Design and Mechanical Engineering (BEng) and Design and Mechanical Engineering (MEng), Brunel University
Principal Designer, EY-Seren
Head of Design, Deloitte Digital Strategy
Your time at Imperial College Business School
Why did you choose to study your programme and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
I was looking for an MBA that was not wholly financially focused and ideally had a design, innovation, technology and entrepreneurial slant to it – which is exactly what the Business School offered.
What was the most important thing/learning point you took with you from the Business School?
The most important learning is the critical thinking that comes from the new information and skills that one acquires through the MBA. It lets you look at (complex) problems in a different way, and tackle it with a better set of tools.
There are also three other advantages/ positives;
- The gain in knowledge across a range of subjects that help you understand how the world works
- Network – all the diverse, great people you meet and learn from
- Confidence – that you believe in yourself and your ability both professional and personally
What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying the same programme as you?
Do it. It’s hugely valuable and an achievement. This is in a holistic way; it is not just about having the letters, climbing the ladder or the (potential) salary hike. It’s a way to be a better version of yourself; more clued up, more enabled, more knowledgeable. You also have the pleasure of meeting a set of interesting, fun, like-minded, ambitious people along the way.
What was the most surprising thing about the programme?
The diversity of my fellow students and their backgrounds. It’s fascinating and a great way to learn about areas that you would not/never have come across until then – for me it was everything from bulk shipping to video streaming!
How do you view your experience of studying at Imperial College Business School since you left?
I certainly look back at it with pride and some amount of longing to continue to learn. Saying that I’m happy I have no more assignments, quizzes or exams to worry about! The experience as a whole was brilliant – from the faculty (who were vastly intelligent, world-class and equally friendly) to the facilities; the online hub, library and MBA study space. As an experience, it’s something that has changed me (with friends and family noticing this too).
How did you find living in London?
I have lived in London on and off, and in this stint since 2012. It’s an exciting city with a real balance of so many different things, which affords something for everyone; from arts to fintech, and corporates to startups. For my profession, it’s one of the places, if not the place to be – service and strategic design is most established, and most dynamic, here in London rather than anywhere else.
How has the programme changed you?
It is incredibly rare for people from the design profession to do an MBA. I can see that doing one has changed the way I design and how I work as a design professional; it’s given a lot more confidence both within the field and by allowing me to put points of view across to those outside of the profession in a way and language that resonates. I was always very broad in my interests but the MBA has broadened them further.
What is your favourite memory from your time on the programme?
There were certainly lots. We had a lovely dinner/celebration at the end of the first year at a hotel in central London – it was great to see how we had all bonded as a cohort, lots of fun.
On the programme, the Brand Management elective had such a great run of guest speakers. Talks work on several levels – their content, the speaker themselves, and the ability to inspire. These talks were fascinating on all three levels.
How has your programme contributed to your career success?
A significant amount I am sure. I think there are two factors at play, one is that I am better equipped with more knowledge and confidence, plus having the qualification itself encourages people to connect and reach out for interviews, guest talks etc. The other is that design has been moving into more strategic areas with the introduction of service design and design thinking. This has meant business in all sectors and consultancies are keen to bring in people with this skill, so the potential for what I do has become more highly sought. Add an MBA and people see someone that has both sides. In fact, in a recent talk, this is how I explained it; ‘While design expects business to get more design-centric, designers should also become more business-centric’.
What did you take away from your learning experience that has been most applicable to your current role?
I think the high level/big picture ideas, models and thinking from the strategy and accounting modules. Just the ‘language of business’ is something that allows me to construct my point and converse in particular ways. The final project I did gave me the chance to really explore my area of interest and this has meant I have been using and spreading it into my work and the wider design industry.
What is your current role like?
It’s new, in both senses. I’ve only been there a few weeks and it didn’t exist before. In fact, the department didn’t exist. It's hugely exciting (and very ‘unknown’) in that I and a core leadership team are setting up an innovation lab-style function that will tackle complex problems from across the Global Corporate Chemicals part of the Shell business in a strategic design/ human-centred way and through agile delivery and technology solve them to deliver value. We’re acting like a start-up, but with the backing of a huge company.
What do you enjoy most about your current work and what are the main challenges that you face?
The freedom that comes from the trust, that as someone that knows design inside out, I am able to recommend original ways of working and structures for this new venture. The leadership team have been brought in to do things differently i.e. specifically not to be like the larger organisation. I have always found paving a new path, using design, hugely appealing. I can see the challenges on the horizon – while the larger organisation may start at arms length, it does need to be considered both in how potential solutions will integrate back and how the two cultures blend with each other in the future.
What is your proudest achievement in the job so far?
We’re only a few weeks in, but the crafting of the ambition of the venture, working out what we do, who we are, how we do it, why we’re different, and the potential to change Shell has been very exciting.
In what way is remaining connected to your alumni network important to you?
Doing an MBA at Imperial College Business School does give a sense of belonging. I enjoyed myself greatly and am very happy to give my time, efforts and knowledge to fellow students and alumni (as others have done before me). The other aspect is that of pushing design. As a passionate design professional, I am always keen to spread the word of this fantastic discipline that is often misunderstood.
What value do you get out of your connections with the Business School and your fellow alumni?
They will always be a source of learning new things. Also, your fellow alumni are there to discuss things and to advise. As we move through our careers, others may have been there and done that, or been in that industry, so picking their brains is invaluable. It’s also really nice to get invited back for Imperial events such as the MBA Christmas drinks, as it keeps the connection going.
Have you volunteered at the Business School since you graduated?
I’ve given and will continue to deliver a guest lecture on the Design Management elective on the MBA, and have even come in to give a talk on design thinking to the Imperial College Business School Marketing department.
I am very happy to continue to talk about anything to do with my expertise and inspire people with design and innovation.
Aside from the talks, the Business School has sent many people (particularly those from the creative industries) my way for advice or to learn more about the programme and what it can, which is something I’m also happy to do.