Month: April 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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