Elizabeth Petykowski

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: United States, U.S., American

Education: BSc Hospitality and Tourism Management, Roosevelt University. MSc Development Management, London School of Economics

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Financial Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

My professional background

Prior to joining the MBA, I spent five years working in project management and grant stewardship for multinational NGOs including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the UN Foundation. During my tenure, I helped plan, budget and implement projects aimed at reducing emissions and promoting market-based incentives around the world. I moved to London in 2018 and studied an MSc in International Development Management at the London School of Economics before starting my MBA at Imperial College Business School in 2019.

Choosing the Imperial MBA

My career and passion to this point have centred on protecting the environment and promoting sustainability. The future of business is changing, and "business-as-usual" needs rapid alternations that take people and the planet into account. In order to be a part of that change, it was imperative that I apply for an MBA programme that would train me for how to pitch and implement these concepts into traditional business, while also offering me modules and connections in the sustainability field. I found both at Imperial College Business School.

Imperial’s Full-Time MBA programme values all aspects of diversity including talents, cultures and work backgrounds. This creates an amazing opportunity to share and learn from each other. Imperial does a great job selecting students who care about the School and their classmates as much as their individual advancement, so it creates a really collaborative and supportive environment. The School also provides unique resources and opportunities for speciality areas like entrepreneurship and sustainability that stands out from other programmes.

The Forté Foundation Fellowship

I am a recipient of the Forté Fellowship – a partial scholarship for women in business. The remainder of my tuition is self-funded. I highly recommend looking into the pre-MBA resources of the Forté Foundation for all female applicants. Joining Forté is not a prerequisite to receive the scholarship at Imperial, but it was an amazing resource and networking opportunity that helped me prepare for the MBA.

My cohort and working in groups

My cohort is an absolutely amazing mix of cultures and talents. No matter what you’re dealing with, there is always someone willing and able to help. We work hard all week, but also know how to have a good time and balance the stress.

Most of our group projects are with our syndicate team, and everyone will have a different experience with these depending on your own working style preference. In my team, no two people are from the same country, which makes for a unique and diverse group. We rely on each other and always get the job done.

Endless networking opportunities

The networking opportunities are literally endless. The programme is so much larger than just the cohort. The entire Business School is bustling with people to meet, not to mention the alumni network that is always up for coffee chats and answering questions. Then there are the companies that come on campus that are familiar with Imperial’s calibre and are very interested in Imperial students.

Programme learnings

I loved the Innovation and Entrepreneurship module with Professor Michelle Rogan. It’s a hard subject to teach in a concrete and tangible way, but she has shown us how we can apply strategic problem solving and critical thinking to business opportunities using structure and methodical approaches. I love the emphasis on intrapreneurship, which is applying the principles of entrepreneurship to existing business structures.

European Insights trip to Copenhagen

We just got back from Copenhagen. It was an amazing experience to visit companies and see one of the most sustainable cities in the world. It was also a great bonding experience, as everyone in the class came out to socialise. We’re preparing for Zambia now, and there are lots of plans for pre-travel adventures in Cape Town and safaris throughout Africa. It should be a memorable time for all!

Making the most of every opportunity

On the MBA, you will only get out what you put in. That goes for core classes, extra-curricular activities, networking, job searching. Imperial will provide you with endless opportunities, but nothing is handed out, so you have to be willing to work.

I am President of the Social Impact and Responsible Business Club, so we put on a lot of our own events that we gear towards our member’s interests. This is also a great opportunity to connect with companies and learn skills that align with my own career trajectory. We’ve had professionals from Goldman Sachs, Barclays, EY, and many, many more come to our events, which has been an amazing networking opportunity. I also sourced my Group Consult Project (GCP) with a company that came onsite to present to Imperial. I am also a Student Ambassador and am a member of the Energy & Sustainability Club & Finance Club. In March, I am participating in IESE’s Impact Investing Competition with a group of Imperial students and am potentially collaborating on a project with the Centre for Climate Finance & Investment over the summer.

In addition to these formal groups, early on our cohort created WhatsApp groups for literally every interest possible. We have footballers, travellers, foodies, etc. My personal favourite is the musical group where we find plays and musicals happening in the West End. Tip: the International Student Office has discounted tickets so we always get a big group together and this year we have seen & Juliet, Wicked, Hamilton, and Matilda!

Stepping out of my comfort zone and improving my skills

I’m a pretty nervous public speaker, but improving this skill was a common interest amongst our cohort so a few classmates started a “Speechmasters” group, usually 15-25 MBAs attend. We meet every few weeks during lunch and practice giving short speeches or responding to questions on the spot. This has helped me tremendously – along with lots of practice from coursework presentations and leading Club events!

Biggest challenge: time management

The most challenging part of the programme is time management. Coming off another Master’s while also working part-time, I really thought I had this figured out. But this year was a whole new level of busy. I signed up for probably more than I could handle initially and had to realign, delegate and reprioritise several times throughout the term to stay afloat.

Career goals

I vaguely knew what I wanted to do before I came to Imperial and have not pivoted away from staying in the sustainability sector. But the programme has cleared the lens on how to make this happen and helped me identify which areas I might fit best into. I am now able to articulate exactly how my skills and experience are a fit for my target career.

Imperial College Business School Careers has been an amazing resource. The personal one-to-one coaching is invaluable, along with customised support by sector. I’ve had mock interviews and case study practice with multiple members of the team along with support from Careers on inviting speakers to Clubs events.

Looking to the future: my post-MBA career

I am hoping to find a role that combines my love of the environment and sustainability with strategic business opportunities. I would love to work for a company that recognises climate risks and wants to change their internal systems, or work in consulting for multiple companies as this area grows. I hope my network at Imperial only continues to strengthen. Our time here is too short, so I can’t wait for our cohort reunion trips around the world!

The London factor

I moved to London with my husband and our dog – I had to bring all members of our family! I have many tales about the struggle of the UK pet immigration system that I can share. My husband is working here on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa, and I am on a Tier 4 Student visa. Being a non-EU citizen does come with its challenges while we consider post-graduation UK opportunities, particularly for certain sectors. But there are so many different routes to making it work though. I implore you to speak with Imperial directly and they will offer the best advice that fits for you and your family!

I live in East London by Whitechapel Station. It’s great for restaurants, bars, etc. but it is a little far from campus. I have a great place though, and the District Line runs direct to South Kensington, so I can easily get there in about 40 mins. I love walking down the street on any given day and hearing on average four or five languages. It really feels like the centre of the world where everything is happening.

Advice to prospective students

The MBA is so much more than the GMAT. Don’t let that qualification (or any other) stop you from pursuing your goals. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus on your goals, your network, and your future.

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: United States, U.S., American

Education: BSc Hospitality and Tourism Management, Roosevelt University. MSc Development Management, London School of Economics

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Financial Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund