Tatiana Nikiforova

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Undergraduate education: BSc in Public Administration

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Investment Consultant

Pre-MBA sector: Investment Consulting

Full-Time MBA student

Professional background

Prior to moving to London to pursue my MBA at Imperial, I spent the last 10 years in the United States, where I worked as a consultant in financial services at a boutique investment firm. It was a very interesting job and provided me with a broad knowledge of the financial world. I had to deal with wealthy private clients, helping them to select investment opportunities to maximise their financial returns. It was a very competitive internship position and ultimately I was the lucky one of five who received a full-time position at the company. I’m most proud of the solid relationships I built with clients in the junior position.

Growing my skills

I felt that there was a gap in my fundamental business knowledge as my undergrad education was in Public Administration and my work education was strictly “on the job”. I was looking for an MBA education to help me fill this gap. Imperial’s Full-Time MBA is a great programme for experienced young professionals that provides broad learning experiences. It combines academic and real life cases in the classroom with opportunities to leverage existing skills.

I visited Imperial College Business School back in May of 2016 and I quickly became convinced that this was the place for me. I loved the emphasis of the school on developing an entrepreneurial mind-set in students.  There are so many great qualities the Business School has. It is in an exciting location in the centre of London, the brand of Imperial College is known worldwide with a reputation in science and technology and it has a good ranking among MBA programmes worldwide.  These were the key factors influencing my decision to study at Imperial.

The programme provides a great environment to develop new skills.  I really benefited from a safe and supportive environment to practice leadership skills and I found this through managing the Fintech Career Club where I served as MBA President. It was a place to build communication and interpersonal skills by serving as an Ambassador of the College.

I funded my MBA through two main sources; about one-third came from a sponsor company scholarship who saw the potential of a successful future leader in me, and about two-thirds came from personal savings.

Standing out from the crowd

The connections I’ve made in the business world through the Imperial MBA programme, are priceless. They have enabled me to connect with people in the industry that I’m keen to move into. I believe it would be much more difficult to do this without the MBA experience and resources.

The Imperial MBA really pushed my boundaries to network more, have the courage to approach people I don’t know, be more confident and authentic and to be proud of myself.  The Imperial MBA brand helped to open doors for me and I feel like I definitely stand out from the crowd with the Imperial MBA brand behind me.

The Imperial College London brand is a powerful tool in helping you network as well as opening up opportunities within the College. It allows you to gain access to events and departments of the College that you would not have a chance to visit otherwise.

High-calibre faculty

The Imperial MBA experience has really changed me as a person. I was very curious about, and potentially interested in, a future career in Fintech, and the MBA helped me to learn more about the industry.

The Business School faculty is one of the main reasons I chose Imperial. The school attracts valuable academics like Franklin Allen with over two decades of teaching and research experience at Wharton School.

My favourite module was Risk and Investment Management taught by Professor Franklin Allen.  Beyond his deep knowledge of this field, his style of teaching and enthusiasm made my days during this module highly enjoyable. Professor Allen ensured that even students without any background knowledge in Finance got the full opportunity to understand the core concepts and progress. I enjoyed the case study exercises on various corporations, discovering different ways to analyse key factors that influence the company as a whole.

We were also lucky to have a guest Professor, Saresh Sapra, from the Chicago Booth School who taught accounting. Our Programme Director and  Professor of Marketing Andreas Eisingerich  taught incredible marketing classes which were always full of great discussions.  Andreas is a fair, kind, calm and patient manager of the programme.

Full-Time MBA students at Imperial in London have the unique chance to explore other faculties of Imperial College London. Moreover, there are many interesting events happening every week in different departments and across the Business School where we could learn about Big Data, visit numerous Scientific Festivals, and learn about the latest research findings.  We had the opportunity to choose to work on numerous projects from Data Sparks founded by KPMG, to the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis.

Learning to work together

The first two core modules were the most intensive and challenging parts of the programme for me. In the beginning of the first year we were assigned into micro groups. It took us some time to figure out the dynamic in which we all felt most comfortable and most productive. The workload was challenging at times and we usually had many concurrent deadlines for projects and extremely limited time to work on them all. Nevertheless, we all stuck to our commitments and successfully accomplished them. The reward was the actual academic education, as well as learning good time-management skills and good team work.

While the academic education was rewarding, for me the most rewarding part of the programme was the people I met. My class had a healthy blend of outstanding individuals with very different backgrounds that gave me the opportunity to learn from my peers, observe and to look at things from many different angles – this is a very valuable skill. The Imperial MBA programme has many bright, talented and exceptional people from around the world who spend so much time together, from long days and nights working on assignments, to enjoying social events.

The size of the Full-Time MBA class at Imperial is just right; we had a chance to get to know each other and to mix with different classmates on many different projects. My cohort is a very diverse one, there are people from around the world with different personal and professional backgrounds. We all got very close to each other over the year and there is a warm, friendly environment in the class with an openness for debate and discussions. My classmates are all smart individuals with their own opinions and bright futures ahead.

There were numerous group projects during the year. My definite favourite was the Design Thinking Project where our five person team worked on a creative problem-solving solution. We were creative and had so much fun together, in the end coming up with a novel “sharing-tables” restaurant idea. Another project I’ve really enjoyed that I’m still working on is the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design  project. In a team of three we are developing a product that we believe has high potential in the market and has a high social impact that will improve the quality of our lives and future generations in a meaningful way.

