City Alumni Network

Meet the Principal

Alumni Stories, Health Sciences News.

 michael-blog-photoAn Adult Nursing graduate, Mike Sonny is now at the helm of London Waterloo Academy. We asked the former health professional what life is like in the Principal’s Office.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I graduated in 2004 with a PG Diploma in Adult Nursing. The lectures were informative, interactive, well-structured, challenging and fun at the same time. We had plenty of opportunities to practice in clinical placements thanks to the faculty. I loved the engagement of academic literature, research and the science of nursing.

All in all, this course was an amazing experience, particularly having to attend lectures in various locations around the city. Not easy at times but it was like an adventure locating the various sites.

What happened after you graduated?

I went into clinical practice and a turn of events took me into teaching in Further Education and Higher Education (FE/HE) colleges – I was actually headhunted! Whilst at City, I had always had this feeling that I would end up in the teaching, research and training UK workforce.

From lecturing, I became Director of Studies for several years. In 2007, I was appointed Principal of London College of Management. I had also obtained an MSc in Public Service Management from the London South Bank University, and so the desire to combine management and leadership was irresistible for me.

During that year I was also invited to Bangladesh by the UK awarding body OTHM, to launch their flagship qualification (Level 4-7 QCF). That success led to my being conferred a Fellowship, followed by another whilst Head of Establishment of Scott’s College

In 2009, I held the position of Associate Professor – Marketing Research at Schiller International University, London, before they relocated back to Florida, USA. Since 2010, I have settled down as the Principal / CEO of London Waterloo Academy; providing education and training to the UK workforce in Dental Nursing, Health and Social Care, Management, Airline Cabin Crew, languages and Corporate Training.

What was the transition from teacher to principal like?

I was actually headhunted again for the position of Principal. For me, the transition was challenging but I had to get stuck in because I was already the Director of Studies across the FE/HE College and leading a team of lecturers and other staff members. This involves upholding quality assurance, leading institutional accreditations, maintaining standards, international student recruitment and maintaining Home Office regulatory requirements.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Keeping up with the breath of regulatory changes across the HE/FE sector has to be my biggest challenge e.g. upholding and maintaining institutional accreditation from regulators like (QAA, BAC, ASIC, ISI, Home Office) all of whom continue to have an impact on leading higher education in the UK. Another huge challenge is maintaining student satisfaction, achievements, retention and funding.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

I would say student satisfaction and achievement. I was again privileged to participate in our 2016 Graduation ceremony and I was moved when children of our graduating students came up to me and requested to wear my graduating hat.

Every year, I see the smile and gratitude from students, parents, friends and families as they graduate. That’s rewarding for me. It means that the Academy under my leadership has added value to their lives and that we have enabled them to achieve what they set out to do when they joined the institution. I most also mention the wonderful and fantastic colleagues I work with.

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

It’s difficult to say. For me, it is to enjoy doing what you love. Be flexible and adaptable to changing times in your skills and training. This is inevitable due to external factors beyond one’s control. Finally, I pray a lot. That’s what has kept me going.


Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  The view from Waterloo Bridge in either direction
Favourite holiday destination:   Disneyland Paris
Must-check everyday website: Any one my email throws up
Dream travel destination:  Island beach
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate for me



Purified Innovation

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

img_6212uTereza Drimalova studied BSc Business Studies with specialism in Marketing, 2016 and she’s already launching her own company, AquaQube! She skyped the Alumni Office from the Czech Republic to chat about how it happened so fast.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I came to Cass for BSc Business Studies with specialism in Marketing but I was only at Cass for my first and third years. The middle year I spent in Spain at the IE Business School, which was also a great experience. I actually chose Cass because the style of education was different to the one at home [in the Czech Republic]. Here it’s much more practical and even more career-orientated in the sense that during your studies you meet future employers, and it’s great for practical experience and internships. I really enjoyed that – usually here [in the Czech Republic] people finish studying and then start looking for something practical so that’s quite a difference.

Do you have a favourite memory?

I would say that the favourite memory for me was the very first week I was there. I was part of the pre-sessional maths week and got to know all the people in the group very well. We were with the same group all the time and most of my friends, my best friends, are from this group! I was quite surprised by how big a difference this made.

What did you do next?

It was actually during the last term of University that I started AquaQube, my company. We started to develop and produce the product and to talk to potential customers. It was pretty cool that I had the chance to apply lots of things I learned at Cass so soon. In our new product development class we even worked on similar projects – in our AquaQube team we had people who had already developed products on the technical side but didn’t really have any insights from the consumer – that was the point of view I brought.

So what exactly is AquaQube?

It’s an innovative and efficient (we don’t know of any more efficient competing devices) water purification device for homes. It was developed based on research from industrial water purification, and there it’s become clear that, although the technology exists, hormones and pesticides are not going to be eliminated from the water any time soon. For that to happen, it would need Government investment, and nobody wants to do it – there is no immediate harm from these being in the water and so they are not pushed to do it.

But I wanted to bring consumers this better quality water, and the only way to do that is to bring AquaQube in to homes by selling directly to customers. Our product is particularly suitable for pregnant women and parents with small children, so those who really need to take more care of their lifestyle and water quality. It’s also for people following a healthy lifestyle or who are interested in ecology. It’s very much an ecological solution as it’s the only water purifier on the market that really destroys the impurities in the water rather than just filters them. So by cleaning your own water with AquaQube you’re also cleaning the environment around you.

aquaqube-logo-website-black aquaqube-main-view-with-bottle-inside team-photo

And you’re launching your crowdfunding?

Yes, we are launching a Kickstarter campaign on the 17th November.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I might sound quite weird but I would say the biggest challenge has been to be brave enough to go to customers and spread the word around the world. You’re working for a year and you think your product is the best it can possibly be, so it’s quite scary to really let all the people comment on it! Thankfully, I’ve had really good and positive feedback so far, but you still sometimes think about how people will react and that uncertainly is a challenge. With friends and family, even if they think it’s not good, they say things in a nice way, but people can be harsh.

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

You have to find the right people to co-operate with because they need to have the same focus as you and be hardworking and expert in their area. In the beginning everything is little, the number of people is really small, and so you need everyone to be as great and as hard working as possible. It might seem like there’s not that much work at the start, but you need even a name, a logo, a website and more! So you need someone to rely on and maybe even someone you don’t have to manage, someone proactive and able to do things on their own.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Primrose Hill
Favourite holiday destination: Philippines
Must-check every day website: Currently I check the AquaQube website and AquaQube Facebook page about 20 times a day!
Dream travel destination: Cuba
Cheese or chocolate: Difficult! But cheese!

Support AquaQube’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Finding Your Future

Careers, Cass Business School News.

e9ad9fee9d0bc73e0b2c055eb0b268ce_xlMira Rutter (MSc Banking and International Finance) is a career, personal growth and wellbeing coach with her own coaching practice Rutter Coaching. We recently spoke about her own career transitions and have been allowed to publish extracts from her blogs.


So, you have spent some time asking yourself various questions about what makes you happy, what activities make you lose track of time, what you are naturally good at, what makes you feel great about yourself, who you want to help and what causes you strongly believe in. You also now have an understanding of your values and what you need in order to feel fulfilled in your career and live your life with purpose. (If you haven’t, then check out our 7 Steps to Finding Your Passion guide.)

So what now?

Now, it’s about chasing your dreams or perhaps if you haven’t fully identified what it is you want to be doing, it’s about taking some actions to define it clearly and then chase it.

Remember that famous Benjamin Franklin quote, ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’? It’s about committing to making a change and a difference to how you live your life, whether it’s a small or a major change that you are looking to make. It’s about taking actions and saying ‘no’ to the status quo and remaining complacent and saying ‘yes’ to having focus and determination.

At the end of the day, if you are following your passions you are optimising your life because you are spending more of your time doing what you love and you are fulfilling your potential. And who doesn’t want to be doing that?!

Read more on Mira’s blog >>


When you wake up on a working day, do you think to yourself ‘I’m so looking forward to today and all the exciting things the day ahead will bring?’

These days we’re all being urged to ‘find our passion’ but what if we don’t know what it is or how to find it? Or perhaps we know what it is but we don’t know to go on about following it? We’re expected to take control of our careers, but often with minimal resources or support.

In our busy lives, the days, weeks, and months fly by and it’s very easy to find ourselves on a career path determined by others or by circumstances. That job offer or project that came along and is now a career. We get stuck where we are and can end up feeling uninspired and lacking motivation. I’ve been there myself and I know what it’s like.

And the one thing we never get around to doing is taking a step back and asking ourselves ‘What do I really want to be doing?’ ‘What will make me jump out of bed with joy every day, even on a Monday morning?’

Last week, Simon and I delivered a very engaging and interactive workshop at Barclays HQ in London as part of their Careers Week. What we found was that people didn’t know what questions to ask themselves to help them find out what they are passionate about and how they can gain that invaluable insight about themselves. We also saw on our social media that people wanted to know more about how to find their passion. So, I want to use this blog to help you to take that step back and explore what motivates you, what’s really important to you and what you are passionate about.

Passion. What is it to you?

First of all, take a moment to think about what feeling passionate about your work means to you.

