my face”.

While walking on my way to School, I start recapitulating the previous night. As you all are aware of, the best topics surge between beer and beer, and yesterday was not an exception. We discussed politics, experiences, goals. After the second beer, we passed to more important matters; football, love, and bright ideas that will make us rich entrepreneurs.

Two months have passed since the welcoming reception at Bunhill Row. I remember it as if it were yesterday, that feeling I had when entering, for my first time, at Cass. It was so exciting, living in London, doing an MBA, it was something I’ve wanted to do for years, though I had always seen it as something distant, even utopic. But there I was, after many months of research and reflecting, after a deathly battle against the GMAT, the interviews, the essays, the applications, and all the odyssey that any MBA applicant goes through. Yes, of course I was excited during that first day, excited and proud of myself, but I also felt like a stranger, I guess we were all strangers.

"A stranger"

However, the teamwork, trips, day-to-day activities, the willingness of learning, and beers, has made this cohort come together. I remember that conversation, a few weeks ago, with a Chinese colleague. We stayed at the university until late in the evening, working on the strategy project, and decided to go out to have dinner somewhere around the place. I have always been interested in the Chinese culture, which is so different to my own, and on occasions, awkward, to my understanding. I didn’t know where to start, but I was eager to listen her opinion on some issues such as the restricted access to the internet, press freedom, or the right to have children. We spoke so much that by the time we started to eat, our dinner had gone cold.

The other day I went out with a mate, he is Muslim, whilst I come from one of those classic Mediterranean big, catholic and conservative – picture it from Almodovar films scripts –  “old school” families. We both ended up talking about religion. We shared opinions, and he helped me to better understand the Koran, which I just recently read.

I think about the main motivations that brought me here: CV, money, status, network, professional knowledge, but now I realise that the true added-value that an MBA provides is the human quality; the personal development and the broadmindedness, that goes further beyond of professional and technical skills excellence. How fortunate am I to have the opportunity of meeting and listening to such different people, learning to see the world from other perspectives.


Tristán Oriol Lapetra 
Full-time MBA (2019)

What can you bring to the table?

“What do you want to do with your life?” This seemingly innocent question is terrifying for most people, but especially those embarking on the daunting task of applying for MBA programmes.

Years ago, when asked this same question, I had listened to a co-worker respond with, “I want to save the world.” I can still remember my amazement of her full whole-hearted belief that this is what she was meant to do. Me? I was 19 and barely understood who I was, let alone my purpose in life. Fast forward seven years and I found myself once again faced with this same question. What did I want to do with my life?

Funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Programme is a programme in its infancy. Designed to nurture rising women leaders, it aims to support women seeking their unique version of success. And that is what is so exciting about the programme. It doesn’t try to define what success is, but rather understands that success comes in a lot of different formats.

When I was applying for the scholarship this past spring, I looked at the calibre of women on the advisory board, as well as the already selected scholar, and thought my application was a long shot. I almost didn’t apply. I was just an accountant with only four years of experience. What did I have to offer?

But what I came to realise during the application process, both for the MBA and later the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, was that in the root of both questions are really the questions, “What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive?”.

I’ve spent most of my life enthralled by gender issues as well as the idea that creating strong women requires teaching them to step out of their comfort zones. Just because the experiences in my life that have helped to create this passion do not appear on my CV, it doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. My contributions to advancing women are no less credible because they have been micro and not macro. Whether the influence was formalised or not, the impact is still relevant.

It is an absolute honour to have been chosen as this year’s Full-time MBA scholar for the programme, to have the opportunity to sit on the Executive Board with some truly incredible women, and help shape the direction of the programme. It is also an honour I would not have had if I had played it safe and not pushed myself to qualify those factors that made me who I am. It truly would have been a wasted opportunity if I had disregarded the significance of what I could bring to the table.

In September, myself and the other scholars were invited to take part in the programme’s inaugural event and interact with Cass alumnus Muhtar Kent, former CEO and chairman of the board of Coca-Cola, in a casual lunch prior to his masterclass. Throughout the afternoon, Mr. Kent spoke of the importance of women, not just to even the numbers and make a company look good, but to help create strong companies.

For a firm like Coca-Cola, where women make up the majority of its customers, it doesn’t make operational sense to not have women in decision making roles within the company. This development goes further than the four walls of the office though. As Mr. Kent described, “Wherever you empower more women, you hire women; communities focus more on education and communities gets stronger.”

I may not know what my life will look like at the end of this year, and that’s okay, but I do know that sometimes you need to take a chance and just see where you end up. Whether it is something as large as creating firm wide initiatives to not only increase diversity but invest and develop the power within that diversity or simply stepping across an invisible line you yourself have drawn; every step brings you closer to finding that strongly held purpose my co-worker had all those years ago.

For more information on the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, go to:

Renee Kroner
Full-time MBA (2018)

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