Tag: First month

Why I went back to school (and chose the Cass MBA)

My long-term professional goal is to become the CEO of a large financial institution. For that reason, I spent some time researching common traits leaders possess that have climbed up the corporate ladder.

I found that they are all driven, hardworking people that have persevered throughout adversity but the commonality that truly stood out, is that at some point of their lives they all made a decision that transformed the course of their careers.

I knew that I shared these traits with them; however, I was yet to take that life-changing step that would put me on track to fulfil my ambitions. Doing an Executive MBA was that next life-changing step to take, so here I am, on track and ready to squeeze every opportunity on my way up.

My journey before Cass

My name is Natalia Lopez and my dream has not always been to score that top job in the banking industry. In fact, I left school in Spain without qualifications and, having landed in the UK without speaking a word of English, the minimum wage was the first thing that I learnt in this country.

Today I am part of the FX trade technology team at a global custodian bank in Canary Wharf. Given a set of requirements, I configure clients to trade FX products across a number of platforms, carry out test trades and ensure the system architecture is correctly set up to allow the flows.

So, you might be wondering how did I end up having such a cool job in an expanding industry and, more importantly; why is it that I would like to become a CEO? I will reveal all in the next post.

Having obtained an Economics degree from City, University of London, and mentoring for the University, I have worked closely with Cass Business School students for three years. This meant I have been aware of the School’s great reputation for a long time; therefore, I decided to attend MBA related events to explore their programmes (on a side note, this is something I highly recommend if you are thinking of applying for a programme).

First day jitters

I have to be honest though, even after accepting my offer I still felt a bit nervous when I was on my way to the recruitment events. But after five minutes of interacting with the incredible bunch of people that makes up my cohort, I was certain I was in the right place. Have you ever had that feeling? It is great.

During the first week, we were allocated into teams that we would be doing projects with. Sally, Saj, Gemma, Ahmed, Mike, Guillaume and I are Team Cook. We come from different backgrounds which is perfect as each one of us brings something different to the table. We have only been working together for a few weeks but I already know we are going to smash it through the next teaching block.

That is us having a great time at the welcome dinner. I am on the second right 😊

The day after the welcome dinner, we had a masterclass on mind mapping and speed reading. I took this as a hint of the workload we will be given! In only a couple of weeks I have already attended a two-day workshop on presentation skills and another on executive presence (to be continued), both of an excellent quality. So far, I have signed up for Insights into Leadership and the Executive Media workshops, which I am looking forward to it!

I wonder how I will feel when I read back to this blog in two years’ time. At the moment, all I know is that it is going to be a very exciting time in my life and I am going to enjoy every moment of it.

Executive MBA (2020)

OMG it’s been over two months since I started my Executive MBA

OMG it’s been over two month already…

The week long Executive MBA induction started off with having our photos taken, doing workshops that introduced and taught us a great many tips on how to survive the upcoming year, sitting in on an executive presence workshop, nicely rounded off with an induction dinner at the impressive Bleeding Heart restaurant. Oh and let’s not forget Sunday morning’s workshop on mind-mapping.

It was already the start of week two and I needed sleep, a week’s worth of laundry was waiting and I needed a hot dinner that was not a Pret A Manger sandwich.

Here I was thinking I was only committing my part-time MBA to two days a week, but it felt far more than that. A realisation hit me; this was the lifestyle change I had heard about, one that I had expected but wasn’t quite prepared for.

Organisation is key!

Week two started off with our Organisational Behaviour module, taught by Queens Park Ranger supporter Professor Cliff Oswick. The dynamic and captivating Professor brought to life the human and competitive nature of teams and the likelihood of dating Leornado Dicaprio via Vroom’s expectancy theory.

On week three we had our Accountancy and Finance lecture, and for the accountants amongst the cohort, it definitely seemed like telling them to ‘suck eggs’. But for the majority, it was the stretch that they had warned us about; this one was the down dog you would do in yoga – rather painful at first but you knew it had its benefits.

By week four my cohort was beginning to look like one big happy family – hanging out at the coffee station during the 20 minute break where the canteen offered hot dinners. But it wasn’t all frivolous chatter; we already had coursework on the horizon.

One thing for sure is, while working your day job and doing the Executive MBA, you are definitely challenged in a way you never would have thought. It’s one of those challenges you want to overcome with a big smile on your face.

Why I hear you ask? Because you eagerly want to learn from one of the UK’s best business schools that will nourish you and equip you with a skill set needed to reach your goals. You are among a diverse range of people selected from different fields and walks of life, all coming together like a fruit salad. Individual, colourful and some fruitier than others – but that’s what’s so wonderful about the Executive MBA.

Nushma Malik
Executive MBA (2020)

What to expect on your first month of the Cass Executive MBA

 

This September it really was back to school.  A new satchel, calculator and some weighty textbooks proved useful accessories to distract from the natural apprehension of meeting new classmates. A round of 60 second introductions only whet my appetite to find out more about my forty-five or so fellow passengers on this much-anticipated journey.

Time is tightly scheduled from the beginning on the Cass Executive MBA (EMBA). The whole induction journey has been well choreographed.  It is no accident that a personal development workshop and Organisational Behaviour module are timetabled upfront to ensure study groups bond quickly.

The first professional development workshop built on a pre-course question to identify our strengths. Strengths are defined as the underlying qualities that energise us, and that we either excel at, or have the potential to excel.

These strengths may overlap with technical skills, but also recognise that you may not always thrive on your technical competencies. You may have the capacity to be detail orientated, though it could be nurturing external relationships that puts the spring in your step.

Awareness of our strengths helps to manage performance and helps team-mates spot warning signs of strengths tipping into overdrive. For example, an overwhelming focus on future scenarios and a strategic perspective could mean current realities are overlooked.  Sharing this snapshot with our new study buddies was an effective ice breaker!

The lectures that followed on team dynamics, motivation and leadership provided a rich theoretical framework to reflect on our respective team roles. Belbin’s theory describes nine team roles clustered under three headings: action; social or thinking roles.

Overlaying our Belbin scores onto Strengthscope scores and patterns started to form; a Monitor-Evaluator carefully noting scores in the Excel spreadsheet; a Shaper encouraging those who had missed a session to find out their scores; a Plant seeing the patterns between the two reports; and an early warning that we are short on Completer-Finishers!  Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, the popular personality test completed the trio of ‘type’ tests.

Early on we were invited to suggest a collective noun for a group of MBA students. The winning entry was a ‘muscle of MBAs’.  It is already evident embarking on the Cass EMBA is going to require a lot of heavy lifting in terms of textbooks, time and commitment.

It is clear the motivation for many is not the extrinsic reward (Herzberg’s theory of motivation) of a higher salary or corporate sponsorship but intrinsic drivers of personal growth and accomplishment. The textbook example of intrinsic reward is a mountaineer which is fitting as we have heard how Cass aims to cultivate an explorer’s mindset: there is even a Cass MBA Expeditionary Society.

Our cohort reflects a spirit of enquiry and respectful challenge. Executive presence sessions working in small groups and one-to-one provided immediate feedback on how I show up. It also provoked early reflections on what leadership looks like, and could look like for me.

When people ask me why I wanted to do an MBA, I explain it is to kick start my career after working part-time while my daughters were young. It is also an opportunity to brush up on technical skills; Accounting and Financial Reporting is underway. More than that, embracing the spirit of adventure and trusting in the process – I am ready to explore how I can reach my best potential.

The alchemy – in the truest sense of the word – has already begun.

Executive MBA (2020)

 

Let the transformative Cass Executive MBA journey begin!

I am on my way to the first day of induction for the Cass Executive MBA (“EMBA”) in Dubai at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). A bit early, I feel – but it’s better than being one second late.

While driving to the DIFC where the classes for the Cass EMBA are delivered, I think of some of my teachers and professors at school and university in Latvia. I guess they would not believe that I am going back to school again.

Having considered an EMBA for the past two years, I felt that the right moment to get myself out of my comfort zone has finally come. After exploring different programmes at various business schools around the world, my choice unsurprisingly fell on Cass Business School: it’s one of the world’s leading business schools with the longstanding reputation of excellence built on its academic heritage and impressive success stories of alumni.

