Tag: business school

Studying Virtually During a Pandemic: the Cass Modular Executive MBA

Selin Sefiloglu and Lingling Delicata, Cass Modular Executive MBA (2022) are the recipients of the 2020 Professional Excellence Scholarship. Selin works as a Finance Manager at Kingfisher plc and Lingling is the Group Internal Audit Manager at Hyperion Insurance Group. Each have over ten years’ experience and are qualified Chartered Accountants. Coming from different industries, they share a common goal: pursuing an MBA at Cass to develop their leadership skills, expand their professional networks and accelerate their careers. Selin and Lingling reflect on their MBA journey so far and the shift to online teaching.

After attending our induction and meeting our fellow cohort, the UK went into lockdown and Cass prepared to switch to online teaching to protect its students and staff.

Leading up to our first week of online lectures on the Modular Executive MBA (MEMBA), the Cass team worked incredibly hard to keep us updated on the lecturers’ arrangements. This included recommended pre-reading (available on our online platform, Moodle), preparations for team discussions and ongoing technology support (thank you Omar Iqbal).

Zoom team meeting

Our lecturers have adapted to the shift to online teaching in light of Covid-19 by using different communication channels to deliver our programme. We are grateful for how they are keeping us engaged with group exercises and role plays– an effective and entertaining method for studying our Strategic Leadership, Organisational Behaviour, Analytics for Business and Accounting, and Financial Reporting modules virtually. Our cohort’s ability to adapt is wide-ranging– one student even participated with class discussions on his exercise bike!

Group assignments play an essential role in our MEMBA programme. Split into smaller teams of five to seven students from diverse professions and cultural backgrounds, we were tasked with our first assignment during the induction weekend: creating a Team Charter.

Meeting our team at induction

The lockdown did not deter us from our MEMBA commitments, and we quickly established the most efficient method to balance our family and personal lives. Following virtual brainstorming sessions on what teamwork means to us at a granular level, our group outlined our ways of working under three main pillars: Thinking, Communicating and Doing. This provided a clear framework for us to operate as a unit, interlinked by our team’s core values.

Open collaboration is a one of the most important factors for success and ensuring everyone stays committed and contributes equally to the group discussions. It’s not about who brings the winning idea to the table– instead, we are creating a safe environment for everyone to present their arguments effectively, contributing to our development as effective business leaders.

Lingling Delicata

As recipients of the Professional Excellence Scholarship, we are both honoured for the recognition of previous achievements in our careers. The scholarship shows how Cass endeavours to empower and support women in business. We’re equally grateful to be on the same project team during the first term, as we are currently in the midst of our Strategic Leadership group assignment with the incredible support of our team mentor, Lisa Delaney.

Selin Sefiloglu

We are looking forward to seeing the final project output and to celebrate our project with team drinks, whether that may be in person or online!

Selin Sefiloglu, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

Lingling Delicata, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

 

Induction Week: Joining the Cass Modular Executive MBA

The induction weekend was a great way to break us into the Modular Executive MBA programme. The study skills session taught us the key principles required for overall success, including speed-reading, mind-mapping and improving memory. We were also granted the opportunity to meet our lecturers through a series of enjoyable interactive induction lectures. There was a clear focus on teamwork and group activities where debriefing and discussing various viewpoints with our cohort was endorsed.

Meeting our cohort was the best part. We have peers from all over the world, with a vast and varied background. Leveraging each other’s experiences and understanding was embedded from day one. I look forward to getting to know everyone better and building a lasting network of highly skilled professionals.

After having our photos taken, meeting our cohort and an intensive day of lectures, we headed to our induction dinner to wind down at the Crypt. Here we met with our mentors and better connected with our teams.

During my application process, I was honoured to be awarded the “Cass Rising Stars Under 30” scholarship. This scholarship was open to candidates exhibiting an outstanding early stage professional track record, showing potential for future success. Being identified as a “Rising Star” is a prestigious award, further motivating me to be the best that I can be.

In these unprecedented times, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cass have been quick to meet the learning needs of its students. With additional software and web-based library services being made available, lecturers and support staff are doing their upmost to ensure a smooth transition. Our MBA Course Office Coordinator, Lorraine has been absolutely great, thank you all!

Our first session of web-based learning starts next weekend, wish us luck!

