#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!

The Career Mastery: Why Should We Hire You? The Ultimate Answer Guide

Careers, Cass Business School News.

thank-you-letter-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.

How To Answer: Why Should We Hire You?

Well, to start with; nobody is going to ask you “why should we hire you” if you do a great job in the interview with your answers and implant your messages of why you are the best candidate.

They won’t have the need to ask you that. A hiring manager will not waste his time asking that question if you already made him feel that you are the right candidate.

But, let’s say the hiring manager isn’t convinced and he still asks that question directly. No problem! At the end of this guide, you will be a lot better equipped to have an amazing answer for it.

First things first, let me introduce myself. I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting in our strategy consulting business unit. I am also the creator of Landing Interviews Guaranteed and The Career Mastery. I am an MBA from Cass Business School of City University London and I also hold various professional certificates, such as; PMP, PMI-RMP, CMA, etc. I launched The Career Mastery blog as a side project in 2016. I wanted to help fresh graduates find better jobs with large multinational employers and management consultancies. See, I join a lot of interviews as a hiring manager. One thing I noticed very clearly is that today’s job applicants are extremely mislead… There is so much BS advice given to you from completely unqualified non-achievers who somehow have the audacity to teach you… As a result, you are wasting so much valuable time post graduation and most of the time ending up settling for sub-par employers. Long story short, if you stick with me, I will provide you with the best advise, insider tips, and tricks to increase your chances to get jobs with multinationals.

Anyway, in this article, I’d like to present you a different answer to when you are asked “why should we hire you”, one that will most probably increase your chances by a significant margin. I will also let you in on some of the insider tips and perspectives.

Time to look at the fundamentals. What are you trying to accomplish when asked this question? You are simply trying to convince them that:

– You will fit in well with the organization culture
– You possess all the skills and experiences required
– Hiring you will make them look smart
– You can deliver great results

So far so good?

Now, let’s look at the requirements of this role. To do that, take a look at the job description again. And take out;

– What skills are required in the job description?
– What experience are they looking for?


To establish this outcome, the tools available to you are:

– Your industry experience
– Hard and soft skills
– Your main accomplishments
– Your education

Now, we got the fundamentals out of the way, let’s get into more advanced stuff. It’s time to start our analysis and recommendations. You probably fit one of the 2 categories below:

1) Are you an experienced hire with years of experience and you are joining the firm to solve a particular problem?
2) Are you a fresh graduate or have minimal years of experience?

Continue reading on thecareermastery.com.

Luxury & Romance

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

6Julien Mazurek graduated with an MSc in Management in 2006 and he has recently launched his own luxury travel company, Kensington and Pearl, which is geared towards the honeymooners market. We spoke about studying at Cass, market research and the difficulty of getting funding.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did a one-year MSc in Management. I particularly liked the business plan competition at the end of the year – we did a project on opening up soup shops in the City, and our group won! That motivated me to open my own business.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?

The competition was fun – we had to go around the streets and interview people, so there was lots of interaction and social media. The rest of my best memories from Cass are all around networking through events, tutors, and alumni coming in with success stories, like Stelios. We studied his project and it was really helpful to get the insight and how he managed to get it so big.

What did you do next?

After graduating I got employed as a stockbroker straight away, which was a hard job and a great way to gain experience in the world of work. I stayed there for 6 years and then I decided it was time to start my own company.

I’ve always been passionate about travel, and have visited nearly all the countries in the world, and so I thought I should build my business around travel.

So how exactly did Kensington and Pearl come about?

I knew I wanted to do something in travel so I did some market research and I learned that the segment that is expanding the most is luxury. Budget holidays are largely now booked through big companies like Expedia, so I decided to focus on luxury, private tours. They need more organisation, but there’s more demand and it’s expanding.

I then did more market research through other channels, like searching google AdWords, and I learned that a lot of luxury travellers are couples and honeymooners with higher budgets. They were largely looking for more in-depth holidays with more details and more unusual experiences – and often wanting to visit multiple countries, on trips with more specialisations, like private tours and with romantic extras.

So Kensington and Pearl is focussed on romantic holidays and private tours, such as honeymoons.

El nido sea india-416777_1280 4

What’s next for the business?

Next for me is that I’m going to be showing at a few wedding fairs, like the National Wedding Show in London, and I’m investing my marketing budget towards advertising through wedding channels, as I want to be the number one honeymoon provider in the industry.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Raising funds has definitely been the biggest challenge! You need to prove to everyone that your product sells, and people really only look at your figures. It’s hard to get people to trust you – it’s easy to get lots of enquiries but convincing them enough to commit is harder.

I’m very confident in what we are doing, people who have booked through us recommend us, and some are even willing to invest in the company as we plan to search for more funding in the near future in order to grow the business. That is nice because we are getting mouth-to-mouth recommendations as well as generating new leads, which is very challenging.

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

The main piece of advice I’d like to give is that you never know who will be able to help you! That means you need to keep close contact with lots of people you met at University and when you are at work. You never know who will be able to help, who will have the money, and who will end up in what job.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Kensington and Chelsea – the inspiration for my site’s name and where I grew up
Favourite holiday destination: Thailand – it’s got everything you could want to do!
Must-check every day website: I always check my website first thing to see if there are new orders or enquiries, and also I always look at the news via flipboard app.
Dream travel destination: The only place I’ve not been is Australia!
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese!

Find Kensington and Pearl online: on the web, and @kensingtonpearl on Twitter and on Instagram.

#Cassat50: Peter Johnson, 1968

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

IMG_0439Peter Johnson (MSc Administrative Sciences – now MBA Administrative Sciences, 1968) left the UK after studying at the Business School, and went on to career successes in Holland and Canada. We chatted about how his life evolved after studying with us for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

My first degree was in Electrical Engineering and it was a “sandwich course”. I did six months study and six months work, sponsored by an electrical company in Manchester who paid me a small amount of money 52 weeks a year for four years.

Even though I did pretty well, it was clear to me I didn’t want to work as an Engineer. The small amount of experience that I had led me towards sales. At that time MBA programmes were relatively new, and they were all two-year programmes. There was no way to get government support or financing, so I did a bit of research and City was one of the few places that was offering a twelve-month programme, so that was critical.

The other critical thing was that one of the four specialisations was International Marketing, so those two made it a very easy decision. I applied, and was accepted and it was only the second year the programme was run. I was living in the Bunhill Row residence (which is where Cass Business School now is) and the school itself was at Gresham College and it was such a beautiful building, right in the heart of the City.

What was your experience studying at Cass?

A key thing I can say is that year was absolutely critical in helping me to shift from a left-brain Engineering nerd to a more socially-aware qualitative thinker. There were a couple of modules related to sales with a particular emphasis on human behaviour and that was something that fascinated me. It was so basic, so elementary but to me it was new and a revelation. So that was a component of the course that, to me, was very, very powerful.

To be honest, I had the feeling that the faculty was sort-of making up the programme as they went along – it was the second year – and I have to say that that made it a little less academically onerous, which actually suited me fine, because another important thing for me was having a year in London.

Previously I’d lived a very narrow existence in Manchester. I was there for four years, at a college of advanced technology that was 99% male, where there wasn’t really any university experience. Suddenly, in London, even though I had little money, I was exposed to a lot of new things, culturally and socially, and that was a really important part of that year.

I think back and it seems that one year in London was really like living anywhere else for three years!

What did you do next?

When I finished, I knew I wanted to leave the UK, and I knew I didn’t want to work in Engineering. Towards the end of the year there was a career day where representatives from various companies in England came to the the main campus, London College.

Most of them were recruiting for technical people, and weren’t expecting to meet students from the business school – nobody knew that it existed! And it just so happened that someone from Phillips Electronics knew they were looking for international recruits for their HQ in Eindhoven.

My qualifications with MSc Administrative Sciences (as it was) in International Marketing, and an Electrical Engineering degree, rang bells for them. I went there for a couple of interviews and immediately I had a very attractive offer, so that was absolutely perfect for me. I certainly couldn’t have got that offer without the City degree, regardless of what I may or may not have learned during the year!

How did you get on there?

Though the three years that I spent in Holland were incredible from a professional point of view it was not very interesting socially because Eindhoven was a company town, and I was totally focussed on my career. After three years I was transferred at my request from Holland to the same company in Toronto, so that’s how I came to Canada in 1971.

I quickly switched my orientation, making up for lost time, and decided to create a more balanced life. I then had eight years where the job was relatively easy. I enjoyed it, I was paid well, and I started to really enjoy life. I became socially more active, I bought a sailboat, obtained my pilot’s license and skied in Quebec during the winters. I met a young lady from Quebec City who later became my wife and we bought a house together in Toronto. So my focus I have to say was 70% outside work and 30% work.

