Tag: Executive MBA (page 1 of 3)

Virtual Consulting Week in Colombia

What is consulting week?

As part of the Executive MBA programme, MBA students work in teams of four or five people and work with a company to help them solve some business problem. Business problems can range from drawing up a business plan to expand into a new market or geography, draw up a go-to-market strategy for a new product, or assessment of areas of improvement within an existing business. The week has a number of cultural events sprinkled throughout and ends with a client presentation on the Friday.

Why virtual not in-person?

One of the consequences of 2020 being the year of the coronavirus was that instead of travelling to Colombia to do our MBA consulting week, people in my cohort had the choice between taking part virtually in 2020 or in person in 2021. I chose to do it virtually because several of the business problems on offer were very interesting.

Who was on the team?

I was very lucky to be on a team with people with some very smart people, but also we each have complementary skills, experience, and capabilities. 

  • Katrina – Our Brand, digital strategy, and marketing expert.
  • Ciara – Led our work to define the growth strategies and overall approach to customer experience management
  • Leslie – Our finance expert, let the work define the financial models and metrics we used to value the financial aspects of the business plan.
  • Damien – Led the definition of the Operations and Technology aspects of the business plan.

Damien’s Consulting Week Team

Who was the client?

Our client, Nikadi, is a Colombian premium dark chocolate producer that supports fair trade cacao production and directly employs women who are survivors of domestic abuse. The firm employs 9 other people in its head office, and receives cacao beans from several cocoa farms across Colombia. NIKADI operates both a B2B and B2C sales channels, and has had success across both channels to date, both domestically and internationally.

So what’s the business problem?

Our client wanted to expand their business into the UK. Our goal was to have a marketing, legal and financial plan to accelerate the firm’s market penetration and enter the UK as soon as possible within the constraints of launching with less than £15k and breaking even within two years.

Naturally, this is a very interesting problem for us having spent the previous year or so studying business from several different angles. It was a chance for us to put all the business related frameworks, models, and theories to go use. Although, ultimately the client was only going to be interested in the outcome, rather than the method used.

How did we work?

We worked virtually as a team each day over the week, with daily conversations with our client, professors, and two social events during the week.

We made very heavy use of an online collaboration tool, Mural.co, google docs and sheets, and Microsoft Teams to help us to both visualise our ideas but also to help us to collaborate and communicate.

How did the final presentation go?

The final presentation went well, there was not much in the presentation that Nikadi didn’t already know about because we had been sharing our thoughts through the week. It was just laid out in a way that told the whole story in one presentation. Here are a few key messages from the presentation.

Key Message – Nikadi is not alone in the UK market as a South American Fairtrade chocolatier.

Key Message – we considered the impact to Niakdi of launching each different business propositions from several different angles.

Key Message – From a finance perspective, an approach with a heavier focus on online channels (gift & subscription boxes & e-commerce sales) performed better than other options.

 

Key Message – At a high level there are 4 things Nikadi will need to focus on landing well to succeed in the UK market. Our approach hinged on the idea of raising brand awareness, making initial sales, gathering customer data, and then leading into growth within repeat business channels.

Would I do a virtual consulting week again?

The short answer is yes, absolutely. I certainly learnt a lot from my teammates, the client, and the various experts and professors we spoke with during the week. I also enjoyed the process of building a business plan for a client and thinking about how we can use our knowledge of the market, business, and chocolate to help Nikadi to thrive in the UK.

Also, I suspect we also drank a lot less and got more sleep than we would have had we all been in Colombia – but this could be seen as an upside or a downside, depending on your point of view.

Damien O’Connor, Executive MBA (2022)

Time to Refocus: Studying the Modular Executive MBA

 

After a long and diverse career in the automotive industry, developing from a graduate trainee to international roles with a leading global auto manufacturer, I decided earlier this year to take a break from the corporate world and return to academia to finally fulfil a career-long ambition to study for an Executive MBA.

While most friends and colleagues understood the timing and motivation behind my decision, some did question why I would need to go back into education at such an advanced stage of my career. However, my reply was always the same: although there’s no substitute for industry experience, an MBA programme would enhance the next stage of my career through three principal benefits:

1. Content

Providing an academic framework around career experience to better understand why things worked (or didn’t work!) in real-life execution, as well as exploring the most recent best practises in fields such as Business Strategy and Digital Transformation.

2. Cohort

Mixing with a diverse, international group of extremely smart people (who have absolutely nothing to do with the automotive industry!) who contribute different perspectives on business issues, as well as building a close, new network from around the world.

3. Contemplation

Taking a “time out” from a linear career path to reflect on past experiences and reassess the direction for the future, whether it be within the automotive industry or something completely different triggered by the MBA experience.

