Robert Carter

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: UK, British

Education: MEng, Imperial College London

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Senior Powertrain Engineer, Frazer-Nash Research Ltd.

Pre-MBA sector: Engineering

Full-Time MBA 2018-19

The start of my journey: Mechanical Engineering at Imperial

I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London in 2011, with a passion for electric vehicle technology, having spent much of my time developing small electric race cars for the university’s Formula Student team. Thereafter, I spent eight years in engineering working for a company developing electric and hybrid vehicle technology. During this time, I also became a Chartered Engineer and completed leadership and management training with the Chartered Management Institute.

My career gave me the opportunity to work on several interesting and innovative projects. Some of my favourite achievements include working on the first hybrid black taxis to run in London and a project developing new lightweight electric buses. My last project before starting the MBA was developing an exciting electric sports car, which was part of a UK government grant-funded programme to develop technology for small car manufacturers. I remember the enormous satisfaction I felt when I sat in the first prototype for this project shortly before starting the MBA – it was the last thing I signed-off and I remember testing it around the race track!

Choosing an MBA at the Business School

In the eight years I spent as an engineer, I saw how engineering projects and programmes were managed in industry, including some of the difficulties encountered in taking an emerging technology to market and making a bold and successful business case around it. Seeing those challenges first-hand really began to shift my desire from understanding the engineering and technology behind new projects, towards understanding more about the business and financing required to make them successful.

For me, returning to Imperial provided a strong incentive with its association to the fond memories of completing my engineering undergraduate degree. Having come from an innovative technology sector, it was also really important for me to see that Imperial was pushing the entrepreneurial side of the MBA and had taken itself out of the conventional MBA box. The final deciding factor came when I was awarded the Future Leaders scholarship, which was a game-changer financially.

Returning to Imperial for my MBA was a remarkably different student experience. Although the campus had not changed much physically, the university felt different as a graduate student in a different department. In the past, I often felt the Business School was viewed as separate from the rest of the university, so it was nice to see it from the inside and witness the growing integration with other departments at Imperial. I can honestly say how much I enjoyed studying at the Business School and that the Full-Time MBA will always be one of my most memorable experiences at Imperial.

Apply for scholarships

As a scholarship holder, my advice is to not hesitate to apply for the scholarships on offer. Applicants often think that they won’t get a scholarship and so there’s no point trying, but you won’t know if you don’t give it a go. In my case I knew I really wanted to do the MBA and couldn’t afford to do it otherwise. I remember thinking if I don’t get this I can’t go – it was a binary decision for me. I was ecstatic when I got the offer email, I knew receiving the support was an incredible opportunity and yet at the time I couldn’t envision how much I was going to enjoy and grow throughout the MBA. Now, looking back on it makes me even more grateful for the scholarship.

The MBA changed me into the person I am today

It’s genuinely really hard to pinpoint the most rewarding part of the programme. Perhaps because the most rewarding thing is to stand here today and realise how much I’ve grown since I started the MBA. There’s no one thing I can point to that made that change, but along the way I was exposed to things that changed my thought process, capabilities and confidence in myself. In many ways, I came out of the MBA as a changed person. The most transformational things for me were activities like the Global Experience Week – going to Lusaka, Zambia was an incredible opportunity. Spending a week there with local companies, helping them and applying my knowledge was incredibly rewarding. Aside from simply being great fun, it was both informative and challenging to be using the MBA in a real-world context.

Learnings from the core modules

Picking a favourite core module is exceptionally difficult, if not impossible. There are several core modules that I enjoyed immensely, some because they are favourite topic areas for me and some simply because I learned so many useful things. If I had to pick, it would be the twinned finance modules Corporate Finance and Investment & Risk Management, taught by Franklin Allen. They were both fantastic, not only because Franklin is a great lecturer and teacher, but because the sheer amount of immediately useful content I learnt in those modules was huge.

One of the great aspects of the MBA was starting from my industry background, in my case a totally engineering focussed environment, and being exposed to all these other diverse perspectives on the business world. Modules like Macroeconomics and Microeconomics together formed a powerful combination because I was learning about the national monetary policy of governments combined with ideas around how individual businesses might fit into that context. This was radically different to the way I’d thought about business in my career before the MBA.

A supportive cohort

An instinctive word that comes to mind about my cohort is supportive. Because we were together as a close group for the whole year, it felt like we were all part of a big family in no time at all. I feel fortunate to have had a year group made up of really inspiring people and it’s been an absolute pleasure getting to work with them all. If anyone was having a tough time, there was always someone who would help out. I am very proud of how much we’ve accomplished as a year group and seeing everyone go off and start their new jobs is a surreal yet heart-warming feeling.

