BA Law, La Trobe University
Global Head of Privacy, Information Security and Technology Oversight, American Express
Louise Thorpe started the Executive MBA at Imperial in February 2017. Originally qualified as a lawyer, Louise now specialises in privacy and information risk management, and has worked at Vodafone and American Express. Louise chose the Executive MBA at Imperial for its practical and strategic focus, and to gain an overview of managing all areas of a business.
From Australia to London
My career began as a solicitor working for one of the privacy regulators in Australia. I really enjoyed the evolving nature of privacy law and its intersection with data in an increasingly digital world. After working at the regulator for several years, I developed significant expertise in privacy law and wanted to move into an in-house counsel role.
I have a passion for travel, and decided to move to London to pursue as much travel as possible. In the UK, I took a role as the Privacy Officer for Vodafone’s UK operating company which allowed me to apply my knowledge in a corporate environment and gain the in-house experience I had been looking for. In 2013, I joined American Express as Director of Global Privacy and, since 2016, have been the Global Head of Privacy, Information Security and Technology Oversight.
A pragmatic and focussed executive education
For my team to add as much value as possible, we really need to partner with the business to find ways to mitigate privacy and information-related risks whilst still enabling the business to use data in new and innovative ways. To do this effectively, particularly at a strategic level, a foundational understanding of corporate finance, accounting, marketing and business strategy is really needed. With an academic background in law, and work experience in legal, risk and compliance roles, I felt there was an opportunity to increase my contribution to the company by growing my knowledge in those areas of the business where I lacked direct work experience.
I choose the Executive MBA because it provides a comprehensive overview of the core areas of managing a business. The programme allows me to acquire the academic knowledge underpinning business management in a way that is very pragmatic and focussed on the application of those principles in “real world” business environments.
“An Executive MBA that applies seamlessly to my work”
The Executive MBA at Imperial was attractive largely due to the practical nature of the programme. I was looking for an Executive MBA that delivered knowledge and skills that could be applied immediately and seamlessly to my work, and Imperial’s programme does exactly that.
For example, students on Imperial’s Executive MBA can complete pre-study modules in specific areas, such as Accounting and Corporate Finance. The pre-study modules ensure that those without experience in these areas can familiarise themselves with basic concepts before joining the assessed modules. This approach really set me up for success: I was truly able to grasp some of the more complex and advanced principles, even though I’d never studied or worked in these areas.
That “ah-ha” moment
So far, the biggest learning experience for me has definitely been in the subjects where I had very little prior knowledge. Developing this knowledge is exactly why I wanted to study the Executive MBA. Although it has taken a lot of study to get myself up to speed, the Executive MBA provides the structure and the focus for you to do it.
The most rewarding parts so far are the breakthrough moments in my learning. I’d been struggling with a concept or the content in a particular area, and then all of a sudden I had one of those “ah-ha!” moments – and I got it! That is unbelievably rewarding as those moments allow you to piece together not just the various learnings from one subject but across different subjects, so that you start to see the bigger picture of a business as a whole, how it fits in the market and the economy, and what that means in terms of future opportunities or threats for that business.
Preparing for the weekend sessions on the Executive MBA involves spending time going through all the online content, completing the reading and attending live sessions with teaching aides to cement the learnings. Preparation beforehand is key; the Executive MBA is a blended learning programme and it means you get the most out of the on-campus sessions.
A powerful and supportive network
Interacting with my cohort is a humbling experience. Everyone has accomplished so much in their respective careers and, best of all, we are like one big team. Everyone helps each other with aspects of the programme where they have expertise, and are only too happy to offer career advice or open their networks to support each other. It’s a great classroom environment because of the cohort and the faculty. All the faculty have real business experience – as well as strong academic credentials – and bring that practical experience into the classroom along with a sense of humour.
Top tip for prospective students
Apply as early as possible. The earlier you apply, the earlier you have access to the assigned readings, syllabus and primer modules. By starting early with your study and preparation you are really ready to go when the programme starts.