Author: Peter Walls

Integration Week: An MBA Sprint

It’s been about three weeks since our cohort’s first integration week, as such I’m beginning to feel emotionally prepared to put the experience onto paper.  What is integration week? As the name implies, it integrates your knowledge.

The purpose of an MBA is gaining new skills and knowledge and being able to apply them in the real world. Knowledge on the programme is taught in concentrated blocks of three subjects, delivered over a month. Integration week plays a huge role in putting practical application to the theoretical learned during these blocks in the form of an intense week-long challenge.

I won’t go too much into the nature of the assignment (that would be cheating), but you’ll receive a task and you’ll have a week in which to achieve it. However, what I can disclose are a few of the challenges you’ll likely face and some of my learnings from the process:

  • Focus – You have a week, this is a sprint, not a marathon. Perhaps not surprisingly, the task is business related, so you’ll be given a sector, country or business with a problem. There will likely be a lot of data: financial reports, annual statements, shareholder communications, etc., so it’s easy to get distracted, or find yourself down a wormhole. The problem you’ll be tasked with solving should be relatively easy to discover. Once you find it, focus on it.
  • Answer the question – something I used to hear a lot when I was younger and I’m surprised that I’m still learning this lesson. Simply answer the question. Once you’ve focused on the problem, make sure your presentation is designed to answer the questions you’ve been given in relation to the problem that you have discovered.
  • Simplicity is Key – As the design principle says: “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Remember you’re not an expert, as much as you’d like to be. The work needs to demonstrate your knowledge, and that you’ve learned to apply this knowledge, and used effective research to reinforce it.

As mentioned, this is a sprint. So you’ll be short on time – this is of course by design – time is not unlimited out there in the real world after all. At some point during the week, you will find yourselves over-debating a topic, or running over on time or word count. Concentrate on focusing, answering the question and maintaining simplicity by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Could you explain it to an alien? Is the logic undeniable? Do you have the data to back up your assumptions?
  2. What is the question? Does this sentence, slide, graph or topic answer the question or simplify the explanation? If not, you’d better move on.

In summary – focus, answer the question, and keep it simple.

Peter Walls

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

Choosing the Full-time MBA: Follow your gut instinct

Choosing the right business school for you

Selecting a business school can be a very confusing process.

There are hundreds within the UK and thousands globally. The top schools will teach you marketing, accounting, HR, entrepreneurship and offer a range of exciting elective modules. They’re triple accredited and rank highly in the FT rankings. They will all ensure high percentages of post-degree employability and have notable alumni and promising partnerships among globally renowned firms.

This can make selection of a business school very challenging. To make the best choice, I came up with the following criteria: location, quality, size and gut feeling, all which led me to study the Full-time MBA at the Business School (formerly Cass).

I hope that this account of my selection process and experience with the Business School can help to guide anyone making one of the biggest commitments to change of their professional career.

Peter Walls

Location

The first level of selection was done purely on location.

I started my professional career in London. As such, I am fortunate to find much of my professional and personal support network in a city which is home to a number of globally renowned business schools. This proximity to my ‘nearest and dearest’ made it very challenging to look beyond London.

I attended a number of open days and even interviewed outside of London, however when it came to decisions and prioritisation, the location put the London-based schools leagues ahead.

Prestige, quality and investment

A second challenge was to find a balance between three measures: prestige, quality and investment.

When looking at such a significant investment of time, opportunity cost and— let’s be honest— money, the return on investment was a key consideration. Programmes vary in length, generally one to two years for full time programmes and financial investment.

In addition to the quality of the teaching, the name and prestige of the school play a significant role in the cost.

There are a variety of scholarships, bursaries and financial awards available, so finding those which I qualified for and could feasibly be awarded also had an influence.

My priority at this stage was to ensure the highest possible quality of education and prestige while remaining in the realms of the financially viable.

By this stage I had a shortlist that you could count on one hand and a very challenging decision to make. I applied to all the schools on my shortlist, attended networking events, webinars, open days and interviews. I asked them about their unique selling points.

Size

Cohort sizes are generally between 50 at the smallest size, up to three or four hundred students for some of the larger programmes. Research within my connections and network lead me to favour a smaller programme.

Size helped me to narrow down the shortlist to three schools – each of which with extremely impressive teaching faculty and wider teams. They all had small and intimate cohorts, guaranteeing a personal experience whilst still ensuring a high degree of diversity.

Full-time MBA: Class of 2021

Gut instinct

In the end, the final decision came down to gut instinct and the quality of candidate experience. The Business School team were helpful, supportive, challenging and genuine. They were always quick to respond to queries and offered flexibility in the application timeline.

The open day was remarkably fun, especially the sample lecture which was delivered by the charismatic programme director. Dr Paolo Aversa’s introduction was entertaining, engaging and down to earth. He described the Business School’s Full-time MBA programme as “the Vodka Redbull of MBAs” and one with teamwork and cooperation at its heart, rather than competition, which greatly appealed to me.

The interview process was informed and caring. My final interview was with a senior faculty member, where other schools had me speaking with another member of recruitment. The interviewing Professor offered me invaluable advice on how to choose a school and his inquisitive nature and passion for his subject and education were highly infectious.

The whole application process made me feel highly valued— a person rather than an applicant, and a true asset to the future cohort. All things considered, when waiting for my final offers, during the agonising days of refreshing my email every thirty seconds, I knew that the offer I was truly excited to receive was the offer from the Business School.

Questions to ask yourself

My advice to business school and MBA applicants would be to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Think about your personal balance of investment, prestige and quality when looking at the schools. Do any of them offer a specialty that resonates with you and your future career goals?
  2. Find potential locations: cities and countries. What about them appeals to you?
  3. Do you want a big, competitive cohort of 300+ or a smaller, collaborative one?
  4. Go with your gut. How do you feel about the interview process? Which school’s email are you waiting for? At this stage, you’ve got to do what feels right to you. 

Welcome!

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

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