Combined Honours Business Management and Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University
Team Leader (Financial Services and Risk), Lawrence Harvey
My professional career
Before joining the MBA, I was a Headhunter in both the UK and the US, focusing on hiring analytical professionals for the financial world. My first job was as a recruiter at Aston Carter, where I resourced the most deals in one month within sixth months in my job. At the time, this was the most deals done in one month in the whole company. After nearly three years there, I moved to New York to set-up operations for a boutique recruitment practice before getting headhunted by a more established firm where I was responsible for the risk technology recruiting practice.
Choosing an MBA at Imperial
I had a meeting with one of my clients and he asked me about my career ambitions. I was at a crossroads on whether I wanted to continue as a Headhunter, and he encouraged me to do an MBA. I decided to explore the option and attended an MBA event in New York where I met Luis Granja in the Recruitment team. Luis talked me through Imperial’s programme and told me I would be a strong candidate with my background. I knew I wanted to come back to the UK to do my MBA and I had four offers from the top-ranked MBA programmes. I chose Imperial’s Full-Time MBA over the other schools because of the programme’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. The Imperial MBA focuses more on out of the box thinking, personal development and changing the way you think about problems. This felt like greater value compared to other programmes that were more theory-focused.
Funding my MBA
I self-funded my personal expenses through my savings and acquired a loan from Prodigy Finance for the tuition. They had quite a good service and it was hassle-free. They organised everything between themselves and the School and it was straightforward.
Smaller class size
Imperial has a much smaller class size compared to similarly ranked programmes. This means the standard at Imperial is so much higher than elsewhere. You constantly change your working groups throughout the year but you can trust quickly that everyone in your group is highly intelligent, engaged and bring a lot of skills to the table. It has also been fantastic from a social perspective as we’re an extremely close group who regularly meet up outside of the programme for activities and drinks. You also get the opportunity to learn various cultural norms and perspectives which gives you a global view on various issues.
Solving real world problems
The most rewarding part of the programme has been the application of what I am learning into the real world. Over Christmas, my brother had a challenging work problem and I applied my learnings from the MBA to sit down with him, structure the problem into actions and advise him on next steps. The MBA has given me a completely different perspective on how to assess situations and provide the right type of guidance, and you can see how valuable these skills are in the real world.
One of my main takeaways is that no problem is too big to solve. So far I have worked on problems such as how to solve world hunger and how to help people save more money for retirement which are very large, global issues. With what I have learnt from the MBA, I have been able to use different frameworks and both lateral and vertical thinking to design various solutions that could easily be piloted and tested out. Although I don’t believe I have solved world hunger, what you learn through this programme can be applied to any problem and I feel very prepared working on any type of project in the future.
New skills: Design Thinking
I have really enjoyed the Design Thinking module. Coming in I thought I would hate it as I’m not a creative person, however, the theory we learnt in the module was blended with practical work during classes and you applied the theory immediately. We also got to choose a global problem we wanted to solve and my group was very passionate about a particular problem so we always came into class full of energy and excitement. The class was a lot more practical than I thought and it was a great learning experience. We liked our problem so much that some of my team and I are taking the problem forward into our Entrepreneurial Journey.
The cohort is very diverse in culture and previous work experience. I have gotten to know so many people I never expected to meet prior to the MBA. We’ve been lucky to have a really good social leader who organises lots of activities and has accommodated people’s preferences. We’ve done the typical drinks at the Student Union, walking tours, gym classes and we also have a mixed football team. We have no egos or elitist-minded people in our cohort and I’m really happy knowing in the future that these people will be representing Imperial as alumni.
Working in groups
It’s been very easy working with others on group projects. If you are coming to Imperial to do an MBA, you need to know how to work with others effectively because there is a lot of group work. Everyone is here for the same reason and you find that people constantly push themselves to get better.
Keeping up with the pace
I had imposter syndrome very early on in the programme. Coming from a sales background with a psychology degree, I was intimidated by my class and felt I needed to work 10 times harder just to keep up. After a few weeks I learnt I had quite a lot to offer to my class and as I got more comfortable, I began to contribute more to classes and my group. The MBA has helped develop my confidence in a professional setting.
Time management has been extremely tough. It is easy to volunteer for activities and because there are so many cool things you get the chance to do, it’s hard to turn down interesting activities. However, just focusing on the programme content alone is quite challenging and when you add on the additional hours of extra-curricular activities, it can become tough to manage everything. I’ve been lucky in that I have an amazing girlfriend who carries the load of some of the house chores when work piles up. The other challenge is money. Going 12 months with no paycheck is a tough transition and although I prepared to have a year off, there are always unexpected costs that happen and blow your entire budget.
The programme faculty
The faculty are very passionate about their subject areas. If you see a lecturer in the café, they are happy to have a personal chat or answer questions you may have. I have also asked lecturers for advice on projects and career advice, and they have been happy to spend time to talk to you. They are very passionate about teaching and sharing their knowledge and I do feel I could go to them with any question.
Outside of the MBA
I am a committee member of the TMT Career Club where I have been arranging speaking and networking events for club members to attend. We’ve focused on finding industry leaders who are interested in engaging Imperial students to come and share their knowledge and expertise. We have also organised company visits, a trek to Uber in Amsterdam and a Hackathon with Expedia, so it’s been a really great club.
Learning about sustainability in Copenhagen
The European trip to Copenhagen was a great experience. Not only was it a lot of fun to spend a few days bonding with my cohort, but I also learnt a lot more about how businesses are shaping their business models towards greater sustainability. Sustainability is an area I had little knowledge about coming onto this trip, and it was very insightful to learn how companies are creating competitive advantages through adopting different sustainable goals.
Although we are a small cohort on the Full-Time MBA, Imperial also has the Weekend MBA, Executive MBA and Global Online MBA programmes running alongside ours and we’ve been able to meet these students at various networking events. We’re starting to see more collaboration between the programmes with the Executive MBA helping connect us for job opportunities or sharing their expertise on projects such as the Entrepreneurial Journey. Some of the MBA cohort have also joined sports clubs and I’ve also spent time with students in the Data Science Institute where they have been teaching me visualisation techniques – and I have been able to share my business knowledge with them.
My career goals post-MBA
I knew coming into the MBA I wanted to work in fintech, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to focus on strategy or product management. Since joining the MBA, I have been able to build a strong network in the wider fintech world and I’ve learnt a lot more about innovation in general. I am waiting until this summer to start applying for jobs, but I already have people I can contact when I am ready to start applying, as well as an idea of which companies I want to join.
My ultimate goal is to become COO of a major company, you’ve got to think big! So I plan to continue learning more technical skills for data and analytics as well as get the opportunity to work on transformation projects. I am aiming to work in financial services, but more on the technology side, as I feel that is where you can truly help solve people’s problems.
Living in London
I live in Fulham. I was moving back to London with my girlfriend who is American and Fulham has quite a lot of Americans so it seemed like a natural place to go. It is a short bus ride to school and there are direct train lines into the city of London on my doorstep. I also coincidentally live next door to two people on my programme which I only found out once I had moved in. I still manage to play Rugby on the weekends and I train very close to the river. It’s a great view and the team is quite social. A lot of them work in the City so it’s also been great for job connections. I think Hyde Park is my favourite location in London so it’s great that the campus is so close. I often take time between classes to go for a quick run around the park which is very relaxing.
Renting was a big challenge when I moved. Because I was a student, most landlords were hesitant to let me move in unless I paid six months’ rent upfront. My advice would be to move in July and settle into London before starting your programme. Once you start the programme, your spare time becomes very limited. Take a month to enjoy the city and settle in before the hard work starts.