Then after eight years I decided it was maybe time to restore the balance in the other direction. Phillips in Canada was solely a sales organization so I applied to another international company, Pirelli (cables, not tyres).

Pirelli cables then was much bigger in North America than Pirelli tyres, and they had a manufacturing facility in Guelph, an hour outside Toronto. So I applied there and got the job as marketing manager, which was broader than the sales role that I had with Phillips. I did very well with them, and the company in Canada improved its profitability and market share as a result of my efforts. After 10 years I became Vice President and General Manager, and I would say that I had only been hired by Pirelli because of my Engineering/MBA combination – which was more unusual back then.

How did you end up self-employed?

In 1990 Pirelli lost money internationally and that eliminated expansion plans for my operation in Guelph. I moved with them to Montreal for a couple of years, but then the Montreal operation was downsized, Pirelli Canada ceased to exist and was absorbed into Pirelli US. I was made redundant. I was 48 years old, financially sound and thrilled at the prospect of redesigning my life.

I had an excellent severance package and the support of an exceptional outplacement company, Murray Axmith. In an interesting twist they asked me to join them and I set up their 17th office in Canada. It was very successful and I really enjoyed helping other senior executives redesign their lives in similar circumstance to mine.

After three years I became aware of, and interested in, the concept of executive coaching. After some research I left Murray Axmith to set myself up as an independent executive coach. After some extensive training and education I became probably one of the first few professionally qualified executive coaches in Canada. I then had 10 years that were exceptionally satisfying, with some fantastic clients and a well balanced life. With no shortage of business I let things get out of control for a couple of years and when my wife retired from teaching I decided it was time for me to do the same. I’ve kept on a few client since then to keep the grey cells working, but only to match my schedule of activities.

I had never thought of myself as becoming self-employed or as an entrepreneur but I do think of myself as being self-reliant. I have always believed the principle that I am responsible for my own destiny, even when I’ve been part of a large corporate identity – that’s been there, maybe since my years at school. Would it have happened if I had not been made redundant? Probably not. But I’ve always been very sensitive to relationships – that was a transition that took place at Cass in London – part of my switch from left-brain to more of a human orientation.

What exactly is an Executive Coach?

The “elevator speech” is… “a coach engages a client in a spontaneously composed conversation that causes the client to develop new ideas that bring great clarity, focus and the strong desire to act in more effective and satisfying ways”. It took me years to develop that!

At the start, when people said to me “so what does an executive coach do?” I’d say “well spend an hour with me and experience what I do” and I would find that after that 7 out of 10 people would say “So when do we meet next!” For those people who get it, it is life changing, it’s astonishing. One of the points [of an article I wrote] is – who hires a coach? It’s someone with a combination of self-confidence and humility. They are confident enough that they can be transparent and self-aware but humble enough to know that they can, and want to, become more satisfied and effective.

Looking back I do recognize that I have been extraordinarily fortunate, with good opportunities that most people never have, Cass being one of them.

Weavee-ing Your Future Career

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, City News, Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.

DSC_1105In 2015 James Grant completed a BSc in Computer Science with Games Technology. He acquired not only a 2.1, but also three years of professional experience. It gave him the ‘edge [he] needed to build Weavee. Weavee is a career platform that doesn’t just help people to get the job they want, it helps them to discover what they can do. Here James tells us how his time at City equipped him to build the platform of the future.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

The defining part of my time at City University was undertaking the Professional Pathway scheme, a scheme that gave me the chance to gain three years work experience in addition to my degree. The professional pathway has informed all I do now.

At the start of the scheme, I joined the web development team at City University for a year, which is where I learned most of the web skills I have today. I then moved on to a new role with Euromoney in my second year, where I set up and ran a graduate scheme later progressing on to a startup called Bar Pass for four months and onto a contract with BOAT international for five months. My final placement was with Hays recruitment for five months.

Because of the various positions I held, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I left university. I wanted to build a business.

How did the idea for Weavee come about?

I was originally building a social network for my dissertation and during that time I considered the idea of scaling it outside of a university, however after pitching the idea at several startup communities it was clear that there is more to building a business than having an idea.

Throughout the employment process I found I was always facing the same process; put my CV in as many places as possible and hope that a job suiting my skills came up. It became increasingly harder even though my skills were developing. I figured that if I was having problems with an expanding CV, what was happening to the emerging talent just leaving University?

It was only during my time at Hays, where I was positioned inside the recruitment system that I considered the ineffective way recruitment agencies work. With UK recruitment agencies costing businesses an average of £4,000 per placement and successful appointment taking approximately three months, there is a lot of room for improvement. The situation won’t get better unless someone does something.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to Weavee?

