The Career Mastery: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Careers, Cass Business School News .

denizDeniz 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

What a stupid question to ask… It really is…

Interviewer: Where you do you see yourself in 5 years?
Me: Well, I am going to tell you that I see myself at your company at a role where I contribute to the organization’s success… and you will not believe that I am genuine but then I will say that anyway because this is the only answer I know you are looking for…

In an ideal world, if you are interviewing with a highly professional company and highly professional hiring managers, they may not ask you this question; where do you see yourself in 5 years…

I hope they won’t. It’s meaningless and encourages the candidate to lie. It serves very little purpose. There are way better questions to understand a candidate’s commitment and loyalty.

But here is the thing… We are not living in an ideal world, and the chances that they will ask you this question is very high.

In fact, unfortunately, I was asked this question even when I interviewed for PwC Consulting 5 years ago. Worst of all, this question came directly from the partner himself. And no, not partner in charge of HR. But the partner in strategy consulting!

As I said, we are not living in an ideal world…

I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and for the past 10 years, I have been interviewing thousands of candidates as a hiring manager. At The Career Mastery, a blog that I own, I help change some of the notions when it comes to interviews and hiring.

Whatever you hear from me represent my view as a hiring manager. I am not HR, never been, nor have any intentions to become one at any point in my career.

Alright, let’s continue now…

First things first, here are what not to do when they ask “where do you see yourself in 5 years”

Don’t try to be funny for God’s sake. I remember at least 4 candidates who said they saw themselves in my position in 5 years. The funny thing is I didn’t ask where you see yourself in 5 years. I merely asked about their future plans and whether they’d like to stay in Dubai over the foreseeable future. After all, this is an expatriate-oriented city with high expat-turnover. Plus, this is probably the oldest joke in the book. Where are they learning this from? Who’s that guy teaching them that it’s okay to say such an awkward, obnoxious, not-even-funny joke? Please don’t do that. It’s not funny and also not even logical. If I am interviewing you for a junior consultant role, it will take you a lot more than 5 years to become a manager… Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

You don’t need to necessarily talk about your ambitions for future when asked this question. Start from today. After all, we are interviewing you to fill a current role. Not necessarily a role to fill 5 years in the future. We are not going to hire you to train you for “that” role for 5 years. Don’t talk about your life story. Ever since you started grade school, you always wanted to be a management consultant… Be Realistic.

So, I will give you 2 approaches to this question.

First, I will share with you the conventional safe approach. And once it’s out of the way, I will share with you, my way.

The first approach is the safest one. It’s what everybody uses and it is what I call “Bullshit” answer. Your BS answer may tick the box and prevent you from taking any risks. But, at the end of the day it’s BS. To craft your perfect BS answer, you need to hit certain triggers.

The way I see, they are the following;

– You need to show them you are committed and not a 2-year jumper – which most of us suffer from.
– The reason you are here is not to find a quick solution to your unemployment. But rather, you are thinking of us as your last destination in your corporate career. Simply, you are not here to wait for the next best offer. Then, off you go. From hiring manager’s perspective, this is a big challenge. Finding the right candidate consumes too many valuable resources from the company. Time being the most important one. Show your loyalty and commitment to the organization.
– Ambitious and assertive characters are in high-demand for certain roles, especially in sales related positions. So, feel free to clearly state that you are looking to grow with the company, learn from the best, and ultimately, when you are ready take on more responsibilities.

So, a safe BS answer may look something like below;

I am really determined to achieve my and company’s goals. I’d like to deliver to the best of my abilities while learning from the best. Having said that, I see myself 5 years down the road growing into a managerial role and demonstrating my leadership capabilities.

Or another one,

I am really looking forward to spending the next five years in an organization where I feel I share all of its values, especially when it comes to [some values]. I would love to have the opportunity to demonstrate my leadership capabilities when the time is right, hopefully within 5 years and contribute to its growing success.

Alright, as you see from above responses, they are safe answers but not necessarily something I would say.

This is especially true if I am interviewing with a hiring manager. The hiring manager will most probably be your direct line supervisor once you get the job. Do you really want to start that relationship based on lies and BS?

I don’t…

And I didn’t… When I was asked this question 5 years ago, my answer was something like below;

Me: “Hmm. Let me gather my thoughts for a second… [Yes, I literally took my time to think. You should try it too…] Judging by the fact that where I saw myself in the past and where I ended up, it’s really hard to say where I will be. The only way I can see the future is by looking at my past, right?

“And if you asked this question to me almost 8 years ago when I was working at Standard & Poor’s as a financial analyst, I’d tell you I wanted to be an investment banker, then 5 years later I was a project management consultant, then sustainability consultant, and now here I am interviewing for a management consulting role which I can confidently do very well.

“So, as you see, where I wanted to be almost never happened and it’s really hard to say now where I will be in 5 years.

“But I guarantee you one thing. I will do my best in this role and try my best to have a wonderful career at PwC with your team and with your leadership. And when the times comes, I will assume more leadership roles, hopefully easing some of your intense work load.”

When I gave this answer, something incredible happened… Partner was definitely shocked hearing my answer and I could tell he wasn’t expecting this. But… He was incredibly impressed…
I could see it in his eyes.

