#Cassat50: Andrew Adakovsky, 2000

Cass Business School News.

dakovskyAndrew came to Cass to study for his MBA to improve his career prospects. We caught up with him to chat about his time at Cass and how his career has progressed since graduating in 2000 for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

First, the question is why did I want to do an MBA? At the end of the 1990s I worked for the blue chip multinational Bristol-Myers Squibb as Head of Clairol, their Beauty Care Division in Russia. Doing an MBA was one of the options in my career development plan that I had discussed with my superiors. Soon after the Russian financial crisis in 1998, a decision was made on the strategic divestment of beauty care business, and as a first step they closed Eastern Europe operations. I decided to use this as a natural break to do my MBA and improve my business knowledge.

I knew I had made a good career in the 1990s but to go further I 100% needed to improve my business education, as I’d only studied International Law & Politics and not business.
And as to why City University Business School (CUBS, as it was then), it was the personal connection. The Marketing Manager in my office got sponsorship from the British Council, specifically to do an MBA at CUBS. When I travelled to London on business he invited me to visit him at the Barbican and he showed me around and invited me to meet the head of International Business stream. We had a 30 minutes discussion, and at the end of which I received a personal invite to do my MBA there. I just had to pass the GMAT exam and I would be accepted. I was excited and pleased, so when Clairol was closed I immediately applied and was accepted.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

First of all it was an important personal challenge. I was already 36, and married with a daughter, living a nice life. Now I had to move to London for a year and live in dorm room with young students. It was a big challenge not only professionally but also personally! It was a year of learning and discovery – and I think I benefitted from the studies both as a manager and as a person.

I studied lots of subjects that I was not very strong at previously and met lots of interesting people, both academics and classmates. When you study at Cass you are in the heart of international business and you feel the pulse. It’s not close to you or around you, you are part of it and you feel it every day. In the mornings I would get a fresh issue of FT and a coffee at Starbucks, and just feel you’re at the centre of London.

What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

Well there is not particularly any event I remember, but in general I have great memories of the people – my classmates and academics. I keep friendships with many former classmates from different countries. For example in our group there were English, Indian, South East Asian, Serbian, South African and Ghanaian students, and me from Russia. We were a diverse cultural environment and needed to put our efforts together to be successful as a team. There were lots of challenges and hurdles but it led to common success. I cherish the time I spent with them in studies and entertaining. The local guys invited us to local places we’d never have found by ourselves like jazz clubs!

How has studying at Cass changed your life?

First of all when I graduated I felt I’d become a more mature manager and person. I’d faced the challenge, had overcome it, and in the process acquired new skills and knowledge and a more broad view on business. I now knew how to make business internationally.

Soon after graduation I was invited to take a CEO position with a Russian affiliate of a big European construction materials company, so I managed to make the career breakthrough and got the top position I had been looking for. My task was to make a strategic restructuring of the business, and fresh from my MBA this was the dream task to do in practice. It was a successful restructure and I’m pretty sure I owe my success to CUBS. Now I’m at my fourth company in a GM position and it’s all still thanks to my MBA.

One year after I graduated I was asked to advise a potential student from Russia, so I met with her and based on our discussions she went to Cass. She’s made a fantastic career in Europe and now lives and works in London. I have to say, 15 years post-graduation, if I had to advise someone again I would still say go to Cass!

Get Social IRL

Cass Business School News.

Hussein Al YawerHussein Al-Yawer studied Banking and International Finance (2005) and Investment Banking (2006), and now he’s launched a new app – Inviteez, aimed at getting you together more often with your friends.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did Banking and International Finance as an undergraduate from 2002 – 2005 and then an MSc in Investment Management in 2005 – 2006. I haven’t been at Bunhill Row for quite a while, but now I’m back I feel right at home! My favourite memory is definitely of the campus. In my third year of undergraduate Bunhill Row had just opened, which was mostly for MScs but they had some undergraduate stuff here too.

What did you do next?

After graduating I went to work for Renaissance Capital in London, and then later I moved to work for them in Dubai when they set up a Middle East office. Then I set up my own company in retail and trading in the Middle East. I did just that for a couple of years, then I started a couple of other projects. I helped set up Hotel Xanadu, a family business and a lovely brand, this was the first hotel of many. I’m still involved in this project but not on a day-to-day operational basis. I wanted to use my finance experience so I founded a trading company, and as well as that, Babylon Real Estate, a real estate investment firm – I’m still involved in that too, but it doesn’t actively keep me busy.

How did you get the idea for your app, Inviteez

I wasn’t on Facebook or twitter, in fact I wasn’t really on any social media until WhatsApp. One day I was watching a video (I forget who, or why!) that was showing how people are so involved with their social media and their phones, and they are always looking down whilst walking, that things pass them by. In day-to-day life, they are more closely connected to people hundreds or thousands of miles away than the people around them. So I wanted to help people have more personal interactions, outside the digital world.

The concept is that we all rely on social media but how can you flip it around, so that you don’t just interact online, but you now use it to meet with people and do stuff together and stop living so passively. So my idea was basically to engage people to get them to meet up.

The problem with meeting up and organising it through WhatsApp is clear to me. Most WhatsApp groups I belong to are event-based eg, football, meeting for dinner, a birthday party. But I noticed that perhaps 90% of event-based interactions are inefficient. For example, someone puts an invite out there, sees that nobody has RSVPed – nobody catches up on multiple notifications or reads back on a whole long conversation thread – and then the event just fizzles out and may not happen.

I wanted to take this frustrating process and make it all-singing all-dancing and make it easier for people to go out and meet up. So I created a model for my app and screen designs. There is quite a lot happening in the events space with regards to apps, both by start-ups and larger companies. There is something brewing so I’m trying to find the perfect model, combining the best bits from facebook events and google hangouts amongst others. How do you create a perfect product as per your gut instinct? I took the lead and developed the model, then I found a developer and have worked hard to develop it further and push it forward.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think the challenge will all be going forward in particular how to build awareness and engage people. The product itself is an iterative process and it has been fun playing with ideas – I get excited to try different stuff to end up with a great product, now I just need to create that buzz and get some momentum going.

The app space is very much more competitive now. Before, word of mouth could be enough to get something going, but people are so much more passive to new ideas now than they were.

Do you have any advice you’d like to go back in time give to yourself when you graduated?

[Tries several times to get the wording right] Someone that has just graduated should be more fearless and shouldn’t think of everything as part of a greater plan – just do it! Don’t treat life as a grand plan and fit your ideas into your predefined plan, just get on with it!

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: My home! I love London in general, it’s my favourite city in the world.
Favourite holiday destination: The two places I go to the most are Marbella and Dubai
Must-check every day website: BBC News
Dream travel destination: I would say it’s probably somewhere I’ve not heard of yet! People tend to follow the crowds when it comes to holiday trends, which is a shame because the commercial success can spoil a place – so somewhere unspoilt I’ve not heard of!
Cheese or chocolate? Cheese with wine, chocolate any other time!

Hussein’s app Inviteez is available on iOS and coming soon to Android.

Saving the world, one coffee at a time

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

afc_fbfcup-6073Francois de Vinols and Koorosh Madani (both BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, 2013) were best friends from day one at Cass, and have now returned, bringing their innovative coffee cup advertising concept, and using the revenue for the tricky recycling process. We spoke to them about it.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

Francois) We did BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, and from what I remember everything was really nice – it seems so far away now because we studied from 2010 – 2013! The most important thing is we met on first day Koorosh) and we’ve been best friends since then, F) although we were not necessarily in the same classes. All round it was a great experience.

K) Compared to other students from other Universities we can really differentiate ourselves. Our course was really practical and was so current it was updated with the news, so we quickly learned about all the resources like Bloomberg etc. and all read and used it daily. Students elsewhere, their courses were so academic and theoretical.

K) All courseworks were group coursework, not individual, and that helped a lot with learning and building teamwork.

Teamwork is really important in financial markets; there you have to be able to work with all different crews – so I’d say that’s the main thing Cass taught us. F) I agree!

Do you have a favourite memory?

F) For me it was the Simon Hayley lectures! Accounting in the first year was also good with Charles O’Connor. Simon Hayley was funny but such a hard teacher, so demanding! I loved him!

K) I think the most memorable time was during exams, everyone together in the library trying to help each other. That’s what I liked the most, when we could join together and help each other out. I agree that the most useful lectures were from Simon Hayley – he taught the Bible in the Industry: Derivatives Trading and Hedging.

What did you do next?

F) I went to do a Masters in the History of International Relations at LSE, so something completely different! I really wanted to change from finance to a degree where you read and write – write papers and a thesis and engage with teachers. I learned about diplomacy and the history of Iran. It was completely different, not practical but to do with thinking. It developed and trained my brain to be so analytical and to stop facile thoughts of right, wrong, black, white. It allowed me to understand how complex things are in history.

K) My time after Cass was hefty ordeal. I’m Iranian and at this time there were financial sanctions on the country. I had an offer to study Financial Management at Cass and Imperial College, but my education funds were blocked, so I had to reject the offer and join the family business, focusing on business development.

How did the idea for Cup the Market come about?

F) I had the idea to put adverts on coffee paper cups back in October 2014, which is a long time ago! Then a year ago in October 2015 I told Koroosh let’s form a company to do this, and there was lots of excitement that night. K) How it happened was we went for a burger and then to Cavendish Square – he said cups are plan let’s put ads on them – imagine our cups at exhibitions, airports, Universities! F) The idea was discussed then and Cup the Market was established.

So what exactly is Cup the Market?

F) Cup the Market is about taking the white space cup and turning it in to advertising space and using the cup to reach people. We want to make the cups more effective for advertising campaigns and then to use the revenue to recycle the cups. K) The idea on its own is not new; lots has been done already and it’s been an ongoing process in the UK and Australia but none of them focus on recycling. We want to be different. Recycling is big at the moment in the UK – these plastic-coated paper cups are recyclable but usually there are insufficient means for them to be recycled. We want to implement with current students first because they are the future consumers.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

F) Really it’s getting access to the right people in the right place, both in companies and in universities. More specifically, reaching the people in the company that deal with the marketing. For example if you want Ocado or Deliveroo or Bloomberg, you need to find the right person, and then discuss it with them. We’ve been working a lot with Cass and there are lots of meetings and lots of people involved. So the challenge is to find the decision maker and, especially somewhere like a University, it takes time and many people have a say.

K) It is more complex when you have to promote your business without having a portfolio of clients – so we are expanding our network to cooperate with industry leaders. That’s one of the factors as well, building that platform of trust. Trust can create a much faster process and avoid many costs involved in any business.

What is next for you?

K) We are in contact with several Universities, so hopefully we will be launching soon in Universities around London, and in cafes near those Universities. We are also focussing on cafes in CBDs or areas with a lot of congestion. Although we want to start with students we are really looking to target the whole public to raise funds to recycle.

Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

F) I have two things. The first is to make sure you start with someone you trust, and the second is that when you plan something in terms of time, double it! Things take a lot of time.

K) I’d say do your research. Market research is essential so that you can know your product, the market and your target audience. It will also highlight if you’re the right person for that, because many people get into stuff they are not made for. And planning – I say failing to plan is planning to fail. You need that plan in front of you so you can get to your objective faster. F) Most important is to know the answer to the “Why?” question.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: F) Thames Rowing Club K) South Ken
Favourite holiday destination: F) Italy K) Sardinia
Must-check every day website: F) Soundcloud K) BBC Persia and the FT
Dream travel destination: F) Iran K) South Pole
Cheese or chocolate: F) Chocolate K) Cheese (pauses for a half-second)… Let’s make chocolate cheesecake!

The Career Mastery: Effective Communication

Careers, Cass Business School News.

thank-you-letter-3-2-630x315Deniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) currently works for PwC Consulting, and has started his own careers blog that will “share valuable insider information that most hiring managers wouldn’t share”.

We have been allowed to publish extracts from the blog. You can read more on thecareermastery.com.

Writing a Compelling Resume Objective & Resume Summary

Writing a well-crafted resume objective is as important as wearing nice shoes to an interview. Here is the catch, though, just as how you wouldn’t wear flip-flops to an interview, you wouldn’t wear your shiny shoes to the beach.

The point is very simple, you may not need a resume objective section at all if you fit in one of the categories below;

1) You have plenty of experience
2) Been in that industry for some time and have no intentions to go into a new domain

In that case, what you need is a resume summary. Resume objective may end up making you look like a fresh graduate or simply, an amateur… But if you are a recent graduate or looking to change your domain, then a basic resume objective or some sort of a resume goal/purpose statement is what you need.

What NOT to say in a resume objective section?

First of all, this is not a section where you write down what you have always wanted to be. Speaking of not to dos, here are a few more;

– Don’t use a general career objective statement for all your applications. It will hurt your chances more than it will help. You are trying to collect points in every section of your resume.
– Plus, resume objective is the first section in your resume so it’s even more important. Remember, that’s the first thing they see…
– Don’t use fillers. Whatever you say in your CV needs to serve a particular mission. It needs to help you position yourself for that role.
– Avoid writing long paragraphs. It should be short, simple, and effective. Hiring managers will only browse through it. They don’t have time to go over it in great detail.
– It’s not about you! It’s about what you give to the organization. Leverage your experience and skills and explain briefly how they will benefit them.

What to say in your resume objective?

Alright, let’s get to the good bits. The number one tip I can give you here is to make your objective as specific and as tailored as possible to the needs of the organization. By having read the job description, you have so much knowledge as to who their ideal employee is. So, you give it to them!

Essentially, you are looking to write down only a couple of sentences. That’s about it. The more you write in this section, the less attention they will have left for the rest of your resume. Ideally, you would want your experiences section to be the center point of attention, not the objective section.

