Tag: MBA Induction

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)

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.

 

My MBA – an unlearning and learning experience

Selecting a school for my MBA is one of the most important decisions I’ve had to make. Even when I had read all the material, had all the conversations and visited my short-listed schools. Even when I had made my application and accepted the offer. Even when I packed up my life and moved 13,000km away from home, there was still a little voice wondering whether I had made the right decision. Our introduction to the Cass MBA could not have validated my choice more.

The first three weeks were dedicated to induction. I initially thought this seemed rather vague and a little drawn out, but I was wrong. It was a valuable opportunity to learn more about myself and my cohort through personality, psychometric and strength testing. It was an opportunity to get a feel of the dynamic teaching style and exciting content we will work with. It was an opportunity to build business fundamentals like teamwork, presenting and networking skills. It was an opportunity to really think about what we want to get out of the next 12 months. It was also an opportunity to learn more about this incredible city and critically to have fun.

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I knew what I wanted to get from my MBA experience before I had chosen a school, I wanted to learn and to contribute. One of the defining traits of the people I admire, is a high degree of self-awareness, and for me that’s where learning begins. What I hope to get out of this experience are numerous opportunities to learn more about myself. Working with a group of people who have different backgrounds and life experiences forces you to acknowledge and accept that there is no such thing as the right way to do anything. The diverse student body and faculty at Cass will force us to re-evaluate the things we believe to be true. This will undoubtedly be uncomfortable, but that is how we learn.

Another key component of learning is experimentation. The opportunity to experiment is a dynamic that business school presents which is not easily replicated in the work environment. The risks associated with failure mean we often focus on proven approaches and known strengths. My hope is that the next year will provide numerous opportunities to build and test new approaches and develop latent strengths. This will undoubtedly be demanding, but that is how we learn.

Learning is not only about what happens at Cass, it is also about the extraordinary city in which it exists, and London has so much to offer the curious. Living on the doorstep of some of the world’s best theatre, sports, live performances, speakers, museums, galleries and more is why I chose London as the city to pursue my studies in. It would be a waste not to experience any of these and the question is not only how to balance this with the rigours of a demanding academic calendar, but how to use it as a part of our development. This will undoubtedly be challenging, but that is how we learn.

london-skyline

Equally important to what we learn, is what we contribute. Our experiences, strengths, and passions mean we all have a lot to offer the cohort and the school. Having a meaningful, positive impact is fundamental to my definition of a successful year. Continuing to have a positive impact long after graduation is the kind of legacy I would like to leave.

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During this induction period we’ve often had to consider the question – what do you want to get out of the next year? The past few weeks have helped me distil my answer: I want to feel equipped to make a meaningful difference to everyone with whom I engage. To the people I work with and the clients we help, to the clubs I join and the charities I work with, to my family and friends. The philosopher Herbert Spencer wrote “the great aim of education is not knowledge but action”, it’s a truth I hope we all carry with us for the rest of this year and beyond.

Refilwe Maluleke
Full-time MBA (2017)

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