Tag: Full-time MBA (page 1 of 4)

Choosing the Full-time MBA: Follow your gut instinct

Choosing the right business school for you

Selecting a business school can be a very confusing process.

There are hundreds within the UK and thousands globally. The top schools will teach you marketing, accounting, HR, entrepreneurship and offer a range of exciting elective modules. They’re triple accredited and rank highly in the FT rankings. They will all ensure high percentages of post-degree employability and have notable alumni and promising partnerships among globally renowned firms.

This can make selection of a business school very challenging. To make the best choice, I came up with the following criteria: location, quality, size and gut feeling, all which led me to study the Full-time MBA at the Business School (formerly Cass).

I hope that this account of my selection process and experience with the Business School can help to guide anyone making one of the biggest commitments to change of their professional career.

Peter Walls

Location

The first level of selection was done purely on location.

I started my professional career in London. As such, I am fortunate to find much of my professional and personal support network in a city which is home to a number of globally renowned business schools. This proximity to my ‘nearest and dearest’ made it very challenging to look beyond London.

I attended a number of open days and even interviewed outside of London, however when it came to decisions and prioritisation, the location put the London-based schools leagues ahead.

Prestige, quality and investment

A second challenge was to find a balance between three measures: prestige, quality and investment.

When looking at such a significant investment of time, opportunity cost and— let’s be honest— money, the return on investment was a key consideration. Programmes vary in length, generally one to two years for full time programmes and financial investment.

In addition to the quality of the teaching, the name and prestige of the school play a significant role in the cost.

There are a variety of scholarships, bursaries and financial awards available, so finding those which I qualified for and could feasibly be awarded also had an influence.

My priority at this stage was to ensure the highest possible quality of education and prestige while remaining in the realms of the financially viable.

By this stage I had a shortlist that you could count on one hand and a very challenging decision to make. I applied to all the schools on my shortlist, attended networking events, webinars, open days and interviews. I asked them about their unique selling points.

Size

Cohort sizes are generally between 50 at the smallest size, up to three or four hundred students for some of the larger programmes. Research within my connections and network lead me to favour a smaller programme.

Size helped me to narrow down the shortlist to three schools – each of which with extremely impressive teaching faculty and wider teams. They all had small and intimate cohorts, guaranteeing a personal experience whilst still ensuring a high degree of diversity.

Full-time MBA: Class of 2021

Gut instinct

In the end, the final decision came down to gut instinct and the quality of candidate experience. The Business School team were helpful, supportive, challenging and genuine. They were always quick to respond to queries and offered flexibility in the application timeline.

The open day was remarkably fun, especially the sample lecture which was delivered by the charismatic programme director. Dr Paolo Aversa’s introduction was entertaining, engaging and down to earth. He described the Business School’s Full-time MBA programme as “the Vodka Redbull of MBAs” and one with teamwork and cooperation at its heart, rather than competition, which greatly appealed to me.

The interview process was informed and caring. My final interview was with a senior faculty member, where other schools had me speaking with another member of recruitment. The interviewing Professor offered me invaluable advice on how to choose a school and his inquisitive nature and passion for his subject and education were highly infectious.

The whole application process made me feel highly valued— a person rather than an applicant, and a true asset to the future cohort. All things considered, when waiting for my final offers, during the agonising days of refreshing my email every thirty seconds, I knew that the offer I was truly excited to receive was the offer from the Business School.

Questions to ask yourself

My advice to business school and MBA applicants would be to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Think about your personal balance of investment, prestige and quality when looking at the schools. Do any of them offer a specialty that resonates with you and your future career goals?
  2. Find potential locations: cities and countries. What about them appeals to you?
  3. Do you want a big, competitive cohort of 300+ or a smaller, collaborative one?
  4. Go with your gut. How do you feel about the interview process? Which school’s email are you waiting for? At this stage, you’ve got to do what feels right to you. 

Welcome!

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

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)

Full-time MBA integration week – Block I

86 people. 14 companies. 4 days. 1 final showdown.

What does that line get you thinking? Analysis? Time? Game? Research? Competition? Tension? Whatever you are thinking, you are right.

That represents the stats of our integration week. Block I of our Full-time MBA came to an end on 25th of October 2019 with this incredible week.

The rules were simple:

  • 86 people are split in 14 teams
  • Each team
    • Is assigned a company
    • Analyses the assigned company on three fronts – strategic, financial and organisational behavioural
    • Prepares a 15-minute presentation to answer given questions
    • Answers questions by experts for 10 minutes

And that was probably the greatest catch – the simpler the rules, the wider the scope.