So your objective needs to answer two questions.

– What position are you applying to?
– What’s your relevant experience and skills?

Continue reading this blog on thecareermastery.

How To Find A Job With A Letter of Interest

Don’t you agree with me when I say your confidence takes one heck of a beating with all those 100s of rejections?

It just blows…

It really does.

After 2 rejections, you think “Maybe the job wasn’t really suitable to my background”. After 20 rejections, you think “Maybe the competition was fierce. I should perhaps start looking at less competitive job posts” After 100 rejections, you think “What’s wrong with me? All this education, grade marks, was all of it for nothing? I should have studied at Stanford instead…”

You know what, you are really not alone. But I want to tell you something. Receiving 100s of rejections have very little to do with you. It really isn’t about you.

I know you came here because you are probably just looking for a sample letter of interest format for a job opening. If you bear with me until the end of this post, I will over-deliver. Not only will you get the best letter of interest sample and a template that you can use for a job application, internship, or a promotion, but I will also increase your over-all chances to get a job with a multinational company by a very large margin.

Stick with me, will you?

Essentially there are two reasons why you are receiving all those rejections all the time.

You are just using wrong methods. What I call “click-applications” won’t get you very far. For every job post online, there are about 3,000 applications. It gets a lot higher if it’s a renowned organization. Making those “click-applications” are so easy that the candidates no longer even read the job description. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a recent graduate. He was a relative of a close friend of mine. Anyway, I got on a call with him and asked what he is doing to make applications. He gave me an answer that I don’t think I will ever forget for the rest of my life. He wrote a software that makes automated applications to all those job posts whenever certain keywords are mentioned in job post titles. He told me that his software made anywhere from 100 to 500 applications a day… I was definitely speechless when I heard it… He is smart for sure; but definitely misguided. Oh, he told me that he’s not alone by the way… Some of his classmates also employed a similar technique. In fact, they shared the software.

So, now you know what you are dealing with here…

The second problem is the jobs that you think you are applying to may not be real. This is a very controversial topic and got me in a legal trouble a couple of years ago. This was when I talked about it in an event and named those companies that were posting fake jobs. I also presented the proof. It didn’t take them long to threaten me with a 7-figure lawsuit.

Well, I no longer name names… But that doesn’t stop me from talking about it so you don’t fall victim to it.

Let’s start with the first one. You are using wrong methods to get a job. You already know from my above summary that the click-applications are not the way to go about finding your dream job.

Continue reading this blog on thecareermastery.

#Cassat50: Sasha Saenko, 2011 & 2012

Cass Business School News.

sashaSasha studied BSc Management (2008-2011) and MSc Supply Chain, Trade & Finance (2011-2012), and is still involved with the Cass Consultancy Society, through which she mentors a current Cass student. She is a management consultant at PwC. We caught up for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I think the main reason was because I wanted to get a really good business management education in London. Cass was an obvious choice and there were not many competitors. I liked the location and the international feel – I wanted to be surrounded by people with different backgrounds, and I liked the access to the city. Also the course curriculum was focused on teaching tangible business skills which are essential in the real world workplace.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

I came for my Bachelor’s degree in 2008 to do Management and graduated in 2011. I enjoyed the learning about Marketing Strategy and Supply Chain Management, and the teaching quality and lecturers were fantastic – really passionate and knowledgeable. Lots of them had industry experience and gave examples of real life problems and situations, which gave us a real life insight into what challenges businesses have.

Wayne Holland, he was teaching Business Modelling and Simulation, not the most exciting subject when you heard about it…but he made it so exciting and also very easy to understand. His lectures went really quickly and we would learn so much in just 2 hours. He was also very good at stretching us. In the first three weeks he would give you a coursework that you’d look at and have no idea what to do! We were all thinking we’ll all fail!

Actually with time and increasing understanding of the subject, we learned that he didn’t want the exact answer, he wanted to stretch our thinking and see how we understand the problem and find the best solution. So we developed our problem solving and analytical skills and were never penalised for a wrong answer – he just wanted to see how we got to the answer – so we had to show our workings and explain how we got there, which was always challenging in a positive way. At the end of the course we’d all submit our coursework and couldn’t believe that we did it. We understood and learned through the process and it was the best type of learning.

Overall all the teachers were friendly and helpful, and happy to give extra advice. Some teachers I would even hug!

What is your favourite memory?

Oooh! There is quite a few, I did so many things! One would be graduation – my Masters graduation. I came back to do my Masters, after my Bachelors, in Supply Chain, Trade & Finance and graduation was very emotional. My family came from Russia to support me; they couldn’t come to my Bachelors graduation because it was too difficult to get a visa. But for this one they came, my sister came too!