And – luckily for me – the School has a presence in Dubai! It’s hard to believe that six months after attending a Cass networking event, I am officially a Cass EMBA student, rushing to my first day of induction.

Feeling like a curious child and adult at the same time, I am entering the Cass floor at the Academy. The room fills up quickly.

Having never been forced to go to school or university, today feels special to me: I strongly believe that one can close gaps in skills and professional experience efficiently with academic knowledge, especially if it’s gained through the programme like the world’s class EMBA. After the first personal interactions with other students, I conclude that I am not the only one in the room who thinks this way.

Diverse student cohort

The four days of induction passed in the blink of an eye, so will the following two years, we have been told.

Witnessing the remarkable spirit of enthusiasm among my cohort has been really heart-warming. I wonder again about the incredible times I live in: my cohort consists of 39 ambitious professionals from 16 different nationalities who all share a common goal, which is to achieve success. I really enjoyed getting to know each and every one of my classmates and finding out about their careers and what led them to Cass.

At induction, the Cass faculty went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. Each lecture felt like a magnet of an incredible strength that won our attention and drew great interest in no time.

Journey of self-discovery

Together with my peers, we spent a lot of time discussing the importance of teamwork and collaboration. While these are not foreign concepts to any of us in the cohort, we tend to underestimate and forget about them under the growing pressure of daily routine.

Knowing my strengths is great, but admitting my limitations takes me one step closer to the desired success. I believe that the EMBA at Cass will help me understand the correlation of complex business processes and develop strategic and analytical skills.

I am looking forward to the next visit of the Cass Careers and Professional Development team. Their professional advice will help me shape my long-term career goals, steering me towards the right path of my professional life.

After spending four incredible days at the induction, I now know exactly what I want to achieve at Cass! I want to be “a better version of myself”.

Let the transformative journey begin!

Executive MBA in Dubai (2020)

One month into the Cass Full-time MBA – my two cents!

Choosing Cass Business School over other schools was a well thought out and rational decision. But as most students would be, I was a little nervous and wondered if I had made the best decision.

One month into the Full-time programme and I knew I couldn’t have chosen a better school for my MBA. There are plenty of reasons. Not only are all my expectations being met, but I am sure I will gain much more than I hoped for.

Learning from a diverse cohort

As we began introductions on the first day, I realised that we have a truly international cohort. My classmates are from all over the globe and belong to varied professions. The spectrum spans from Michelin star chefs, entrepreneurs to finance professional, to name a few. London is definitely the melting pot of culture and so is Cass business school.

Meeting my classmate during induction

Geography is on our side

The School is at a geographically advantageous position and the staff at Cass makes sure that they utilise this aspect to curate the best opportunities for students. In the first four weeks, we have had over seven global company representatives visiting the campus to speak to us. The companies range from small businesses to corporate giants in fields ranging from artificial intelligence, fintech, investment management and investment banking.

This has been instrumental in stretching me intellectually and has compelled me to think of my unique and sustainable career path post-MBA.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much

The School’s ethos lies in instilling values of collaboration and team work between students. We work in teams to support each other in our journeys. This creates a highly positive environment for learning. But also brings out our very best leadership skills and helped us identify our personal leadership styles. It is fair to say that when we re- enter business, we shall be more equipped to lead teams and deliver results.

My team make for the simulated strategy exercise ‘The Great Cass Bake-off’

Dedicated staff

The Cass staff deserve a special mention. They know each one of us personally and it is their endeavour to work with us and help us achieve our goals.

Learning for life

As I slide into block one of the curriculum, I have observed that the School believes in a learning method which is engaging, draws from our experiences, adds value and an opportunity to reflect and internalise our learnings. We also have the opportunity to come back to our alma mater to learn new skills each year. This indeed is a highly attractive offer as it will help me update my skills every single year!

Cass has stood true to its words and beyond. I am surely being groomed both personally and professionally to be able to contribute significantly to the business environment. Also, we have a fair amount of outdoor activities and a thriving social life! Having a three day leadership training at the very prestigious UK Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, has been exciting.  Our cohort is thrilled to be part of these exciting experiences which the school offers!

At Cass, I am truly home 🙂

Full-time MBA (2019)

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