This week taught me importance of:

  1. Precision

When time is scarce, it is important to avoid beating around the bush and boil down the content to what is asked for. Let me try to simplify this by an example:

Question: Tell me who you are and how can you get better at what you are?

Answer #1: “When I was a 3-year-old child, I saw this movie that showcased life of a marathon runner. This inspired me to be a runner myself. I started training pretty early in my life. I used to get up early in the morning every day and go for a run in a park near my home. Sometimes I missed my classes to get better at my running time and speed. But you know, that really did not work out that well. My running times are not that good today, although my stamina and endurance improved over time. Strangely enough, I have been working at it for over 10 years now and I still feel the thrill of running. I have been good at sports all my life. I was even part of my school relay team! I think I should buy a proximity clock. I saw one of those at a store the other day, with a robust terminal, one that’s ISO certified. It also came with a clocking-in machine solution with holiday and sickness calculations. Yeah, I think having one of these will be a good way to improve myself.”

Answer #2: “I am an inspired marathon runner, although my greatest strengths are stamina and endurance, I need to work on my timing – an absolute key for success. A possible solution is to invest in a proximity clock and stop relying on guesswork so that my training is put to a better use.”

Answer #3: “I am runner. I can better myself by buying a proximity clock.”

You want to be Answer #2. First one is unstructured, has a lot of unnecessary information, goes off tangent, and does not correlate. Third one is simple and straight but does not provide a complete picture.

You should be able to balance storytelling and precision. Precision is what your audience is looking for, storytelling is what keeps their attention and binds things together.

  1. Teamwork

I know it is cliché to mention the importance of teamwork. You might ask, am I not ignoring my first rule of being precise? I want to highlight what will happen if team does not work well together:

It is crystal clear that you will end up not being the best. If you do not understand teamwork and do not work well in cohesion, you will:

    • Paint an unprofessional image of not only yourself, but also your teammates
    • End up having an uncomfortable work environment, to the extent that you feel like leaving the room is better than working with people in it
    • May risk your future of being someone nobody wants to work with
    • Feel disengaged, demotivated and burdened your team instead of being part of it

For anyone who is looking out for leadership roles, getting people from different backgrounds to work together efficiently is an immensely important skill. Develop it by using every opportunity provided.

  1. Hard work

There have been plentiful debates and there are roughly three million research journals about smart work vs hard work. From what I witnessed in this one week, given the time crunch, smart work is important. But nothing beats the hard work. The hardest working teams were the ones that won. It is taught to us time and again that “correlation is not causation”. So, this might not be the reason, but it definitely correlates.

 

 

If you want something, you need to work hard to get it. In my experience, there is no substitute for hard work. Yes, smart work complements hard work very well, but does not replace it.

It was a great pleasure to be part of this amazing week. Looking forward to Block II’s integration week.

 

Sushmita “Sushi” Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

UAE Study Tour : A Gleaming Exposition of the Emirati Model

“An easy life does not make men, nor does it build nations. Challenges make men, and it is these men who build nations.” Such words, stated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, could not more succinctly encapsulate the ambitious spirit of Dubai. As a city, in the Sheikh’s words that was “founded on trade, not oil,” Dubai has joined the ranks of other premium global destinations like Singapore in becoming highly competitive and deeply globalised – boasting high living standards within a relatively short time span. Such was certainly witnessed by myself and my fellow MBA classmates who embarked on the Cass UAE Study Tour in February 2019. The impressive Emirati Capitalism was plain for all of us to witness and appreciate over the duration of this tour. Whether it was admiring the scope and the grandeur of the Burj Khalifa, or enjoying the sumptuous buffets at various hotels – it was clear that this city had burgeoned into an economic behemoth in the Middle East. This growth came to be through its citizens leveraging the myriad of strengths and expertise of a large and ever-growing expatriate population. The boom of highly-skilled expatriate communities is predicated on a state-driven investment strategy that is focused on trade and export in sectors such as logistics, healthcare and financial services ultimately enabled by ambitious leaders.

Oliver and his MBA colleagues in Dubai

True to the Cass MBA’s motto of “Leading the Adventure,” the tour was nothing short of an amazing experience for all those involved. Over the span of five intense days, the tour treated my colleagues and me to countless interesting highlights – namely site visits to organisations which facilitate and sustain the success of the “Emirati Model” such as Expo 2020, Nakheel and Emirates Aviation College.

