Alexandra Circiu, Full-Time MBA 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: Romanian

Education: MSc International Business Communication, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies

My experience helping to build exciting global brands

Prior to studying at Imperial, I worked as a brand marketer for telecommunications and tech companies. During my seven year career, I worked for global brands such as IBM and Orange (a French multinational telecommunications corporation) and coordinated marketing campaigns that got people excited about innovation and technology.

One of the projects I coordinated that I am most proud of was launching a mobile app involving augmented reality for Orange. It was one of the first times a telco brand experimented with such novel technologies in their marketing activities, and within only four days from the launch, the app ranked first in the Apple App Store, strengthening the company’s position as one of the fastest mobile networks.

Why I decided to study a Full-Time MBA at Imperial

I first started considering an MBA two years ago as an opportunity to accelerate my career and pivot to a marketing consultant role. Having an undergraduate degree in communications and PR, I knew that to achieve this goal I needed to strengthen my business acumen. Imperial College Business School was a great fit for me because I needed a programme based in a large city with a strong consultancy presence as well as a world-class faculty. Another important factor for me was the wide array of scholarship opportunities Imperial presented, which was a key factor in my decision to study a Full-Time MBA at Imperial.

I was extremely lucky to be awarded a scholarship, which helped make my MBA dream possible. I also took out a loan from Prodigy Finance and was supported by my family along the way, who helped me cover the remaining part of the tuition and living expenses in London.

A diverse and supportive group of students

I believe first and foremost that it is the diversity of our cohort which makes Imperial College Business School unique. I can interact on a daily basis with people from different cultural and professional backgrounds, who all bring unique viewpoints to our group projects and make the learning journey even more exciting. Moreover, I am really grateful to be part of the Imperial MBA Women’s Group where I’ve been introduced to an extensive network of women with the same professional aspirations as me. This group provides opportunities for us to all come together to support each other with things ranging from job referrals to salary negotiation tips.

Developing a more innovative mindset

My favourite module so far has been Innovation and Entrepreneurship, not only because it gave me a better understanding of what innovative thinking is, but also because of the highly interactive nature of the module. The lecturer, Dr Michelle Rogan, was very engaging and she even included a group simulation for us, during which we had to take to market and run a new business. The way she encouraged individual participation was another thing I really appreciated in her teaching method, making us comfortable to share our thoughts and contribute to meaningful conversations.

Events organised by the Business School

Imperial College Business School Careers have been really helpful in putting together an array of events for us throughout the year. These events allowed me to explore different industries, interact with various employers and get useful tips from Imperial MBA alumni. The industry panels were really useful for me and my favourites were the consulting ones. These gave me a sneak peek into the work that management consultants do and helped me understand what skills I need to be one so I can better prepare for interviews.

Entering the world of business with a background in the humanities

Coming from a humanities educational background made it challenging for me to get into the Business School and keep up with my peers. I may need more time than others to wrap my head around certain topics, but I always make sure I do everything I can to increase my chances of succeeding, like spending extra time to understand basic concepts, or attending group study sessions.

For example, before studying my MBA I did not see myself as a numbers person, but I can certainly say now that I feel much more confident to engage in group discussions around topics such as data analysis. This is especially thanks to two of the core modules I took: Decision Analytics and Corporate Finance. These classes have offered me a solid foundation to further build on and become the well-rounded business professional I aspire to be.

I am gaining a better understanding of how the financials of a business work and how I can apply those concepts when evaluating projects, which has helped me get an edge when interviewing for consulting or marketing roles.

Networking with top students from around the world

Our cohort is a very diverse group with people coming from all parts of the world and 43% of us being women. I appreciate every one of them for the unique perspective they bring to class discussions and for everyone's genuine interest in learning with and from others. We are all open to offering advice, connecting our peers with people from various companies or industries, or simply being part of study groups and sharing our expertise and knowledge.

Being a member of such a diverse cohort brings invaluable opportunities for networking. For example, one of my team members for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship group project has put us in touch with a very successful entrepreneur in the US, who is successfully disrupting the food industry. Such connections are really hard to get outside the Business School and I am really grateful to be able to engage in conversations with sector experts and trailblazers.

Taking the lead in group projects

Taking part in group projects is similar to the work environment in a professional setting, which is excellent preparation for anyone who wants to continue their career in either the corporate environment or a startup. It also gives those who want to hone their leadership skills a perfect opportunity to lead groups to successful project outcomes. Personally, it gave me the opportunity to understand the importance of active listening when identifying and solving problems, and also to expand my knowledge and understanding of various business topics.

Opportunities outside the classroom

I am the Events Director of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Career Club and, together with a committee consisting of MBA and MSc students, we’ve been putting together throughout the year a wide range of events for the Business School: industry panels, alumni networking events and even workshops. These are all great opportunities to get in touch with potential employers, network with the wider Imperial community of alumni and keep up to speed with the latest developments in specific industries.

I have also participated in extracurricular activities such as the Future of Retail Hackathon and consulting projects secured by the Sports Business Club as a way to improve my experience with the consulting practice. Since I want to pivot to consulting I am essentially asking employers to take a chance on me, and why would they do it if I don’t take a chance and show them how I go above and beyond in learning about the industry and practising the skills required to be successful in the job?

‘Learning about macroeconomics from someone who used to decide interest rates at the Bank of England‘

The Business School faculty is comprised of renowned professors who have the right mix of business knowledge and practice. They have all been really supportive throughout the year, offering us the opportunity to interact with them during office hours, on top of classes, while making sure they kept a constant communication flow so we know exactly what is expected from us in terms of coursework or exams. At times it almost felt surreal that I was sitting in a class (or at my home office, being in a Zoom call) learning about macroeconomics from someone who used to decide interest rates at the Bank of England — yes, I am talking about the one and only, Professor David Miles.

Networking with the distinguished alumni

The Imperial College London alumni community is a very strong network consisting of people working in various industries, but also of successful startup founders. This is a huge advantage the Imperial MBA presents as I was able to tap into this wide pool of extremely talented people, not only to learn more about strategy and consulting roles, but also to secure job interviews with some of the companies where these alumni were working.

My career goals

My post-MBA aspirations are to pivot into a marketing consultant or marketing strategy role, either within the industry or with a consulting firm. Modules like Strategy or Business Problem Solving helped me adopt a ‘questions first’ type of mindset and get better at structuring my work before actually doing it. Developing these skills was a crucial step in positioning myself as a good fit for a consulting or strategy role. As a result of that, I now feel more comfortable tackling case study interviewing and presenting my problem-solving approach in a structured manner.

Expert advice from Imperial College Business School Careers

The coaching sessions with my career consultant played a pivotal role in helping me get more comfortable with the interviewing process. Xiaobei Wu, who is my consultant, made sure she kept in touch with me before and after all my interviews and did an excellent job preparing me for these. We did a lot of training around the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) response framework and she also connected me with other Imperial consultants who helped me with case study practice.

It is never hard to find things to do in London

I live in Marylebone, an area well connected by both bus and rail to the campus in South Kensington. What I like the most about Marylebone is its proximity to Regent’s Park, one of my favourite parks in London, where I can take long walks during weekends. If I were to choose again, I would probably pick the same area, however I have discovered some other great areas in London worth exploring. Imperial’s great campus in South Kensington, which even features a student pub, has amazing museums right next door, while Shoreditch with its lively streets and food markets is another favourite of mine.

My favourite thing about living in London is the diversity of activities you can engage in. From food markets to museums and outdoor sports, London presents endless opportunities to spend your free time and make new friends. Being very much into yoga, I have discovered this thing called Yoga with Puppies, which is my all-time favourite type of yoga class. It is mostly just playing with puppies, but you can still do yoga if you resist the temptation of chasing puppies around. On top of that, on weekends when I don’t have plans, I very much enjoy taking a swim at Ethos (Imperial’s gym) and then just walking around South Kensington and having a good brunch.

Reach out to your classmates before you move to London

My partner had moved to London shortly before I did which made things a lot easier for me when I arrived. If you do move to London by yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to your cohort for information on rent prices and tips on areas to explore. Many of my peers who moved here by themselves secured their accommodation with the help of those who were already based in London, so I’d encourage anyone moving here to connect with their cohort beforehand.

Apply as early as possible

I would advise those who are considering doing an MBA to start their research early and make sure they apply as early in the process as possible. Most of the scholarships are awarded during the first application stages so if you want to improve your chances to succeed in getting a scholarship, make sure you put in an application during the early recruitment stages and try to stand out in your essays and interviews. To stand out in these, it is very important to clearly articulate your career goals and what you ultimately want to get out of the Imperial MBA, and also how you plan to contribute to the School’s community.

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: Romanian

Education: MSc International Business Communication, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies