Jayshan Ratnakumar, Full-Time MBA 2020-21

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: British

Helping my employer manage the challenges of the pandemic

Prior to starting my Full-Time MBA at Imperial College Business School, I worked as an engineer in both large corporate and startup environments. During the early stages of the pandemic, the startup I worked at, like many businesses, found itself in a difficult situation. One achievement I'm particularly proud of was pitching for and winning two Innovate UK grants during this time, totalling just over half a million pounds. This enabled the startup to run a development project to support them through their journey to commercialisation and gave them a financial lifeline during a challenging time.

The first step on my entrepreneurial journey

After working for several years in engineering roles in both large corporations and SMEs I realised that I wanted to build and exercise a new commercial mindset to complement my technical know-how. I figured an MBA would allow me to develop business knowledge foundations, raise my profile within powerful business networks and ultimately offer me the chance to explore new opportunities, while strengthening my professional skillset.

I initially wanted to study abroad for the life experience and to expand my network. However, I quickly realised that I would be able to better complement my current network and leverage other opportunities if I studied my MBA in the UK. I also had a keen interest in entrepreneurship and building a tech venture around my engineering know-how; Imperial was a clear winner with its fantastic hub of entrepreneurial activity and globally recognised scientific research facilities.

Winning my scholarship

I was incredibly fortunate to win the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Award along with fellow Imperial classmate Ahmad Khattab. For me to be able to commit to doing an MBA, it was imperative that I win this scholarship, as it has alleviated any financial pressure. In turn this has allowed me to really experiment throughout my MBA experience and to pursue things that I enjoy and that interest me, rather than solely focussing on avenues which are the most likely to lead me to employment opportunities. I encourage all engineers to look into this scholarship when looking for ways to fund their MBA.

My programme benefits from unique institutions and supportive peers

From an entrepreneurial perspective, Imperial’s Full-Time MBA is unique because of its strong connections to Imperial College London and neighbouring institutes like the Royal College of Art. Additionally, its active entrepreneurial community present a unique opportunity to build both a strong network and a startup team. There is a range of talent and skill from all over the world that any other MBA provider would struggle to match. The MBA cohort is so diverse, coming from all walks of life and from all over the globe and it has been great to learn, work and socialise with my colleagues. Everyone is incredibly supportive! The people that you meet and the great relationships you develop has to be one of the most rewarding parts of the programme.

Applying my learnings to my business ideas

Although it has only just started for me, the Entrepreneurial Journey is my favourite module. It neatly follows on from all of the business fundamental modules and gives you time and space to work with a team from a range of campuses to develop an idea and pitch it to investors. Being able to utilise the knowledge and skills you have learned to develop your business ideas with great new colleagues is exciting.

My favourite events

‘Building your Personal Brand’ by Joseph Liu and the ‘World Café Alumni’ events from Careers, and the ‘How To Talks’ from the Enterprise Lab were all incredibly insightful. Opportunities to develop both hard and soft skills and network with successful alumni are also available at the Business School, which gives plenty of scope to build knowledge and profile.

Balancing responsibilities

Managing my time has probably been the most challenging part of the programme for me. There are a lot of activities, events every week and new responsibilities on top of regular classes, so it is key to have a plan and decide how best to navigate and leverage all the opportunities available. Your colleagues also have their own goals and value group coursework differently to you, so it’s important to manage expectations and to devote time accordingly and commit to any agreements.

The incredible communities of Imperial

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Career Club is a fantastic community, bringing together the brave entrepreneurial minds of the business school. I am a committee member of the club and I hope to synergise all the different entrepreneurial activity within the business school including the Enterprise Lab, MBA Connect and Scale Space. Encouraging the growth and effectiveness of this ‘safe space’ community is vital for inspiring Imperial’s students to collaborate, share and develop their ideas and for them to best utilise Imperial’s resources. This project is incredibly exciting and I am greatly looking forward to networking with this community. We are also launching our own podcast very soon so stay tuned!

Realising my startup dream

My goal is to achieve my first fundraising round for my startup venture by the end of my MBA journey. The Business School and the Enterprise Lab have been incredibly supportive so far on my endeavours. From the Business School perspective, my careers consultant is a great personal mentor in encouraging me, making great suggestions, challenging my decisions and sense checking my MBA plan. The Imperial Enterprise Lab Discovery Fund programme, which I have been fortunate to be a part of, has helped with regards to customer discovery and business modelling. Other services they offer include ‘Experts in Residence” and ‘Pitch and Mixes’. These have greatly expanded my network, helped me to form a team and offered me great advice and wisdom.

Sources of advice if you want to study an MBA

Do your research, speak to as many people as you can and identify your goal (however big or ridiculous you think it may be). The Imperial recruitment team provides personal consultations and are happy to listen to each individual’s needs. Imperial’s alumni community are also very supportive and were approachable when I was applying to Imperial. These conversations were pivotal in helping me to understand whether Imperial was a good fit for me and to define my career goals.

Interested in applying for a scholarship to this programme?