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Is Home Really Where the Heart is?

Alumni Stories.

In her debut novel ‘I Belong’, alumna Valeria Puig Sobredo (Bar Professional Training Course, 2018) explores the concept of finding our place in the world whilst tackling issues of identity and immigration. Inspired by her own decision to live abroad, Valeria’s book draws on personal experience to tell this story of belonging and searching for home.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I had a great experience studying at City, University of London. The tutors were very supportive and knowledgeable. I loved the quality of the course and City Law School offers very interesting pro-bono opportunities. I also made some great friends during my degree.

What happened after you graduated?

I finished my course on 3rd September 2018 after handing in my dissertation, and I dedicated the following four months to writing my book. In January 2019, I was awarded two scholarships from The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple to undertake two internships: one at the Cabinet of Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and a second placement at the IRMCT in The Hague.

How did the idea for I Belong come about?

The book is a story of migration that tells the journey of a young woman who leaves Uruguay in 2006 at the age of 18 to go study in Europe, and ten years later finds herself working in refugee camps in West and Central Africa. This was based on a big part of my life having left my country of birth and living abroad all these years. I wanted to analyse different social concepts that I ran into during my time overseas. These essentially were matters of identity, the notion of privilege which varies from country to country, and the way I was perceived being a South American woman working in either Europe, the USA or several countries in West and Central Africa.

The story also talks about finding a place in the world with which we identify ourselves, and where we feel we fit or as per the title, belong. I think this is a very relevant concept to our generation which consists of many “citizens of the world” and which was not the case for instance, with my parents’ generation in Uruguay. Consequently, this made me reflect a lot about my own upbringing in the Uruguayan society and what I might have given up in exchange for my experience abroad.

Given that I worked in refugee camps for two and a half years, I decided to also add a layer in the story where Magdalena, the main character, finds out that her mother’s childhood friend was taken to Sweden as a refugee during the Uruguayan dictatorship four decades before. After this, she seeks to reunite them, but given that she is still working in refugee settings in Africa, this now starts stirring personal issues. Essentially her two worlds, the professional and the personal one, start merging together making it more difficult to keep a certain distance working in areas in conflict.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

I think the most rewarding experience will be when I finally have a printed version of my book in my hands. The book will be released on 15th August. However, being able to have a finished product (although one might think that their book “is never really finished” and always needs tweaking) was a great success. My grandmother was always a huge inspiration to me and being able to write this book is also in a way, something I can dedicate to her and to my parents.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to writing your book?

I undertook considerable sociological and academic research in order to write part of the book. It was very interesting, but also demanding. For instance, I analysed several notions such as privilege and undertook research on the topic of race, white privilege and the place that ethnic minorities occupy in Uruguay. I then compared this with other countries such as the USA and the UK, through the eyes of my character. I merged this analysis with the concept of immigration and nationality, which in Uruguay occupy a considerable historical role.

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

Three main things I recommend are; discipline, having others read your work, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said: “There are no more than two rules for writing: having something to say, and saying it.” I had something to say, but it was the constant rewriting process and the feedback from others that ensured I said it well.

‘I Belong’ will be released on 15th August, however it is available for pre-order now. To get your copy, please visit: bit.ly/2TJ6KXD

Official expert in risk management

Alumni Stories.

Daniel VolpeCongratulations to Daniel Volpe (Business Undergraduate Exchange, 2008) for recently qualifying as an actuary in Brazil – the highest level of qualification attainable within the Institute and Faculties of Actuaries (IFoA). What makes this achievement even more special is that Daniel is widely considered to be the first Brazilian to qualify and to do so in his native country!

Having now received the FIA (Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries) designation, Daniel shares with us how Cass Business School has hugely enhanced his career and helped to secure him his dream job!

 

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

As part of my Actuarial Science Degree from the University of Rome, I spent my last year at Cass Business School through a scholarship arrangement. For me, it was a unique opportunity to have contact with the British actuarial profession and standards. I took full advantage of it by attending lectures in topics that were not easily available in my home country. While studying hard, I have also met very interesting people, who I continue to keep in constant contact with.

My plan was to have an international working experience after my graduation. I found the carrier centre of City most helpful with preparing for job interviews.

