Tag: cass 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)

 

Building a bridge to my future career: My Full-time MBA journey at Cass

An MBA programme is like a bridge that connects yourself from yesterday to your future self. Crossing this bridge is a journey. You unearth your skills of detecting problems and delivering compatible solutions by learning and practising mechanisms, methodologies and frameworks. The ingeniously designed campus life at Cass and studying on the Cass Full-time MBA, ranked top one-year programme in London by the Financial Times Global MBA rankings in 2020, have helped me build this bridge.

To define the trip, I would like to break it into three categories, being described by the triple ‘re’: rediscover yourself, reshape your thinking and mindset and revitalise your transferable skills. The triple ‘re’ happens coherently and cohesively throughout the programme.

Rediscover yourself 

Our magical journey started with a careers orientation week. Self-awareness is one of the most popular words from then on. Truly knowing yourself is easier said than done.

We immersed ourselves into designed activities, including taking personality tests to know our strengths, following instructions to list life goals in time slots, reviewing personal profiles to examine previous performances, attending learning workshops to find out where we may have weaknesses and talked with the Careers and Professional Development Team.

Following all these activities, I got to know what the starting point was in my bridge and what my next steps needed to be to link the two points on this bridge.

Reshape your thinking and your mindset 

As a group of people who had achieved professional successes, we do not lack basic competences. What we are looking for is to become even more competent and to bring our skills from good to great.

What we share in common is our desire to develop a keen eye to see the core causes of work-related issues, to discover the logical structure to analyse problems and to develop our creative thinking to come up with solutions. All these things are already skills we have developed on the programme.

In class, the core modules of the programme have taught us more than technical knowledge. Through numerous case studies and discussions, we learned how to decipher the main clue from an abundance of information, how to draw a whole picture of the situation strategically, build up an independent analysis system and how to create a personal toolkit to solve problems.

Out of class, the two and half days of professional development teach us how to handle the relationship between an individual and a group. We investigated leadership and groupwork models, such as the leadership/followership model, role-modelling, contribution and regular debriefing.

We learned how to find appropriate solutions under strange circumstances by learning about how to choose a correct direction, the best way of doing an appraisal of task, and looking into creative trails, agile progress and independent thinking.

When it comes to soft skills, we learned more about how a good spirits and trust in a team can help individuals and groups under pressure: it is important to remain calm, build trust, collaborate, remain open-minded and to build resilience.

Revitalise your transferable skills 

Practise, practise, practise! Teamwork, exams, integration week, strategic projects, international consultancy week and various events provide loads of opportunities for us to test what we have learned.

Studying and working together with a cohort of 30 nationalities is exciting and memorable. Getting convergencies within a multicultural group needs mutual understanding, smart influencing and persuading and thorough communication. Critical analysis is the underlying skill tested by exams.

Working very hard for four days to solve a mixed problem with lovely group of members from day to night was an excellent and interesting experience. Swiftly understanding the core question, making up a logical structure and defining efficient actions for each person are major factors for success.

The two consulting projects we undertook with real companies were amazing experiences that allowed us to use all of the knowledge and skills we have gained throughout the Full-time MBA, particularly the ability to dig out the strategic problem and use a top-down method to delegate the problem mutually, exclusively, collectively and exhaustively.

I have also found that attending events is the best way to network and learn fresh ideas from talented people.

A special episode of the trip 

When the MBA programme is disrupted by an unprecedented event such as Covid-19, what can we do? There are multiple choices and using the triple ‘Re’ is one option I suggest. Analysing the situation objectively and strategically by using tools learned from lectures made me keep independent thinking.

Our “Achieving Your Potential” week at the Sandhurst Military Academy, which was a key part of our professional development training, reminded me how to make myself become calm, peaceful, positive and resilient under pressure. The week gave me extra energy and taught me how to encourage and console my cohort.

Today, we are learning to exercise our leadership skills during group assignment remotely. I found more extensive engagement, trust and positive spirits in my group, which we have used as pillars to maintain collaboration when face-to-face meetings were replaced by virtual ones. Our great effort in adapting to a challenging time and new ways of working meant my team was awarded a distinction as part of a recent team group project.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the School. The dedication, support and collaboration of the staff has helped us continue studying the programme in these unprecedented times and has also taught us how to cope with unexpected global crises.

As I reflect on what I hope to be the next point of my bridge, I hope to be a person who has strong insight into the essence of things in this changeable world. My MBA journey is leading me to that point. Covid-19 can disrupt our physical distance temporarily but cannot disrupt the pursuit of our dreams.

 

Lin Yang, Full-time MBA (2020)

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)

Top 5 Reasons I Chose the Cass Global MBA

Joining an MBA was not a snap decision.

I’ve been thinking about it for a number of years.  Obviously, I wanted to be associated with a programme that stood out in terms of quality and reputation, and that’s how Cass came into my life. But there’s more, of course! Here are the top reasons why I joined the Cass Global MBA.

1. Delivery

I currently work at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, as the Content Management Manager based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I knew I wanted to further my studies and I knew I didn’t want to give up my job, because I have bills to pay!

The blended delivery was really an attractive option because it allows me to juggle between my studies and work.  Another aspect of the programme that I find interesting is the international electives in which students travel to different destinations around the world and get hands-on experience from those unique destinations.

Plus, when I am in the city for the on-campus sessions I can utilise my staff benefit and stay at our London property!

2. Location! Location! Location!

London City

The view from Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

It’s London! Based in one of the world’s leading financial cities, Cass is perfectly positioned both physically and strategically to provide a top-notch business education. However, it’s not just all work and no play for me. London as a city has given me so many wonderful memories.

I attended my very first concert here at the 02 Brixton Academy to see Amy Winehouse play. I also met my idol Stan Lee here! Now, as I pursue my postgraduate studies, the city continues to provide me with unforgettable experiences which I am sure this programme will do as well.

3. Support

So far, the support has been phenomenal! The academic staff as well as the support team have been receptive to the cohort’s feedback. When I encounter an issue, they are just an email away and will check up on me to ensure I am getting the assistance that I need.

4. Rankings

As mentioned earlier on, I chose Cass because of its reputation. I am officially two months into the programme and I am loving every moment of it! I am learning so much but more importantly, I am able to apply it while at work, which I believe is this programme’s greatest advantage.

5. It’s my birthday!

Birthday

Celebrating my 34th birthday

I wanted to do something significant this year, both personally and professionally, and this felt like it was the best choice. Coincidentally, the first on-campus session fell on the same day as my birthday!

Danny Lau, Global 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

Real-World Consultancy and Expert Insights

Studying an MBA is a big decision and a huge investment. The reasons for doing an MBA are varied, but I have found one common thread: the desire to build a successful career! Prior to starting the degree, I was working in insurance in India, primarily in Product Development and Management. My motivations to pursue an MBA were to gain international experience from a top school, to bolster my technical knowledge, and to increase my business acumen. After months of research into business schools, I selected Cass Business School and I must admit, this is the best decision I have ever made.

Cass has taught me many things. As a top-ranked school, especially renowned for its expertise in strategy, academic rigour and excellence are high. Apart from the world-class faculty members teaching us, we also have the privilege of having renowned academicians and industry experts from around the globe give guest lectures. I was gobsmacked when Professor Robert M. Grant, author of the bestselling strategy book “Contemporary Strategy Analysis” conducted one of our strategy sessions. This was one of the many amazing external sessions we have had so far during the course. Gaining insights from experts is not only beneficial for our learning but also it highlights the credibility of the institute in the outside world.

Nikesh Das and cohort meet Professor Robert M. Grant

London is a place where there is no dearth of opportunities and Cass has the great advantage of its location between the financial and tech hubs of the city.

Arriving here from India, the biggest cultural difference I noticed in a professional context was the importance of networking and presentation skills to land a dream role. The careers team at Cass does a fabulous job in ensuring that the tenets of successful networking and effective public speaking are ingrained within us from the day we start our course. The team organises networking sessions, presentations, and public speaking training sessions and events. One such event was the ‘Tallow Chandlers Contest’ where we were asked to present solutions to a challenging strategic issue facing British Petroleum (BP) without the help of any slides or hand-notes. To my good fortune, my team won the competition!

Many business school candidates aspire to work as consultants. If the opportunity arises, I too would like to work in consultancies because of the variety of project opportunities you receive. Here again, Cass has an upper-hand! We recently concluded our International Consultancy Week in Dublin, Ireland. It was an exceptional opportunity for us because we did consultancy for innovative products and service offerings for different Dublin-based start-ups. In an educational setting, this is one of the most practical consultancy experiences one can get. The challenges of a start-up are unique because their products and services are novel and therefore lack historical data. Delivering a solution for a complex problem as a team, within the short span of five days, is a perfect simulation of what to expect in any big consultancy firm.

