Prior to commencing my MBA at Imperial in 2017, I spent the last ten years as an officer in the British Army. I was fortunate to serve in 15 countries across three continents, including a tour of Afghanistan in 2013. I spent the vast majority of my career in leadership positions, charged with teams of between 30 and 210 soldiers. Towards the end of my service the Army’s overseas commitments were dropping off, and I felt it was the time to seek a new challenge. I left the military as a Major to study at Imperial, in order to make myself more marketable and to take on new challenges.
My main achievement for my career was being trusted by those around me to solve their problems and make things work. The sense of trust and teamwork counts as the biggest achievement in my eyes. I’m also proud of reaching the rank of Major at the rather tender age of 30, deploying to Afghanistan, and being selected for a scholarship from Imperial.
A new direction
After a decade of service my time in the military was coming to a natural end. I was unsure which industry sector I wanted to work in, but knew I needed my new career to have purpose and contribute to society. It was important for me to find a course to teach me the business skills I’d need for the professional journey ahead, while building on a strong and hard-earned base of leadership and people management. An Imperial MBA was clearly the way ahead.
As an aviation engineer, I was fully aware of Imperial’s reputation in engineering and science. I was confident that I was a good cultural fit for Imperial; I understood the College’s ethos and knew I would benefit from it.
I’m still shaping my future career, but the gold-plated solution would be to work for a global engineering company. Imperial’s reputation and the staff, with their knowledge and expertise, will help get me there. For example, when I wanted to learn more about working in a large engineering company, I organised a one-to-one chat with an expert academic who discussed how large engineering companies are structured and where I could fit within that. You would struggle to get that anywhere else.
“Every last bit of the MBA has been useful so far, without exception”
Every last bit of the MBA has been useful so far, without exception. When I applied to Imperial, I was fully aware of my weaknesses in finance and accounting, and how that would affect my employability. The MBA programme has given me a better understanding of both global business at large, as well as at a business level.
I’ve enjoyed Professor Jonathan Haskell’s core class on Business Economics the most. It’s fascinating to hear how economic principles invisibly drive everything we know – you can’t help but look at the world differently afterwards.
I’ve chosen electives for the Spring and Summer Term that build on my interests and strengths, and give me the broadest exposure possible to different aspects of business. I will take International Business, Clean Technology, Leading Social Innovation, Managing Negotiations, Project Management and Leadership over the remainder of the programme.
Careers and Professional Development
Many people leaving the services find it difficult to translate their military experience into their CV to convey their value to prospective employers. Imperial’s Careers and Professional Development Service has been invaluable in effectively cutting through that difficulty to expose its value.
My careers consultant also offered invaluable coaching for job interviews, as I’ve never had a civilian job interview! One-to-one coaching on how to prepare for the interview and how to sell my skills and experience to a panel. They’re like an F1 pit crew: they kit you out and get you on your way as efficiently and successfully as possible!
Future Leaders Scholarship
I am very grateful to Imperial for their Future Leaders MBA Scholarship. As well as recognising my experience, it has made studying the MBA a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The London factor
London offers advantages that are difficult to find anywhere else. Collocating yourself with numerous global corporations’ main offices, in the middle of one of the most entrepreneurial and multinational cities in the world, is absolutely essential. There are only a few places, and even fewer business schools, that can offer this.
There’s such a variety of nationalities in London, and the opportunities to draw on people’s genuine good will to share that knowledge are everywhere. I am very fortunate to have met exceptional military veterans who are now either Imperial alumni or staff, who have mentored and helped me as I start my civilian career. This would not have happened without London’s critical mass of talent and expertise.
A uniquely experienced cohort
My Full-Time MBA class are an incredibly diverse and experienced group, each with an amazing story to tell but all united by motivation, intelligence and the desire to work together as a team. They’re awesome and I’ve learnt so much from them. In the army you can get a limited outlook on what’s out there and exposure to such a diverse cohort with so many job descriptions opens up whole industries you would never have thought of.
I get involved at the Imperial College Boat Club as often as I can, it certainly helps to maintain a degree of fitness! I also took advantage of Imperial’s free language classes in the evening to learn Mandarin, in order to improve my life skills and international business credibility.
My advice to a military professional considering the MBA
The most important advice I can give is not to limit yourself or sell yourself short. The strong leadership and management skills the military develops are desirable and required in many sectors.
Military life is hectic and fast paced. The Imperial MBA forces you to reflect and consider what will motivate you in your new life, backed with the huge career experiences of your fellow classmates and the careers department. A credible and adaptable MBA, such as Imperial’s, allows you to develop and shape your business credibility into whatever you need. I have found it to be an excellent springboard to correct my weaknesses, build on strengths and broaden my horizons.
Finally, don’t underestimate the influence and importance of your cohort and alumni. The people you meet really do open your eyes to the opportunities out there. The advice I have received from Imperial ex-military MBAs, who a few years ago were stood in my shoes, has been invaluable.