 

What happened after you graduated?

After graduation, I started working for an actuarial consulting firm, which helped me to gain the international experience I was seeking.

After five years of working there, I received a phone call from the Chief Actuary of a large multinational bancassurance company, who explained to me that there was a vacancy in my home town in Brazil. Having studied at Cass, it certainly helped me to score points at this process and secure this appointment.

I have also started actuarial exams for the IFoA. Although there is not such a formal process to become a qualified actuary in Brazil, I believe that this is the best class of actuarial qualification and it will only benefit my future career.

 

Congratulations on becoming – what appears to be – the first Brazilian FIA! 

Successfully completing my actuary qualification and becoming an IFoA member has not only been a huge career goal but pure self-achievement. This was particularly rewarding to me as it was not an obligation of my role but something I just personally wanted to accomplish.

 

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

I recommend people exploring the possibilities that may take you out of your comfort zone. This is what makes life exiting!

For Brazilians planning on taking the IFoA exam, I recommend being prepared to “run a marathon”.

 

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?

The financial centre at Canary Wharf has always inspired me as a place I would like to work at – which I did on many occasions.

I also enjoy the surrounding areas of Buckingham Palace including Green and Hyde parks.

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?

I believe it is very important how you get to your destination. The trip I enjoyed most was a two-week car trip from Germany to Italy.

Which website do you check every day? 

BBC News

What is your dream travel holiday?

A sailing trip

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?

Cheese

Innovative approach to personalising the experiences of online consumers

Alumni Stories.

Having recently graduated after completing the two-year Executive MBA course at Cass Business School, Isabella Aberle is already putting her new and developed skills into action by improving the experiences of both consumers and online companies. Isabella’s new venture Xarista – which has just successfully secured a spot on City Launch Lab – will support businesses with personalising their websites based on who is visiting them, making the user experience much more relevant and enjoyable.

We caught up with Isabella to find out more about her time at Cass Business School and how Xarista came about. 

 

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

Having heard great stories from friends advocating for an MBA, it definitely weighed in on my decision to study the programme. Now with the studies behind me, I feel fortunate that I shared a similarly fantastic experience and learning journey. My time at Cass Business School was one of a kind!

It was challenging at times to manage time and energy, especially during year one of the two-year Executive MBA programme. But with the breadth of subjects and assignments, there was a constant sense of achievement. I equally enjoyed learning about new disciplines, and more about those I was already familiar with, either as part of my first studies or professional life.

Also, I cannot overemphasise the importance of my cohort and other Cass and City, University of London members. I’ve met amazing people from all types of backgrounds who I now call my friends.

 

What happened after you graduated?

I used my thesis to look into a specific business idea – a new form of web personalisation on users’ terms. With the learnings from the MBA and previous roles in strategy and product management, I had a solid tool kit to analyse the market, shape the core proposition and assess the potential of different routes to market.

By the time we finished our last lectures, I was confident in the business idea and dedicated most of my time to it. While we reached the next milestones over the following months, for example market validation with our prototype, I phased out other work commitments. Now, just after graduation, we are a small and growing team gearing up to launch our service Xarista.

With Xarista, third-party online companies can personalise their websites based on who is visiting them. Online companies in fashion, travel or groceries can tailor their products and content to suit each visitor’s preferences, and thus drive conversion and sales. Xarista users, individuals browsing the web, save time and enjoy relevant experiences online, while they are in control of their data.

Xarista offers true 1:1 web personalisation from the first second, and is a great step towards responsible marketing practises online.

 

How was Xarista born?

I spend a lot of time online and was frustrated by the time spent unnecessarily. Personalisation has been a ‘hot topic’ in marketing and consumer services for many years. However, when I go to a retail website, it takes time and effort to narrow down the product range to what I like – although a large part of my preferences and requirements (e.g. shoe size, holiday preferences) are consistent over time or across shopping sites. The cookie approach just doesn’t help much.

Moreover, I strongly believe it is the right time for the retail industry to take the next step in building out their web experiences via personalisation. There are regulatory pressures (GDPR), commercial pressures (it’s an Amazon world), and users are increasingly sensitive about their data and its value.

