Olivia Xu, 2020 Forte Fellow
Programme:
Full-Time MBA
Nationality:
American
Education:

BA Mathematics and Statistics, Amherst College

Job prior to Imperial College Business School:

Data Analyst, Lose It!

My journey to Imperial

Before Imperial, I was working in data science at a Boston app startup, focused on paid user acquisition and financial data.

I wanted to get an MBA because I was looking to pivot my career. I’ve always been interested in retail, and specifically, sustainable womenswear. Imperial College Business School was the perfect fit because as a primarily STEM institution, I knew I would be able to use most of my technical background in a business setting. Additionally, I knew that to work in retail, I needed to be in a major city like London, where so many established and emerging designers exist.

The Forté Foundation scholarship

Part of my MBA was generously funded by the Forté Foundation. I knew for some time I wanted to get an MBA, so I was researching and applying to schools quite early in the autumn of 2019. By doing so, there were many scholarship deadlines that I could meet, and I would encourage anyone applying to programmes to keep that in mind.

An MBA with an entrepreneurial and innovative edge

The Imperial Full-Time MBA programme is unique in many ways. For me, the main reasons are the focus on entrepreneurship and innovation and it being a one-year programme. I wanted a school that would allow me to explore different business ideas that I have. Also, for those taking time off work to be in school, having a one-year programme can be very attractive.

Discussion-based learning

My favourite module has been Marketing. It was a subject I was really looking forward to, and the professor, Mushegh Harutyunyan was very engaging. We spent most of our classes discussing brands that we were all familiar with and dissecting their strategies. I like that many of Imperial classes are discussion-based, as my peers come from all different backgrounds and offer viewpoints that are different from mine. I like hearing what my peers have to say, and often they are things I never would have thought of!  

My MBA network

The most rewarding part has been the network that I have found. Moving from Boston, I really did not know anyone in London. However, after just a few months, I’ve formed relationships with my classmates, professors, other Imperial staff, and non-Imperial professionals in London. Through this new network, I now have many more opportunities available to me.

The faculty has been absolutely amazing. We have so many professors who are so accomplished, and they are also seriously interesting to listen to in class. Subjects like Corporate Finance could sound like a drag to many, but professors like Franklin Allen make it so interesting and easy to see the value in the material. I couldn’t recommend the faculty enough!

My key achievements so far

Coursework wise, I know I am building a very solid foundation in all aspects of business. I feel much more informed and confident in my knowledge as to how to run a successful enterprise. On a more personal level, by moving to a new country and starting over, I feel like I’ve matured and conquered a lot in that sense. I know the semester ahead will also be filled with more trials and growth on an academic and personal level.

Being bold

The Full-Time MBA has taught me to be bold and reach out to people that I am interested in talking to. I feel very in control of what I can accomplish. The Careers team really encouraged me to reach out to people through email and LinkedIn, and I have found great success in this method of networking.

Opportunities outside of the classroom

I’m part of the FMCG, Luxury, and Retail Club, and all their events have been really informative to me as someone who is trying to pivot into this sector. Through this club, I’ve gotten access to speaker events and industry knowledge about the sector I want to pivot into. I’m also on the committee for a coalition of women who coordinate between the four MBA programmes. Our aim is to be a resource and network for women specifically studying for an MBA.

The Careers team also bring in guest speakers who have really helped me rethink my “personal brand” and how I want to present myself to future employers.

I think a lot of my peers can agree that the hardest part is juggling all the activities you want to do. We’re all very motivated students who want to be involved, and there are so many activities at the college to be involved in! It’s hard picking what you have time for.

Group projects

Lots of our coursework is heavily reliant on group projects. While every group project has its challenges, I do find it very realistic to how “real life” operates. Most work in a professional setting is team-based, and as a cohort, we are learning how to effectively navigate team dynamics through actual classes and practice.

The Imperial community

Being a part of the Imperial College community means we have opportunities to get to know students in other departments, like engineering and the sciences. There are many exciting ideas and startups there that Business School students can be a part of. Also, we have access to the alumni community, who are always eager to mentor current students.

My career goals

My intentions for getting an MBA are to pivot into working at a luxury womenswear brand. By being in London and leveraging the Imperial name, I was able to create my own internship at London based brand Me+Em. I currently intern with their marketing team, and I’ve learned so much by just being a part of the business. I hope to continue to work at a brand like Me+Em working on marketing and/or sustainability initiatives.

The Careers team has really tightened up my CV, as well as preparing me for interviews and how confident I feel with the process. We are constantly given opportunities to practice pitching ourselves, which I have found to be the most useful skill time and time again.

The London experience

I currently live in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and I chose the location for the proximity to the college. I’m able to walk to school in about 25 minutes, which is quite convenient for popping over for study breaks and classes. I have no regrets about choosing this location! It is also quite bustling during the workday and weekends for shopping.

My favourite thing about London is the history. There’s so much gorgeous architecture, art, and history to learn about at every corner. Also, as someone who loves all types of cuisine, the food is fantastic, and there are endless restaurants to explore. Finally, London is home to many beautiful parks, where you can work out or catch up with friends.

Moving to London

Like I said previously, the benefits are that London is such a large and diverse city; there’s truly activities for everyone. It is definitely challenging moving from Boston to a new (and larger) city. I had to restart in terms of learning the culture and meeting new people, but it was of course possible, and there’s an “automatic” network within the cohort. I moved here with my partner, and he has found it challenging as well to make new friends in a new country. But, for the most part, people are open and friendly, and we’ve created some lasting friendships for sure.

Advice to prospective students

I would suggest starting your applications early and creating an action plan. There are so many schools with differing timetables, and to keep the most options open to you, figuring out these schedules will help you immensely. Doing a lot of research, in the beginning, can really save you a lot of time and money with being picky which schools to apply to and why you want to apply to them. I did a lot of research into what each school focuses their resources on and where their alumni end up going, and I think that saved me a lot of stress down the line.

Interested in applying for a scholarship to this programme?

Programme:
Full-Time MBA
Nationality:
American
Education:

BA Mathematics and Statistics, Amherst College

Job prior to Imperial College Business School:

Data Analyst, Lose It!