Your passion is the reason you wake up in the morning, and just the thought of it can keep you up late with excitement although preferably not too late. It can also be a quieter feeling of satisfaction, knowing you’re living life on your terms.

What are the benefits?

Have you ever wondered what difference will feeling passionate about your work make to you? What about to your family, to your company and to society?

I personally know how scary it can be when you feel like your life has no purpose or direction but finding your passion can change all that.

Finding your passion is like finding your personal road map. When you find your passion you feel happy, fulfilled, work doesn’t really feel like work, your relationships with your family and colleagues improve and many more… And you are so much clearer about in what direction you are heading and what steps to take.

Read more on Mira’s blog >>


It’s Work-Life Balance week. Hurray! I guess it says it all that if we’ve had to dedicate a national week to it.

Do you feel overwhelmed and overstretched by constantly having to juggle a demanding job and various personal commitments? Are you frequently stressed, exhausted and struggling to fit everything in? You are definitely not alone.

In our hectic, 100 miles per hour lives, we often get pulled from pillar to post, drown in detail, more is expected from us and we demand more of ourselves. As a result, we tend to forget to get off the hamster wheel and take a break to think of what it is we really want, and why.

What is work-life balance anyway?

Let’s pause for a moment and think what having work-life balance means to you. What would an ideal week would look like to you? How much time would you dedicate to work? How much time would you dedicate to your family? How about to yourself – downtime, personal development time? What about your hobbies and interests? How about exercising?

I truly believe that leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle is the key to feeling happy, energetic and fulfilled.

There are a lot of things that depend on others, but there is a lot that can be determined by us. So, it’s important to focus on what you can control and influence. Even if that sometimes is ‘just’ your mindset.

Read more on Mira’s blog >>

The Blog You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Read

Alumni Stories.

brian-ariel-student-id-docxBrian Ariel studied at City before it was even known as City. Here he tells us how he went from studying Optometry to writing ‘EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW AND NEVER BOTHERED TO ASK’.

Tell us about your time at City, before it was City?

Prior to becoming City it was the Northampton College of Advanced Technology and I was the only one of my peers, in the Ophthalmic Optics Department, to continue studying here under the new name. My class had 24 international students from Iraq, Israel, Tanzania, West Indies, Singapore and Austria, the rest were from the UK; and I have kept in contact with a handful to this day.

Some became well known like: (Graham) Cutler and (Tony) Gross’s fashion spectacles, a brand admired all over the world, and Neil Hershman’s eye clinics in English universities, and the late Arthur Ley’s optometry legislation in Tasmania. Some students were very young, coming straight from school, while others were already married.

At the time the student union was very reactionary and I stood out like a sore thumb with my Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and anti-apartheid badges on my lapel; but I still belonged to two societies – Jazz and Film.

My course lasted 3 year followed by a pre-registration year where I worked in various practices in East London.  I was registered as an ophthalmic optician in 1963

And when it was City?

After that in 1975-8 I did a Masters in Visual Science – another 3 year course. It was an intensive course and I had to attend one day per week. At the same time I was a contact lens practitioner, taking a diploma in film theory from the British Film Institute and raising a family!

I took a M.Sc. in the hope that I could work in British Columbia. Only afterwards did I discover that I would still have to attend University in Canada for one or two years. There was no way I was doing that!

So what did you do next?

Professor Robert Fletcher gave me a teaching post in Rome which I held for 3 years. It was in bursts of 2-3 weeks sessions per year. The post involved all aspects of optometry – and at various times I have had a special interest in several of these aspects; such as contact lenses, paediatric vision, colour vision and sports vision.

I then decided to report lectures for the Child Vision Research Society, the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), sports vision and across the globe for UK optometry journals. I am a member of AAO and I was a founding member of The Sports Vision Association.  I also lectured in and demonstrated sports vision equipment quite widely and contributed to the book Sports Vision, 1995.

 When did you start writing?

Seeing my name in print in the optometry journals spurred me on to write books. I have been interested in music for a long time and was curious when I heard songs as to who wrote them and the writers’ lives. This resulted in my book SONGS OF THE 20TH CENTURY, 2011

I’m also a collector of trivia and picked up bits and pieces on my many travels. Curiosity, once again, reared its head and I wanted to know why notable people hid behind pseudonyms and initials. All these bits and pieces of information and my many varied interests came to fruition in EVERYTHING YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW AND NEVER BOTHERED TO ASK, 2011

What has been the biggest challenge to your writing?

The time consuming research and the difficulty in publicising my books.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The launch of my books on my 70th birthday when I had a receptive audience and did a signing.

What are you up to now?

I am now working on the subject of the eponymous people in the world of optics.

I also work sparingly in my profession at the tender age of 77 and try to keep fit by running and swimming.  My late father said that I would be the fittest one in the cemetery.

Any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

My last 50 years in over 75 practices have been solely clinical and have always followed the ideal of compassion, not gain.


Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  Hampstead Heath

Favourite holiday destination:   The Azores

Must-check every day website: Google

Dream travel destination:  Norwegian Fjord Cruise and Wyoming

Cheese or chocolate: Both cheese and chocolate



The Elements of Creativity

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

claire4-240x300Claire Bridges studied Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership, 2015 (MICL) and now runs her own creativity training company, Now Go Create. She has also written a book “In Your Creative Element”, which builds directly on her final project at Cass.

Why did you choose the MICL?

I decided to come to Cass to do the MICL to get formal training in creativity to underpin my practical knowledge with academic rigour. My background is in marketing and PR and I had worked for more than fifteen years, rising to Creative Director and MD level. It’s one thing to be creative yourself but another thing altogether to lead others.

I felt I had lots of practitioner experience, and was definitely expected to be creative in work but had no formal training; it was all just gut feel and intuition – which is how lots of creative work is done. Studying the MICL gave me confidence and credibility.

How was your time at Cass?

I loved the multidisciplinary aspect and I’d always fancied creative and scriptwriting, which we undertook at the school of Journalism. I also studied the psychology of creativity, as well as law. I started in September 2011 and I finally graduated last year in July 2015. I studied part-time and the course should be 2 years, but I had a baby in the middle, which isn’t something I could recommend!

On our induction MICL course director Dr Sara Jones told us we might need grit to get us through the ups and downs of the journey ahead – and it certainly was hard graft. She said we should expect to do a minimum of 120 hours of self-study per module and I actually spat out my tea! Grit is now one of the elements of creativity in my book.

I think I was quite unusual in my cohort because I was self-funded, whilst most others were being sponsored by their businesses. Doing the Masters was amazing and I would definitely recommend it, but it’s not to be undertaken lightly. It did impact family life as I did push myself hard but it was all worth it when I passed with a distinction.

Do you have a favourite memory?

We laughed a lot during the creation of a piece of performance theatre based on innovation (see image below). If you need an example of how the MICL pushes you out of your comfort zone, then this is it!

Also, we were introduced to the idea of a derive by Professor Clive Holtham at Cass, a really interesting and profound experience. Dérive is the French word for drift and is a creative practice of the conscious and unconscious mind, used to stimulate creative thought. I use it a lot in my own creative work.

How did the book come about?

In the last of the MICL modules we had to make an artefact that represented our time at Cass and to put on a show to present it. I created a Periodic Table of Creative Elements as a poster and refined that concept to create the book.

It is based on Mendeleev’s original periodic table, which itself was created as a way to present known and unknown elements. This struck a chord, because no matter how much you learn about creativity there is still a great deal that is unknown.

I chose the 62 elements based on my academic studies and papers from many areas including psychology and studies of creativity, and the first iteration had 400 elements! For the course I produced an absolute replica of the periodic table with 102 elements in 9 groups, but in the book (see image below) I’ve refined the concept further to 62 elements. The MICL faculty deserve a massive nod because the inspiration came from the course and opened the door to the publisher.

How long have you been a consultant for?

My last corporate role was in 2009, which was a couple of years before I started my studies. In the interim I taught people to think on their feet and to be more creative in business, individually and in organisations, and I’ve worked with some really interesting companies like Pret a Manger. I think I’ve trained nearly 10,000 people over the course of the last 7 years!

What made you change career course?

PR can be a demanding industry to work in, and after 15 or so years I was pretty burnt out. I also went through a divorce and decided it was time to do something new. In my last role as a Creative Director I learned creativity tools and techniques that I hadn’t known existed rather than relying on my gut. When I started consulting lots of people asked me to help drive the creative capabilities of their teams, so over time I came to focus on training and retrained in those skills.

What is Now Go Create?

When I started the MICL I knew that the knowledge I was learning on the course would help meet a genuine business need: how to drive creativity skills.

So I started Now Go Create – a training consultancy, now its fifth year – to help individuals to be more creative day-to-day by improving skills, and help leaders to drive a culture for creativity and innovation in their business. Practically, I apply aspects of the MICL regularly, showing Cass is not just about academic learning but the ability to apply it.

I have been lucky enough to work with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The awards are regarded as the highest accolade in the creative industries and I work as part of their training faculty. I’m proud to be the only PR person working in their academy and I know the Masters has really helped me prove my credentials.

9780749477325-1 claire-bridges-cannes-lions-festival-creativity-copy img_8985
L-R: “In Your Creative Element”, At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Performing during the MICL

Where are you heading next?

I’m grappling now with the same challenges as every small business owner – how to scale. I’ve got a team of associates who deliver different aspects of the training with me now – experts in leadership, facilitation and so on – so the company is now more than just me.

To paraphrase IDEO’s David Kelly it seems that the world divides people in to creative ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, and my book, “In Your Creative Element”, is a way to get the message out that creativity is a skill that can be developed, nurtured and honed, it’s not something that just the chosen few have. The stereotypical view of a creative person is a risk-taking maverick, perhaps somewhat eccentric and larger-than-life, but it’s often just that the extroverts shout the loudest. Everyone can manifest creativity in their daily life at work, and play too.

What’s been the toughest challenge?

My challenges fall in to two worlds – before and after having a child!

One tough decision before my child was born was to leave the corporate career path I was on. It’s well paid but as said before, I felt burnt out and was struggling with finding a purpose – which seems to be a very current conversation! I began to question what it was all for and then when my personal circumstances changed too I decided to jump. That was a difficult decision and sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had stayed in the agency world – but the trade-off is the freedom of running my own business and not having to work for brands or causes I don’t believe in.

Post-child (he’s 3 now), the toughest challenge is juggling work and family life. Working for myself gives me flexibility but like all working mums it’s sometimes hard to fit it all in!

What advice would you like to go back and give to yourself?

In terms of starting your own business I would definitely recommend:

  • Going in to a shared workspace. Working from home I miss the camaraderie of the office and how when you work in a group of people you can bounce ideas around in a more ad-hoc way.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. I’ve had a business coach for the past few years but would also like to have had a mentor to help guide me.
  • Have a business plan. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or rigid but you need an overall plan to work to which helps both when things go well and even more importantly when they go wrong.

Finally it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Hampstead Heath
Favourite holiday destination: Bridport, Dorset
Must-check every day website: for all things related to creativity
Dream travel destination: New Orleans or the US South in general
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese – but it’s a close run thing!

Claire’s book “In Your Creative Element” is available here and you can find out more about their training courses at Now Go Create and on Twitter @nowgocreate.

A Feisty Following

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

image1Subal Charla studied MBA, 2013 and has always displayed an entrepreneurial spirit. He tells us how he had 5,000 people waiting for his vegan rucksack brand, Charlie Feist, to launch.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I joined Cass in September 2012 and graduated in January 2014. Before that I had been working in my family business, which is in stationery and educational products in India. I was looking for a change from I the stuff I was doing, so I decided to do my MBA.

Overall it was a positive experience, especially from a professional perspective. When I arrived at Cass it was a bit different from my previous life experience. I’d been in the family business from a young age, and there in India life has lots of weight to it because of the hierarchy. At Cass everyone around you has an equal footing, is just as smart and as capable, wants to be heard and can do whatever they set their mind to. So it’s a far flatter organisation to work within, which is definitely something to get used to at the start. I had to learn how to deal with people at the same level as me, which had not been the case back home.

During my MBA I took part in lots of entrepreneur workshops and entrepreneur projects. We did things with City University’s City Sparks, and me and another guy from Cass did an internship at City where we helped with the project. We also did some mini entrepreneur projects where you make a business and start to sell a product, for example in the Cass foyer and at events. Entrepreneurship was always a part of my Cass experience.

Do you have a favourite memory?

It sounds like a cliché but there were so many! I definitely think it was the South Africa elective – that was a boatload of fun! The elective happens in Johannesburg and then Cape Town, so me and a few friends who were also on the elective, we reached South Africa a few days in advance and went to a game reserve for a couple of nights, it was amazing! Then we went to Johannesburg and Cape Town and following that also visited Lion’s Head, the Cape of Good Hope and did a trip in to wine country and whale watching. The entire thing was with friends and we had a lot of fun. That’s definitely my favourite memory.

What did you do next?

During the South Africa elective I remember a guy from the Standard Chartered conference, a really sharp guy, telling us about the opportunities in Africa. They were big numbers and my head was spinning. At the time I was trying to launch a social travel app that basically connected an online guide to people who wanted to travel together, but I couldn’t get it to market.

So when I saw this presentation I realised that there were so many options outside the UK, that the world is so big and I haven’t even realised it. I was completely disregarding what I already had in India. So I decided to go back to India and create something there.

I was then thinking of what I could do and I’m not sure how the idea of a backpack brand came in to my head. But once it did I thought that I’ve got access to 100,000 stores selling stationery and educational stuff, a bit like Paperchase, with lots of school children as customers, so the backpack brand would fit in there. I decided to create this brand to sell through my network, and because of that I moved back to India.

So you must have had plenty of customers waiting?

This is where it all failed! I thought I would launch the product in India but then I realised that the product in my head was far too expensive for the Indian market, which is much more price sensitive. I did not want to compromise my idea because I could not make a product I was not proud of but realised if I want to sell my rucksack in India I would always be at the fringes of the market.

So I decided to sell in the UK instead as I’ve already got a foundation there, and know the steps I need to take and an idea of what I can do with it. So I decided to start in the UK to build my brand and then hopefully in two or three years when the time is right I can bring it over to India and use my distribution network then. It’s likely that by then the markets will have changed, and in addition I’ll have that reputation. If you want to sell at the price I want in India you need to be well known.

So how did you build the brand following?

To build my brand following I did something I really want the Cass community to understand. It was driven by my biggest fear when launching, which is that I open the web store and launch to crickets! That fear drove me to action.

I had a delay of two months to get the products shipped from China to the UK, and then Brexit happened, which resulted in a further two-month delay, so I decided to use this time judiciously. I highly recommend my approach. Every night from about 7pm to about 2am after work I would write personalised comments on Instagram users’ posts where the user matched the aesthetic I am going for with my brand. I sought out both guys and gals with the aesthetic.

So they see the brand get in touch with them in a conversational style rather than a spammy message; that doesn’t work. I would literally just compliment them on their style, bearing in mind that the kind of messages that girls get on Instagram is often not appropriate, and that there is a fine line between compliment and being cheeky – that was very firm in my head. I did this for five months straight in the end and had sent 13.5K comments. It was extremely tiring! However it paid itself back.

Before I launched, because of this one-to-one personal engagement, I had 5K Instagram followers and 5.5K people signed up for email list to be notified of my launch. Every day I was getting emails saying “I can’t wait for the launch”, which was amazing.

The truth is I think the way to build a genuine following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, is that if you want something you have to give them something first. Everyone wants to be liked first and no-one wants to give first. You have to be generous and give to the community and they will give back in due course. I believe 99% of people in the world are good and that we should be completely optimistic. We have the opportunity to connect with any person in the world, and it baffles me that so many people have not realised the scale of what this means. It’s a total change of context and not too many of us have evolved to the new world.

How did you come up with the name?

Charlie Feist is named after a hunting dog that was bred in the US and then brought to the UK, and I called it that because I liked the name. And, who doesn’t love dogs? Probably just cats! Also it’s got a humanistic side to it; the name is almost that of a person but not an actual person, like J Crew or JC Penney. I’ve always liked person-type names, but I’m not pompous enough to name it after me! I also like that the last name is also like feisty or cheeky.

It’s a vegan brand so we don’t use any animal products or leather or fur; we love animals especially dogs! It seems to have resonated deeply with the vegan community in and around London. It’s also a trend that I can see – more people are turning vegetarian. I’ll go vegan when I hit my product goal!

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Definitely one of the biggest challenges came before the launch, and that was creating the product. I had no experience in fashion or design and I created it all myself. I had to learn a lot about fabrics and textile manufacturing and it was so hard. When I look back at the emails to my fabric suppliers from the early days, I can see that I asked such basic questions! But that also shows me how far I’ve come along. I never knew there are so many variations of fabrics and fabric washes, so it was difficult to create the product when I had to first learn to speak the same language. If I’d not had the sheer drive to make a beautiful backpack I would not have learned it at all.

Now I’ve launched it’s all about fighting for attention. I put my content out there and it becomes difficult to continue to engage and increase my following. Even with a lot of followers it’s hard to keep bringing people back and keep them engaged in new creative ways. That engagement is always difficult to keep going.

Every day I keep optimistic and patient that the result I hope for will come. If you’re not optimistic and believe in your product you’re dead and will just give up. Patience and persistence is a challenge for all entrepreneurs. You know it’s not that easy, and that 99% will fail. It’s a losing game and almost all of us lose so it what it really comes down to is a strong head on your shoulders.

Do you have any advice you would like to go back and give yourself?

One of the big lessons I’ve learned is that I have expended too much time trying to figure something out when it could have been done quicker. I’ve got a great product now but I could have hired someone to get it done who already had that expertise in design and materials and then it needn’t have taken so long.

There are way too many people who tell us to improve and to keep getting better by strengthening our weaknesses. I say it’s better to double down – quadruple down – on your strengths, and to address your weaknesses by partnering up or hiring someone. It’s a waste of your time to figure it out; the markets will have changed or you may have lost motivation. I wish I’d been more collaborative in creation of my product.