It was almost an obvious choice to combine my experience in marketing automation, transactional digital products and blockchain, and team up with other subject matter experts to create a service that meets the needs of both individuals and online companies.

 

Sounds great! Congratulations on Xarista securing a spot on City Launch Lab. Can you tell us a bit more about how that happened?

We learned about the City Launch Lab in the Entrepreneurship elective of my MBA. The City Launch Lab is the first of a series of steps CityVentures have taken to support student and alumni entrepreneurs with learning and support infrastructure.

We’re thrilled that Xarista got selected as one of the most promising ventures for the next intake this February. We look forward to the programme, especially the initial accelerator phase and the opportunity to share office space with some of the brightest entrepreneurs and most successful ventures that will grow at City over the next 12 months. This will definitely help boost Xarista and facilitate faster progression on our journey.

 

What have been the biggest challenges with setting up your own business?

Starting a company is a constant struggle of resources – time, human capital and financial capital. However, a successful entrepreneur is someone who thinks beyond current limitations. This meant for us two things. One, to be creative and always look out for a better way to spend our time, skills and funds to progress Xarista. And two, to balance dependencies between these resource pools carefully.

This was sometimes counterintuitive. We have, for instance, turned down an investment package including development resources, when we were looking for funding as well as development capacity. It was a tough call. Fewer dependencies – hence better optionality – helped us move faster and more confidently eventually.

 

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Unlocking the various pieces of building a company, step by step, was a most rewarding experience – and it still is!

Among the top things about entrepreneurial life I cherish, are the sense of purpose and how feedback from users or the businesses we speak to keeps the team and myself going the extra mile.

It’s true that every single conversation or meeting can bring up new ideas, new partnership opportunities and even more audacious goals. You never know what’s next. But we do know we’re onto something and wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!

 

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

I genuinely enjoyed that my MBA journey took me to a very different place than I imagined at the outset. Hence, my advice for anyone considering an MBA or secondary studies is to keep an open mind. To embrace the challenge – and the change! To gauge if an unforeseen opportunity is the right one to go for – and if it is, to do so decisively.

 

Is there anything the City community could help you with at this point?

Yes, indeed – I wouldn’t be a true start-up entrepreneur without asking for help!

Fellow students and alumni, do you have experience in online retail or know someone who is an expert in the field? I would love to hear your thoughts on Xarista and its impact on online retail/eCommerce as we know it today. Please email: isabella@xarista.io. Thanks for reaching out!

Do you spend a lot of time online and would like to own your experience with online retailers? Learn more about how Xarista can help you and sign up today at: https://xarista.io/ to start building your profile.

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?
Shad Thames

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?
Hong Kong

Which website do you check every day? 
Product Hunt

What is your dream travel destination?
I’d be suspicious of myself if I had only one! Cuba has been high up on my list for a while.

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate

To find out more, visit: xarista.io.

Protecting the biosphere

Alumni Stories.

Angus Forbes is the founder of the charitable endeavour Bankers without Boundaries and is a Cass MBA alumnus passionate about protecting the biosphere through the creation of a Global Planet Authority, by way of the first action of global self-determination. He has recently launched the website www.votegpa.com and is married to ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing Judge, Dame Darcey Bussell DBE. Find out more below about Angus’ story… 

 

What did you study at Cass and what happened after you graduated?

I did an evening MBA in the Barbican Building.

I was working at Merrill Lynch as a stockbroker while I did my MBA, so I kept on working there. A few years later, I joined a hedge fund for a further six years and for the last 10 years, I have worked in small business, non-finance.

 

How did your business idea come about?

Two years ago, I started advocating global governance of the biosphere. I suspect it was due to my life experiences and observations.

The first 20 years of my life, I lived all over the world as my father was a diplomat. The second 20, I was in the City, here in London and I specialised in the consumer sector. The last ten I have had reasonable exposure to the environmental philanthropic sector.

 

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your business?

Well, I started from scratch. I had to be brave enough to stand up and start talking about what I felt passionate about.

In two years, people have joined and we are beginning to get organised into work streams and become more effective at getting the idea out.

 

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Having 90% of hands go up of A level students, indicating that they would vote a Global Planet Authority into place…and having people join me on the journey.

 

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

If my footsteps are to be followed, I’d say, always pursue your passion when you can. There are times when you have to just knuckle down and earn some cash and feed yourself and your family, but never let go of what feels right and natural for you. Your passion doesn’t have to be some revelation, or some great insight. Most of the time, it’s just recognising what comes naturally to you. That’s because your brain and your soul are telling you.

 

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?
Probably the walk path just inside Green Park, heading down towards the Mall. You have the London plain trees around you and feel right in the epicentre of a world city, a global cross roads.

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?
Wherever there is a clean beach and a medium sized wave. Bondi at the middle flags is pretty special.

Which websites do you check every day? 
Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg and embarrassingly, I google Dame Darcey Bussell, my wife, just in case there’s some erroneous article written about her. I like to know if she needs a bit of protection, given she is in the public eye.

What is your dream travel destination?
Right now, to ski in the rockies, I have never been there.

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?
Tough question. Chocolate just wins.

Tamara Hasan (Banking and International Finance, 2003) takes home prestigious prize at alumni awards in Qatar

Alumni Stories.

Tamara Hasan

 

When a close friend suffered an injury and wasn’t able to find a quality physiotherapy clinic, Tamara Hasan (Banking and International Finance, 2003) decided it was time to take action and raise the standards of healthcare in Qatar by opening her own clinic.

Having opened The International Physiotherapy Clinic in 2015, Tamara continued to expand her business by opening a second branch, as well as a third clinic, The International Medical Centre. This commitment to provide the highest level of medical care to the local community has rightfully earned Tamara the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Qatar.

Following the awards, we caught up with Tamara to find out more…

Can you tell me about your time at Cass and what happened after you graduated?

It was a very long time ago but I have very fond memories of the University, the people I met and who can forget the student union!

Once, I graduated, I completed an internship with Lehman Brothers, which was a great experience. Fresh out of university and working with highly intelligent individuals! Following this, I then joined their graduate scheme and the rest of this as they say, is history!

Nomura then took over Lehman Brothers and I continued working there on the proprietary trading desk, trading equities globally for the portfolio managers. It was one of the most intensive jobs I have ever had, but one in which I will never forget. It taught me to be accurate, determined and definitely no pushover! In 2014, I got married and moved to Doha, where I set up my own healthcare business.

 

Yes, please tell us about how your business was born?

Unfortunately, a few years back my friend broke his arm while on a desert safari. After the incident, he really struggled to find a quality physiotherapy clinic in Doha and contemplated moving back to the UK for treatment.

So, I knew change was needed, and that is when I chose to open The International Physiotherapy Clinic in 2015. A year on from that, I opened a second branch and then another clinic with GP doctors, The International Medical Centre, to continue improving the health standards in Qatar.

 

What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of opening your own business?

There are many rewarding aspects to opening your own business, however with healthcare it is more tangible. What has been most rewarding is knowing that the clinic has been able to directly impact the local community by rehabilitating people from various injuries – anything from minor to chronic. These are people that previously travelled abroad for high quality care, or lived silently in pain.

I would say that the most challenging aspect of opening your own business is all the paperwork! There are lots of rules, regulations and ministries to deal with, and often the information required is not easily accessible. It has required a lot of hard work, and of course patience!

 

Well it certainly seems like you’ve been very successful. Congratulations on winning Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards!

From a very young age, my dad instilled in me the saying ‘education, education, education!’ That is the one thing that no one can take away from you and he really pushed my sister, brother and I by putting us in top schools in the UK. It was this education that allowed me to go onto complete my university degree at Cass Business School and set the foundations of what was soon to be my career in banking.

Having moved to Qatar and set up something totally out of my comfort zone and unrelated to my 10-year banking career, it has been a dream to win the Study UK Alumni award. Especially as Doha is actually my birth place, so to be able to give back to the local community and help improve people’s health in Doha has made it even more special. I also felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to study in the UK and now represent my university, Cass, for all the doors it has opened for me.

 

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

There will be people who will tell you your goals are impossible or put doubts in your mind that things are possible. My advice? Don’t listen! Keep pushing yourself and give it a go – you would be surprised how far drive, hard work and common sense get you.

 

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?
Has to be Covent Garden. The cobbled streets, the market stands and who can forget, Ben’s Cookies!

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?
Beijing

Which website do you check every day? 
BBC News

What is your dream travel destination?
Africa on a safari

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate – hands down!

To find out more, visit https://theipcentre.com/ and https://theimcentre.com/ and follow the team on Facebook and Instagram: theipcentre & theimcentre.

Photo credit: British Council Qatar

Helping women take control of their finances

Alumni Stories.

After starting a career in investment management, Davinia Tomlinson (Executive MBA, 2017), soon realised that the number of women actually investing in their future was considerably low. Noticing a gap in the market for a financial advice service for women, Davinia recently launched rainchq.

Here you can read about Davinia’s time at Cass Business School and how rainchq is supporting women with making financial decisions for themselves and their families.  

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

I originally embarked on the Executive MBA because I’d become frustrated with corporate life and felt that I wasn’t really fulfilling my potential. I was desperate to run my own business but lacked the confidence, the resources and the the understanding of how businesses worked.

This is why I chose to study at Cass. I knew it would provide me with access to the university’s outstanding academic and professional networks both in the UK and overseas, while also encouraging me to build relationships that would stand the test of time. I’m pleased to say that my experiences at Cass are among some of my most rewarding and memorable.

The modular programme was particularly attractive because it enabled me to juggle work, study and motherhood simultaneously and gave me an insight into how far I could stretch myself in meeting multiple different commitments. I couldn’t have selected a better launchpad for my transition into entrepreneurship.

What happened after you graduated?

By graduation, I was pregnant with my second child so I went on maternity leave a few weeks later. During this time, my thinking around a concept – that would eventually become rainchq – had started to crystallise.

I began the process of fleshing out the idea in more detail and testing it with colleagues, friends and family. Over a year later and having pivoted the business model twice before launching, rainchq opened for business to help women take control of their financial futures.

How did rainchq come about?

The idea for rainchq came to me shortly after I started my career in the investment management industry over a decade ago. I was shocked by the low numbers of women investing and couldn’t understand why. With data showing that women typically save up to 3 times less than men do for later life and a gender pension gap in the UK of 40%, there was a real opportunity to make a difference to how women plan for the future.

My vision is to help millions of UK women take control of their financial future and ultimately, prevent pensioner poverty through a 3 pillar service. We offer:

  • financial education – designed to demystify the world of investing and unravel the jargon the industry is renowned for
  • access to qualified and regulated financial advice, delivered via video conferences to maximise accessibility to women across the country
  • events focused on all aspects of holistic wellbeing, from financial through to physical

What have been the biggest challenges?

As a bootstrapped business, financed through savings as well as support from family, one of the biggest challenges of course is funding.

Aside from this, there was also a small minority group of people who questioned the validity of a financial services business focused exclusively on women. Some of the feedback I received during the research process, primarily from women, was that I was at risk of alienating or isolating them even further. My response to this is: for many of the population, the current approach to financial services, at least in the UK, excludes many women through poorly targeted communications, inaccessible services and a more masculine and aggressive approach overall.

rainchq is designed to tackle some of these issues by creating a service designed to meet the, arguably, distinctive financial needs of 50% of the population, who have historically been ignored.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The best part of this journey for me was the research process. During this time, I met dozens of women in focus groups, conducted scores of one-to-one interviews and received survey feedback, which helped me to validate the business idea and gave me greater confidence that there might be a gap in the market for a service like this.

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

Surround yourself with a positive, supportive group of like-minded people who can help keep you upbeat during the inevitable slumps but who can also offer constructive feedback on things you can improve. I would also encourage anyone in a similar position to ensure that they have a good financial safety net before they leave paid employment so they don’t have to worry about paying the bills in the first year. And finally – however long you think it will take to get the business off the ground, double it! Patience is a much needed virtue in this process.

Now for some quick fire questions:

Where is your favourite place in London?
Greenwich Park

What is your favourite holiday destination (that you’ve travelled to)?
Thailand

Which website do you check every day? 
Financial Times

What is your dream travel destination?
Anywhere in the Caribbean

Do you prefer cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate!

To find out more, visit rainchq.com and follow the team on all social media platforms @rainchq

Scholar Spotlight: Christian Klotz (Management, 2016)

Scholar Spotlight.

Christian Klotz is a recipient of the Sandhu Charitable Foundation Scholarship. Here he talks about the impact the scholarship has had:

I decided that I wanted to stay in London for university as my family and closest friends were all based there, as well as London being a great city to experience life as student. Having looked at the various business schools, Cass business school stood out to me due to its strong reputation in the UK, and also its established connection with large companies and industries in London. A key outcome from university is being able to get a good job at the end to start your career, which is why I felt that network would add a lot of value.

The Sandhu scholarship that I received made a massive difference to my time at University. My parents have never had a very large income, and receiving this scholarship meant that I did not have to feel that I should reach out to my parents for financial support, and also made me feel much more at ease knowing that I would be leaving university with a much smaller student debt. As a result, I did not feel pressure to be working many hours in a part-time job to support myself financially while at University. This allowed me to focus my energy on my studies, and I ended up receiving the highest BSc Management 1st year average, as well as coming in the top 10% of students in my second and third year of study.

The scholarship also made it possible for me to spend my second year of university abroad in America, at one of Cass business schools exchange partners, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The various opportunities that Cass offers are incredible, they allow you to add something unique to your CV that can differentiate you against others in a very competitive jobs market. This year abroad has been very well received in subsequent interviews that I had, and helped me to develop my understanding of different cultures and backgrounds which I am now interacting with every day in my work.

Another huge benefit of receiving this scholarship was the opportunity to meet several times with Bim and Pardeep, who offered the scholarship. They have a genuine desire to make a positive difference in the lives of students who require support. In a way, they acted as mentors for me throughout my university years, and we continue to stay in contact even now, almost two years after graduating.

I am now working at Barclays HQ in London, on the Human Resources graduate programme. I have had a number of challenging and rewarding rotations already in various divisions of the bank including HR business partnering (Investment Bank and Group Risk team), and I am currently in the central Performance Management team. The skills and knowledge that I gained at Cass business school have helped me to perform to a high standard in my rotations so far, and the network of friends that I built during university will continue to be a strong presence in my work and social life. I am very grateful for my time at Cass business school, and for having received the Sandhu Scholarship, and hope that one day I’ll be in a position to offer something similar to students in a similar situation to me. 

SPOTLIGHT: Despina Afentouli (ΜΑ International Journalism, 2004)

Alumni Stories.

Our alumni are really amazing and we want to share their achievements with the world! In the SPOTLIGHT this month is Despina Afentouli (ΜΑ International Journalism, 2004)

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I did my Master’s degree in International Journalism at “The City University London”, as it was then called.

I chose the broadcast (radio) path and I remember that every week, under the guidance of our professors, Mike Gandon and Christabel King, we had to prepare a radio package to be broadcasted live on City University’s radio station. It was a unique experience, as we were working as journalists under real pressure conditions. I also I gained work-experience at London Greek Radio and BBC Greek Division.

Many important journalists and experts taught us and visited the City University Department of Journalism, including Roy Greenslade and Mark Bryane from The Dart Europe.

I remember the international news professor, Roger Tooze and how his effective teaching approach made me re-consider my perception about the world.

My thesis supervisor Lis Howell provided me with a great moral and professional support.

Tell us about your journey in journalism?

After I graduated, I stayed in London for my doctoral research on the British Press at the British Library and gained work experience at CNN International. In 2006, I moved back to Athens to work on my Ph.D. thesis. Whilst also continuing to work as a journalist.

I worked for media, such as ANT1 TV, Τouristiki Agora magazine, and Economist-Intelligent Life magazine. I also served as a special advisor at the Press Office and Public Relations for the Ministry of Education, LongLife Learning and Religious Affairs in Greece.

Since 2012, I have taught as a professor in Journalism and Social Sciences for the Open University of Cyprus, the Technological Educational Institute of Athens, the Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands, the University of Wolverhampton/College of Professional Journalism – to name a few.

For about eight years, I served as a City Council Member of Dionyssos City and then, as a Regional Member of the Attica Region in Athens, Greece. I was the youngest and the only woman elected in the local parties I was a candidate with.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea/business?

The biggest challenge I faced as a journalist is working overseas. But this experience helped me to adjust quickly to new cultural environments, create context for international audiences and diverse communities, and build strong professional relationships.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

One of the most rewarding experiences was when I received my PhD degree in Sociology in 2010 and then, in 2012, when I published my doctoral thesis as a book entitled, “The position of the British Press in the Greek-Turkish relations, 1955-1965” in Greece.

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

If I could give an advice, it would be this; be authentic, honest, fair, and objective to the best of your abilities. Time reveals the truth. Be the one who foresaw, discovered, and defended it.

Migration Made Easy

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Tripti Maheshwari (Finance, 2015) recently won the ‘International alumni of the year’ award at The Pie PIEoneer Awards. Now her platform Student Circus has been selected as one of the businesses to participate in the Mayor of London’s International Business Growth Programme. We caught up with Tripti to hear more about Student Circus and why students, universities and employers should watch this space.

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

I had a few offers from different universities after I completed my degree at Lancaster but all of my professors said you should go to Cass for finance. Coming from an Economics degree and reading about what Cass has done, it was a no-brainer to say ‘let’s do it’. The masters is so industry relevant. They get experts who are working in the industry to teach you. It is not only academia and research, it is very very practical. It was the best time ever.

What happened graduation?

Soon after graduating I realised that I wanted a job. I finally landed an internship with a start up in Soho in London. They wanted to have me full time but I couldn’t because of my issues with my visa issues and that’s where the idea came up.  I wanted to know why is it so difficult to find a job if you’re skilled and only your visa is a problem. Apparently because of a lack of a direct way to apply international students and graduates have been applying for the wrong jobs. Out of desperation we focused on quantity – how many applications have we sent out today – rather than understanding where to apply and who would sponsor.

How did you set up Student Circus?

We did three months of market research, made a business plan, did panel interviews. Oliver from the Cass Entrepreneurship fund helped us to break down and focus more clearly on our business idea. We also got in touch with the City team and we were offered a place at the City Launch Lab incubation space. We got so much support from how to deal with people, who to contact, how to sell your platform, and soon after Cass was one of our first clients.

How does Student Circus work?

The core of the platform is information about which jobs should you apply for versus which ones you shouldn’t. We get in touch with employers and verify with them whether or not they are using their license to sponsor for graduates and what criteria they have in place. We’ve built a customer algorithm on the platform which basically aggregates these jobs. It works like Sky Scanner. On Sky Scanner you find the cheapest flights, on Student Circus you can find the jobs which would sponsor and you can filter them based on industry or location. Students and graduates sign up using their university email ID and are able to access the jobs platform, do their applications and do their application management. We’ve also got features like immigration assistant; we have partnered with a legal company in London. Our features center around the user journey of a student. Because we went through it, we understand our user so well, and so we know where to plug the gaps. We call ourselves a seamless extension to careers resources. But we always welcome feedback, so every university that comes on board have full rights to ask for new features included in that cost that they are paying. They are building the platform with us essentially so it’s very user-driven.

Where is Student Circus based? 

We’re a UK based company but we outsource a lot of our work to different parts of the world.  Some of the team are based in the city I come from, Jaipur in Rajasthan in India. We’ve also got some content writers, who are primarily students across the globe and we take a lot of contribution from alumni. So it’s pretty much all over the world.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up Student Circus?

I think the biggest challenge we face is perception. issue. The moment that we tell people that we have a jobs platform and a skill-building platform for international students, they ask ‘why would you do that, students don’t get jobs’. But this is absolutely false because students do get jobs and companies are ready to hire them, as long as they fit the criteria.  Also students think ‘why should I apply, it’s so difficult to get a job’. It is difficult but it’s not impossible. Even if you’re a home student, it’s equally difficult to find a job these days. It takes 4-6 months for any graduate and as an international student you get only 4 months on your visa after you finish your degree. That’s not really enough. So you need to get it right from the very beginning. So I think enforcing that message again and again is the biggest challenge.

What has been the most rewarding part of it?

The fact that we’re able to help. As a student I would have wanted this and now we’re able to help those who are so talented, who come in with such high hopes and aspirations, and they finally have a gateway to make it happen. The moment we hear someone has got a job or got accepted, it’s like the best day ever.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start up their own business?

I think what I’ve learnt and what I really tell others is you really have to step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t help to search on Google, you have to get in touch with people. You may feel they won’t answer but the worst thing they’ll do is say no. But if you don’t ask you don’t get and we often say that we’ve become shameless in asking for things because that’s the only way to get what you want. Unless people know that you need something, you’ll never get it so that’s the one thing we follow, just ask, ask, ask until you get it.

What are the next steps for Student Circus? 

We are currently fundraising to take us to the next level. Last year we had four universities as partners, this year we have almost 25. It’s a huge increase and a huge responsibility to deliver. We‘re also launching a job readiness platform very soon. It’s called Ignis by Student Circus which will essentially prepare a student. I think there is still a large gap in the readiness of a student to apply for these jobs and on our journey we’ve met experts in their fields. So we want to bring them all to our platform and create learning content and job readiness content. And if anyone from outside the UK, wants to come to the UK market, they have to understand how it works. So we want to create the international mobility community but make it very information friendly and accessible. And hopefully, in the next 2 years, we are planning a launch in Australia. So those will be the next steps.

Exercising Ethically

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

In the dawn of the paper straw and the reusable coffee cup, it’s no surprise that Gareth Evans (MBA, 2017) and his business partner Joe Lines, saw a gap in the market for truly sustainable, high performing, ethical activewear. Here Gareth tells the story of his new venture Peak+Flow; activewear that is kind to the earth but tough enough for your weekly HITT session.

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?

When I decided to study an MBA, I had a very clear goal of leaving my career in sales, and wanted to develop a deeper understanding of how businesses work. I didn’t know what field I wanted to move into precisely, but I felt that an MBA would help me to explore my options.

Cass Business School ticked all the right boxes for me due to its excellent London location, which was near my work and home. Plus, the fact that it offered an Executive MBA programme allowed me to fit study around my busy work schedule.

What happened after you graduated?

The day I handed in my Business Mastery Project, my company changed my role, so I achieved my aim of getting out of sales on the very day I finished the programme; a brilliant return on my investment.

Since then I have, along with my business partner, gone on to grow a consulting practice and also to launch a new sustainable activewear company, Peak+Flow.

How did Peak+Flow come about?

Gareth and Joe

 

Peak+Flow was born out of three simple realisations which developed over time:

Most activewear was created using materials that were damaging to the planet. Our options were to either buy from established brands who occasionally pay lip-service to sustainability, or end up with hessian-type clothing which didn’t perform.

Secondly, we saw activewear as a category being dragged increasingly towards fast-fashion: resulting in clothing that was over logo-ed, over-designed and released faster than necessary to the consumer. Not everyone wants to walk around advertising a brand in fluorescent yellow.

Lastly, we spent time researching brands and companies manufacturing activewear and found a lack of transparency and purpose. We believe many consumers see through the gigantic advertising budgets and would like to see a company delivering on values that people care deeply about.

The result of these was both of us asking how would you build a company that would ethically create sustainable clothing.

What has been the biggest challenge?

We knew when we set out it was going to be very challenging, and it still is.

While sustainability and ethical manufacturing are being discussed more and more today, when we started out two years ago it wasn’t so common. It was a challenge trying to find suppliers and partners that met the standards required, while we are selves were trying to establish our principles at the same time as learning about the industry. Quality and function have always been paramount but equal to sustainability and ethical production.

It is challenging as a new business to find partners that will work with you, and you multiply that when your demands surpass that of nearly everyone in the industry.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Seeing the response that people have had to the brand, both online and at the trade shows we have done. Hearing people tell us that this is what they have been waiting for is very rewarding after a 2-year journey.

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

It is going to take longer than you think, and that is ok.

Enjoy the journey and realise that no one wants it to go as quickly as you do.

 

Peak+Flow is currently fundraising via Kickstarter. To find out more and support the cause, please visit: kck.st/2Rn1Jzh

You can also follow them on Instagram: @peakandflow

 

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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