Soroosh Keshtgar, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

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

Veep, collaborative leadership and the MBA

**Warning.  This blog contains spoilers.  Read on if you’re okay with that. **


Artwork by Jin Kim

There’s no shortage of stuff to remind us that collaboration matters.  Being a good ‘team player’ is shorthand for the qualities needed to work with other human beings and get things done.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Mix up a bunch of people with different skills, experiences, and objectives; chuck in conflicting priorities and time pressures, and what do you get?  It’s the reason shows like The Apprentice are so compelling.  Collaboration is rarely about caring and sharing.  The fact is, proper collaboration – and leadership – is tough.

Politics is a brilliant case in point.  But let’s spare ourselves from partisan ranting and instead, focus on a perfect example of collaborative leadership gone wrong: the finale of Veep.  After seven seasons, former president Selina Meyer (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a shot at a second term in the Oval Office.  What stands between her and returning to the White House?  Her fellow party nominees.  The 2020 national convention is at a deadlock.  None of four candidates have the 2368 majority needed to get the party’s nomination.  The only way to get on the ticket is to cut a deal with another candidate.  They need to sort it out swiftly, or face another four years with President Montez at the helm, and their party pushed to the margins.  It’s a classic opportunity for collaborative leadership.  By working with the other three, Selina can minimise power struggles and increase the odds of a successful outcome for her party. 

Obviously, that’s not what happens.  Selina rejects the ‘simple solution’ of asking her opponent – and personal nemesis – Kemi Talbot (Toks Olagundoye), to be her running mate.  Instead, she makes a bunch of explosive choices which get progressively more divisive and dubious.  Tom James (Hugh Laurie) enters the race as a fifth candidate at the last minute, and Selina quickly rips him from the running by persuading his chief of staff to accuse him of sexual harassment in return for a top job in her White House administration.  She promises to ease fracking legislation in New York state to get the governor onside, and outlaw gay marriage to get Buddy Calhoun (one of the three remaining threats played by Matt Oberg) to back her and step aside.  She makes Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) – described as ‘an unstable piece of human scaffolding’ and a ‘sentient enema’ – her running-mate, to the complete disgust of her campaign strategist and Jonah’s own campaign manager Amy (Anna Chlumsky), who basically begs her not to put such a vindictive narcissist anywhere near power.  And to put some awful icing on this dicey political cake, Selina shops her personal aide Gary (Tony Hale) to the FBI, has him jailed for the misdeeds of her dodgy ex-husband to make allegations of financial impropriety go away, and has it happen WHILE SHE’S ONSTAGE ACCEPTING THE PARTY NOMINATION.


Collaboration in action: consultancy week in Vietnam

I’m not even going to try and pitch this as a morality tale where good triumphs over the most Machiavellian political operators, and bad behaviour gets punished in the end.  The fact is, Selina wins – though the top spot is pretty lonely as she’s kicked all the support from under her on the way up.  No, the point is  there’s never been more of case for collaborative leadership in 2019.  Partnerships and collaborations – especially between sectors – are vital for creating change, and creating social and economic value.  However, collaboration is HARD.  There’s no guarantee it’ll succeed, and no formula for doing it well. 

Jennie Albone (Modular Executive MBA, 2019)

Over the last two years, my Cass MBA colleagues and I have combined full-time work with intensive study.  Our achievements are a combo of results from individual assignments and group tasks.  When we graduate in July, we aren’t just celebrating our own successes; we’re recognising that we worked together to make this outcome possible.  From co-writing essays, to working with Vietnam’s first unicorn tech company on a consultancy project, group work and collaboration was a staple of the course.  You’ll be pleased to hear my experience in no way resembles the brutal hard knocks doled out by President Meyer.  Instead, I had the chance to work with a cohort who bought diverse talent, experience and views to everything we did.  Sure, there were times when it would’ve felt easier if we’d thought a bit less divergently and just got on with it.  But diversity is massively important.  Working with people who approach problems from a completely different place helps you to check your assumptions, reveal your blind spots, and reach a better result.  It’s taught me how to recognise and value the skills others bring even more, which is something I’ll take with me to the next stage of my career.  So, does that mean a Cass MBA the answer to all of our leadership challenges?  Well, no – nothing is that simple.  But opportunities to hone our personal collaboration skills matter.  And for many of us, the MBA’s been an intensive chance to reflect on our approach. 

For an interesting primer on the four areas that make for an effective collaborative leader, try this.  

Find out more about opportunities to study an MBA in London or Dubai and continue your leadership journey here.

Jennifer Albone
Modular Executive MBA (2019)

 

 

 

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