Nikesh Das and his MBA cohort

So far, my journey has been enriching. Learning from experts, developing personally, and solving the very real and complex problems of start-ups are the kinds of thrills I was expecting from my MBA. If “Extraordinary Calling” had a face, then it is Cass Business School for me!

Nikesh Das (Full-time MBA, 2019)

International Consultancy Week: Discovering Dublin

Dublin International Week

As the end of the Full-Time MBA programme approaches, my cohort and I visited Dublin for a week-long consultancy project. International Consultancy Week gives MBA students the opportunity to apply the academic theory we learned over the previous four modules in a real-world setting. My cohort and I were on hand to consult for a pool of start-ups and larger organisations and help them resolve issues as diverse as business development strategy, human resources, marketing and operational challenges.

During the initial selection of companies, it was no surprise that The Project Foundry, a professional project management services provider and the firm I selected to work with, was among the most sought-after projects. The business was seeking an optimal market entry strategy in the cloud-computing space within existing parameters such as budget restrictions.

This project was of personal interest to me because I created and executed a market entry strategy in a new segment for my previous company. I was excited about the opportunity to broaden my understanding of the niche field of cloud computing.

Meeting the The Project Foundry team

My team: strength in diversity

This project’s success ultimately hinged on the team I had and the various skill-sets and expertise we could collectively leverage. We had Filippo Capirone, whose knowledge of the telecom industry and cloud computing were key for our understanding of the market. I also got the chance to work again with Lina Rahmanian, who had been a part of a gruelling three-month long strategy project team in which we developed an award-winning project. I had also worked previously with Rhiannon Ludlow, who was part of my team during the professional development training workshop at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and is someone I knew I could count on under strenuous circumstances. The only person I hadn’t worked with previously was Steve Le, but his expertise in the finance world along with his PowerPoint skills won my trust. Based on the diverse skill-sets and industries represented by my assigned team, I was confident in my team’s ability to deliver a solid project.

Meeting our client

Our initial contact with our client came via WebEx a week before we flew out to Dublin. Declan Ryan, Managing Director of The Project Foundry, gave us a better understanding of the project scope and the deliverables. We also started doing background research on the cloud computing market under the guidance of our faculty supervisor, Dr Senem Aydin, to get an accurate idea of the industry.

Once we arrived in Dublin at The Project Foundry Office, we had the chance to meet Declan and the rest of his team. We met the Director David Laird, who helped us get a strong understanding of the company financials and projections; Mark Carragher, Chief Technology Officer, whose industry expertise on cloud based platform gave us great insight on future of the business; and Sai Srinivasan, who helped us with the coordination of the project as the rest of the team was constantly on the move. We also had the chance to chat with a few members of the project management team and The Project Foundry’s marketing agency to get their insight on the business.

The project

During the initial few days, we started by identifying strategic issues faced by the firm, identifying the key industry trends, conducting competitor analysis, and rounding off with the strategic approach and financials to support our findings. This research was done in conjunction with the input we received and the conversations we were having with TPF. We drafted up an action plan for TPF for the way forward, looking at both the long-term and the short-term picture. By Friday, we had an amazing presentation deck (thanks to visual expertise of Steve Le) ready to present to the TPF team. We had a great discussion with the TPF team following the presentation to get their general feedback and answer any queries they had. This was an intriguing session where each member of the group pitching in to lend their expertise and helped wrap up an amazing consultancy project. Special thanks also goes to Dr. Aydin who offered us useful advice during our daily meetings – enabling the development of the recommendations!

Umar Mahmood and his consultancy team hard at work

Discovering Dublin

The Dublin Consultancy Week was not just about work! TPF hosted many fun social occasions, and Dublin is a young, vibrant and cosmopolitan city. Highlights for me were seeing the sights the city had to offer such as Trinity College and watching football matches in the historic Temple Bar Neighbourhood.This trip did culminate in a self-guided tour and a group dinner at the Guinness Storehouse. All groups got the chance to talk about their experience working with their companies and delivered some memorable presentations. This was also when the realisation sunk in that this was probably the last time all of us would be in the same room together, as just around the corner our international electives and the BMP Project are set to begin.

The International Consultancy Week will be a cherished highlight of the Full-Time MBA programme to me. Specifically, it was great to work with a fast-growing start-up and to learn more about how business is conducted in Ireland. I got the chance to work with an amazing group of individuals. Despite the hectic work schedule and the sleepless nights that came with it, I wouldn’t trade this dynamic experience for anything.