Continue reading on

#Cassat50: Dr John Mitchell, 1988

Cass Business School News.

john then and nowDr John Mitchell came to Cass to study for his PhD. Today he is Managing Director of LHS Business Control. We asked him about his time at the Business School.

Why did you come to Cass?

I had completed an MBA at Middlesex and had commenced a part-time PhD on the thesis of using risk management techniques for audit planning purposes. Unfortunately, my supervisor left after less than a year and they had no-one else suitable. I already knew that CUBS (as it then was) ran an internal audit programme, because I was a visiting lecturer to it and I knew the team quite well, so I approached Professor Andrew Chambers who was departmental head and Dean to the school to ask if he was willing to supervise me. He was, so I transferred to CUBS.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

Doing a PhD is a very different thing from studying for an MBA. It is very lonely life. The thing about a PhD is that within six months you know more than your supervisor, so what you require is encouragement from your supervisor. Fortunately for me, Dr Georges Selim had been delegated this task by Professor Chambers and as I knew Georges well from my visiting lecturer work I felt that the required back-up was there. I was spending at least 9 hours per week on my research, which was on top of a demanding day job. Fortunately, my day job, provided much input to my research, as I was Group Computer audit Manager at British Gas, and had a wide range of contacts throughout the world. British Gas paid my fees (which were quite modest) and also paid for my attendance at conferences. I was also active as a speaker on the international conference circuit and was able to meet many people to discuss my ideas. Basically it is up to the student to be self-motivated and to keep at it. I believe that only around 20% of people who start a PhD actually finish it. It would be interesting to know the Cass statistics.

John's PhD Graduation - 1989What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

Having fun with the entire internal audit programme team, including the administrators and secretaries.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

I graduated in 1988 and receiving my PhD provided the impetus for me to set-up my own consultancy which I have run for the last 27 years. The software which I had developed to support my thesis provided a good income stream and the consultancy area grew on the back of it. Having a PhD provided the gravitas needed by a consultant.

#Cassat50: Juliet Valdinger, 2013

Cass Business School News.

JVJuliet Valdinger studied MSc Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment, 2013. We chatted about her experiences for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

My desire to get an MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at Cass Business School came from fracturing my skull. Quite an unusual reason for most people (thankfully). But it was mine nevertheless.

Let me take you back to put that in context. I’ve been more than mildly obsessed with philanthropy since 2003. Before then, I didn’t really have much understanding of what ‘philanthropy’ actually was. My first job showed me how much impact high-profile people can have on society. I was persuading individuals ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Giorgio Armani to George Clooney and the King of Spain to get involved in a charity project. Quite an achievement you might say. Well, yes it was but it was because by getting them to support our project, they raised funds for the charity they already supported themselves. That was my first exposure to the power of philanthropy. If you’re interested check out

I’d loved travelling through Africa on my gap year so then took myself off to South Africa. The aim was to go and do ‘good stuff’. However, a horse riding accident rather disrupted my plans.

In a nutshell, I was in hospital with a fractured skull and collapsed lung for two months, in rehab for three months and recovering at my mum’s house for four months before I was ready to go back to work. I received incredible support from family, friends and strangers during that year – and that has contributed massively to my commitment to philanthropy. Experiencing the direct, positive impact people can have on others’ lives, even if they don’t know them, reminded me about the power of philanthropy.

So what tipped you towards choosing your MSc?

My first job after the accident was working for a travel consultancy (not exactly charity work) and there was an opportunity to go to Rwanda. I’d always wanted to go, both to see the country and go gorilla tracking (both of which I highly recommend). However, it was one specific place there that re-ignited my determination to be part of the philanthropy world.

The Pears Foundation has funded a genocide memorial in Kigali, which I visited. It was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. It was not like reading about the genocide in the Sunday Times. The memorial is a tutorial for tourists to get an authentic reflection of what happened and showed me what funders with serious amounts of money can build.

After that visit, I wanted to follow that pathway and create something that has a positive impact on others. I wanted to find a millionaire and help build a school or hospital in Africa. Or something like that. I looked for months and months in 2008 (not a good year to job hunt) before I got a temp job at Macmillan Cancer Support on their grantmaking team. Cancer patients apply for grants to support them though difficulties they face in paying for things like heating costs, transport, etc. Their nurses are the intermediaries between the patients and Macmillan, which means Macmillan can remain more objective and not influenced in the decision about who does or doesn’t get the funding.

There was a day when a cancer patient who Macmillan hadn’t funded got through to me on the phone. And I understood why we needed the nurses to be the intermediaries. The patient had applied for £250 to cover his heating costs and it had been declined. He spent 20 agonising minutes on the phone telling me that he was going to die because we had not given him the money and that it was my fault. This experience showed me that giving away money is not always an easy process. There is so much more to philanthropy than that – and that building my school or hospital in Africa would not be straightforward.

So, discovering that there was an MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at Cass Business School felt like someone had shone a light down on me. It taught me there are many sides of the dice in the philanthropy world: social investment, impact investment, social impact bonds, development bonds, standard grants and many more. The MSc changed my perceptions of the whole charitable sector. Although it was quite a mouthful to say, “I’m doing my MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at the Cass Business School” it gave me the credibility and courage to march around London, meeting people at events, encouraging introductions or just cold emailing. I met so many people I would never have had the opportunity to meet if I hadn’t been doing the MSc. I have a folder packed with business cards as a result of those two years.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

One of the key things which made the course so effective to me was that our lecturers were a perfect blend of academics and practitioners. Theory is important to build a structured and objective framework of thought, but too much of it and I’ll be snoring in the corner before you know it. The practitioners brought the theories to life and talked to us about applying them to their work on the ground. This provided us with a platform of discussion points about what works in practice and whether there were any holes left that still need to be filled.

I was so excited about this experience that I was nearly always the first person to ask a question in the lecture hall. I admit I’m not good with silences and there was so much to learn that I just couldn’t wait to get the conversations started. It was also great to sit there listening to all of the other questions which often provoked the lecturers with new thoughts. My interest and fascination was clearly noted (I think my excitement exhausted some lecturers) as when the Guardian got in touch with Cass asking to interview a student about the course, I think I might have been the first person they called. I never thought that someone would interview me – and certainly not such a big newspaper. But I agreed because I wanted to (and still do) encourage everyone to understand how this MSc is intellectually stimulating and provides an insight into the philanthropy world in a way nothing else does.

I crossed over from Macmillan to work for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation during the MSc. This job provided me with a deeper insight into the many facets of the philanthropy world and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have been offered the job if I wasn’t in the middle of doing the course. I might never have done the course if I hadn’t fallen off a horse, fractured my skull, gone to Rwanda and visited the genocide memorial and worked at Macmillan on their grantmaking team.

It was the MSc at Cass that provided me with the knowledge, tools and contacts that allowed me to bring my interest in the philanthropy sector into reality. And I intend to use those in every stage of the rest of my career.

#Cassat50: Danial Abbas, 2010

Cass Business School News.

LinkedinTo celebrate #Cassat50 – 50 years of the Business School, we’ve been speaking to alumni about the impact Cass has had on their life. Danial Abbas studied BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, graduating in 2010.

Why did you come to Cass?

Cass being very highly regarded in the FT rankings (it was then and it still is now) was the main reason it was brought to my attention. My sister also already studied at Cass and spoke highly of the University and the level of teaching and research. The advantage Cass had due to its geographical proximity to the financial district was also an asset. Especially because my aspirations lay in getting into the financial markets in the city.

What was your experience studying at Cass?

I very much enjoyed it – I have very fond memories looking back, and the memories are still fresh. I met an extremely diverse set of individuals; and not just my peers but also my lecturers and professors were all from very diverse backgrounds. Some people’s backgrounds were more in research, some from industry, and some were currently in industry. It was fantastic to mix with peers with backgrounds from all over the world and all over the UK too, from grammar schools, state schools, and private schools. Doing group coursework I benefitted a lot from this range of perspectives

The practicality of the course stood me in good stead for afterwards. When I look back and discuss my course with others who studied at different institutions, their courses were more theoretical – Cass prides itself on adding these practical elements. This was really useful in looking for a job and setting up my own business, because it both gave me the relevant tools and the mindset to do it.

What is your favourite memory from studying at Cass?

That’s difficult! I’ve got lots of good memories both on the academic and personal side of the experience. This one is a good mix of the two.

One time after our lecture a few of us went to have coffee with our lecturer, Sotiris [Staikouras]. It really demonstrates the atmosphere Cass has – Sotiris had no obligation to socialise with us, and it was his initiative. We were all very happy to go along and talk not just about academics but personal things too – it added a nice element to our relationship which really benefitted our studies.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

First of all, I’m very glad to have that Cass branding on my CV, as shallow as it sounds. It’s very important in the employment market and in business; people seem very hung up still on where you studied.

Straight after Cass I did a Masters at Warwick, because I wanted the diversity of studying outside London and at a different type of institution. Warwick’s course was much more theoretical, which gave me a good mix. After Warwick I entered the job market at a very difficult time for trading. For a couple of years I applied and applied for roles without success.

I was sure and adamant that I wanted a trading role, but this break was a blessing in disguise as I set up my own business as a property developer. The financials, number crunching, finding the opportuning, and thinking about the big picture, doing all these was a result of skills, information, theory and confidence from Cass. I was able to go and seek this opportunity and think differently to 99% of people in the industry and establish myself quickly.

I now have 10 properties in London that I rent out and I continue to expand, all whilst it remains a complete one man show. I do the finance, sourcing, maintenance and tenant relationships. Cass gave me lots of the tools required for all these elements, so the business side of my life comes directly from Cass.

On the job side, now that I’m a financial market trader and I trade commodities, I need to follow macro events, the commodities market, the stock markets, etc. and the modules I took at Cass are so closely linked to my day-to-day working. If I look at the textbooks from Cass they are not as useful as my Cass lecture notes – which is quite surprising but it’s not only me who still refers to my notes! At work I sit next to an MSc alumnus and he uses the online journals and does the same thing with his notes, to help us day-to-day.

So basically, Cass has helped me get where want to go and continues to help too! Tomorrow I don’t know what the job market will be; oil and gas are tricky. But I have a solid foundation of properties which means I’ll always have a roof over my head and Cass has a large role in that. I’m relatively young and already feel Cass has made a significant impact on my life to date.