A lot of us graduating knew it would be the last time we’d see each other because everyone was from different countries and nobody had a visa to stay, and even if we did we didn’t know if we would get a job. It was very emotional but most of us are still in touch. When I went to China I met up with two classmates, when I went to Belgium I met another, and when anyone comes to London they call me and we meet. It’s an amazing network globally – wherever you are you have someone you know to show you around, it’s definitely a benefit of Cass.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

I remember when we just got to Cass in our first year, our teachers would tell us – ‘you will probably become a management consultant or an investment banker’ – I didn’t want to do anything like that! But during the course I did develop the skills essential to becoming a management consultant, like being really good at presenting, managing teams, being able to negotiate. I thought, ok, I’ll get those skills and I’ll try to do something different – now I’m a management consultant! After a few years I realised it was actually the right path and I’m glad that Cass gave me the skills for my current job success. They were right!

And what does being a mentor give you?

I mentor a second year Business Studies student as part of the Cass Consulting Society and she’s now doing an EY internship – her being a part of the society and also having a mentor who is in Consulting probably helped.

For me, I love to share my experiences and if I can help someone get a job easier or make decisions with better information I will do that. When I was here it was sometimes hard to figure out how to do applications, or what skills employers look for, and how to act in an interview. I wish I had somebody who would have given me that insight so now, after going through the whole experience, I can share it with someone who wants a similar career.

My mentee Dina is also Russian, so we relate on many things. Now that she’s got an internship in consulting I’m very happy and proud of her. It’s great to give back and if I can inspire another female I don’t see any reason not to do it. As alumni we need to support each other and participate in school activities, and strengthen and grow our network which in turn would help our school grow and attract excellent students worldwide.

Your final words on Cass?

It’s a great school and I see a lot of potential. It’s gone from strength to strength. I’ve seen growth in student facilities, teaching quality and I’d love to strengthen the relationship between Cass and PwC and hopefully help other Cass students to get a job at PwC – even more as we are already well represented there.

I think our students are really amazing, smart and well-rounded individuals, and definitely a great employee at any firm. Sometimes firms don’t see enough of the value of the teaching at Cass and instead mainly focus on Oxford, Cambridge and LSE graduates but for me Cass students are different in a very positive way and a great new pool of potential employees for companies who are now increasingly focussing on diversity and better employability skills. Global acumen is definitely our strength, and Cass alumni bring this along with practical skills and a strong business acumen too.

The Sunny Side of Life

Cass Business School News.

mavMichael Voice studied MSc Shipping, Trade and Finance, 2011 and is now Director of Business Development at Sundrop Farms Ltd. We chatted about setting up a society at Cass, getting into agriculture, and not waiting for that “perfect job”.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

It was good, I came in Fall 2010 and although it was not my first time in London it was my first time living in London. What struck me first about the programme, and in general, is how international the cohort was. The programme was majority European with a nice mix of countries (particularly Greece!) and also good numbers of Americans and individuals from Asia, which was really cool.

The other interesting thing was that prior to coming to Cass I went to the University of Michigan, which is a really big school, with around five thousand people per class – so it was refreshing to be in a much smaller environment. It felt more personal, you got more attention, and you could get to know everybody better.

Do you have a favourite memory?

Hmmmm… Along with two other guys from my course, I founded the Cass Commodities and Shipping Society, and over the year we hosted a number of events with guest speakers, and a Christmas party. It was really cool to put this together and rewarding that often more than 100 students came out for something that was not directly attached to their programme. I’d not had the chance before to lead and organise a group like that.

What did you do next?

I went to work for a company called RJI Capital, a private equity and advisory firm. RJI had a range of different investments but I focused primarily on investment opportunities in natural resources, particularly in former Soviet countries and South East Asia.

It was a great opportunity for me to develop a deeper understanding of corporate finance, understand the investment and transaction process, and travel to some interesting international destinations. I went to places like Kazakhstan, Myanmar, and Malaysia and others, so all in all a very unique experience.

How did you end up at Sundrop?

The time was right to find a new opportunity and Sundrop Farms was in an interesting position. They had just taken a large investment from KKR, and American private equity firm, and were ready to expand outside Australia, where the company’s first big project is. Sundrop is an owner, developer and operator of sustainable greenhouses and grows a range of fresh produce. It was great to get involved at a fairly early stage, and be part of the international expansion. Since joining we have grown to over 200 team members globally, and have greenhouses in three locations.

What is your role?

I am the Director of Business Development and I basically look after growing the business outside Australia. The role is a combination of strategy, development activities, and finance.

For example, as we completed the greenhouse Australia, where our crop is tomatoes, I then did a lot of work to help the company decide where to go next and the product focus in these markets.

This then led to very practical project development work – negotiating with suppliers, land purchase, and planning. Seeing projects come to fruition in Portugal and the USA where we have now completed greenhouses has been really exciting.

Where next?

If you look at the position achieved in Australia, we have been able to build a one of a kind sustainable greenhouse, deploy more than $150M in capital, and partner with one of the largest supermarkets. I see a similar path in other countries. The Australian market is great but there are only 22 million people – so Europe and USA offer us plenty of runway to develop the business. In these markets, we plan to build more greenhouses, expand into new product categories, and remain opportunistic for new opportunities.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think there have been a couple. The first was that my background is corporate finance and analysis; I hadn’t worked in agriculture so to be able to understand some of the fundamentals of agronomy took some time. I had to learn what it means in terms of plant cycles, varieties, growing techniques and then be able to communicate this effectively with potential customers and other partners.

The second is adopting to a role working in a very international business. This was both the travel commitment and often early (late) calls, but also being able to understand and appreciate cultural differences and business practice norms – while none the less ensuring we meet targets and stay on track.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

A couple of the things Sundrop looks for in hiring is being conscientious, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an ability to working hard and achieve commercial outcomes. If you’re willing to put time in, understand the business, and take responsibility, I think there are a lot of opportunities.

There is always that perfect job you imagine but it’s better to take a great role and go forward. Find something you think is interesting and go for it; work hard and prove you are capable. There are so many opportunities in London, but don’t focus on the one that got away.

When you start working, the contacts you make are incredibly important – people will see your capabilities and that will open more doors. I saw some classmates when we were at the end of our course who turned down good opportunities in favour of finding that perfect role, and they ended up delaying the start to their careers – a sort of paralysis by analysis if you will.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Chelsea, actually all of West London
Favourite holiday destination: Sicily
Must-check-every-day website: I like the finance blogger Matt Levine who writes for Bloomberg Views
Dream travel destination: Safari, or sub-Saharan Africa in general
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese, although the real answer is probably neither. Unfortunately I’ve become a bit allergic to cheese, and I’ve never really been a fan of chocolate.

#Cassat50: Jeanette Cowley, 1982

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

jeanetteJeanette Cowley studied for her MBA at Cass, graduating in 1982, and is pictured with Steve, who she met at Leeds University in 1980 and married 32 years later. She is now the Managing Director of Go For Growth. We chatted for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I think, quite simply, I wanted a good job! I contracted TB during the final year of my undergraduate degree and had to take a year out to recover. By the time I was studying for my final exams at the end of the 1970s the job market was in a bad way. At University I had experienced a couple of terrible interviews on the milk round where the interviewer could not answer basic questions about how the business was doing! So, I decided that a commercially oriented Masters degree would help translate my first degree in social sciences in to the world of work. In particular, I thought the addition of an MBA to my CV would put me in a better position in what was a tough and changing market.

I had received offers to study at the LSE and Manchester Business School but, and this might sound bizarre, my choice to go to Cass came down to the interview process. I liked that it was difficult to get a place on the course because I was coming relatively straight from University – I only had nine months off, to earn money to pay towards my postgraduate degree. I came down from Manchester for an interview where they asked a range of probing questions like: What will you get from attending the course and most importantly, what will you bring to the course? I really enjoyed how the interview made me reflect on my motivation and skills – so I chose Cass over the other options.

Plus, I wanted to live in London! Theatre was my passion in my twenties and, at the time, Cass was based in the Barbican, where they had a fantastic theatre. I wanted to experience all aspects of living in London, and also hoped being in London would mean more opportunity for part time work to help pay off my hefty postgraduate loan.

Since moving down to London to go to Cass, even though I’ve worked in many countries, I’ve always had my base in London. You could say I’ve lived here forever – or at least since 1980!

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

I absolutely loved it – particularly because the other students were so diverse. Many of my cohort had worked full time in what I considered to be proper jobs with real careers for quite a number of years, and for them the MBA was either a sabbatical funded by their company, or a personal investment in their longer career. I have a working class background and had worked since the age of about 12 in part time jobs: running errands for small business owners, then working in a discount shop and for Great Universal Stores – that sort of thing. However, back then, I was still quite new to professional work so being with this group of students was a real eye-opener. It was really interesting to study with people from such different backgrounds.