Is it living up to expectations so far? Absolutely!!

Each module has further developed an area of my knowledge gained through industry experience, whether it be a more structured understanding of finance and accounting, providing a robust framework for the development of effective business strategy or the understanding underlying issues around organisational behaviour.

Nobody could have predicted the disruption to all aspects of work, education and day-to-day life in 2020, but our cohort was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet each other during the Induction Weekend before the first national lockdown was introduced. This enabled us to get to know each other, form our new project groups and subsequently bond as a cohort during the multitude of video calls that followed as the lectures and workgroups moved online.

Any regrets? Only that I didn’t find the opportunity to embark on an MBA earlier to have been armed with these skills for a longer portion of my career. That said, given everything that has happened this year, it may turn out to be the perfect timing to stop, breathe and refocus in preparation for whatever comes next!

Ian Hucker, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

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)

 

Lessons in resilience: using my MBA to adapt to Covid-19 in the travel industry

Growing up in poverty taught me the importance of education.

I vowed to work hard while obtaining professional qualifications to strive for a better life. I am driven to finding the keys to success and my drive has shaped me into a better and more authentic leader.

I have worked as a European tour operator serving Asian travel agents for 16 years and I am passionate about ensuring all of our travellers have the best quality experiences. I endeavour to make sure our travellers enjoy amazing moments as they discover the unique cultures of each incredible travel destination on our list.

Cass provides an exceptional learning journey and powerful networking opportunities. I am inspired by the energy of my cohort: each is a positive professional and an exceptional global leader. My cohort are committed to sharing and contributing their valuable experiences, knowledge and ideas to make the business world a better place. I also love the fact that Cass promotes women’s leadership and provides mentorship and skills workshops for women.

We have now shifted to online teaching in light of the current pandemic situation and I am impressed by how the lessons have remained highly engaging. Our lecturers have demonstrated a world-class example as to how learning should be: dynamic, exciting and insightful. The programme has opened my eyes and taught me how to apply what I have learned immediately into my current organisation during this challenging time in the travel industry. I am learning to assist and support my organisation’s President with business planning for the future. In addition, I have gained confidence in my leadership skills and my ability to develop strategies to overcoming business challenges. I am able to identify the opportunities to restructure the organisation and ensure our business is sustainable and aligned with our global core values and beliefs.

I can’t express how proud I feel right now knowing I am not only making the right choice in embarking on the MBA course. Studying the Modular Executive MBA at Cass has been the best choice because I am surrounded by a good mix of people who have invaluable knowledge and experience from diverse cultures, backgrounds and industries and have the same goals in mind. What could be more exciting than embarking on a new learning journey with a like-minded cohort for the next two years?

Vivian Kmiotek, 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)

Achieving Your Potential Weekend

The first term of the Executive MBA was as expected, busy and full on. Back studying while balancing work and life was a big change, so the Achieving Your Potential (AYP) weekend came at the right point to be able to reflect on the last six months, and take time to understand the direction that the MBA was helping to lead me in.

Organised by Cass Careers and iOpener, AYP is a weekend off site and outside London, giving the whole cohort real space to rediscover goals, to connect them with the learnings from the MBA so far and align them with future ambitions to maximise, as the title suggests, your potential. This is everything and more from what I gained from the weekend.

Coming from a background in luxury fashion product development and production in small-medium size companies, I chose to undertake the MBA to further my career with the goal of being a COO. However, having experienced a lot of change and challenges over the last few years within my roles, I had lost some clarity, especially with the new knowledge and skills I had learnt from the course.

The different elements of the weekend allowed me to process in a way to help strengthen my on-going development and learning, with a better ability to assess the future, where my drive was and what motivated me. Talking through “Strengths”, “The Happiness Model” and “Values and Purpose”, really gave me clarity to help me move forward with my career goals for the future, and while looking at situations through “The Sphere of Control and Influence” it really put things into perspective and gave me an opportunity to look at things from a different angle.

Not all elements were focused on personal insights. Workshops on “Coaching”, allowed me to develop new skills that I will be able to apply right away within my day-to-day, which is invaluable in being able to become a better leader.

The benefit of working with different cohort members was a lovely experience, bonding with people in a new way, and overall bringing the whole class closer together. The support and judgement free set up of AYP, allowed for an openness which helped maximise the most from the weekend.

For me the AYP weekend, was, as simple as it sounds, just what I needed, time to reflect and take solace in where I had been, understand how these plus the MBA are supporting learning experiences to guide you toward the future to achieving your full and true potential.

Victoria Hind, Executive MBA (2021)

Global Women’s Leadership Programme Scholar: You can read her profile here.

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)

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