#Cassat 50: Richard Storey, 1969

Cass Business School News.

richardRichard Storey studied MBA Administrative Sciences (then known as an MSc) in the second ever intake, graduating in 1969 from what was then the City University Business School (CUBS). He’s recently retired. We caught up with him for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I was only 22 and had just been working for one year in the insurance industry before I started my MSc in Administrative Sciences, as it was then.

I graduated with an Economics Hons degree from Sheffield and had plans for a career in sales but I couldn’t get a job on the career ladder. I asked my tutor at Sheffield what should I do and he said, “why not do an [MBA]? “What’s that?” I said, and he told me it’s an up-and-coming extra qualification and it should set you up for a good career. So that was the first reason.

The second reason was, because I had only been working for one year, I couldn’t afford to go away to study. My parents lived in Surrey and put me up for the year – so the mum and dad factor was important! Luckily, in those days, I was able to get a grant to cover my fees!

I chose Cass specifically because I was quite young and the course itself was in its infancy. I looked at the profile of the lecturers and they had a good balance of skills and business experience. The course not only gave me a broad postgraduate business training but also offered the opportunity to gain and develop my marketing skills.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

Well, I loved it! I found it very interesting. It was a challenging course and unlike my undergraduate experience of university because it was a twelve month course. We worked five days a week for about 40 weeks and then the final 3 months were devoted to our thesis. This was definitely quite different from my three years at uni where I did rather less studying. Looking back now I realise just how little work I did in my middle year! In my first year I did work quite hard, but then not much real work until the third year! That was being a typical undergraduate in the 1960s!

As far as I was concerned the CUBS staff were very knowledgeable, good and engaging teachers whose teaching was insightful and they encouraged debate. Around 30 years later, when I visited the business school for the first time in 25 years, there were over 300 full-time MBA students enrolled on the course – quite a change from my year which was only the second full year of the course when there were 45 of us. In the first year there were only 17. Those were the really early days!

It was great to be part of a small MBA cohort – I was part of new, very select group. We really benefitted from closer tutoring in small groups. We all came from very different backgrounds, including chemical and mechanical engineering, finance, economics, and some who had done languages. It was a very diverse group and we were all coming to learn how to manage businesses. We learned a lot from each other and through shared experiences. I did enjoy it, it was a real eye-opener and I had a great time!

The course must have been very different then! What did you learn about?

We had a great economics lecturer, Douglas Vaughan, whilst an entertaining lecturer, Oliver Vesy-Holt, led the marketing team. Sid Kessler took us for industrial relations whilst Allan Williams (the author of an interesting book on the business school’s history – The Rise of Cass Business School) covered occupational psychology. We also had a French lady, Suzanne Colvington, who taught us commercial French! I imagine it is so different these days. Quite a lot of us were thinking of careers in industry rather than finance because in the late 60s more than 25% of UK GDP came from manufacturing (today it’s less than 11%).

One specific thing I remember us doing was a novel simulation business game. Computing was in its very early days in 1968 and we played a business modelling game in which we competed in teams of about six. We used a prediction model to see who came out with best choices. As a team, we made specific decisions each week after which our choices were sent to be computed at the IBM mainframe computer centre. A week later the results would come back with decision outcomes. We then had to look through what seemed to be endless pages of dot-matrix print outs to see how we had performed and the impact on sales revenues, margins and bottom line. We would discuss tactics, send our decisions off again and wait another week. The games would take six or more weeks to complete! Clearly computers were new and very basic so offered little in the way of detailed analysis but we were fascinated by this rudimentary IT which certainly had impact – and we could compare the effects of our decisions with the other groups.

Overall, it was quite different from my undergraduate training providing, as it did, more thinking time, problem solving and experience in team working.

What’s your favourite memory?

I think fondly of my great relationship with the staff and tutors, and the access we had to visiting academics and business people through visiting lecturers. Wine and cheese parties (credit to the first year business students from 1967-8 who started the idea) subsidised by the business school were de rigueur, and speakers were invited by the postgraduate study body for the MSc group. On one occasion we invited Enoch Powell and he came! In those days business schools were rare and I imagine it was an interesting experience for them, too.

I certainly built lifelong friendships with some of the people who did course with me. Because most of us were so young, we really developed the social side together. Most of us had only one or two years of work experience before starting so we were in our early to mid-20s. We had discos on the Thames every now and then and an annual dinner. Before we graduated we formed the Gresham Grasshoppers to be the CUBS alumni, the first ever alumni association of the Business School which went on to hold annual dinners in the City and occasional other social gatherings.

For me, doing the course involved a daily commute from New Malden by train into London and then by the Waterloo & City Line to Bank Station and short walk to the original Gresham College in Basinghall Street. The dress code was far removed from our undergrad days so there I was wearing a shirt and tie sitting on trains alongside city men in bowler hats with rolled up umbrellas!

Are you in touch with the Gresham Grasshoppers still?

I’ve not been in touch with any of them for a while but I’ve got email addresses for two or three of them! One of my Grasshopper friends, Steven, married soon after graduating and I was asked to be godparent of his first child, who was actually named Richard after me! It was easy to keep in touch throughout the 1970s when we were all still working in and around London but since then it’s been harder. It’s been quite some years since we met. Tony, Andrew, Chester and Ronald – I can remember your names but where are you now?

How did studying at Cass change your life?

First of all, when I came to Cass I had an economics degree but a job I didn’t like! I was made rapidly more employable and got a job in the paper industry in Kent when I was still doing my thesis. I got in touch with my new boss and he agreed I could did my thesis around the paper industry, which I really enjoyed. It was relevant to them and they benefited from my market research, which got published in both Packaging and Converter magazines in 1970.

Secondly, the management skills I learned became increasingly useful as my career developed. They really came into their own when I reached middle and senior management. Back then I was quite young and inexperienced and started right at the bottom as an assistant to the advertising manager and spent most of my time proof reading brochures and handling print work through a print company in the east end of London. So, I didn’t use my MBA for several years but once I got a little way up the ladder my training started to kick in. I imagine today MBA students would be expected to have more work experience than I had! I may have gained more if I’d done the MBA course later, but that’s not how it worked 50 years ago. Also, I’ve found that the older you get the harder it is to commit to the regime of learning.

Having an MBA helped me earn respect from my managers and peers as my career developed. In terms of marketing, I became a senior marketer but then was able to switch and establish myself in general management. I think this would have been much less likely without my MBA. I probably could have got to be a senior marketer but maybe not beyond. I spent 12 years in marketing and then a further 10 years of general management before I started my own business, and I think my MBA helped me make a success of it.

In the early years after leaving the Business School, access to the wise counsel of past tutors was really helpful in my early career development. It was great to be able to go back and know you had an open door to talk to them. One person I am still in touch with is one of my tutors! Axel Johne, another marketing lecturer and now Professor Emeritus at Cass, was only a few years older than us so we shared a similar outlook on life. With his wife, Sue, he came to visit us in North Somerset last summer!

I also think that having an MBA, in which I had majored in industrial and international marketing, helped me to gain full membership of CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) without taking the formal exams. I think I satisfied the requirements by doing the MBA and I went on to become a fellow of the institute. I don’t think it would work today, though, as there are special senior management routes to entry.

Throughout my life my MBA skills have been like a toolbox which I have carried around with me and opened up from time to time when I’ve been faced with unfamiliar challenges.

Have you had a career highlight?

In the 60s Philip Kotler was, and arguably still is, a world leading marketing guru and his book, Marketing Management, is one of marketing’s bibles. It had a big influence on me during my time at Cass and during my subsequent career development. Kotler is now in his 80s and based in Chicago. Imagine my delight at being asked to join a transatlantic video link with him, organised by the Levitt Group, a London-based group of senior marketers of which I am a member.

So, in autumn 2015 at a meeting hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine in London, the link was set up to enable him make a presentation to our members. The audience with him was, in part, to allow him to promote his latest book, Confronting Capitalism, which was the subject of his talk and which examined how marketing today influences consumer behaviour. We had been invited to text in any questions we wanted to put to Kotler after his talk. When it came to question time, mine was the first! “Good Evening Richard!” he said. I said “My question is … there is evidence that marketing is losing its influence at the top of business. Of all the companies in the FTSE 100, in 2013 when the most recent analysis was done, only 8% of all chief executives had a marketing background (by comparison, 52% have come up through finance functions). This was down from 11% in 2008 and has been declining for over 20 years. How are marketers going to regain their influence at the top table?” He replied succinctly: “Finance. Marketers must have a better understanding of finance”. It was definitely a career highlight to speak to one of the most celebrated gurus of our profession!

If I may, I’d like to add a personal footnote to this experience. Grumpy old man I might be, but in my view marketing has today largely lost its strategic position as a core business discipline and, as a result, lost its influence in the boardroom. The coming of the digital age has seen many practitioners view marketing as a communications tool rather than as a key element within business planning and strategic business development. Many younger marketers I meet today don’t seem to share the same ambition we had of using our marketing skills to drive our careers to top management. Rather, they seem to be developing careers in the type of marketing activities which are not seen as strategic – much of it focused on digital marketing communications. Being at the centre of new product and service development, having a major influence over pricing strategy and embracing sales as part of the overall marketing function, all key elements of marketing, all too often seem to have been relinquished to other functions. It is not surprising, therefore, that fewer and fewer marketers fail to achieve the top jobs at the height of their careers.

#Cassat50: Anna Iozzino, 1994

Cass Business School News.

annaAnna Iozzino studied MSc Business Studies at Cass, graduating in 1994. We caught up with her for the second in our new #Cassat50 series, celebrating alumni from the past 50 years of the Business School.

Why did you come to Cass?

I studied at Cass as exchange student within ERASMUS program. I wanted to specialise in financial subjects and deepen my experience in that field. Cass, located in the city of London and close to main financial institutions, had a solid reputation and provided me the possibility to focus on a broad range of financial matters, together with the possibility to study additional subjects that could strengthen my general education.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

During the entire duration of my program I was supported by tutors and professors, who stimulated me to deepen some issues that were later useful for my job. Case studies and teamwork gave me the opportunity to exchange experiences and create positive relationships with other students, bringing my best contribution to the various teams in which I took part.

The University library, with its rich and updated catalogue and resources, was not only the place of my research and study, but also a place where to meet other students and collaborate with them.

After my graduation my connection with Cass continued as its career office supported me with assistance and orientation for my placement in the business world. And I am happy to still carry on this relationship with the University through Cass Alumni community and student network.

What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

I have good memories of people I met, they were all very supportive, both professors and students, and of the stimulating time we spent together in classrooms and in recreational events, like the University final gala dinner and ball.

I still have a real and deep friendship with some students, and sometimes we meet and spend time together in spite of the distance.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

Studying at Cass has enriched me in different ways. It was a valuable experience at a personal level, because it opened my mind and has let me become a more mature person, with a good sense of initiative. It also gave me the opportunity to live and study in a multicultural, dynamic environment, among students and professors of all nationalities.

On the academic and business level, it represented my first real exciting opportunity to meet operators from the financial world and to focus on my favourite field of study. I had the opportunity to experience a method of learning that was completely new for me, because it was a combination of theoretic knowledge and practical experience on the field. The knowledge, skills and network I developed at Cass helped me in my job interviews and gave me good chances of success in my career.

The Career Mastery: Tell Me About Yourself

Careers, Cass Business School News.

thank-you-letter-3-630x315Deniz 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

I think you’ll agree with me that when you are asked the dreaded question “tell me about yourself” in the most intense environment you can think of, the chances are that you may end up blabbering and you will make little sense if you are not prepared enough. Worst of all, it will most likely be the first question they will ask you in the interview.

Don’t you worry though. I have an awesome guide for you here. I will share with you a very detailed answer that will increase your chances by a large margin to get that job.

Just be patient…

I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and also the creator of Landing Interviews Guaranteed and The Career Mastery. I have been interviewing candidates as a hiring manager for a very long time.

In this article, my intention is to show you a different perspective than what you find when you search Google for answers to your query “tell me about yourself”. What I share with you will be the perspective of a hiring manager working for a large multinational company.

Alright, let’s continue.

First I will cover what not to do. These will be short and sweet I promise.

Then, we will look at why they are asking this question. And eventually, we will craft the perfect answer for you. I will also show you 1 critical strategy to take it a step further to create a long lasting impact with hiring managers.

Sounds good?


What not to do?

To start with, the hiring manager has already seen your resume and even cover letter. There is really no need for you to go over your resume bullet by bullet. Having said this, it doesn’t hurt your chances to highlight some of your most important qualifications and achievements.

When you are presenting your background, don’t fall victim to under or over qualification. Just give them what they need. There is a very thin line between being an over-achiever and being over-qualified.

No need to share them your life story. And oh God please don’t you start from your high school years. It’s really a waste of everybody’s time. I recently interviewed a candidate for a graduate hire role. She literally started her pitch like this; “I graduated from grade school in 1995 from XXX school and then continued my education further with XXX junior high in XXX city. High school years were very challenging with new environment…” By this point, I was already done. Horrible first impression. I interrupted the candidate and asked her to talk about her current experience. She definitely failed the interview. Not necessarily only because of how she presented her background.

Avoid keeping it too long. It’s a monologue so nobody really has 20 minutes to listen to your background, however, exciting that may sound to you.

Don’t be boring. Please… You should show some real enthusiasm in your pitch. The more energetic you are the better it is. Oh, remember to smile. It makes a big difference.

Everybody else thinks that you are asked to present yourself because;

– Hiring managers want to see how your response would be to a question that you are not prepared. (Not sure why they think you’d be unprepared…)
– They want to know what you consider important in your background
– I can agree to a certain degree. I’d also want to see what you consider important in your background.
– But, the real reason hiring managers in multinational organizations ask this question is because we want to see your presentation skills!

Yeah, surprised?

After all, think about it, we all have seen your resume, your cover letter, you have probably already passed the HR interview. So, we do know a lot about your background already. In fact, if you are applying to a multinational organization, you have already been Google’d even. Why go over your background all over again?

Even if they haven’t seen it before, they are holding that CV in their hands when they ask the question; “tell me about yourself”.

Remember this, companies want employees who are:
– presentable
– can represent the firm professionally to their clients (especially true for consulting and other professional services companies)
– charismatic and likable – especially if you are in a client facing role

If they ask you to present the company or its products to gauge your presentation skills, it would be unfair to you as you have very limited knowledge. But what better material is there than your background to present?

That’s why they say tell me about yourself not tell me about our products or the company. Right?

So, they are giving you an opportunity to present something that you know inside out. They already know when you graduated, which company you worked for, when you left them, what tasks you carried out for each of them.

What they are interested in is:

Can you speak smoothly without stuttering?

Can you be charismatic?

Are you getting nervous when presenting?

When you speak, do you impress people?

How are your communication skills?

How is your language skills?

These and a lot more questions like these need to be addressed by the way you present.

See, this is actually an incredible opportunity for you. It’s an unbelievable opportunity.

Continue reading this on

#Cassat50: Steve Richards, 1976

Cass Business School News , .

