Fiona Shaba
Fiona Shaba is Full-Time MBA class of 2017-18 student. After graduating from Imperial College Business School, Fiona accepted a role as a Programme Manager at the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Professional Background

After my undergraduate degree, I started working as a Research Assistant in a non-profit in Bangladesh. It was a very good experience but I learnt very quickly that I didn’t want to do research and was more of a project manager. Then I went on to found my own social enterprise. It was a small project where we were trying to increase employment of trade workers from underprivileged backgrounds. I did that for two years, then I moved to London and joined the Cherie Blair Foundation, which helped women entrepreneurs in developing countries to work with a mentor and improve their business.

Why Imperial MBA?

I decided on Imperial College Business School for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think a one-year MBA is a very big plus. The second one is that there is a strong focus on innovation. A lot of the coursework revolves around that. Since this is something that is quite important for the not-profit sector, I realised I would gain some good exposure to innovation while learning about regular leadership and business.

Funding the MBA

I was given a Forté Foundation Fellowship which was 50% of the tuition fee. Half of the remaining 50% came from my savings while the remaining came from my parents. The Forté Foundation is a great network. There are a lot of webinars and it’s a good network you can reach out to if you need to. I did not get the opportunity to attend the actual conference, but my friends informed that it was a fantastic experience.

Programme highlights

The most rewarding part of the programme has been getting to work with people from not only different countries or backgrounds, but also some very different industries. Before starting my MBA, my exposure to the corporate space was quite limited. I thoroughly enjoyed working with and spending that one year with my classmates. They were very collaborative, very helpful and always willing to provide information.

The cohort

Before coming to Imperial, I was quite apprehensive. I was coming from a different sector than most of my classmates and I didn’t know what to expect. I had a stereotype in my head that there would be lots of bankers and consultants who would not be very welcoming to people from other industries. When I began, I was so impressed to see such a diverse group and how welcoming, helpful and collaborative they were, while having a thirst for learning. I’ve had many conversations about the sector that I work in and my classmates were genuinely curious about how it works, what are some of the pitfalls, and strengths.
I really liked taking part in group projects. I’m really good friends with people in my syndicate group so that worked out fantastically. Even in other group projects it was really good to work with people who think differently.

Learning to work together

One thing the MBA does, which I find very useful, is that it makes you work in groups, but you don’t always get to choose who is in your group. You’re thrown into situations where you have to work with a group of people and you don’t have a choice in that. It’s a fantastic trial run for how the real world works. Learning how to handle those different types of situations and how to excel despite any disagreements in a very short period of time was a key takeaway from the MBA and you really grow from the process. I have seen a dramatic change in the way I approach group dynamics compared to how I used to before my MBA.

Career and professional development

I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and coming to Imperial didn’t change that. What Imperial did was really help me to get the skills that I needed to get the job I wanted. My goal was to go into a middle management position in a not-profit where there would be line management responsibilities. I needed to learn how to work with big groups. Imperial exposed me to all of that and helped me to get the job that I have landed.
Careers were really helpful with providing help on CVs and I had some very useful mock interviews.

Getting involved with Imperial community

I have absolutely benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College community. There were talks I attended, and we worked with people from other courses in the electives. It was good to hear about the different things people are doing. With Imperial having a very strong focus on science, any kind of interaction with people from the wider College really helps you to understand all the ground-breaking scientific work.

Using my MBA network in future

I have gained a fantastic network while at Imperial. I am sure it will prove to be really helpful as I progress in my non-profit career.
From an innovation standpoint, having a link with Imperial really puts you in a favourable position because you have access to a network that has access to technological innovations that could, potentially, bring about lasting social change.

Living in London

I live just outside of London because my family lives there. There is something for everyone in London. I am social but I’m also a bit of an introvert. In London you get a taste of lots of different events including art exhibitions, book readings, and great speakers from all over the world.

Advice for prospective students

Have goals but also stay open to the idea that you might learn more than you anticipate. A lot of people come in thinking they want to learn these five things, but be open to the idea that you might be exposed to other things from a career or learning perspective.
For someone in the non-profit area considering an MBA, it’s an absolutely great investment if they can make it. There is a gap in skillsets in the non-profit sector and I think the MBA really exposes you to core leadership skills which can be useful in any organisation, be it non-profit or profit. You can also build a fantastic network with people you wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise.

Full-Time MBA
Undergraduate education :

BA Economics, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts

Current position :

Programme Manager, The Association of Commonwealth Universities

Pre-MBA sector :