Whoever has won the game in this world, they have specialised according to their strengths. They are not, for example, both a footballer and a poet. I grapple with this every day! You really need to think about where your true strengths lie. I’m good at product development and art direction, but I’m not interested in VAT and finances and that part really slows me down. So for me, the costs of outsourcing versus learning, both in terms of time and money, really need to be thought about. Now I know about my P&L but I don’t delve deeper in to the finances.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Any place can be good as long as it’s with the right company
Favourite holiday destination: London is right up there – I visit around six times a year. Also Bangkok, because I have dear friends from Cass there.
Must-check every day web: Instagram
Dream travel destination: I don’t dream of new destinations; I’ve to been the places I want to go to!
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate!

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#Cassat50: Ralf Arditti, 1970

#Cassat50, Cass Business School News.

soaring-wings-14-03-2016-002Ralf 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.

A Personal Development Tale

Cass Business School News.

barclays-find-your-passion-presentation-90Mira studied MSc Banking and International Finance to get in to M&A, and finally found her way to becoming a career, personal growth and wellbeing coach with her own coaching practice Rutter Coaching. We spoke about how it happened.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did my third year project of my undergraduate degree on mergers and acquisitions, and decided I really wanted to work in M&A in an investment bank. So coming to Cass to study a Masters in Banking and International Finance was a very strategic move to make that happen.

I had previously tried to get in to M&A without the Masters, but being an international student it was difficult to get a work visa and to get to interview when applying to a bank. I wanted practical skills and access to people who had hands-on business experience, and that made Cass the perfect place.

I had a very interesting time at Cass. There were lots of presentations to do, which was very different from my undergraduate degree, so I needed to develop my PowerPoint skills, and also to develop a way to work in groups – all that was an excellent preparation for the work environment. Traditional universities are not so strong at this.

I have to say that being based in London was also part of the appeal. To come to London and work in the City was my dream, so I experienced what that would be like. Although I was the baby of the class, it’s not like the others were mature students, so it was a fun environment. I was also lucky to live in halls so I made friends who were doing Masters at City too.

What professional development did you do at Cass?

My plan had always been to do my dissertation with a bank and show them what I could do and how I could help them. One of the other great things about Cass was the careers events. I went to quite a few and at one of them, an emerging markets trader gave me the contact details of the Head of Emerging Markets Strategy at WestLB and said that I should think of using my advantage not in M&A, but in emerging markets instead.

So I contacted him and said I would do anything – I would work for free if necessary. I did that, I worked for the Emerging Markets Team under a manager who had just arrived from JP Morgan. He was very happy to put me in contact with JP Morgan for additional data for my dissertation, plus he also knew of the value of interns at JP Morgan so he spoke to HR about me interning at WestLB.

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

When we went to Amsterdam. It was nice to make good enough relationships in eight months that you can go away for a weekend trip together.

What did you do next?

Just before I finished my Masters, WestLB had made about 10% of its London workforce redundant but despite that and using my Eastern European background, I managed to effectively create a job for myself in the Emerging Markets Strategy team. This was pretty unusual at the time. One guy from our course had got a job with another bank from the milk round and before he’d even started he was told “here’s one months’ pay, don’t come in”. These were tough times, and I was the only person in the whole class to go straight into a job. At first I worked for free, then on a contract, and finally full time. Cass really helped this happen.

After about four and a half years into the job, I started thinking about the long-term future of my career and where I saw myself many years down the line. I remember distinctly one chat with a friend and sharing with her that my career and my life at the time were not exactly how I wanted them to be. So I resigned from my role and pursued my dream to travel around South America and explore its natural beauty – I’ve always loved nature. During that time I thought about my future and now I had in mind that I wanted to do something client-focused.

Where did you go from there?

In the Emerging Markets Department with WestLB I covered Bulgaria and Romania and added more Central and Eastern European countries to my portfolio over time, but I never did anything major with a client focus. I didn’t want to lose all the use of my finance background but I realised I wanted to help people more on their financial side. So that’s how I got in to wealth management.

It was a struggle to get a role in wealth management without sales or client experience. However, Barclays Wealth gave me the lucky breakthrough by inviting me to their assessment day as part of a major expansion. I did well in the interviews and I got a job as a relationship executive. I really enjoyed the work, it was great to have client contact and I love building relationships. But at the same time I thought there were always things that could be done better.

So how did you get in to project management?

I realised I wanted to experience projects to help more and make a bigger difference. I thought that if I could get in to the project world I could make a difference there, because I could see some processes were frustrating.

I was speaking with a Director at Barclays Wealth who had a role that was not suitable for me – but she told me about another job that had just had its funding approved. So I got in to the project world without any formal training.

It’s great to have been able to see and experience both sides. The project was very interesting, but I learned quickly to be careful what you wish for. On the first day I had to fly to the Isle of Man! Plus there were so many acronyms and new lingo to learn. Once the project ended I knew I preferred to focus more on the human side.

What was your next career move?

The one thing that’s remained constant from my Bachelors to Cass and on in my professional life is that I’ve always been interested in personal development and helping people by volunteering. Barclays was really good because they have lots of events days including a Careers Week, and I have always participated in and helped organise such events.

Simon, my husband, wanted to take the next step in his personal development and had signed up for a two-day introduction to coaching course, and I decided to join him. And it wasn’t really a surprise that I enjoyed this event. Before that I had my concerns about being self-employed: my Dad had his own business, and I knew how tough running your own business is and I wanted job security and loved going worry-free on holidays. But there is no such thing as security, regardless of whether you’re at a big company or not. Thanks to this course I started to seriously consider coaching as a career.

Coaching teaches you to find solutions to things. We decided to do the full course and formally qualify, which was very intense with lots of trainings days to attend plus webinars, books to read and lots of practical elements. We had many coaching sessions with practice clients and assessments and a very high 70% pass mark. I really enjoyed helping my clients to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. I thrived on seeing the difference I made to their lives. So I decided to pursue my dream of helping people and left Barclays to do so.

When did it turn in to a business?

We established our coaching practice in June this year. It’s been an amazing journey. Now it’s not just about being a great coach but also about managing the business, which is a whole new challenge that you can’t prepare for until you start. My husband and I now work together, and we really love it. It’s great fun creating workshops and presenting together.

I find coaching very positive because although people may be struggling, it’s always about looking forward, focusing on solutions and helping clients to find fulfilment in their personal and professional lives. As a result I come out of my sessions feeling energised. The great point for me is the positivity of the practice.

What is Rutter Coaching all about?

Rutter Coaching focuses on helping professionals and business owners in their 30s and 40s to take greater control of their lives and to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

It’s one thing to be a coach but actually running a business and doing the marketing and everything else has been quite a lot to understand. I enjoy it and it’s been a fantastic learning experience but it’s actually another job in its own right.

What would be your advice to people looking to follow in your footsteps?

My advice is to use your strengths and to develop yourself in the areas you love and are really good at. People often focus on the negative. If it’s your weakness perhaps you should not be doing it and would be better served by finding other people to do that part for you. Life’s too short and something that is draining you is not good.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: St James Park
Favourite holiday destination: Iguazu Falls – you need to see both sides and do a helicopter tour! I’ve been twice and would love to go again.
Website: There’s not a single site but I use LinkedIn and other social channels for trending information. I like to follow the trends in coaching and personal development, so these forums highlight important articles.
Dream travel destination: New Zealand
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese followed by chocolate – I can’t give up either!

Spectacles and Story Telling

Alumni Stories.

jose-kellenbergerJosé is living proof that what you study at university doesn’t have to define your whole career path. After she retired, José wrote her first book! Read on to find out how José discovered her creative flair.

Can you tell me about your time at City?
I graduated in the 1970s in Optometry. I then went on to do my post grad in neuroanatomy in the optometry department and stayed on a further 18 months doing part time post-doctoral research. I was also working full time. I realised I wouldn’t get anywhere with my research unless I did it full time and so reluctantly gave it up.

What happened after you graduated?
I worked as an optometrist for 25 years. This was full time in a house practice in Berkshire. After that, I became a locum and worked in various practices part time. It wasn’t until I retired that I had time for leisure activities. I got myself a digital camera and started to do more creative things. I made a jigsaw from a photograph for a friend and produced a film for a club’s centenary including conducting interviews and really enjoyed it. My creative side really came out.

How did the idea for ‘Unsafe Deposit’ come about?
The idea just came along. I thought “why don’t I have a go, if others can do it, why can’t I?’ I rejected my first few random ideas before settling on a storyline.

A lot of the plot is based in London. Both my parents worked in a bank in the city. And my Uncle Ronald won a scholarship to the City of London school, so I have connections there. He died before I was born but I decided to dedicate Unsafe Deposit to him.

What has been the biggest challenge in writing Unsafe Deposit?
Getting my ideas into a chronological order. I had to write a timeline. The writing was relatively easy but the timeline took around 3 months. I had to make sure the characters had children or died at the right time. It was by far the hardest part – but very satisfying when I achieved what I had set out to do.

What has been the most rewarding experience?
Seeing my book on sale in Waterstone’s and the first person that said they enjoyed reading it.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Write a little bit every day – even if it’s just a couple of lines. Sometimes it will flow more easily and other times it won’t. But don’t beat yourself up about writing a fixed amount every day.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: The Monument
Favourite holiday destination: The Algarve
Must-check everyday website: My email
Dream travel destination: Sydney
Cheese or chocolate: Both

Unsafe Deposit (Thriller) is available in both paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon.

#Cassat50: Andrew Dakovsky, 2000

#Cassat50, Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

dakovskyAndrew 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!

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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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