SR_5Steve Richards studied BSc Management and Systems from 1973 to 1976. He’s been living in Australia for 36 years but hasn’t lost his Welsh accent. We caught up with him for the first in our #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I wanted a generalist degree, I didn’t have any vocation in mind when I was doing my A-Levels, but knew I’d end up in business, possibly the computer industry, which was developing and seemed interesting. I also wanted to live in London. The then Department of Systems Science offered the BSc in Systems and Management which offered a broad-based, systems-thinking course which covered a broad range of subjects. It fitted the bill exactly. Amongst my A-Levels was one of the earlier Computer Science courses and I knew that City University was strong in, as we knew it then, computing (“I.T.” hadn’t been invented!). And in London to boot!

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

I had a ball. The degree course has one of the heavier class hours load but the variety of subjects was really enjoyable so I enjoyed the research and the study, especially getting away from a lot of rote learning we did at A-level. The social life was awesome, back then everything was paid for by the (Swansea) local council. I loved Uni life in all regards, you could pace yourself, study and have a lot of fun. I met a load of people from all sorts of backgrounds, which was great.

What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

The social life, especially the bands that came to play – Bill Haley and the Comets, The Troggs, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band amongst them. The Uni Bar was a good hangout too, I worked behind the bar sometimes. Also the President’s Ball, which was THE big night of the social calendar. Oh, and one final memory … the day one of the other London colleges (Imperial?) stole the big uni carrot mascot. I was there that day and hung onto the back of the van they put it in. It didn’t help, they got away as I recall and extracted a ransom!

How did studying at Cass change your life?

I guess it gave me the start to my career, predominantly in the I.T. industry. I emigrated to Australia three and a half years after graduating and landed a programming job on arrival which set me on a course that I have generally been on, in or around I.T., ever since. The manager who hired me asked to see my degree certificate – the only person who ever did! It couldn’t have hurt. Over the years I stopped doing real I.T. things and progressed into management where I remain to this day. My generalist degree and the systems thinking it taught has definitely been an asset.

The Career Mastery: What are your weaknesses?

Careers, Cass Business School News.

thank-you-letter-1-630x315Deniz 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

What are your weaknesses?

Let me start by saying your greatest weakness is your greatest weakness. It’s not your greatest strength taken to extreme and portrait as a weakness. Anybody asks what are your weaknesses, you tell them out loud…

Am I confusing you?

Let me explain; I have come across way too many HR professionals recommending that you should just take your greatest strength, take it to extreme, and then say that it’s your weakness.

Like; my greatest weakness is that;

– I work too hard
– I am a perfectionist
– I don’t delegate as much as I should
– I am a people pleaser
– I am very critical of my own work

Please… Stop! Seriously, what are you trying to do?

I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and have been interviewing 1000s of candidates for the past 10 years as a hiring manager. If you mention one of the above, then I will immediately label you as a bullshitter.

What else do you think I will feel?

I will feel that you will continue to BS me in every opportunity you get. There is simply no reason for me to hire a team member, especially a subordinate whom will try to bs her way through tough times. Of all the qualities you have, your hard skills, your dedication, that college degree you studied so hard to obtain were all so you could be known as a bullshitter? I am confident that the answer is no. I understand why you are confused though. I really do.

You make a search on Google “What are your weaknesses?” and all the answers you are exposed to tell you to trick the interviewer. They tell you that you should look for a weakness that is not too extreme or a strength in disguise. I hope with this article I help change that notion.

In the world of consulting, we are challenged with deadlines and quality deliverables on a daily basis. It’s tough out there. It’s also same with large multinational companies, be it investment banking, consumer goods, marketing, sales, anything. A large MNC didn’t get to be the number 1 with lazy employees. Clients are demanding and competition is fierce. Whoever is not up to the challenge gets lost. In these high-intensity environments, leaders need soldiers who will fight with them as one united team. There are no lies or bullshits in such a team. There are no acts no pretends.

Imagine, one profession that works in such intensity is army. Do you think they go about asking “what are your weaknesses?” before enlisting? No, not at all… They don’t. So, when we are looking for new additions to such an environment, we make sure we are confident we can trust you to deliver that research when you say it at the quality you committed to. There are no excuses, buts, uhmms, “this or that happened”s.

It’s not about “what are your weaknesses?” or “what are your shortcomings?”, it’s about them giving you an opportunity to prove your honesty. I hope I am being clear when I say how honesty plays an integral role in your interview process.

I have a checklist. It goes like this;

Is she trustworthy?
Can she say sorry when she messes up? Learns from it, and then moves on with lessons learned?
Is she honest?
Is she motivated to work hard for the team?
If the answer is “YES” so far then only we move on to evaluate the hard skills.

And I test you to understand whether you are trustworthy or not. I can increase the pressure and use your answers against you.

Look for inconsistencies in your answers

Try to make you say sorry. Are you adult enough to say sorry when you need to? Or is it a pride issue?

Am I dealing with self-entitlement here? Because, if you are suffering from it, I suggest you work on it before you start interviewing with anyone. It will be obvious.

It’s mind games at its best. And you were asked a very simple question under pressure; what are your weaknesses? If you can’t answer this honestly, you sure will not answer honestly once we start working together.

Alright, I hope so far it’s clear for you. You know now that the first thing you need to establish is honesty. But how do you answer that question? After all, you did indeed search “what are your weaknesses” and ended up in my article to find an answer. Good. Let’s get to it.

What are your weaknesses? Here is what I say.

First; be specific. There are about a billion weaknesses I can list down here but without knowing your domain, background, and experience it’s very difficult. But, what I thought is, I could share with you my very own weaknesses and perhaps they may also relate to you as well. Sounds good? Alright here it goes;

My first weakness: Although I am very good with applications of powerpoint, its tools and functions, I am not the best when it comes to designing the slides.

This is true. I really am not a good designer. I can’t design a slide based on what I have in my head. But luckily, PwC has probably the best slide library in the world. So, all I have to do is go through about 400 slides and pick the best template. To be perfectly honest, even if I were great at it, I am not sure if I would be allowed to take initiative and design my slides anyway. Consulting companies invest millions of dollars to make sure they have the best colors and layout.

Continue reading this on

Entrepreneurship Made Easy

Cass Business School News , .

_MG_7272_WEBMartin Andersen studied MSc Real Estate Investment 2011, moved to Spain and now runs his own business, Easyoffer, which he founded with his brother. We caught up over the phone.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

It was an intense year! It was extremely full of learning and I met lots of good people. The networking side of Cass was fantastic and I’m still in contact with a ton of guys.

Study-wise it was extremely good too. I did it my MSc directly after a four-year Bachelor’s degree and in the one year at Cass I learned more than in those four years combined! There is a high level of teaching and learning at Cass; it’s a really amazing institution in my opinion.

I wouldn’t change my time at Cass for anything!

What is your favourite memory from Cass?

Um, there are many… I don’t know where to start! Five years down the line my favourite memory is probably the cohesiveness of the students. They are so multicultural and international. Most people didn’t come to study at Cass as part of a ready-made group, most people came alone, and they were so open and willing to make friends. Within the first couple of days you had already made friends.

What did you do next?

When I graduated from Cass I moved to Madrid in Spain, and started to look for roles in Real Estate and Finance. This was in 2011 at the heart of the crisis, and I didn’t even know Spanish but it was never a problem to find a job then, and that success says it all really. Cass is fantastic thing to have on your CV.

I started working at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) with a six-month internship in the Capital Markets division as a Junior Analyst. When this ended I moved to Catella Corporate Finance in their Real Estate Finance division for a year and a half as a Senior Analyst. I left because I was headhunted back to the division at JLL in a Senior Analyst position. Then I decided it was the right time to leave and to found my own company in March 2015.

So tell me about founding your company!

I have long had the idea and ambition with my brother to start something together. First though, we believed it was important to get some professional work experience post-graduation. Then we came up with the idea for our own business.

What is Easyoffer?

It’s an online marketplace for lawyers and accountants who can be matched to clients’ needs. The clients are provided with three free quotes. For example, if you need a divorce lawyer, within 24 hours you will have three quotes from three different lawyers, and you are free to choose which one you will take forward. It’s a pretty well-known model which we took and focussed on the two verticals of legal and accounting. We started just my brother and I in March 2015 and now we have 20 employees. We are growing rapidly and our goal in the next 12 months is to double the workforce to 40 people and hopefully the revenue follows!

What’s next for you?

We are thinking about opening internationally in other countries in 2017 – there are a lot of things to learn with your own business and being your own boss. You can’t study for it, it’s an intense journey. We are taking it one day at a time.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I would probably say the biggest challenge has been working out how to manage people and learning where the soft spot between motivating and cracking the whip is. It’s difficult to find equilibrium between being harsh and not getting anything done.

The Danish work environment in general is much more liberal and free, which works well in Denmark, but in Spain it’s very different. You need to be stringent and much more controlling about everything. Freedom and responsibility don’t work the same here and the biggest part has been learning when to be tough and how to be a motivator.

I hadn’t thought about these differences before! I’m learning day by day because when you see that the way you manage or the lack of it can cost you thousands of Euros, that need to change pushes you to learn and do things differently. Before at JLL problems were solved by themselves but now there is nobody to do that for you. I’ve had to grow a lot.

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Post-graduation we are all super ambitious and can’t wait to climb the ladder. Studying at University and working in the corporate world are two different things! It’s so difficult that most people get a reality check. The best advice for this phase of your life is to be patient and be ready for a handful of years where you work really hard with low pay. Then it gets easier; we are not in the heyday any more, the financial industries are back to normal.

In terms of starting out in business on your own I’d say don’t worry about the idea, it’s more the execution of the idea that matters. Also, don’t overthink it, just do it. If you have an idea and a business model that works in one place, the chances are it will work elsewhere too.

It’s very easy to focus on the negative side and end up not doing anything. Have the balls and throw yourself in. My brother and I founded our company and we are basically a lead generation company with attached telemarketing department, in essence sales and marketing. We had no idea about online marketing and sales – we just had an idea that worked in other countries, and then we went for it!

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Marylebone, I loved my time there. I always lived there even before Cass because I went to Regents University as well.
Favourite holiday destination: I would probably have given a different, more exotic answer a few years back, like Mauritius or the Seychelles. Now since it’s 11 years since I moved away from Denmark I love going home!
Must-check every day website: I’m a sports fanatic so I read pretty much all the big sports papers online every day. I also check Techcruch every day.
Dream travel destination: Canada
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese!