Hey, how are you doing? I’m taking a wild guess… but you, finding your way to this article tells me that you either are interested in the summer school programme or maybe even some full time studies at Imperial College.
I found myself in that position in April 2017. Me, about to be freshly graduated, looking for the next opportunity to accelerate on.
In 2017 I was about to become a bachelors graduate quite soon and was looking for a fitting Master’s programme. Apparently, Imperial was raising my interest and with no concrete plans for my summer and a Facebook Ad introducing me to Imperial’s Summer School Programme. I found myself submitting my CV, as well as, a little one pager aka. motivation letter as soon as I had a free minute.
In the following paragraphs you’ll find out about my motivation, my experience and my opinion about Imperial and its Summer School programme. Enjoy.
Can you somehow relate to me?
Let me introduce myself. Call me Dom, born in ’93 and at the point of time this is written just graduated with a business degree of one of the top three business schools in Germany. Born into a family full of entrepreneurs, yet, the first one to study. I am quite biased in pursuing the same way the family already did.
Long story short, my whole academic career is influenced by Entrepreneurship and a particular love for innovation and technology.
Studying is great, but there is a lot more than just the sole creation of knowledge one can get from attending a university. In my opinion, the main point of visiting one is the people you meet there. I like to quote Matthew Bradley, one of the Guest Speakers in our course, who said: "The more people you know, the luckier you get."
A saying I am absolutely agreeing in. From the very start I appreciated to build a network and enjoyed the work besides my studies way more than sitting in the library the whole day (in reflection: an attitude I absolutely do not regret).
What made you go to Imperial?
So what brought me to London to study instead of enjoying some well-deserved vacation like most of my fellows?
As I mentioned, the early 2017 version of me was looking for Master’s programmes in a rather technical direction. A particular conversion master in computer science rose my interest. Of all the universities I was looking at in Europe, as well as in the US – Imperial did a great job of catching my attention on Facebook. Just for your understanding, I spent my summer 2016 in London working at a startup and fell in love with this gorgeous city. So I basically went “hell, yeah” reading the ad.
London is a melting pot of cultures and its broad diversity of backgrounds is a great place to broaden your mind in the conversations you’ll have. Open people paving the streets as far as you can see and a pub culture inviting to meet people from anywhere just at the pub around the corner. Besides that, you can do almost every activity you could wish for, may it be cultural, sports or some nightlife fun.
There is only one downside. It isn’t the cheapest place to enjoy your lifetime. According to the Telegraph, London is ranked 24th regarding the most expensive cities in the world. But hey, London just fell quite hard in that ranking by 18 places, down from place 6 <sarcasm> I wonder why. </sarcasm>
All good things come in threes. So what was my third reason to make my way to Britain
I love networking. If you followed that article from the very beginning you might have already recognised… Meeting people from whatever background is my way to broaden my perspective on topics I would have never thought about on my own. I guessed and gambled that Imperial with its great reputation as one of the best universities worldwide could act as a magnet for a wide range of personalities… and it absolutely was!
Let me give you a broad overview
Imperial offers in total six weeks of Summer School split into two Sessions for three weeks each. In case you want to take the credits for your studies, Imperial suggests a reward of 7.5 ECTS for one course, however, a few Italian fellows told me that their hometown university acknowledges 4 ECTS for taking the Entrepreneurship Summer School (I’ll simply call it ESC from now on). Talking about the size of the course we were around 60 to 65 people.
My courses began every day at 10 am, with three hours of lectures. Followed by an one-hour lunch break continuing with two and a half hours of workshop. Done with the official schedule at 4:30 pm. Every day there was something else to do in the evening. Socialising and networking events organised by the uni itself or you simply enjoyed the British pub culture with your new friends.
The course itself
See the ESC as kind of a bootcamp, which tries to give you all the needed tools to build your own venture. From detecting a problem, developing an idea around it, building an MVP until the funding and market entry. Popular entrepreneurial books served as the basis for the whole course, So we are talking about readings like:
- “The Lean StartUp” by Ries
- “Disciplined Entrepreneurship. 24 Steps to a Successful Startup.” by Aulet
- “Zero to one : notes on startups, or how to build the future.” by Thiel
- “The hard thing about hard things : building a business when there are no easy answers.” by Horowitz
- “From Science to Startup: The Inside Track of Technology Entrepreneurship.” by Anil
- “The Smart Entrepreneur” by Bart Clarysse and Sabrina Kiefer (remember the names, you will come across them sooner than you think)
However, a course is only as good as the people you are interacting with. So let’s start with the lecturers.
They either had a remarkable academic background in their field from the most renowned universities around this globe, or they came from the very practical side. Meaning hands-on experience from some astonishing Entrepreneurs. I will not go into deep details of every each person but if you are interested you will find the names + LinkedIn Profiles in this list, feel free and make your own opinion.
Next group of interactions you’ll have are, of course, with the people sitting in the same boat as you.
What should I say… Networking was one of my major drivers to do the whole Summer School and I wasn’t disappointed about that. Those approx. 60 people came from all over the world. The perfect opportunity to establish or further strengthen your “couch network” (as I call the perks of having friends all around the world with free couches while being probably the best tour guide tailored to your needs.)
So we were a bunch of people with a common goal, yet, from completely different backgrounds. For my luck, there was only a third of the course coming from the same background as I did (Business & Economics). The rest came from designing, engineering, or other social sciences. Imperial really tried to give the course a 1:1 ratio between business sense and technical competence. Something crucial if it comes to building a proper team to check the feasibility of your business idea…
Well, as mentioned this course is rewarded with ECTS for your studies and with credit points involved there comes the need for assessment. The final grade is conducted in two assignments. 50% comes from a one and a half hour exam and the other 50% from the pitch of your business idea.
I don’t want to talk a lot about the exam. I am not a huge fan of this kind of performance measurement, in particular, not in the field of entrepreneurship. So let’s talk about the exciting thing, the thing sitting in the driver seat for the whole course and the ultimate goal. Get out of the building, find an issue, develop a solution, build an MVP and pitch your business at the very end. Each week was constructed such that we could apply our learning immediately in the afternoon of the respective day. Literally, from day 1 – issue recognition – over to day 8 – design an MVP – to day 21 – fight for your funding on the pitching grounds.
Trust me there is a lot of knowledge Imperial wants to share with you and if you take that course serious you will barely have room to breathe. Though, it’s just gonna be as much fun as you have to put in work.
Work hard… but don’t forget to play
I hope I did not scare you with all that “running out of time” talk. Imperial did not only organise a great course, they did far more than that. Nearly every second day there was an event organised by the uni or the student ambassadors for bonding purposes. May it be trips to Oxford, Cambridge or Bristol (Sorry, I didn’t attend, so can’t offer you a lot of information). Visiting Musicals like Book of Mormon or Mamma Mia. Going over to meet ups at bars and pubs or one of the highlights — a five hour boat trip/party on the Thames. So let me correct my statement a bit…
…you will not have the time to get bored.
What else did the uni do for the pleasure of its students? Plenty of afternoon and evening events, such as guest speakers, panel discussions, a 3D printing Workshop or a pitch competition — where the best ventures from HEC Paris and Imperial College competed against each other. Most of these events were going along with an additional, truly convincing attribute. A networking session afterwards. Where we come back to my favourite topic — networking. So time to meet even more people and enjoy some FREE food & drinks!
Let’s come to an end
First of all congratulations that you were sticking to me until the very end. I sincerely hope I could help you in your decision and gave your imagination some work to form a picture about Imperial.
It is simple human behaviour that people tend to focus on how good a product, experience or whatever was. I tried to be as honest as possible in this reflection. What you will get by attending the ESC is an experience you will not forget. All the tools you need to get going with your idea, you’ll start or continue to build a strong network with experienced, as well as aspiring, people and last but not least, some great friends, you’ll desperately look forward to meet again.