Cass taught me to be a #GirlBoss

It has always been a dream of mine to start my own business.

Fresh out of university without any knowledge or experience of running a venture, I decided to undertake MSc in Entrepreneurship at Cass Business School to kick-start my startup journey. I figured this course would equip me with international experience, technical skills and commercial abilities to start my own company eventually. More importantly, I was interested to meet likeminded people who had similar risk appetites and career ideals as me.

This course is unlike any other master’s degree in the world. Firstly, it is entirely focused on entrepreneurship; a route less taken by people who are more satisfied with conventional careers. It is meant for risk takers who thrive on competition, opportunities and uncertainty in the commercial world. The course is unique in the way it taught me to think creatively and to address the root problem at hand. It taught me to be adaptable, versatile and to understand business as an entity.

With the modules covering a wide range of topics about startup ecosystems, I gained a holistic perspective of how to start and exit businesses. From new venture creation to funding new ventures, I learnt how to conceptualise an idea, achieve proof of concept and conduct feasibility tests on my business.

Most of the modules involved collaborative group work and presentations, which was useful in understanding other cultures and conflict resolution styles. It also improved my pitching and public speaking skills and I personally enjoyed how it built my confidence.

The lecturers were a mix of academics and professionals with industry experience, which made it very helpful when I was trying to attain insights on a topic, issue or industry. All this was valuable for what happened next.

Image: Brainstorming & creativity problem solving activities in my Entrepreneurial Advisory module (May 2018)

Since starting school in September last year, I implemented the teaching from my course to initiate my own venture, Lonbrella (www.lonbrella.co.uk), London’s first umbrella rental service. I thought about this business idea one evening when it was raining heavily and I was stuck at Angel Underground Station without an umbrella. When I looked around the station, it came to my attention that I wasn’t the only one facing this problem. This was the “light bulb moment” when I realised there was opportunity for such a service.

I first pitched Lonbrella during our first class, New Venture Creation, where we had to prepare a business pitch for investors. The pitch was well received by the investors, lecturers and peers who then motivated us to pursue and explore the business idea. It seemed surreal how something that started as a mere idea now became a plausible business venture.

Shortly after that, I teamed up with two other classmates, Olianna Gonzalez and Rodrigo Camino and started working on Lonbrella. I definitely did not expect to start working on a business so quickly (it was a month after I joined the programme!). That being said, it was a very timely decision since I could apply my classroom theories and practices directly to Lonbrella.

Since then, Lonbrella participated in four business idea competitions organised by City University where we pitched to compete for funding and mentorship. The most recent competition we won was the GreenSpark award, an award rewarding sustainable businesses that help to reduce carbon footprint for customers. We also raised £2,500 in funding to achieve our next milestones. Here is a video we produced to include in our pitch: “Good Men Like Steven”. We are now fortunate to work closely with Santander Bank, one of our investors, that supports our brand awareness activities through pop-up booths in their branches.

Image: Pitching Lonbrella at City Spark, a business competition (April 2018)

Image: Lonbrella’s pop-up booth at Santander’s branch (May 2018)

Aside from competitions, Cass organised many networking events that benefited my professional network in London. Having spoken to working professionals from different industries, cultures and backgrounds, I developed a clearer perspective of my career options. The insights and knowledge gained through these conversations have helped me understand London’s working environment and employment expectations.

I also attended talks by Tom Blomfield (CEO of Monzo Bank) and Eric Ries (Author of The Lean Startup); both very successful entrepreneurs in the global startup scene. I found Blomfield’s journey very inspiring, as he is one of the best examples of a modern-day entrepreneur who successfully innovated within the financial industry; known to be cumbersome, expensive and complex.

For Ries, there is no doubt that he played a significant role in my academic and entrepreneurial course thus far. He taught me that entrepreneurship is ultimately about company building to maximise creativity and productivity potential of all members in the organisation.

Image: “The Startup Way” book launch with Eric Ries, author of The Startup Way 

I am grateful for Cass’s MSc Entrepreneurship course for introducing me to the incredible friends I have made throughout the year. Although my class is relatively smaller than other courses, this was the best thing that could happen because we grew close quickly. As a cohort, we hang out outside of school and often attend different events from dinner parties to rock climbing sessions. Furthermore, I was so lucky to meet my co-founders in this class. To me, it is truly incredible that we are all gathered here in London, bonded by our common interests of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Image: Class visit to Tech Hub, the global community for tech entrepreneurs and startups (May 2018)

Image: Self-organised class trip to Edinburgh, Scotland (February 2018)

 

Wendi Lai 
MSc Entrepreneurship (2018)

An unforgettable Marketing year at Cass

Sitting in my living room, drinking my freshly brewed coffee, I start to reminisce about the year that has just gone by. As I start my journey from the start of term back in October, I feel myself laughing and smiling remembering all the fun I have had. My story at Cass has had many twists and turns all of which are memorable. Apart from the amazing friends I have made, the learning experience was great; I learned more in this past year than I have during my four years of undergrad.

My story began at Moorgate Underground Station. As I walked up the stairs in the station, I felt the buzz of the City. Excitement filled me as I was about to embark on a new chapter in my life. However, my life hadn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I was injured during my time in the military which forced me to leave. Then ended up getting a terrible job as a salesman at an estate agency followed by working almost every day in a bar. I needed to do something to escape this but had no idea how?

One day on the way to work, I heard some people discuss how excited they were about starting their master’s at Cass Business School. It was almost as if by divine intervention, God listened and provided a path for me. This lead me to research more about master’s degrees and more about Cass Business School.

After more research, I decided to enrol myself at Cass, choosing to study MSc Marketing Strategy & Innovation. Everyone has different reasons and skill sets. However, for me this course allowed me to work on projects that will give me the skills that I can get the dream job that I wanted. Cass has many connections to firms in London and allows students to take part in the Colgate-Tesco Hackathon to create a campaign.

Back to Moorgate. As I looked at my phone trying to find my way to Cass, I soon saw someone looking at their phone in confusion too. They looked more like a student than someone working in the City so I tried my luck and asked them if they were also looking for Cass. With a smile and laugh, he said he was and we soon joined together for the quest. After talking to him, I also found out that he enrolled to study MSc Marketing Strategy and Innovation. This individual soon became my best friend later during the year.

The initial induction was fantastic as I met many people from all over Cass. I appreciated the diversity in backgrounds, and everyone’s willingness to help out. It was from this diverse set that throughout the year I was able to learn and develop as a marketer and person. One commentator asked the question, “How do you know if your business school is good?”. He continued, “Firstly, look at the Professor. How do you trust what they are saying? Secondly, look around you. Are your peers smart?”. The answer is different for everyone, but personally studying at Cass Business School, I can answer yes to both. I learned so much from my Professors but even more so from my peers.

During the course of the year there were many highlights, but the one that sticks out the most was attending the Colgate-Tesco Hackathon, held at the Dunnhumby office in Hammersmith, London. This event that really develops you and throws you into the deep end. In teams of six or eight we were tasked to design a full marketing campaign for Colgate and Tesco. It was an intense two days as we had to quickly work out the best strategy and tactics that will allow us to be creative and analytical with our campaign.

At the end, we competed with other teams and pitched our campaign to the judges comprised of many leaders at Tesco and Colgate. This real-life business challenge gave us the opportunity to  apply all our newly gained skills to something real and tangible. Even though my team didn’t win the contest, I learned a lot talking to executives and professionals at Colgate and Tesco with the addition of learning from my peers and the group that won the competition.

However, the best learning takes place at the local Artillery Arms pub, located just two minutes away from Cass, where a classmate and I created our Marketing Society Friday Drinks. Here we invite both professors and students to join us. Many topics are discussed, and it is a good way to know our professors and their life outside of Cass. Also, it gives us a great opportunity to talk be philosophical and network. The Friday drinks at the Arms has become a bit of a tradition and my classmate and I no longer need to try arranging it anymore. Everyone knows what to do now and we hope this tradition continues even after we finish studying.

I would advise anyone that wants to pursue a career in marketing to join Cass. Not only do you learn a lot, you can count on a reliable team of people around you to help you succeed. I would suggest that you take full advantage of the careers office located near the cafeteria. Always helpful to discuss any job application, cover letter or jobs in general, their expertise has helped me secure many job interviews, and when I graduate the team will still be available to help. I have a very good relationship with them and they are always helpful.

After an amazing year studying MSc Marketing Strategy & Innovation at Cass Business School, I am confident that I will succeed to be a great marketer for any company, or perhaps when I start my own company one day.

I have made amazing friends both students and professors ,and you can always count on an alumnus to help get your CV to someone in HR at their company. Cass has surpassed any expectations I had, and I would advise everyone looking to join to attend any event or competition being offered. From my Hackathon experience with Colgate and Tesco, I have had many job interviews and it is very impressive on your CV, especially if you lack experience in marketing.

Giving up was never an option when I was working jobs that I didn’t enjoy. Cass Business School gave me the opportunity to explore and develop myself; I didn’t give up and neither did they or my peers around me. If you truly want to excel and gain new friends, then look no further. Again, “How do you know if you are at a good business school? Look at your professor. How do you trust what they are saying? Look at your peers. Are they smart?”. I can truly say a solid “Yes” to both.

Luigi Ferrara
MSc Marketing Strategy & Innovation  (2018)

 

The Cass Actuarial Science experience

Hello everyone, my name is Kartik and I am studying my master’s degree in Actuarial Science at Cass Business School. I previously completed an undergraduate degree in Financial Mathematics in the UK and after working in risk management during my placement year I decided to become an Actuary. With this blog, I hope to share with you many of my wonderful and sometimes challenging experiences at Cass.

For this first blog I think it is fitting that I talk about my first few weeks at Cass. Now I am sure you have heard of the expression “the calm before the storm” and looking back I think this best describes how the first few weeks unfolded.

The first two weeks of the master’s degree are set aside for induction which consists of various learning courses and social events. I was very anxious before starting the course as it had been almost three years since I started my undergraduate studies and have had to go through the process of meeting complete strangers and making new friends at university. However, the anxiety and nervousness quickly disappeared as I must say everyone on my course was particularly social and very easy to talk to.

A lot of credit is due to the Actuarial Science department at Cass for arranging an excellent itinerary, during our first few weeks on the course, maximising the opportunity to meet new people, from many different backgrounds. Here we are at one such event. I am the second to last guy on the right if you are curious!

There are many events that the student unions hold providing great opportunities to meet people outside of the course and have enjoyable night outs.

After inductions are over, it is time to face the music! There is a lot to cover on the MSc Actuarial Science and so there is no soothing transition as one might be accustomed to from undergraduate studies. The lectures have a very brief introduction, the course begins almost immediately and there are online tests as early as week three of lectures. I was one of the people who made the mistake of taking it a little bit easy in my first week of lectures and so I would definitely urge others not to make the same mistake, especially if you are doing all four Core Technicals (CTs) in the first term as I was.

However, the lecturers at Cass are particularly helpful and there are office hours as well as tutorials that help greatly with much of the work. The content of the first two to three weeks of the master’s degree is also slightly easier compared to the rest so this definitely helps to transition into the course.

Besides lectures, there was always one thing at the back of my mind – other than the numerous online coursework and laborious tests – jobs! Typically most graduate roles at some of the top companies in the UK close their applications by November, despite the difficulty finding time, the applications had to be submitted.

I want to point out the outstanding support I received from the Careers Team at Cass. They helped and guided me from the very first week whether it was to help me with my CV and cover letter or with online tests and assessment centres. The careers interphase, CCO, is also particularly helpful in finding roles suitable for my course. All of this is not to say that it will be too late to apply for jobs in the second term. I am writing this blog in March and there are plenty of roles available to apply for!

Fast forward six months… I am now towards the end of my second term marvelling at the time gone. I thought the first term of the course was very difficult having done four Core Technical subjects; the second term is relatively challenging and I am only doing 2 Core Technical subjects! There really is no room for slacking in the second term as the amount of content covered every week is enormous. The difficulty of each CT is also tenfold compared to the first term.

During the second term there was also the task of choosing electives or research projects for the third term. I chose to do all five electives as it is very helpful in providing real life experiences within the actuarial field. There is also the added bonus of finishing by mid July. Even though I am thinking of the holidays, exams are already here and the pressure is definitely on! Wish me luck…

To sum it all up, I would say the first month of the master’s degree is fun but challenging. There are plenty of new people to meet and events to enjoy but it is also important to enter with the right mind-set right from the very start, when it comes to lectures, as time flies by very quickly! Before you know it, you will be seven months into the course and getting ready for exams in April!

Kartik Vyas
MSc Actuarial Science (2018)

 

Trip to Frankfurt

Known as “Mainhattan” of Germany because of its impressive concrete skyscrapers which chararacterise its main river skyline, Frankfurt is a dynamic finance and business hub. Home to the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) and one of the largest stock exchanges worldwide, Frankfurt has everything needed to become the leading financial capital in Europe. Moreover, the compact city laying in the heart of Germany, with its charming old town and plenty of social activities, ensures a high standard of living.

As part of the MSc Finance programme, 80 students went on an educational trip to explore Frankfurt. Our group departed from London Heathrow on Thursday 15th February. After quickly checking-in at our hotel, we had the opportunity to relish the first presentation, held by Mr. Alexander Pfister, a renowned lecturer at the University of Mannheim.

Alexander talked about the strengths and weaknesses of the German economy and its transformation. The key lessons learned were that the now flourishing German economy was not always as strong as it is today. A clear turnaround could be noticed after Germany hosted the FIFA world cup in 2006. This unique opportunity proved to the German population why they should be proud of what they can achieve as a nation. This motivation still holds true today and is broadly represented by the main pillar of the German economy – its middle-class companies.

A refreshing shower and a quick wardrobe change later, all participants went to a traditional apple wine tavern to enjoy dinner. The combination of good food, wine and pleasant classmates created a delightful ambience. Networking events such as this represent one of the strong characteristics of the Cass Business School community and forges strong lifelong friendships.

On our second day we experienced the highlight of our trip: a visit at the European Central Bank. Usually only encountered in television or newspapers, we had the opportunity to visit the institution where all the important decisions for the Eurozone are made. Entering the impressive building, we could sense the importance of this place. The flags of every nation stood proud in the middle of the entry area and were a popular spot for student photos. After being warmly welcomed, we attended two presentations.

First we received information on the monetary instruments of the ECB, as well as a detailed insight on its current quantitative easing. Ms Valerie Jarvis, Economist Analyst for the United Kingdom at the ECB,  gave us economic analysis on the current Brexit discussion and its expected impact on the British economy – supporting economic data was presented to illustrate the impact Brexit decision has already had on UK citizens.

One consequence of Brexit could be the movement of several banks from London to other locations. One possible candidate is Frankfurt and therefore we wanted to know more about this financial hub in Germany. A representative from Frankfurt Main Finance, a promoting organisation for Frankfurt, gave us a very detailed overview about the benefits of living and working in Frankfurt.

With its low taxes and rents, as well as its outstanding infrastructure and quality of life, Frankfurt is a very attractive place for banks. Furthermore, a wide range of Business Schools and Universities provide a talented pool of candidates for the diverse roles. It is no surprise that many banks, such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, have already decided to move to Frankfurt. We finished this informative day with a presentation on the banking industry of Germany by two representatives of the German Landesbanken.

An international trip like ours offers students first-hand insight and an opportunity to outstand and learn more about an alternative financial hub besides London. Moreover, it helps to enhance interpersonal skills and gain knowledge that can’t be developed in a classroom. We all enjoyed this trip very much and we are thankful to Cass Business School for organising it.

Fabian Frech & Timon Wyder
MSc Finance (2018)

Cappuccinos and espressos for master’s students in Florence and Milan

Assassin’s Creed, Armani Silos, and Pinocchio – it must be the MSc Management study tour of Italy

The Arctic freeze that recently swept across Europe didn’t prevent 172 MSc Management students from travelling on their annual study tour in February. The study tour is a non-credited option in term two that provides students with an alternative experience to traditional classroom-based education.

Students had a choice of either visiting Florence to learn more about the wine industry, culture and art or to Milan where design, branding and the luxury goods sectors were the main focus.

Tours were led by four Italian Cass faculty. Professor Davide Ravasi and Dr Alessandro Giudici guided students in Milan and Dr Simone Santoni and Dr Paolo Aversa in Florence. Each of the faculty was able to share stories and their local knowledge via passionate storytelling which brought to life the country they call home.

The Florence study tour started with a day trip to the enchanting Tuscan hilltop town of San Gimignano which was the location of Assassin’s Creed, the massively popular mixed-media franchise. Students then roamed the picturesque streets and squares, browsed the local shops and ate award-winning gelato while walking among the town’s famous medieval towers. After lunch the group visited the Fatoria Poggio Alloro vineyard, where they were able to taste world renowned wines such as Chianti Classico.

 

The second day was spent in Florence, a city noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture. Students visited the Galleria dell’Accademia Museum which displays Michelangelo’s “David” as well as The Uffizi Gallery which displays Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation”.

Students who chose the Milan study tour visited the Kartel and Alpha Romeo museums as well as Galleria Campari and Armani/Silos, a new edition this year.  Armani/Silos is a fashion art museum which showcases Giorgio Armani’s career in fashion. Armani is the most successful Italian designer ever and is fondly thought of as the patron saint of fashion having designed a gospel book cover for the Pope, as well as uniforms for Milanese taxi drivers and the police force. Students later visited Terrazza Triennale, a rooftop restaurant with a magnificent view to listen to a guest speaker talking about design.

“We hope that our study tours are a refreshing and fun experience” says Course Director Dr Joanna Zaleska. “An option to take part in a study tour enhances social skills as students spend time with peers outside of the classroom to explore new things together. The Cass master’s study trips are about experiencing the real world and provide a learning experience that is creative, lively and encourages new friendships.”

Joanna Zaleska
Director, MSc Management 

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