MBA students visit the Emirates Aviation College

Expo 2020 was one of the key facets of Dubai’s competitive growth that the cohort witnessed in the context of the tour. The theme of the Expo was “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” and focused on three distinct factors: opportunity, mobility and sustainability. This in turn will enable multilateral collaboration between Dubai and the world. This collaboration spans a gamut of areas of expertise, from logistics to communications to 5G networks. The building plans of the Expo were breath-taking – both in the layout and in the proposed architecture of various structures. The building plans symbolized an homage to the heritage of the UAE and Dubai as well as an image of a bright future for Dubai.

MBA students visit Expo 2020

The next facet of the tour that struck me as interesting was the site visit to Nakheel, which is single-handedly responsible for extending the coastline of Dubai from 70 km to more than 300 km. Nakheel is the state-owned development company which famously constructed the Palm Jumeirah. My colleagues and I witnessed how the company is making headway with other large-scale real estate projects such as Deira Islands, the Palm Jebel Ali and the famous “The World” island development. More impressive still was the emphasis Nakheel placed on its developments being sustainable and eco-friendly – especially in the way the foundation of the Palm Jumeirah was turned into an artificial coral reef.

The final part of the tour that stood out was how it showcased the significant role tourism plays in Dubai’s economic development. This was especially evident during the visit to Emirates Aviation College – Crew Training. Emirates places great emphasis on developing a cabin crew that is dynamic, multilingual and always prepared to go above and beyond to offer excellent in-flight customer service. Through rigorous training, the cabin crew plays a pivotal role at Emirates in attracting, retaining and subsequently growing its network of customers.  The lengths through which the airline made customer loyalty a cornerstone of its brand image gave me a clearer understanding of how Dubai will continually be made into a viable destination for tourism. Through this attention to detail, Dubai is able to consistently transcend cultural boundaries in order to optimally cater to a customer’s need.

Students take on the desert with a safari tour

Besides the company visits, the cultural activities further enriched the experience of the tour. Specifically, the UAE Tour culminated in a desert safari which entailed the conquest of desert dunes in 4X4 SUVs, along with an evening of shisha and belly dancing. Although Dubai has grown exponentially, the city’s and its people’s deep connection to the desert and traditional Arabian values cannot be understated. The enriching and exhilarating nature of the tour could not have been made possible without the support of the students and the staff members of Cass in Dubai.

 

Oliver Yogananthan, Full-time MBA (2019)
Contributions from Lynal Low, Full-time MBA (2019)
Zafar Hassan, Full-time MBA (2019)

Building a bright future

International Consultancy Week in Dublin

Typing down a reflective essay could take a great deal of time! And why not? After all I was scrupulously penning down a yearlong journey of my MBA at Cass Business School that concluded on 22nd January this year. Collecting my degree as a Full-time MBA with Distinction in the presence of my cohort of qualified MBAs and Executive MBAs from Cass Business School, family, friends and other postgraduates from City, University of London was truly a proud moment. The Reception party organised by the School was equally quintessential.

From classroom lessons to leadership training week at Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and Digital Innovation elective that included a notable Design Thinking seminar at Stanford University in San Francisco, Cass MBA proffered a plethora of experiential learning at each stage of the programme.  Some of these learning experiences culminated into great successes and were directly entered in my resume. Working with the C-suite as a Strategy Intern at a London-based travel company and as an external MBA consultant at a health-tech company for my International Consultancy week (arranged by Cass in Dublin) are a few to list. The icing on the cake for me was getting a chance to learn about the different industries in which these companies operate.

People make the difference. Cass Business School made me feel this much more than I had thought. The school’s fantastic academic staff assisted me round the clock for all official activities, well-qualified professors offered exceptional teaching in core MBA subjects and welcomed after class discussions; and well-trained external faculty from iOpener Institute offered personality development workshops on when and how to lead and follow teams. Jorgen Sundberg’s session on ‘How to Build a strong and an attractive LinkedIn Profile’ and David Ohrvall’s ‘Crack the Case’ session were truly skilful and elucidating to leverage my professional profile.

To top it all, MBA classes were a complete fun with an energetic cohort of 70+ people from 23 countries. How could I miss bringing up here ‘The Great Cake-Baking Event’? It was the most frenzied way to learn strategy while baking cakes in groups. Besides giving weight to group exercises, the Cass MBA geared me to look at the business world with a unique lens through its Business Mastery Project. My project demanded understanding of concepts from several subjects – strategy, operations and digital innovation and the MBA programme had underpinned this right in the first half of the course year with its four learning blocks of 12 subjects and 6 electives where I covered all managerial subjects from HR to Corporate Strategy.

Study tour in San Francisco

For obvious reasons (MBA fun – activities, classes and exams), time flew very fast in those 12 months but that same clock ticked unrushed at the very end of the programme aka the job-hunting process. To make this process seem quite effortless, Cass Careers department provided me with copious amount of guidance and motivated me how to key-in my tech experience with management studies for various consulting roles. I’d like to give a special thanks to Laura Levy, MBA Relationship Manager for this! Starting with getting my resume and cover letters apt for these roles to preparing me exhaustively for assessment and partner rounds, the team helped massively before I accepted a role in a Big Four professional services firm in London. Ever since I’ve been on the job, the combined learning experience of the MBA networking events as well as the classrooms sessions of Digital Technologies and Business Innovation, Operations, Analytics and Corporate Strategy have been immensely useful.

Cass FTMBA is a fast track MBA in its complete sense. It opens up a whole new set of interesting alumni benefits, such as attending one free elective per year, which is rarely offered by other business schools. It has brought a great opportunity for me to learn something purely for my own personal interest or curiosity. Just last week, I started studying an elective on fast track venturing. As my learning continues – be it on a new role, project or industry, I look forward to build a positive future in the business world!

Finally, we graduated!

Prerna Thitme
Full-time MBA, 2018

 

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.

Ready, set…GO! The Cass MBA commences

Two months ago, I had the scariest dream I have had in years. I had started the Cass Full-time MBA and it was time to pick groups for our first group assignment.  And like the infamous PE (or gym) class nightmare, I was the last to be picked.

I woke up shaking. Halloween had nothing on this dream. Happily, I can tell you that this dream did not come true!

In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

Learning how to learn

Here we are at the end of our first month and it’s been a pretty intense period.

For most of us, it has been five to ten years since we last stepped into a classroom. So even though we’re familiar with the rigours of work we’re a bit out of practice when it comes to lessons and homework.

To help with our learning, we had a session in our first week on how to speed read and how to improve our memory. For our studies, we worked on mind maps, linking each branch to the one before, adding quick pictures in to help.

We have been given lots of advice on how to economise our time over the coming year, so we can fit in lectures; networking events; careers research and preparation; and of course reading and assignments.

Some of this means a bit of multi-tasking and everyone has different ways of using their time as efficiently as possible. It is early days, so I am still trying things out to see what works best for me, but so far, the gym and the train have been definite winners.

When I grow up, I want to be a leader … and a follower

Another big focus has been teamwork. After brainstorming the differences between managers and leaders, between strong teams and weak, we were given a challenge to put what we had said into practice.

These are all the things we had listed as important qualities of effective teams:

  • Buying in to a common goal;
  • Mutual respect and trust;
  • Communication;
  • Listening;
  • Support;
  • And, if possible, fun!

Our challenge was hands on: building a construction out of newspaper, tape and six coffee cups. Never have so many adults been so eager and competitive to get a ping-pong ball from one corner of a table to the other as slowly as possible.

(I am happy to say we managed it in the slowest time of 9.59 seconds–well done team!)

Now we’re starting our first Strategy team projects, so it’s time to put these skills into practice!

Starting off with a bang

As part of our careers induction, we have done a lot of work on ourselves and our presentation skills. Much of it was about confidence, identifying our strengths and weaknesses and understanding the audience we are presenting to.

Of course, we had to resist the temptation during a presentation to look down at your notes for a prompt, just to remind yourself what your name is.

We were given the task to start the presentation and introduce ourselves with a bang – cue writer’s block!  There were a lot of nerves in the room, but once one of us had presented, then another, then another, it became clear that it wasn’t so scary.

It didn’t matter if we lost our train of thoughts, our groups would be supportive and the higher the fear hurdle, the louder the applause.

We are now a couple of weeks into block one and my nightmare from months ago never came true.

In its place are the friendliest cohort I could have hoped  to be working and studying with. We had a great barbecue and are enjoying getting to know each other.

We all know the coming year is going to be hard work, but we have been given every tool to achieve the best we can. Now it’s time to use them.

Rhiannon Ludlow
Full-time MBA (2019)

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

 

Roar of approval for Dublin MBA consultancy week

Right at the end of the core components of our Full-time MBA, our entire cohort went off to Dublin to complete our International Consultancy Week in early April. I think many would agree with me that this was one of the most pleasant experiences of our MBA so far because it was the perfect setup for so many reasons.

First of all, unlike most of our coursework, we got to choose the project we’d be allocated to according to our top four preferences. This was an opportunity for us to find areas of personal interest but also to reflect on what our own unique strengths were, ensuring we’d be choosing a project we could contribute to the most. It wasn’t surprising at all that HouseMyDog  was one of the most popular choices.

A start-up platform business that connects dog sitters and carers to dog owners, HouseMyDog is representing the kind of digital innovation and changes in business models we have discussed throughout our MBA right from day one in our strategy course.

Combine that with dogs and you have a winning formula to attract keen MBA students ready to leave their mark and contribute to a growing business. Being a dog lover myself and having also worked occasionally as a dog-sitter using a similar platform in London, I was keen to learn more about the differentiating factors of this business and what they saw as their formula to success.

Putting this aside, the project brief also outlined an early stage growth strategy in Germany which suggested my German background may be of some use here. Although several other projects caught my interest, I was delighted to find out I had gotten my first choice in the end.

Even better was discovering who my team mates were. Even though we hadn’t chosen each other, it almost felt like it when I saw the list. By the end of our core modules, we had pretty much worked in one project or another with almost everyone on the MBA and also had developed a good understanding of everyone’s skills and personalities.

There were people I naturally  gravitated towards and many others whose talents and qualities I had discovered through the team working process. Varun and Vicki had both been in my block 1 and 2 team which was where most people had developed the closest bonds due to the intensity of the work and the sudden change that had hit us all at the beginning of the MBA. I knew that my block 1 and 2 team was a strong performing team with a successful track record throughout.

Betty and James were both part of my team during our ‘Achieving Your Potential’ professional development training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst which was the most physically challenging outdoor aspect of our MBA and these two helped and supported me through it. I knew I could not only trust all of these people but I looked forward to working together in this new constellation.

The project started with us getting in touch with Santi, one of three Cass professors who were our mentors for this project and spent the week in Dublin with us. Communication with James, the CEO of HouseMyDog, started via email to get some hints on how to prepare ahead of our stay.  We began with basic market research around the pet care industry in the UK and globally.

Once in Dublin, we met James in person on Monday and were given some space within the Huckletree coworking facility where HouseMyDog were based (in case you wonder: no, there were sadly no dogs). James introduced us to his team and ran us through a presentation of the company. It’s right then that we understood how small this company still was and how our own contribution through this project could make a real difference to them. James emphasised this wasn’t just a school report; our findings would be really valued and put to use in the company’s growth strategy going ahead.

At the beginning of the week, we had a brief discussion around the bigger aims of the consultancy project. Throughout the week, those aims were broken down further with a clear set of deliverables that we’d have by the end. The project had to fulfil James’s expectations but also our criteria as a project that was part of an academic course. It was a hectic week for James, still he found the time to answer any of our queries and give us feedback through the process.

At the other end, our mentors were available to us every day to discuss the progress we had made and make sure that we hadn’t gone off-track;  the objective professional perspective was very helpful and Santi did a great job at guiding us within the path we had chosen, leaving us in control.

On the final day, we presented our findings to James. Even though we had worked on this for the entire week, I was still surprised at how it all came together in the end with contributions from everyone in the team neatly captured in the final presentation (which was largely a product of Betty’s great visual presentation skills). James’s overwhelmingly positive feedback was an extremely satisfying end to our week’s work and we proudly took home our HouseMyDog t-shirts.

Apart from working on the project, there was also plenty of time to enjoy the last occasion our entire cohort would be together. Dublin offered plenty of opportunities to get a drink and it didn’t always have to be a Guinness (although it often was). After Sandhurst, this was the second time we all spent days together in the same hotel. While at Sandhurst, we were still finding out a lot about each other and it was time to perhaps mingle with people we hadn’t had the opportunity to with, yet here in Dublin, we were just enjoying each other’s company, completely at ease with each other.

One afternoon, we were also taken on a tour of Howth peninsula and Malahide Castle. It was interesting to experience everyone’s perception of that too. Having grown up in Germany myself, I have visited large castles but also smaller ones that may look more like a luxurious large-size villa. Malahide Castle is not imposing in size but steeped in its long history including claims to possibly possessing the oldest chair in Ireland. Hearing about the losses during the Battle of the Boyne especially caught my interest, given I only recently revisited this part of history for my Life in the UK test.  The visit was a welcome break for everyone to replenish and get to know Ireland a bit more beyond the city centre of Dublin.

The whole project didn’t end in Ireland. Once back in London, we had another month to prepare our final report to the company. Largely based on the work we did in Dublin, it gave us some more time to reflect on the experience and the knowledge gained, and compile it all in a clearly structured report which we could be confident would make a positive contribution to the company.

Overall, the International Consultancy Week was such an uplifting and unique immersive experience contributing to HouseMyDog, an exciting start-up with so much potential, working alongside a group of people I respect for both their personal and professional qualities.

Full-time MBA (2018)

The road to Toronto

I was recently asked whether six months down the line, the Cass MBA was what I had expected it to be. My answer was ‘No, not at all.’

Well for one reason, I wasn’t quite expecting to be heading to Toronto with my MBA classmate Varun Venkatraman next week. We will be representing Cass as one of only three teams to make it to the Ben Graham Centre’s 2018 International Stock Picking Competition Finals, hosted by Ivey Business School. Better yet, we will be the first European business school to do so!

Having just visited Dublin for International Consultancy Week and Israel/Palestine on the agenda for my international elective in early May, I definitely hadn’t planned to add any further trips during this hectic period; juggling MBA studies, job applications and working on my Business Mastery Project.

Yet here I am, squeezing in another trip to Canada.

When I told my mum, she marvelled, ‘Stocks? That’s so not your thing. That Varun guy must be very special if he can get you to do something like that.’ That surprised me in two ways: despite her general pretence of not really understanding what I do in my job in financial markets, my mum actually knew I don’t care much for microeconomics and stocks.

And secondly, she was absolutely right about Varun, he was the only person who could have made me sign up for this. So how did we end up here then?

Rewind to October 24th when the Stock Picking Competition was first announced via email, barely two months into our MBA. I remember reading about it, taking note of yet another interesting challenging experience to gain during the MBA and quickly hitting the delete button. Stock picking wasn’t in my sphere of interest at all. But I undoubtedly knew who’d be all over it: Varun.

In life we develop many types of friends and I dare say the older we get, the less likely we have people we call friends just out of circumstance. We know the difference between work colleagues, acquaintances and friends, and even though we might publicly use those terms more loosely, most of us reserve the title of real friends for the special people in our lives.

Unlike in kindergarten, the mere fact that you ended up sitting in the same row is reason enough to become friends. Very rarely we find that one person who we can bestow the title of ‘best friend’ we so innocently gave to people when we were little.

Funnily enough, Varun was the equivalent of that kindergarten kid sitting in the same row; alphabetically next me so that I sit right in front of him during all exams, he was also in the same group as me through induction to Block 2. The Cass MBA Gods (most likely our Course Officer Tony Whiteman) made it easy for us to find each other. And we’ve been pretty much inseparable since.

So when this competition came around, I was quick to dismiss my own participation but also to encourage his, telling him to apply alone because I knew he’d be more than capable of handling this challenge independently.

However, as the deadline grew closer, he grew more encouraging for my participation. He wanted someone to bounce ideas off but also to critically check his logic, someone with a different way of thinking and unafraid to express it but whose opinion he equally valued enough to listen to.

We both come from the financial industry but at opposing ends of the spectrum, Varun from private equity, myself from foreign exchange in financial markets, and born in the same year just 10 days apart but on the other side of the world; our friendship is defined by having enough common ground that connects us but so much that sets us apart that we approach problems in very different ways.

Another month into our MBA and we saw more and more examples of how our collaboration brought the best out of both of us, I increasingly understood why he wanted to have me on his team. I also recognised that this was a unique experience I was never going to have again; one I could never do outside of the MBA and never without Varun.

Reminding myself that that was what the MBA was all about, I jumped at the offer the next time he asked me and was signed up for the competition with him.

For the first round in mid-January, a couple of weeks after our exams, we were given a list of stocks to pick one from that we would analyse over two weeks and recommend as a buy, submitting a report to a panel of industry professionals and academics.

Never having done anything like it, I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly contribute to this. I must confess I rather resented doing something that would make me potentially feel helpless and highly dependent on someone else’s experience. After a decade of work experience, it can be hard to accept doing something that pushes you completely out of your comfort zone. But Varun had it all covered. He knew what he had to get done and also knew where I would be of help.

Picking a company based in Germany meant that my German background became useful, sifting through company history and industry material in German. Understanding the very unique German legal structure and its implications made us recognise specific challenges of our company and how this would affect its value and potential for an outside investor. Using Bloomberg to extract the relevant data was another way I could help and I gradually saw my efforts contribute to the bigger picture.

When we submitted our report, I knew I didn’t want it to end here. Although I had gotten so much out of it I knew how much this meant for Varun. Seeing him rise to the occasion, I wanted him to get the recognition I believed he deserved. And long before the results were revealed, the dates were set in my calendar and I waited hopefully. When the confirmation email came on 21st February informing us as one of the top three finalists to present to a panel in Toronto, we took half a day to celebrate our achievement and then were ready to crack on.

When I signed up for my MBA, I went in with an open mind, ready for every new experience, expecting or even demanding the unexpected. In spite of this, I couldn’t have foreseen finding that invaluable friend who would challenge me and help me grow, taking me all the way to Toronto.

 

Full-time MBA (2018)

No rest for the wicked MBA students

Anyone who worked in Foreign Exchange as sales or trading on a markets floor will know that once you’re in it, there’s no break.

From the New Zealand Open, on what is Sunday evening European time to the final closing on Friday evening, you live and breathe FX —alert to all and ready to react. On the weekends, you’ll be following the news on anything that might trigger a market gap open. And you’re loving it!

People like me are picking up the phone (yes, phones!), heart-rates soaring, shouting over each other to emphasise the importance of our client and deal. But the world I described is without a doubt rapidly moving towards extinction as technology takes over and reaches new efficiencies. It’s good that way and a reason why I’m doing an MBA.

But I’m unashamed in saying that for many years, that world and its people were my biggest love, passion and pride. One privilege that I gained working up the ranks was that by the time I became a senior team member, I could leave the juniors to hold the fort between Christmas and New Year to switch off during that short window when the FX market allowed itself to go to sleep.

I don’t mean not going to the office. I mean completely switching off, following no news and having no idea where FX rates were —World War 3 could have broken out without me knowing it. Those were the days where my biggest achievement would be rolling out of bed to take my dog on a long walk.

This Christmas, as a Full-time MBA student at Cass, I looked back to those days with nostalgia. Because while life as a Cass MBA student may not require the sort of alertness that makes you bark out prices at a moment’s notice, it also doesn’t let you switch off. Ever.

The most obvious element dampening Christmas is the lingering dark cloud of exams.

Can I step forward and use this as a public forum to express my grievance at exams being scheduled on January 3rd and 4th?

Yes, we had six exams over two days with just over two weeks since the last day of university attendance. You can only believe someone high up hates us and wants to see us suffer. Or is this another attempt to challenge us and train our perseverance?

My suitcase that should have been filled with Christmas gifts was a carefully crafted exercise of figuring out which textbooks and notes were worth taking up the weight. Moaning didn’t help either as all I got from my mother was “I don’t know why you do these things to yourself…” followed by a deep sigh as if I was the one who was spoiling Christmas for her. My stoic uncle only remarked how all exams in his PPE degree at Oxford followed the holidays to keep students on their toes and years later now, not being the one taking them, approving of this method of discipline. No sympathy here.

So all I could do for some comfort was to turn to my fellow classmates, many of whom collaborated on exam preparation. I did partner up with my closest classmate to prepare for Strategy and had a couple of others who taught me how to get through the Analytics for Business once I was back in London. Without any results yet, I don’t know how successful their effort was but, whatever the outcome, I thank them for their patience in teaching this girl who’s allergic to the word statistics.

While that’s the immediate concern, there’s also the Strategy project that’s increasingly nudging and poking us from November onward. Unlike most of the projects I’ve worked on, this project forced us to face the outside world putting our networking skills to the test to source a business that wants to do a consulting project with MBA students. At the onset, the Strategy project is just another analysis piece set in the real-world.

We quickly realise that the biggest task and challenge lies in the first step of convincing that one company to work with us. Panic spreads in the first week of December as many face rejections which may be better than the lack of response from companies others experience. We had to prepare how we would approach businesses and how we wanted to present ourselves. I prepared a Power Point presentation outlining our project including short bios of all our team members which I sent out to companies who showed the first signs of interest.

