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How my Executive MBA transformed my career in music

Choosing to study an Executive MBA is uncommon in the entertainment industry.

Having spent the majority of my career working in the music industry, I knew it was not an obvious choice. Working in music requires no formal education and many people simply don’t have one. Many roles within music require little to no specific training, regulations or practices in order to start – some basic industry knowledge, great networking skills and a good ear will get you started. This does, however, provide both a benefit and a hindrance… the benefit being that anyone can be anything, and therefore if you’re intelligent you can get very far very quickly. The hindrance being that occasionally you find yourself working with cowboys and there were many days when I felt I was in the Wild West. All success stories in music involve a certain degree of luck.

Soraya Sobh

I became curious about traditional business theory and desired to broaden my skill-set to see what I might be missing and not much else provides the breadth of learning quite like an MBA. There was a period of about 18 months before I started my MBA, when I tried to tackle problems regarding the business models of artist management agencies and found myself flailing. The music industry is cut-throat, exciting and intense and artist management is as close to the action as possible. I couldn’t understand why the industry was bouncing back, but management companies were starting to shrink and in the last few years I saw many either consolidate or disappear.

However hard I tried I couldn’t find the answers. Having now spent some time learning about business models through our corporate strategy modules, it’s crystal clear why this was happening.

Soraya Sobh and her cohort at a Cass MBA networking event

I’ve found Cass to not only be the most dynamic in terms of the cohort but also the only business school which genuinely asked me what I wanted from the investment. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted when I started, I just knew I wanted something different. Studying the Executive MBA provided me with a new way to progress my career. Which, with the help of the Cass careers team I’ve been able to do successfully.

Soraya Sobh at the Women of the Future awards

An Executive MBA is not for the faint of heart, but I can now confidently say it is definitely for the entertainment industry. In fact, if more people in the music industry had an MBA, it might be a very different landscape today.

Soraya Sobh, Executive MBA (2021)

Medical leadership: why I’m studying an Executive MBA as an embryologist

The benefits of studying an Executive MBA as an embryologist 

Studying for an Executive MBA as an embryologist is not very common.

I decided to study the Executive MBA in Dubai  because I noticed a skills gap in my field of work. In the IVF field (in vitro fertilisation), most of upper management do not have a medical background. I strongly feel medical leadership is necessary as it is all about understanding patients’ needs and winning hearts and minds, which is my aspiration.

I also chose to study at Cass for the opportunity for career progression. The IVF market is very competitive and having a managerial role in this field is very challenging as it requires good management and leadership skills. Moreover, a promotion in my current organisation is a great incentive.

In addition, the alternative opportunities that arise from studying an Executive MBA at Cass are a great motivation. The wide knowledge taught by the programme and the problem-solving skills and confidence that I will gain can help me have a more flexible career. I may even consider starting my own business in the future!

Last but not least, building knowledge and personal growth was one of my crucial motivating factors. Having a solid background in IVF, the programme allows me to diversify my skills and build confidence in every element of a business of this field.

Why I chose the Cass EMBA in Dubai and my thoughts on the programme so far

I chose the Cass Executive MBA in Dubai because I believe it is the right course for me: it is a triple-crowned MBA and Cass is ranked very high globally for career progression, which makes it stand out among the majority of business schools. Also, the flexible structure of the programme, as well as the location in Dubai, can allow me to remain in employment while studying.

I am really enjoying the programme so far. The whole Executive MBA is full of networking opportunities, as there is interaction with my cohort, with the faculty, the staff and alumni. Thanks to the focus on teamwork and group work, I have built strong relationships with many members of my cohort. This has not only helped me make more contacts but also many friends from different backgrounds and countries.

The programme adds big value in improving my skills, which helps me a lot in building confidence. I have learned to identify my strengths and weaknesses and build emotional intelligence, which is a key characteristic of a leader.

How I balance work, social life and studies?

Although the demands of the course are high, there are ways to balance work, social life and studies. Time management and discipline are essential and necessary for achieving the right balance. I make sure that I allocate specific time for work, family/friends and studying. I usually make a weekly schedule to prioritise and optimise my time and ensure efficiency.

I avoid wasting my time in activities such as watching television and social media, I ask help from friends and family when needed and I make sure I take care of myself. Focusing while studying is crucial and maintaining a healthy mind and body is essential.

Maria Banti, Executive MBA in Dubai (2021)

 

Facing your fears: What I learned from Cass Innovate 2019

Cass Business School’s yearly flagship event Cass Innovate is attended by entrepreneurs, business owners, finance professionals, consultants and students. Its diverse attendees really shows the living and breathing entrepreneurship ecosystem nurtured by Cass and City, University of London.

The keynote speech by Andrew Lynch, MSc Investment Management (2009) from Huckletree reminded me of the Steve Jobs theory of “connecting the dots.” Jobs’ theory is that it’s only possible to connect the dots looking backwards, so when launching your own venture you must trust your intuition. Andrew’s background and earlier experience in property and finance led him to venture into a business specialising in the coworking space and accelerator Huckletree.

Andrew Lynch: Keynote speaker, CEO of Huckletree and Cass alumnus

The breakout sessions offered at the event were mixed from talks, workshops and panel discussions to serve the need of a wider audience. The workshop The fear of failure: the number 1 enemy was particularly engaging and thought-provoking. The workshop was jam-packed with attendees from various backgrounds seeking an answer to the critical question: “what’s holding you back?”

Delivered by Professor Costas Andriopoulos, we started the workshop by filling in a CV of sorts of our failures. We wrote about what we didn’t get into: job positions, degree programmes, or other failures in life. Initially, I found this exercise counter-intuitive, especially as a CV is all about one’s achievements. The exercise of writing about your failures was a daunting task at first, but at the same time, it also instills the idea of pushing yourself to find alternatives. One more thing I picked up from the session was how to assess the possible negative consequences of an idea through analysis and ranking to explore ways to mitigate it. In fact, this is the first time I ever attended a session on failure and it has changed my mindset on failure and success.

Costas Andriopoulos: The Fear of Failure: the Number 1 Enemy

The session Financing methods throughout a company’s lifecycle, led by Professor Meziane Lasfer, was useful due to its real-world applications to raise the funding your own venture. Professor Lasfer succinctly explained the various methods of raising equity, be it from angel investment, venture capital (VC), private equity, debt and IPO. The session was attended by many budding entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, small business owners as well as investors. Professor Lasfer led the session using the sources of funding used by Amazon as an example. The astonishing journey from launching a company to IPO truly illustrated the need for entrepreneurs and business owners. The Amazon example also provided a glimpse into the profit an investor can make through the different stages of investing in a company.

The final session I attended covered the topic of a Founder exit using research from three studies and was delivered by Professor Vangelis Souitaris and Dr Stefania Zerbinati. I gained insight into the reasons why founders decide to exit– for an example, it may be simply frustration due to lack of power. I learned how founders exit— financial exit, management exit, or simply a combination of two— and what they do afterwards. The most interesting aspect of the session was the opportunity to meet completely different sets of attendees, as many of them have an experience of selling their business in the past.

Overall, the event was well organised and refreshment breaks between sessions gave attendees enough time to connect, re-connect and swap business cards over tea or coffee. There was also plenty of time for networking over wine and nibbles at the end of the day and I look forward to attending Cass Innovate in 2020.

Amit Shah, Modular Executive MBA (2021)

What makes you a social entrepreneur?

As part of my Executive MBA, I attended the Tech for Social Good international elective in Kenya. The study tour took us to Nairobi where we were not only introduced to some real-life applications of how technology is being used for social good but also gained a deeper understanding of some of the key drivers of social value creation.

Social value creation starts with the social entrepreneur, an individual who has made the conscious decision to focus more on value creation rather than value capture. A social entrepreneur addresses neglected problems in society, looks for sustainable solutions and operates in areas with underprivileged communities. We met several social entrepreneurs in Nairobi including Martina Taverna from Airfu, a mobile-based learning platform aimed at targeting learners of low-income status who have limited access to training and Erik Hersman, the founder of BRCK, which provides ICT related solutions and network connectivity to areas of Africa that currently have limited or no access.

Erik Hersman runs us through the technology behind BRCK

The second key driver of social value creation is scalability. As the focus of social enterprises is not on driving a profit but creating social value and finding a solution to a problem in society, social entrepreneurs need to seek alternative methods to capture value, otherwise, their solution becomes unscalable. Funding typically comes from public donations, the local government or the private sector. For Kenya, we learnt from the British High Commission that the UK government provides £300 million annually to the country.

Social enterprises must also consider the format of their business model as the traditional model doesn’t account for the focus on social value creation and therefore, needs to be developed. We were provided with a real-life example of business model innovation when we visited E4impact, who have developed a model focused on franchising. This allows them to provide higher-education to social entrepreneurs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa due to their partnerships with several international universities.

A summary of the range of services that E4impact are able to provide

It’s important to note that Kenya is already ahead of other countries in terms of technology use. The introduction of M-Pesa in 2007 revolutionised how Kenyans transacted and allowed them to skip straight to mobile banking, bypassing the traditional banking methods. Even now, Kenya is considered to be one of the top five countries in Africa that will experience significant grown in mobile phone penetration over the next six years; it is predicted to obtain nine million new mobile phone users by 2025.

It is this familiarity with technology that has allowed Kenya to be so receptive to solutions involving it and for this country, accessibility to the technology is imperative to it supporting social value creation. This holds just as much importance on a larger scale when considering how technology could be used to meet the UN’s Sustainable Developmental Goals. The UN already believes that technology will help, specifically stating that, “in order to eradicate poverty and reorient current unsustainable development trajectories over the period 2015 to 2030, affordable technological solutions have to be developed and disseminated widely in the next fifteen years.”

Kenya presents us with an abundance of social entrepreneurs using technology to create social value. Taking into account what they have done and limitations they have faced (e.g. scalability) will allow us to be able to apply their solutions on a global scale and address the challenges that currently present themselves in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Nil Sangarabalan, Executive MBA (2019)

Finding sustainable solutions through technology in Nairobi

I took part in the Technology for Social Good trip to Nairobi.

Technology provides many opportunities in creating these solutions to sustainability issues. We saw many innovative applications, both improving current solutions and developing and distributing new ones. Technology can be a key enabler in building scale and replication through standardisation, which in turn reduces the cost to provide the product. It can also play a pivotal role in accessing people who would otherwise be hard to reach.

M-Pesa, a phone app for money transfers, financing and micro-financing, is an inspiring example of this. Now, nearly 50% of Kenya’s GDP – of which 35% comes from the informal economy— is transacted on its platform and it has lifted 2% of Kenyan households out of poverty.

Technology can also be used to harness the power of data and analysis, whether it be in providing famers with better information about how and where to use fertiliser (Lentera), allowing micro-insurance to be paid on monthly rather than yearly (Blue Wave), or improving education provision (Whizz).

Technology needs to be carefully chosen to ensure that it maximises impact. Many of the businesses we met were not implementing the latest innovations but deploying clever applications of technology already in existence. As we often heard, it is important to consider the local context when determining the intended impact: start with the problem and find the most effective and cost-efficient technology to provide a solution for maximum impact. As Blue Wave highlighted to us, “innovate simply, and at the point of need.”

I was struck by some of the business models we saw, which play a key role in securing the viability of the companies and creating impact at the same time. Azuri is improving access to electricity by using a market hybrid model and offering payment terms on solar panels, lights and televisions to people too poor to afford the capital expense and factoring the receivables to fund its working capital. This is being operated on a commercial basis, even after receiving only 60c for every dollar’s worth of equipment provided.

These companies started out with a clear social mission and purpose and determined a business model to make it work. There must be a fit between the business model and strategic thinking, and so for those businesses looking for social impact starting with a definition of intended purpose and then innovating around the business model to create a viable business is more likely to be successful. It is unlikely that BRCK’s business model would have maximised the impact opportunity in focusing on value spillover if its only ambition was to provide internet access in Nairobi; it manages to offer free wifi to Kenyans by charging companies for using the data storage attached to the routers. It takes an impact-focused way of thinking to consider growing a viable business whose model is based on forgoing 40% of potential revenues as Azuri does.

Many companies were also using collaborations and partnerships as a growth strategy. This helps address obstacles to transactions by reducing distribution costs, improving access and bundling products to increase willingness to pay. Organisational theorist Henry Chesbrough explained the powerful network benefits of using open innovation for idea generation and go-to-market strategies, and we saw plenty of examples of this in action to maximise the social impact of the companies we met.

Freddie Woolfe, Executive MBA (2020)

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

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