In the short time that I have been working on Weavee (a mere nine months!), I have learned so much. The constant challenge hasn’t been the creation of the business; instead, it was being able to reach the right people able to advance the business.

At each stage, I have had to choose between building the business and networking. The former has taken priority and now each networking event is an opportunity for me to share Weavee’s progress to try to gain support. So far this strategy seems to work!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

To see how my actions have influenced others is really rewarding – we have some of the stories up on our Weavee blog.

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

Building a startup is tough. I wouldn’t suggest doing it unless you have some work experience and also a holistic understanding of the problem you are looking to solve. Having experienced first hand (and from various perspectives) the situation I am solving, I can understand the problems each person might face. This means I am better equipped to solve the problem in a balanced way. Only through experiencing the situation can you better understand why the situation exists, be able to appeal to stakeholders and solve the problems they have.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  St Paul’s
Favourite holiday destination:  Florida
Must-check every day website: Mashable.com
Dream travel destination:  Outer space
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese

If you would like to find out more about Weavee or get involved with their latest project WeaVR, please visit weavee.co.uk or connect with James via LinkedIn.





Finding a Passion; Lost in the City

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, City News.

Journalism graduate (1986) turned professional photographer, Nicholas Sack has just released his new photo book ‘Lost in the City’. Here he tells us what led him to photography and the concept behind his latest book.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I had edited the student newspaper whilst I was an undergraduate at Aston University. When I came to City in 1985 the Journalism Department was in a building on the corner of Skinner Street, on the floor above music rehearsal rooms. The sounds would intermingle – the clatter of manual typewriters and the tinkling of pianos – to create a symphony for Olivetti and Bechstein.

Our shorthand teacher was the legendary Harry Butler, who had written the definitive guide to Teeline and helped to decode Samuel Pepys’ own personal shorthand. He was a fearsome character; woe betide any student arriving even 15 seconds late for his lesson. Young women wept with frustration, but we all passed our 100 words-per-minute test at the end of the year.

What happened after you graduated?

I was already photographing for trade magazines between lectures. Photography was my hobby and when I graduated I decided to make a real go of it, to make it my living. I worked as a freelance for 30 years: mainly corporate commissions, portraits of the movers and shakers of commerce and industry in their working environments. This formality was spiced with more colourful assignments: record covers, outdoor clothes in Arctic Sweden, and the redevelopment of London’s docklands in the 1980s for construction and business magazines. I no longer accept commissions, and instead continue my personal projects for exhibitions and books. ‘Uncommon Ground’ was published in 2004, and here now is ‘Lost in the City’.

How did the idea for ‘Lost in the City’ come about?

I live close to central London and have been photographing in the Square Mile for 30 years. I was first struck by the collision of architecture – a Wren church slap-bang next to a tower of glass and steel – and I soon became interested in the office workers in the streets and alleys. Even in crowds they can appear isolated and estranged, scurrying from work-station to sandwich bar beneath overpowering buildings.

In my pictures I avoid tourist landmarks, words on fascias, slogans and logos: I aim to capture a state of other-worldliness, where figures seem strangely dislocated. The camera reveals surprising details: in a frozen moment the alpha-males marching along past the Bank of England have their heels on the pavement and toes pointing upward in a balletic pose.

bank of england

Last year I decided it was time to edit these thousands of pictures for a book, and Martin Usborne at Hoxton Mini Press was keen to publish it. He immediately saw a film-noir quality in these photos – Iain Sinclair notes a connection with Hitchcock in his introduction – and Martin rejected any pictures that included people smiling or looking happy. The City is a serious place; there is a sexual tension in some of these pictures, too.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to ‘Lost in the City’?

It was a challenge to whittle down the pictures for a book of just 60 images. The editing was a collaboration with the publisher and the designer. We didn’t always agree, but I think we each brought creative ideas to the final selection.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Well, I was thrilled when Iain accepted our invitation to write the intro because he has been a literary hero of mine for many years. And it was nice to have a piece in the Observer when the book was launched. I am interested in book design and printing; I involved myself in all the stages of production and learned a lot. I shoot on film, so scans were made of my prints, then tweaked for the book printers in China: the ability to control minute details is fascinating. For example, to enhance local contrast in one particular image we zoomed in on the computer and darkened the shin of a woman walking on the opposite side of the street.

But really, the most rewarding experiences are out there in the streets, taking the pictures. When everything coheres in the viewfinder – the people, the buildings, the street furniture, the shadows – you feel a surge of adrenaline and press the button.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Photography is a most fascinating medium: it’s both cerebral and emotional. I think the best way to understand and learn about pictures is to look at the masters – in books, at exhibitions, and in the Print Room at the V&A, where you consult the catalogue, fill in a slip, and prints by the photographer of your choice are delivered to your desk. This is where I gained a visual education, by studying the great American photographers like Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Harry Callahan and Henry Wessel. What gives a photograph its power to move the emotions? Is it the subject? The composition? The tones or colours? Searching for the answer is a wonderful exploration.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: The Black Friar pub: ornate art nouveau interior and good beer.
Favourite holiday destination: Chicago, a slightly old-fashioned American city.
Must-check every day website: Charlton Athletic Football Club. I’ve been a suffering supporter for 51 years.
Dream travel destination: San Francisco, for the topography of hills and bays.
Cheese or chocolate: Say ‘Cheese’!


Lost in the City by Nicholas Sack is published by Hoxton Mini Press in standard and collector’s editions. 


Header image: © Timothy Cooke

All other images: © Nicholas Sack

#Cassat50: Tatiana Serganova, 2011

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Photo_Tatiana SerganovaTatiana Serganova studied BSc Business and International Finance, 2011, and now works for an advertising software start-up. We caught up with her for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I’m was an international student and I did a foundation programme in London – which is like A’ Levels but a programme specifically for foreign students. I fell in love with London and knew Cass was one of the top schools in London, so when I knew I wanted to stay in London, I researched more and the School ticked all the boxes. Most Bachelor’s degrees are pretty broad, covering subjects like accounting, and I wanted to do something applicable for my future career. I chose Banking and International Finance which was very specific on one hand, with no broad knowledge base, but it also covers lots of different aspects and including insight in to the world of investments.

What was your experience of studying at Cass like?

My experience was very funny! One thing I remember is that I had this teacher in banking who taught the core banking module, and she was really great. We joined the course in 2008 at the peak of the financial crisis and as soon as we entered the room she said “It’s the financial crisis bankers are jumping out of windows and crazy things are happening, so it’s a good time to study!” I had such an interesting time, and I wrote numerous essays on why the crisis happened. Historically it was a great moment to study finance, very different from the normal experience.

I did a Masters afterwards (not at Cass) so I can compare, and Cass has a very good quality of lecturers. Everyone is very accomplished and we had people from the Bank of England, and big financial firms speaking to us. I really acknowledged the quality of the academics.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?

My first memory and also a highlight was when I entered and saw all the crazy stuff like the timetable and essays I was going to have to do, and I felt very overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I would be able to finish the course, it was so complex and I’m from another country the ways things are done are so different. Just looking back it’s funny I thought that. I graduated with honours – so it’s great to see your progress!

How has studying at Cass changed your life?

Well essentially for me it was a game changer. When I moved from abroad, Cass introduced me to the professional work environment, a new country and new friends and I’m grateful for all the experiences. I’ve got lots of good friends from Cass that I’m still in touch with, and some went with me to do a Masters. It’s great to be connected to so many like-minded people.
I didn’t pursue a career in finance but my degree gave me a good start and a very solid base in accounting, finance and economics, which are very applicable for any profession. Doing my degree was a big part of my life, when you’re in your 20s it’s a big deal and if counts for a lot.

After I finished my Cass degree I did an internship but then decided going in to finance was not the right career move. The studies were great but I did not see a career for me, although my parents wanted me to pursue it. I had the realisation that I wanted to do something new and tech-driven so I did a Masters in Digital Marketing. I was accepted into the programme without any questions because Cass gave me good breadth. When people ask where you studied, and hear Cass, they always say “Wow! Good school!”.

And you’re a mentor too?

Yes, I’m a mentor in the Professional Mentoring Programme run by City. I really always wanted to and so when I got email about how to be more involved, I had to volunteer. I remember myself being a student and not knowing how to apply for jobs and what to do with my career – I was not sure of the path or where to turn to. So I was very confused and didn’t know what to do, and hopefully my experiences can help someone else now.

This is my first year in the programme and I’m working with a 2nd year student from City. It’s going well. He had the aim to increase his employability skills and get a placement, so we worked on that and he got a placement and felt very motivated by me. I’ll always remember how I felt and how wished I had someone to guide me, so it’s great to give back.