The second highlight of the course was the tutorials: they were very feisty. I think Cass, more so than my undergraduate degree, taught me to really listen, and how to ask probing questions, especially when you’re with people with such different experience. That skill in hindsight was extremely useful when I became a negotiator and involved in dispute resolution. At Cass we were encouraged not to hold back in tutorials: but it was important to give evidence based responses. People would come back to you as well – so preparation was important. Also, I loved working and living on London. For one of my assignments I completed a large piece of coursework about the brewing industry: I analysed early microbreweries. It was the first time I’d combined quantitative and qualitative research methods. Being based in London provided the opportunity to do this research. The fieldwork turned out to be really helpful later on in my career, when I joined Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo).

What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

I seem to remember laughing a lot about the way data was presented as facts! At Cass I always thought there was lots of wiggle room for interpretation in the case studies we were asked to look at: maybe I have a warped sense of humour! Throughout my career I have been heavily involved in conflict resolution with teams and individuals and I think my experience at Cass taught me to be challenging and really curious in a way that has helped throughout my career.

The other memory is that I loved my graduation ball. I actually still have the green and purple dress I wore to the ball! When I knew you would ask this question I got the dress out of its dust-bag in the spare room to have a look. I’ve only ever kept a couple of things from back then: one is a black velvet dress I used to wear to the Bowie Rooms in Manchester and the other is this one! It’s got a huge peacock across the shoulder. Well it was the 1980’s! I had a lot of fun at Cass as well as the hard work of course.

How has studying at Cass changed your life?

I can’t say for certain. However, reflecting on that original interview – where I had the question about why should Cass accept me, I think my experiences at Cass gave me courage. Completing the MBA at an early age taught me how to ask questions of people who were more senior and had much more experience without feeling inferior.

The first evidence of this courage was pretty audacious! Mid-MBA I contacted Ford Motor Company, who I didn’t work for, and asked for money towards my MBA. My tutor suggested it although I don’t think they had a sponsorship programme at the time. In any event, the Industrial Relations department at Ford agreed to pay me a small sum of money in exchange for a piece of consultancy work on their recruitment process. That piece of work turned out to be my thesis. After the MBA I actually went back to Ford at Dagenham for about three months to help them think about how to use the results of the research. What a great experience.

Also, my memories of Cass still encourage me to refresh and question what I know and what you think I know. I believe you really have to keep your development going: both personal and professional. So I would say this early experience has affected me throughout my career and is still a part of who I am. With this in mind, four years ago I decided to revisit my area of expertise and took myself back off to business school to study for an MSc in Behavioural Change and Coaching. My research into how senior leaders sustain momentum is central to my work today and I am sure the idea in some way stems back to my time at Cass as well as many years working across a number of sectors.

And now you run your own business?

Yes. I had the idea in the back of my mind for about 20 years (I had never said out loud) – that if I ever sat on the Executive Committee of a FTSE 100 company I would start my own business. So when I was headhunted and got the opportunity to do just that, I went for it! Then, when the time was right, I took myself away to the States for a couple of weeks to think through my strategy including what I wanted and really cared about for my own future and in business. That’s how Go For Growth, focusing on personal and business growth, was born.

My own focus at Go For Growth is on individual and group development as well as dispute resolution and mediation: I am a coach, mentor and mediator. I also give my time to the International Women of Excellence and from time to time I am asked to run workshops or speak at events about how to build trust, resilience and resolve conflict. In my spare time I swim (I learnt how to swim front crawl last year). I am also an avid singer songwriter.

Most importantly, at the moment I am writing a series of articles on reflective leadership and have just started writing a book entitled – Breathe Out: How do you want to spend the next 20 years?

You can contact Jeanette by email jcowley@goforgrowth.com.

Seeing It All

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories.

irene-ctoriIrene Ctori has been an undergrad student, a postgrad student, a doctoral student and is now a lecturer at City University. How’s that for student satisfaction? We met Irene to find out why City was the only place for her.

Tell me about your time at City?
I started at City in 1991 when the Optometry course was taught in the Dame Alice Own building. I only visited the main building for the student union and my maths class. I was quite academically focused and so I kept my head down but my best memory was during my third year. Third year optometry students are given the opportunity to work with real patients and I remember thinking ‘Oh my goodness! I’m really doing this!’

I didn’t have a computer so throughout my course I hand wrote everything, including my dissertation. It was around 10,000 words. Someone then typed it up for me. And nothing was available online at the time, so we had to look at lots of books and buy them too.

What happened after you gradated the first time?
I was invited to do a PhD but I said no because I wanted to practice my trade. I practiced until 2008, including working at Vision Express, then at Whipps Cross University Hospital.

In 2008 I picked up where I left off. I started my MSc and was really enjoying my time at City but I wanted to be involved in the teaching, so I became a clinical tutor for third year students. That led to becoming more involved with teaching first and second years – all whilst juggling being a mum and still working at the hospital.

So what happened after your second graduation?
After graduating again I knew I wanted to do teaching and research full time. After being awarded a scholarship from City I did my PhD and became a full time lecturer last year.

What’s being a lecturer like?
I love being a lecturer. I really enjoy being able to bring my clinical experience into my lectures and using technology in my teaching. The students enjoy it too. And I’m colleagues with people who lectured me. Ron Douglas is one of them – I used to be scared of him but he’s lovely! I’ve also turned into my personal tutor. She used to walk around the lab telling us to have ‘good housekeeping’. I do that now – it’s like when you become your parents!

How has Optometry at City changed?
We don’t handwrite everything now!

What has been the biggest challenge throughout your time at City?
Lecturer posts are not easy to come by. Not many institutions teach optometry. And I wanted to teach at City because I’m happy here. Getting funding for a PhD was not easy either. And juggling everything during my masters was a challenging time.

What has been the most rewarding experience?
Completing my PhD was a real highlight. But getting the lecturer post – that’s what I was aiming for.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Just do it. Put your mind to it. Keep going with it and work hard. Be benevolent and have self-belief.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Islington
Favourite holiday: Cyprus
Must check website: theguardian.com
Dream Holiday: Amalfi Coast, Italy
Cheese or Chocolate: Both!

#Cassat50: Zaheed Nizar, 1999

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

zaheedZaheed Nizar studied BSc Banking and International Finance, 1999 and is now the CEO of a family office who owns hotels and real estate. We met up for a chat for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

CUBS (City University Business School, later changed to Cass) was actually a recommendation. My sister went to City nine years before me to study economics and I wanted to study economics but also to get in to banking. Her friend, who was at CUBS at the time, told me studying at CUBS was brilliant and I thought that this is the place I need! I didn’t know anything about banking – but I focussed my mind and A’ Levels towards the course. It was all I wanted to do!

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

It was really interesting because it was very different from college. There were lots of international students – including lots of Greeks, mainly on the shipping courses. It was a completely different ball game. We had a lot of work to do, and quickly, with lots of lectures and tutorials. There were lots intense characters in my lectures, but some of them turned out to be my best friends!

We had lecturers that were actually more like your friends, because the age gap was not that large. We had to become more mature and more responsible, because we had to take ownership of our work. We were not told what to do when, we just had to get on and do it. That’s not a good thing to land on an 18-year-old! I found the first year was easier than A’ Levels, then the second year, which comes very quickly, was way harder, especially the complex maths. I took it more seriously then.

Do you have a favourite memory from your studies?

The best part was being given the option between my second and third years to take a year out and work, which I did. It was brilliant, as I was not ready for my third year! In industry it was really good, I found my placement and had a really good time. Personally it was great too, a handful of guys on the course also took a year in industry and we made really good friends – now at the age of 40 I’ve been to some of their weddings. I’ve no specific fun memories of the course, it was more about the time we shared together staying up late doing presentations; it taught me a lot.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

You know what, it didn’t change my life when I went in to banking. During my year out I had been working in asset management and it didn’t help then. It helped a little post-graduation when I worked in equities and then sales.

However, when I left banking in 2003 to join the family business, which is in hotels and real estate, the value of my degree became apparent, especially around presenting and pitching, balance sheets, profit and loss and general business acumen. I graduated in 1999 and left banking five years later, and then realised how important my degree was! My studies were centred on banking but delivered elsewhere.

I think a degree can take time to become relevant. Between 2006 and 2007 I decided to get back involved with alumni because I felt a great need to say thanks, and there were a few lectures specifically that I wanted to pay back.

How have you given back?

We had course director Shelagh Heffernan, who passed away. She was had been ill for some time and passed away after I left Cass. When I got back in touch with the School, a fellow student Luca Del Conte I set up the Shelagh Heffernan Fund in association with her husband, which was our way of saying thanks. I went back to my classmates and together we funded several students – we funded tuition fees, especially for overseas students.

Are you still in touch with the School?

Since then, I’ve worked various jobs and now run various businesses and I still see the value of the alumni network. For example, through a seminar at Cass I met the owner of Metro Bank, Vernon Hill. It was brilliant meeting him and one of my partners and he have done some stuff together since. Post-Cass the collaboration continues so it’s very worthwhile for all students to realise that, and keep their foot in the door.

I’m also part of the Finance Board. All the other members are very young, they all graduated around 2010 and they understand the importance of contact with Cass and how much help and assistance they can give and get.

Also, my eldest daughter will soon be going to the City of London School for Girls, in Frobisher Crescent. Its location in the City and the connections between the University and both the Girls and Boys schools was a big influence on what school she went to. When we went to see the school there were so many memories!