I had been a civil servant since I left university. I spent the first years of my career working closely with Ministers to develop immigration and visa policies. This involved significant parliamentary work, passing bills and legislation, and communication work, such as media handling and speechwriting.
I then moved into policing, taking national responsibility for their technology policy and strategy. This involved working with all 43 UK police forces, helping them to understand the possibilities offered by digital, data and technology.
My final role in the civil service was a major programme delivery. I led a radical overhaul of how a large UK government department used technology. This involved the management of huge, dispersed and multi-skilled teams. Currently, I am at PA Consulting as a technology consultant, advising and working with a wide range of clients to implement technology and transform digitally.
Choosing Imperial and the Executive MBA
Imperial’s technology and innovation focus was a massive draw for me. Technology is developing at a rapid pace, and it is critical to every organisation. Located in London, Imperial College Business School is at the heart of innovation and technology disruption in Europe. You are in the centre of where all the experts are and where all the exciting things are happening. I chose to study an Executive MBA to add more variety and variation to my career. I wanted to catapult myself so I could do amazing things outside of the public sector.
Applying my MBA learnings in real-time
I combined my MBA studies alongside leading a major programme for the UK government. I would come out of class on a Saturday and almost immediately implement those things I had learned into the workplace. It was in phenomenal terms of real-time application. Having access to the faculty at Imperial allowed me to work with them on scenarios so I could design, build and deliver correctly.
More than anything the MBA has given me confidence. The breadth of knowledge that I have learned around people, processes, organisations and delivery, has given me so much more confidence in my own ideas and convictions, and how to convey them with impact. The feedback has been really positive.
Leading in a technology-driven world
One of my favourite areas of study on the Executive MBA has been around leadership. The content has provided a real eye-opener around influencing people, leading big teams and understanding how to lead through change, and that’s what technology is doing – it’s disrupting everything. It was eye-opening for me, in terms of learning about emotional intelligence and how people work, how you take people on a journey and how you can shift big organisations very rapidly so that they can take advantage of technological change.
One of my electives, Strategy in Volatile and Uncertain Environments, focused on how to focus individuals and people in rapidly changing environments, even when the goal is uncertain. That module was all about how to lead and influence, and how to build confidence in individuals that you are heading in the right direction, even if the target might be moving.
Cohort and faculty
The cohort has been fantastically supportive of one another. It’s been a non-competitive environment. We want to succeed and do the best we can both individually and collectively, which has been fantastic.
Being a very international cohort, the perspectives and the lenses on specific issues are sometimes very different depending on where peoples’ work experience is from. That challenges your beliefs and what you thought was normal. Challenging deeply held beliefs about the way you think things should be done, the cohort has done that just as much as the material and the lectures.
The quality of the teaching from faculty has been first-class. They have gone above and beyond, helping me to secure my role as a management consultant through sharing their expertise and advice throughout the process. So not only are they there to engage with the pupils in class, but are willing and open with their time and experience and help navigate the reasons why we have done the Executive MBA.
For me, the global elements of the Executive MBA are what really sets the programme apart. The great thing about going to the places that I have (New York, Hong Kong, China and Berlin) is that you can get physically involved and hands-on to see how business is operating there.
The China and Hong Kong visit was eye-opening. We saw process, culture and business operations first-hand, which was so much more beneficial than if we were to learn in the classroom. You can learn about culture in China but by seeing lots of different industries and talk to the people involved about how it really works, that’s where the real value is.
The Executive Leadership Journey
The Executive Leadership Journey made me focus on a lot of things that I had previously ignored. I have always known that I needed to build emotional intelligence, and that was very quickly picked up on the Executive Leadership Journey. Having a programme tailored towards where my opportunities or gaps were and forcing me to discover those things I had hidden for a long time has been really helpful.
At times the Executive Leadership Journey has been uncomfortable because it targets areas that need to improve. I wouldn’t have focused on those weaknesses I have as a leader, had it not been for the programme. I even went and worked with horses for Equine Affinity, something I would never have ever done. It’s been a real journey of focus and reflection to improve those capabilities – it has been challenging but good.
Juggling the work-life balance
Be prepared! Between deadlines for work, deadlines for the assignments and maintaining friends and family relationships, there’s always something going on. I had to plan my time more than ever before – I have become an absolutely meticulous planner and I also plan much more on a daily basis in the workplace which allows me to get more done.
At the same time, I have brought my friends and family on the journey and I have involved them in the things we have been doing, introducing them to my fellow MBA cohort and friends so they don’t necessarily feel isolated from this whole process. This has made them a lot more supportive which has been invaluable.
Advice for prospective students
It’s important you are ready to commit to the Executive MBA. It can give you so much, but only if you fully engage in it. By exploring the programme and talking to as many people as you can, including faculty and current and previous alumni and students, you get a really good understanding of how an Executive MBA will challenge you. Think about your reasons for doing this, because it’s a massive commitment. And once you are confident you want to do it, absolutely throw yourself into it 100 percent because you only get out of it what you put in.