Andrew came to Cass to study for his MBA to improve his career prospects. We caught up with him to chat about his time at Cass and how his career has progressed since graduating in 2000 for our continuing #Cassat50 series.
Why did you come to Cass?
First, the question is why did I want to do an MBA? At the end of the 1990s I worked for the blue chip multinational Bristol-Myers Squibb as Head of Clairol, their Beauty Care Division in Russia. Doing an MBA was one of the options in my career development plan that I had discussed with my superiors. Soon after the Russian financial crisis in 1998, a decision was made on the strategic divestment of beauty care business, and as a first step they closed Eastern Europe operations. I decided to use this as a natural break to do my MBA and improve my business knowledge.
I knew I had made a good career in the 1990s but to go further I 100% needed to improve my business education, as I’d only studied International Law & Politics and not business.
And as to why City University Business School (CUBS, as it was then), it was the personal connection. The Marketing Manager in my office got sponsorship from the British Council, specifically to do an MBA at CUBS. When I travelled to London on business he invited me to visit him at the Barbican and he showed me around and invited me to meet the head of International Business stream. We had a 30 minutes discussion, and at the end of which I received a personal invite to do my MBA there. I just had to pass the GMAT exam and I would be accepted. I was excited and pleased, so when Clairol was closed I immediately applied and was accepted.
What was your experience of studying at Cass?
First of all it was an important personal challenge. I was already 36, and married with a daughter, living a nice life. Now I had to move to London for a year and live in dorm room with young students. It was a big challenge not only professionally but also personally! It was a year of learning and discovery – and I think I benefitted from the studies both as a manager and as a person.
I studied lots of subjects that I was not very strong at previously and met lots of interesting people, both academics and classmates. When you study at Cass you are in the heart of international business and you feel the pulse. It’s not close to you or around you, you are part of it and you feel it every day. In the mornings I would get a fresh issue of FT and a coffee at Starbucks, and just feel you’re at the centre of London.
What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?
Well there is not particularly any event I remember, but in general I have great memories of the people – my classmates and academics. I keep friendships with many former classmates from different countries. For example in our group there were English, Indian, South East Asian, Serbian, South African and Ghanaian students, and me from Russia. We were a diverse cultural environment and needed to put our efforts together to be successful as a team. There were lots of challenges and hurdles but it led to common success. I cherish the time I spent with them in studies and entertaining. The local guys invited us to local places we’d never have found by ourselves like jazz clubs!
How has studying at Cass changed your life?
First of all when I graduated I felt I’d become a more mature manager and person. I’d faced the challenge, had overcome it, and in the process acquired new skills and knowledge and a more broad view on business. I now knew how to make business internationally.
Soon after graduation I was invited to take a CEO position with a Russian affiliate of a big European construction materials company, so I managed to make the career breakthrough and got the top position I had been looking for. My task was to make a strategic restructuring of the business, and fresh from my MBA this was the dream task to do in practice. It was a successful restructure and I’m pretty sure I owe my success to CUBS. Now I’m at my fourth company in a GM position and it’s all still thanks to my MBA.
One year after I graduated I was asked to advise a potential student from Russia, so I met with her and based on our discussions she went to Cass. She’s made a fantastic career in Europe and now lives and works in London. I have to say, 15 years post-graduation, if I had to advise someone again I would still say go to Cass!