Myself and my team were lucky enough to have narrowed it down to two good potentials by early December, providing enough meat for the first monthly report due on December 10th. The monthly reports, separate from the final report and analysis, are a good way to feel that constant pressure on our back.

After briefly exhaling having submitted our first report, we reminded ourselves to keep the communication with the companies alive because they couldn’t care less about our monthly report deadlines. And then we started counting. It’s five weeks until the second monthly report is due but in two weeks it’s already Christmas and no one does anything that week. And then we had exams and who was going to do anything in the first week of January anyway? So we really only had three weeks to create anything meaningful; two weeks in December and one week in January.

We got in touch with those companies again,  politely courting them and slowly pushing them towards commitment. Of course they have actual work and may be planning the biggest shop opening of the year just when you think you only have three weeks to achieve anything.

How many emails are too many? What exactly do they have to say so that you are sure of their commitment? When do you press for next steps? All of these things went through our mind during the cheerful Christmas period. And before anything is done, it’s Christmas and the corporate world comes to a standstill. And all we could think of was that we now only had one week to get anything done before that second report.

In the midst of all of this, I was reminded that the deadline to submit my electives choices— that will determine all the things we do beyond Easter —was also on January 2nd. You panic some more because it hits you how two of your four core module blocks are already over and you’re nowhere nearer knowing what you really want to do. You also know that the electives build on what you’ve learnt in the first two blocks and while you’re leaning towards the topics that you really enjoyed in the first two blocks, you also think about the many things you might be missing out. You don’t know yet what Marketing or Corporate Governance is like as those core courses haven’t even started yet.

Some consider committing to a concentration which then limits but also guides your electives choices. I intentionally went against that because I wanted to leave myself free to any option that I found genuinely interesting. In the end my choices were a colourful mix across disciplines just as I expected.

My international elective will take me to Israel and Palestine, a learning experience I’ve been already excited about even before the MBA started. Once in the middle of Block 3, I changed one of my electives as my first experience with Marketing made me quickly realise the subject wasn’t for me. So although there’s a soft deadline on submitting your electives, the truth is that there’s still some flexibility around that if you ask Tony Whiteman, our course officer, really nicely.

So, here we are. Exams, Strategy project and electives. Anything else? Oh, yes, the Business Mastery Project, the Cass MBA’s equivalent of a dissertation. Similar to the Strategy project, around Christmas, it’s more of a approaching danger, like a stampede you see forming on the horizon heading your way with definite certainty.

The first deadline on March 16th is for the submission of my academic proposal. Ideally, at this point you already have an idea and a supervisor.  To have an idea that’s valid enough to submit, you better have done some initial research beyond just having a vague notion of it in your head, to at least convince yourself that it’s viable before you go and convince others such as your potential supervisor. While most will go ahead and use this opportunity to add another strong credential to their CV, gaining industry knowledge and valuable connections in that universe, others take this unique opportunity to follow a personal interest.

I may be the only one among my cohort whose chosen that path, as far as I know. I’m looking to combine my MBA learning with my passion in creative writing (which lead to my previous MA), researching the changes in revenue models for authors stemming from the digitalisation in the publishing industry. I started to have an inkling about this in November and tentatively mentioned a much broader and different version of this to my creative writing workshop group. All I knew then was that I wanted to work in publishing and working with authors. Very clear, I know.

Encouraged by their approval, I sporadically bounced the notion off a few other, including my MBA classmates. Articulating it to others and receiving feedback helped me define it further until I was ready to send an email to Paolo, our course director, who suggested Alessandro as a potential supervisor, on the basis that he recently co-authored an academic paper on digitalisation and Axel Springer. Being our Strategy project course lead, I knew I would love for him to be my supervisor therefore sent an email with the rough outline of my idea early January.

One email and one quick meeting later, my proposal reached its current shape and I am about to start the literary review thanks to his suggested readings. And somehow in this process, it’s already February 1st.

So while 2018 is almost by default a very ambitious year, there’s a reason why I actually don’t have any clear New Year’s resolutions. Because for New Year’s resolutions to happen, you need that little break in between to stop and reflect. No such option for Cass MBAs (if you do have New Year’s resolutions though, here’s some Cass advice on how to keep them alive beyond January). I woke up in September 2017 and I know already now that the next time I blink and open my eyes, it’s probably already August and I’m graduating.

 

Full-time MBA (2018)

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