Ralf Arditti studied MBA Administrative Sciences, 1970 and was active in promoting the School to students in Turkey after he graduated. His wife created the “Soaring Wings” sculpture that stands in the courtyard at Cass today!
Why did you come to Cass?
The main reason was the location. Then, the Business School was located in Basinghall Street, really close to the Bank of England. I had finished college and graduated from Robert College in Istanbul, studying BSc Mechanical Engineering. So I saw all the people in the City and chose to study in this great business centre.
I knew that the aura of the City would grab me and help me establish networks and contacts. When I started, the Business School was still not well known. It was actually a polytechnic a few years before, when it was called the Northampton Institute, and that didn’t have the same prestige. We all wanted to go to a University!
At the time most MSc (Ralf’s MSc was later changed to an MBA) courses were two years and much more in depth and specialised. One broad one-year course at Cass in centre of London was very appealing!
What was your experience of studying at Cass?
It was quite pleasant! I was happy with the school and surroundings and the student body was very diverse. They came from all walks of life, for example there were people who had studied History and Geography at Undergraduate level. People also came from many different countries, I had friends from Venezuela, and the UK. It was great to be all together. I learned lots from both them and also the teachers. I remember one teacher, Axel Johnson, was a nice chap and we had a good relationship and good contact after I graduated.
In my first semester I suffered from the fact I was not in a resident’s hall and had to share a flat in a hotel in Paddington. I shared with a Welsh guy who brought in lots of Heinz beans to cook in the room – and the smell was terrible!
In the second semester in January I moved in to Northampton Hall, which was the student lodgings – I think they were demolished to make way for Cass where it is now. I lived on the 16th floor! It was nice to be all in with students, but the problem was if I had a weekend appointment with a friend and he or she arrived on the Underground at Moorgate, I would say “ask anyone where Bunhill Row is” – but they would come out and find nobody to talk to! The City was all deserted at the weekend! However I still enjoyed it tremendously in the halls and also at the school.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?
I remember one exercise where about 100 of us students gathered around a table on which stood a sizable brick and we had to put down ideas on what that object meant for each of a number of criteria like simplicity, shape of building, neat lines, solidity!
Also what was interesting, is that at the same time as preparing to finish my degree by writing my thesis, I also wanted to earn some money. So when the school had Coolag (a subsidiary of Shell) get in contact I saw a chance. I went up to the Midlands and they wanted me to prepare some market research on who is the decision maker for insulation materials on air conditioning ducts in construction projects.
My MSc thesis then was on the use of polyurethane as an insulation material for HVAC (heating ventilating air conditioning) and I investigated who would be the decision-maker for the insulation material on the ducts – they wanted to know if it was the architect, the HVAC engineer, the owners? I went through all these decision makers and gradually found out. It was interesting research, it made me some money and I finished my degree by doing my thesis on it – two birds with one stone! It was a nice experience and it prepared me for life, especially the need to think out-of-the-box.
How did studying at Cass change your life?
I came to Cass with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering. Once I finished at Cass I could see that my view of world was now even more open. It’s very important to learn about ideas and different networks, so that was a change – although maybe I was already a little curious and Cass developed it further.
When you finish at a School like Cass you have more qualities that enable you to get a job in London. I did just that, with an internationally-oriented dental supplies company, and I travelled a lot to Spain, Italy and France. I stayed for a year and a half and it was quite pleasant, it changed my life for a time in London.
I had to return back to Turkey after that to do military service and to look after my father. From 1975 onwards my whole business life revolved around establishing close relations with global companies, inviting them to invest in Turkey and taking participation in the joint ventures.
When MSc Administrative Sciences was changed to an MBA we were all asked to come back to Cass and get our new degrees. The Dean at the time invited me to become a member of the Board of Overseers. So I travelled back to Cass every six months for meetings and was instrumental in increasing the profile of Cass in Turkey. Together with about 100 Turkish graduates we organized conferences and dinners.