Francesca Properzi

Professional Background

I have always been fascinated by the human brain and neuroscience. That’s why, after completing my first degree in Molecular Biology I did a PhD in Neuronal Regeneration at Cambridge University. I then moved to London to work for the Medical Research Council as a Senior Investigator Scientist. A few years later, I was offered a position as a Principal Investigator in Rome at the Italian Institute of Health. There I had my own team to researching on the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases by using innovative nanotechnologies in collaboration with Cambridge University. Our work produced outstanding results that not only have been published in scientific journals but they are the subject of an important patent. Particularly after the patent filing, I felt that I wanted to do more for the progress of science and healthcare, and use my experience in more impactful manner. When you are a scientist you are focused on very narrow problems. Even if their understanding is crucial, they cover only a small area when you consider the whole value chain of healthcare and life science. I wanted to have access to positions with a broader impact and that’s why I decided to apply for an Executive MBA at Imperial College Business School.

Choosing an Executive MBA at Imperial

I didn’t really consider any other business schools. I wanted a school that would fit my science background and field so that my skills and experience would be best leveraged. Imperial College London has the reputation of being very good in STEM. There is a focus on innovation, healthcare and life science – there are many things going on in these areas. I also collaborated with Imperial when I was doing my PhD and attended a few conferences here.

The Executive MBA programme has a whole section dedicated to leadership called the Executive Leadership Journey, which I felt it was important and in line with my career path. Also, Imperial College Business School is located in London, a city that I have always loved. Not only is very international, cosmopolitan and full of culture, most importantly it is a city that sets trends and is open to progress and to the future. When you work here you really have the feeling that you’re part of a community that is shaping the future of society. This is something that I love. I’m very happy to be here.

Executive Leadership Journey

The Executive Leadership Journey has been one of the most fantastic parts of the journey for me. We had amazing lectures about how to communicate, deal with conflict, manage work relationships, emotional intelligence and more. We also did two different personality tests to better understand our strengths and weakness. For this part of the programme we were assigned to a mentor that could guide us in the process. My mentoring sessions have been especially important. I don’t particularly like facing conflicts and having difficult conversations and this has been a limiting factor for me. I think I never had the chance to focus on these issues before.

From scientist to Research Manager at Deloitte

Two months ago, I transitioned from my role as a scientist to a Research Manager at Deloitte, moving from Rome to London. The support and learnings from the Executive MBA have been very important during this career change, especially for the interview process. I benefitted a lot from the various lectures that we had on emerging technologies, big data, Blockchain etc. I felt I had the right knowledge in these areas and it made a huge difference in what I could deliver during the interviews.

The move from being a scientist to working at Deloitte has been and still is a huge change. I am learning a lot in other areas of healthcare and life sciences, and I think that having a scientific background is of great help. The schedule and working hours are different in my new role. Also there is a lot of networking and people skills involved which is something that I was deeply missing when I was a scientist. In this sense what I’ve learned from my Executive Leadership Journey on communication, managing negotions and teamwork have been crucial. I think without the learnings from the Executive MBA, it would have been a different story.

Landing my new job with Careers

I started my one-to-one sessions with Imperial College Business School Careers about six months before I started my interviews at Deloitte. While Imperial didn’t have anything to do with my application at Deloitte, they really helped me with other things. For example, in re-writing my CV. which was not very easy. A scientific CV has a very specific format and contains information that is not necessarily useful for other job applications. Careers also greatly helped during the interview process at Deloitte, helping with the interview format and also on specific questions and they were really supportive. I think the brand of Imperial was also important.

Learning to adapt

One of the most important skills the Executive MBA has taught me is adaptability. When you’re in your syndicate groups and are working on assignments together, you really have to adapt to do whatever you’re asked to do. A scientific job is not very diverse in what you do daily. Completing the assignments for the different modules required me to adapt from talking to clients to dealing with your team, reading articles and being able to speak in public in front of different types of audiences. The Executive MBA teaches you about adapting really fast to different types of work.

Working in groups

For completing the Executive MBA, the teamwork is an important component. In my syndicate group we all came from different backgrounds with different types of organisation styles, experiences, cultures and different countries. It’s not easy to find a common ground for working efficiently. At the beginning of the MBA we had some difficulties, but we were able to confront our issues and talk through things and now we really work well together. We are writing the last assignment from the New York residency and we are enjoying it very much. Now we know each other really well everything is working really easily.

A close cohort

We all bonded so much and I am so attached to my cohort. We have our WhatsApp group, we write to each other every day and no one has been excluded. This is another important reason why the Executive MBA has been life-changing. Our network is great. They’re all outstanding people with incredible backgrounds and many years of work experience. We all have at least 10 years of work experience, so the contributions during classes were always interesting and valuable. It really makes a huge difference.

Global residencies: Berlin, Hong Kong, New York

The three global residencies have been very high profile. Overall the qualities of the lectures and organisation has been impeccable. Berlin was great to learn about Germany’s economic structure. The Hong Kong trip was especially hard because we flew there straight from the exams in July, we didn’t had the time to recover from them or even from the jet-lag. The last trip to New York was a surprise because you have this common knowledge that you know everything about the US economy and this is not true. We heard the challenges of the key industries and competition with emerging countries economy like China. It gives you a view of the world that is new and with a completely fresh perspective.

The impact of the Executive MBA

The Executive MBA has already had such a big impact on my life. The future is already here for me in the sense that what I needed to apply from the Executive MBA to my life is already happening. I hope that in the future it will help me access leadership positions and do it in a right way.

Advice to prospective students (from a scientist background)

I feel that in science we lose sight of what the world really is and how it works in terms of economic growth and global developments. We are so focused so much on technical problems that we lose perspective on how things progress outside and this also affects the impact and quality of your work. It’s really important to have a broader point of view also to build up a solid and diverse network and the learnings from the Executive MBA are in this sense invaluable. I think every PhD scientist should have some basics in business administration to have a better perspective on the impact of their own jobs. My advice would be to go for it and try to learn as much as possible, especially in the areas that aren’t strictly related to science.

Nationality: Italian

Education: PhD Neuronal Regeneration, University of Cambridge

Current position: Research Manager, Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions

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