The power of networking

My key takeaway from the programme (I may not be first to say this) is having that opportunity to really explore the true power of networking. I pushed my boundaries and expanded my comfort zone to meet new exciting people. A second takeaway is time management.  Time management is essential to succeeding in this MBA – it is a very intensive one year programme and there will be a huge workload, many networking events, and your personal and social life which you don’t want to neglect. Prioritizing things in the right order is important so that you can enjoy your MBA fully.

One of the most memorable and inspiring events was the  Women in Fintech  panel in October 2016. There were seven powerful women from diverse backgrounds who talked about their experiences in the Fintech industry. They shared useful tips such as always being open to feedback, “give before take”, embrace yourself and be confident to achieve your goals.

On top of this the wider Imperial College London and international community is a great resource that will be quite useful in years to come.

Getting involved

I was MBA President of the Fintech Career Club, Ambassador of Imperial College Business School and a member of the Allies movement, founded by my classmate focusing on social equality. The Fintech Career Club was a new club founded in my first year at Imperial.  It was established in September 2016 and involved a lot of work from defining the mission of the club to organising the first events. Nevertheless, it was a very rewarding experience and I can proudly say that at the end of May we ran a successful Fintech Career Fair. We provided an opportunity for 7 Fintech companies (TransferWise, Monzo, Revolut, Fundapps, Best X, AtomInvest and Paylinko) to connect with Business School students and find talent. We also had information and educational events about Blockchain technology, Bitcoins and other new innovations in the Financial Services Industry. We also ran a few joint events with India Business Club and Marketing and Digital Society.

I really enjoyed getting involved in School and College clubs and I’ve gained a lot of valuable experiences from being part of the Imperial community.

Global learning

Vietnam  was a highlight trip for all of us. It was my first time in Vietnam and during our trip we discovered a lot about the history of Vietnam, recent social changes and the influence of different countries and historical events. We learned how different the North and South are and how their different histories affect the mind-set of citizens of each part. We had a chance to visit local entrepreneurs, a textile factory, a helmet plant and world-wide known companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi. The cultural part of the trip included visiting Cu Chi tunnels, and on our last night we had an epic bike-food tour around Ho Chi Minh City.

The  European trip to Berlin, was short but productive. We had a chance to meet Berlin entrepreneurs and even participate in a challenge set-up by each company during panel discussions at Berlin’s WeWork space.

Investing in myself

Immediately after my MBA I plan to work for a consulting company that has a clear focus on finance and technology in order to gain the necessary expertise. From there I plan to move to a private equity or venture capital firm where I hope to help portfolio companies develop, grow and succeed in their respective industries.

The  Career & Professional Development Service  provides great support with my career research and tailoring of my CV as well as numerous workshops, most of which I attended.  Workshops included coaching skills for managers and personal branding. World Careers Café was a very popular career event during my year and I also enjoyed the Personal Leadership Journey. The “Interview a Leader” assignment provided an opportunity and excuse to interview a senior person from an industry and expand our business network.

I believe the Imperial MBA education was one the most important investments in my life. The MBA and Imperial brand are now with me for the rest of my life and I plan to use them for good. The fact that I will be Imperial alumni will keep me in touch with thousands of current and future alumni of Imperial, making me a member of a powerful community.

Benefits of moving to London

London is truly a great city, full of life and never boring. By studying in London, there is a higher chance to go to external events, it’s such a great place for networking and maybe even finding your dream job. London is very international and any foreign person can find something that will make them fall in love with London. The challenge might be to live in the city far away from your family and friends. But remember, your classmates will literally become your family for a year and your lifetime friends. They will treat you as a family, you will be invited to Christmas and National Holiday parties that will make you feel very much included in the culture.

I live in Kensington, a beautiful location just a 20 minute walk from Imperial. I was lucky to live close by to two classmates and we have lovely morning walks together to the school. Kensington is next to the Design Museum that recently moved from the City of London and reopened at the former Commonwealth Institute Building next to Holland Park gate. Holland Park itself is a treasure of London with a Japanese Garden in the centre of the park, so don’t miss a chance to visit and see the peacocks that live there. Kensington High Street is full of pretty cafés and restaurants including Kitchen W8, Min Jiang, Balans Soho Society and many more.

Before moving to London, I lived in New York and I can certainly say that London did not disappoint. What I really like about London are the number of parks; London is so green.  There is always something cultural happening in London, whether its Broadway shows, gallery events, festivals or the many great restaurants.

My tips

If you can afford to take one year off or face an opportunity to study an MBA programme, do it. It is an investment in yourself and in your future. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity – a combination of academics, networking and personal growth. Don’t be afraid to say yes to the many amazing opportunities that the MBA programme will help you to explore.

On top of everything, your MBA will bring you lifelong friendships. For example, with my design thinking team we always had so much fun together and post-project we still remain close and have called ourselves the “Pancake Society” (we discovered we share a common passion for pancakes!).

Programme: Full-Time MBA

Undergraduate education: BSc in Public Administration

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Investment Consultant

Pre-MBA sector: Investment Consulting

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