Fun in Dublin

My top three insights from International Consultancy Week

  1. There will often be times when you have to work with limited information – making a “decent” plan based on existing parameters is often more prudent rather than waiting for the “perfect” plan to develop, as the situation continually evolves.
  2. In the spirit of Leading the Adventure: always keep an open mind and be willing to learn something new, or have your viewpoints challenged.
  3. A unified team makes even the toughest jobs enjoyable.

Umar Mahmood, Full-time MBA (2019)
Contributions from Oliver Yogananthan, Full-time MBA (2019)

A ki(Cass) MBA!

Everyone is at some stage of their journey – they are either beginning a new chapter, ending one or going through the climax of theirs. For some, it could be a mixture of all these.

After having worked in the travel industry – yes, Cass MBA has a very diverse set of students, ranging from backgrounds in baking to dentistry – for a few years, I jumped ship to apply for the MBA in search of a fresh challenge. With Block 2 about to finish, I can safely say that the experience has been nothing less than eye-opening, sometimes jaw-dropping and a little nerve-wracking.

As we near our first lengthy break, you can start to see the changes the full-time MBA has already made in a short span of three months. Self-awareness would be one aspect of the immersive experience, where you get time not only to reflect on who you are but what you want to be.

Realising where you are and where you want to be

The programme will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone, but it does so in a way that makes you less frightened and more excited by the opportunity. It is competitive, but in a collaborative way. It can become stressful, but not in an unhealthy manner.

Presentations at the end of Block 1 are more likely to reveal to you how you work under pressure – trust me, it is very different compared to how you normally perform day-to-day tasks – and how collaborative you will be with your peers in stressful situations.

When there are huge stakes involved or when it concerns other people, I can be a bit scared of taking responsibility, which is understandable since I have never been in an outright leadership role in my professional career. But this is where Cass has been amazing. It lets you adapt and experiment. It lets you focus on what you want, but also enables learning in areas you thought were beyond you.

An example would be the presentations during the integration week. I preferred working in the shadows, stepping back from presenting in front of 70 people. However, what it taught me was that here is where I could experiment and learn in a safe environment. Hence, I was more than willing to take on the challenge when it was presented to me again in Block 2. I never realised that I would change so soon. But the drive was building up and went into full throttle as the transition began.

With my risk-taking and confidence moving in the right direction, I was selected as President of the Women in Business Society as I looked to focus on extracurricular activities as well as use the platform to expand my network and take on a leadership role for the first time.

At the same time, the programme is designed in a balanced fashion. It lets you experiment and is highly rewarding, but doesn’t let you get too comfortable either. While we may choose friends in our lives and who we hang out with at work, team members are often assigned. At Cass, you will be assigned to a group, to function and work on deliverables. It may need getting used to since there will be no outright leaders although everyone would be trying to make a mark one inch at a time.

As dynamics work out, and you feel settled, Block 3 and 4 will present themselves to ensure you stay on your toes. The change helps you increase your adaptability while ensuring that productivity doesn’t take a hit.

Courses and the revelations

During the immersive integration week, studying individual companies and the problems they face takes you back when the course Organisational Behaviour was being taught. During the lectures you may feel you know quite a bit about the topics before you realise that major companies are often faced with the same issues. Why, then, are such topics and issues not treated with respect?

This course was one such step into the realms of cruel truths that one takes for granted. Lectures and personal reflections throughout those 16 hours were interactive and taught more about engagements at work than years of experience would. This is why an interactive course was much more important than just a theoretic one and Cass ensured it was delivered that way.

Why Cass is highly ranked

One particular trait of a good graduate programme is how it helps you gather more self-awareness and, in my case, workshops on different skills taught me more about my strengths and weaknesses than long-time friends and family members would have.

For example, I know I immerse myself in self-doubt and this causes me to be short of confidence. The situation is made worse when I do not get feedback, which is often the case in academics and everyday life. However, the experience at Sandhurst, where we engaged in physical exercises to achieve common goals as a team, taught me the importance of self-reflection and it did wonders for my peace of mind, even as the body ached.

While I have always thought of myself as a good follower, the experience also taught me more than a thing or two about my leadership abilities – a path I want to work on for future career progression. My team members showed confidence in my abilities even when I didn’t. This helped to combat my self-doubt.

The future path

It may sound daunting and challenging as I type it, but I want to be able to build productive teams and successful products. My aim is to harness potential and create products that are innovative and make a positive impact – yes, I am aiming for a career in product management.

I hope that I can work towards inclusion in the workplace as well as the gender balance cause.

While I may have said that I ‘think’ a few weeks ago, I can now safely say that I know I am on the right track in developing my interpersonal skills, while gaining technical knowledge related to my field of interest during the electives and my BMP.

The MBA programme is inspiring and engaging, to say the least. It lets you go beyond your boundaries – something that limits us all our lives before we discover that we can push ourselves.

Lina Rahmanian,

Full-time MBA (2019)

Chat with Lina on Unibuddy to find out more about the course.

Leadership and innovation in a war zone

As I am crossing at the Qalandya check point between Israel and the West Bank, the huge red sign shocks me: “The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law”.

It looks like something from a movie scene and you are not quite sure what to expect on the other side. We cross, and all I see is unfortunate reality of the region and conflict between these two territories, thoroughly reminded of my childhood in Yugoslavia.

On the Israeli side we saw the prosperous modern society, full of life and colours that are reflected in almost everything from streets, to people and food. On the Palestinian side our first impressions are the ruins, wall murals of past leaders, abandoned cars and chaos.

Israel and Palestine were my choice for the Cass MBA international electives. The focus of the elective was on Innovation and Technology, which comes as no surprise with Israel being known as the start-up nation. The first month into my Cass MBA, I learned that one of the international options for study will be Israel. I knew in that moment that this will be my choice of an elective – working in technology and financial crime, my interests spans across cyber security and regtech and fintech world.

International electives are intense. You go on a trip abroad and visit numerous locations and companies daily, whilst meeting and learning from founders, owners and investors. You travel from city to city and you cross borders, or in our case – check points.

Many won’t know that a large number of successful businesses materialised from Israel, such as Viber, Waze and Mobileye. The country prides itself as the start-up nation mostly driven by the uncertainty that seems to run through their DNA due to political and economic factors surrounding them. Success on the Israeli side, but what is going on behind the literal wall on the Palestinian Territory?

The western world often can’t understand why there are conflicts between people ‘somewhere far away from us’, and don’t really want to engage in that conversation. Most of my cohort was also confused as to why these two nations can’t be one. It just seemed logical that working in unity would be beneficial for both sides. The Palestinian side suffers a lack of infrastructure, lack of water and many other resources, yet they are as resourceful as Israel is!

The streets may look empty, but don’t let that fool you. Palestinian residents know how to live. On our first night we enter a restaurant and it is buzzing inside, the whole restaurant is packed with families and young couples dining and smoking shishas.

Our night ends in a famous bar packed with kids of American expats living in Palestine. Bizarre, you think? So did we. They are young, happy, dancing, and invite us to join them. We were not that cool to wear bandannas and lose ourselves to the sound of music, but nevertheless we did enjoy our night – we were useless at playing darts, but we proceeded to do so until late at night.

 

We met many successful entrepreneurs during the two days in Palestine. The Palestinian society is a lot more progressive than we are lead to believe. For example, the CEO of Bank of Palestine has fully eliminated the gender pay gap within the bank, insisting on this change himself.

There are in fact a number of factors working in favour of Palestinians. The Palestinian society has a high number of highly educated individuals, and it seems that its diaspora can fuel the culture of innovation and finance it. Of course, the circumstances of country’s occupation are also helping to kindle the creativity of Palestinians.

Speaking to a young entrepreneur at one of the events in Palestine, he mentioned the collaborations between Israelis and Palestinians. Whilst the countries are in conflict, the people seem to be less so. ‘We work together with our friends from Israel’, he said, ‘and our business is thriving.’ Of course, software has the unique ability to flow through wires and borders, but perhaps even more surprising was that he was talking about a medical business, moving people across borders and offering them medical help when needed.

I got home two days before the American embassy moved to Jerusalem. The news were full of horror stories coming from the region, and I was thinking – could successful cross border businesses help build peace in the region? Is it the organised chaos that is prevalent in the region that we need in order to innovate successfully?  Perhaps.

I wouldn’t want to attempt to predict the future of the region, but I hope that these two nations find a common language in innovation – after all making innovation happen is a collaborative process on many levels, from nations to countries, to companies, to military and teams.

Nina Kerkez
Modular Executive MBA (2019)

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