The MBA juggling act

It’s true, the MBA is a bit relentless. At the start of the year I remember being told that it would be really intense with all the core modules in the first and second term, then become easier during the electives. But for many of us it was non-stop throughout the year. Thankfully I mostly managed to keep up with everything due to the support of my cohort and syndicate team. There were times when it felt like critical tasks might get dropped, perhaps there were numerous coursework deadlines lining up or events to attend or job application deadlines to meet. Those periods were particularly challenging and I wondered how I would fit everything in. However, with careful time management it is possible to structure the workload and all that matters during the really tough times is that you have your friends around to support you.

Interacting with students across programmes and working in groups

Attending electives with some of the MSc students and the other MBA programmes was a great experience. You’re in class with people who think differently because they’re on a different programme or because they’re 20 years ahead of you (on the Executive MBA) or have a different perspective because they’re a Weekend MBA student and are still working part-time. It’s a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding meeting new people, networking and swapping stories. This results in a really vibrant class dynamic.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with many different people on a multitude of projects.  It’s often said you make your own luck, but I feel I have been very fortunate with the groups I worked in. My syndicate team had a really proactive attitude towards getting work done, we would always get together and efficiently distribute the tasks based on what people wanted to do and what they had skills and interests in. We were relatively fluid in who would lead a project or activity and it was good for us to share that leadership experience.

Group Consulting Project

The Group Consulting Project was a challenging yet valuable learning experience for me, with my project based on the automotive use of hydrogen fuel cells. Two of us in the group had an automotive background, which meant we had enough knowledge to cover the technology side for the client, and between the whole team we could cover the business and finance aspects too. This really showed just how much a project team with people from different backgrounds, perspectives and industry experience could achieve.

My final project

One opportunity I hadn’t envisaged having on the MBA was to undertake my final project with an Artificial Intelligence startup. Given my specific engineering background and plans post-MBA, I didn’t imagine I would be getting involved with an exciting venture centred on AI and the ethics around how businesses implement it. This was a completely new area for me and outside of anything I was taught on the MBA. But this is what the MBA actually teaches you; that you can face the unknown. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the answer when you walk in on day one, what’s important is that you know how to structure a learning or investigative process and come up with a solution to the problems you encounter.

Imperial College Business School Careers

I used a number of different Careers services throughout the year. The Careers team both directly and indirectly support with activities such as practice interviews and case interview prep, as well as encouraging students to seek out their own relevant advisors for career areas they’re interested in. I did a couple of structured activities earlier on in the year, which was useful in identifying those Careers team contacts with relevant industry knowledge. I found my one-on-one coaching sessions with my Careers Consultant highly valuable and recommend future MBA students to take full advantage of this support. Often these were effectively structured as executive leadership coaching sessions, where we would talk about what I was doing, what my career goals were and what types of activities I planned to do to support this. I used this coaching feedback extensively to develop where I wanted to go as a future leader and how I could best springboard forward from the MBA.

Life after Imperial

I’ve particularly enjoyed my career immediately after the MBA and have been privileged to pursue more than one opportunity since the programme ended. I have continued working as a part-time consultant with reputable.AI, the AI startup I supported for my final project, and at the same time I am also returning to my previous employer Bristol Automotive Group Ltd. This has been in a new business development focussed position, as they embark on an ambitious project to bring an exciting new electric truck to the market. Both roles are opportunities that allow me to put many of the MBA learnings into practice and to continue growing professionally.

The London factor

For me, the best thing about being in London, especially during the MBA, is that it’s such a vibrant hub of activity. During the MBA I had access to all the businesses and other universities in and around London, perfect of course for networking and job hunting. There were also numerous startup communities, both inside and outside of Imperial, and many students chose to be fully immersed in these opportunities. London is also a major transport hub, giving easy access to other places in the UK and to airports for travelling to the global experience destinations that come with the MBA. It’s also a great place to be because there are so many things to find and explore locally too.

Advice to prospective students

If you’re thinking about applying to the MBA, and you know it’s something you really want to do then don’t hesitate to apply – even if you’re not crystal clear yet on where you want your career to go afterwards. A lot of that may change throughout the year anyway. Many students, myself included, start the year without fully understanding every aspect of what the MBA entails, and that’s natural because you’re not going to understand all of the opportunities and experiences you’ll be exposed to. With that in mind, my advice is to take a leap of faith and go for it. You can’t imagine the people you’ll meet and the experiences you’re going to have. I’m not exaggerating when I say the MBA can be a genuinely life-changing experience, it was for me and I wouldn’t change my decision to embark on the Full-Time MBA for anything.

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Nationality: UK, British

Education: MEng, Imperial College London

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Senior Powertrain Engineer, Frazer-Nash Research Ltd.

Pre-MBA sector: Engineering