Ben Kirk

Professional Background

I studied Geography at the University of Nottingham before heading to work in the City. I spent over six years at Henderson Global Investors (now Janus Henderson Investors), joining as a Trainee in Operations and going on to work in Distribution and Front Office. I spent three and a half years working as a Fixed Income Analyst, supporting fund managers investing in Sterling and Global Credit. It was a fantastic education into the world of investing. I decided to leave and pursue an MBA to apply the skills I had learnt to areas I was more passionate about.

Entrepreneurial ambitions

I had a number of ideas which I dabbled in during my time in the City and became increasingly frustrated each time I failed to follow them through. As such, my sole reason for doing an MBA was to take a year to embed myself into to an entrepreneurial community, to build and experiment with ideas and to meet and learn from like-minded individuals.

Why Imperial

Imperial was the only choice in London for me due to their focus on innovation and entrepreneurship and their dominance in STEM research. It was incredibly apparent, even from my first visit, how collaborative the Business School is with aspiring entrepreneurs from the wider university. It felt like a very unique environment to immerse yourself in to due to the vast number of ground-breaking innovations that researchers were looking to commercialise.

The London factor

I’m a Londoner born and bred, and every time I go away I am constantly reminded just how lucky we are. It is just the most exciting melting pot of people, cultures and industries which makes it such a vibrant city to live in…and from a food perspective, it really is hard to beat!

Growth and learning

Design Thinking with Dr Ileana Stigliani was one of the highlights of the MBA for me and I also chose to study Ileana’s elective Design Management. The process of ideation and design centred around empathy and subconscious consumer needs is a method I have built into other projects this year and will continue to use in my professional career.

In terms of modules that I can see myself applying in a working environment on day one, Decision Analytics has probably been the most useful. Dr Martin Haugh who taught the class was fantastic and one of the best teachers I had.

Another fantastic module was Organisational Behaviour with Celia Moore – I thought she was standout in terms of her quality and her reasons for teaching. It was purely her desire to impart knowledge and stimulate conversation and debate.

In terms of general skills, pitching and storytelling have been something I have developed the most. I did not come from a sales background so never really had a need to pitch or sell business. During the MBA, I have designed and delivered numerous pitch decks for both school modules and competitions. The highlight has to be representing Imperial and pitching to a panel of 20 investors at the regional finals of the Hult Prize in Shanghai.

The wider Imperial community

Getting involved in the wider Imperial community has created the majority to the defining moments on my MBA. The things I will look back on are the relationships that I’ve built with the Enterprise Lab and working with Imperial College London students on Hermone and ThinAir. Again, I feel these opportunities are pretty unique to Imperial due to their focus on STEM.

I connected with Jonathan, the CEO of ThinAir, on the Entrepreneurial Journey elective where we created a separate entity called ThinAir Social Ventures. It was this entity that we developed and went on to pitch in the Hult Prize. Leading a team out to Shanghai and representing ThinAir alongside fellow students Sabrina Hearn, Ricardo Diaz and Amar Jass was incredibly special.

A unique environment

Imperial College gives you the freedom to create what you want. It is academically challenging at times but the collaborative environment means everyone helps each other out. Lecturers and teaching assistants are very engaged in helping you, and the syndicate groups are designed to include differing skills sets so you learn from each other. I find it a very creative environment generally, more so than I was expecting from a Business School.

International Trips

Our Global Experience Week in Chile was fun and fascinating. The panels we had were excellent, varying from entrepreneurs to mining and agricultural corporates and even the Managing Director of the British Chilean Chamber of Commerce. Learning about one of the most developed economies in South America, how reliant they are on their natural resources, but also their thriving entrepreneurial community was fantastic. All that said, the 13-hour flight was worth it for our trips to the vineyards alone!

Funding my MBA

I sold all of my investments and was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from Imperial.

A close-knit community

We are a very collaborative and tight-knit cohort, always celebrating each other’s successes. One of the strengths has been the diversity in backgrounds, from creatives to lawyers and entrepreneurs to financiers. It has also been great having people like Matthew Casey with an army background and Patrick De Barr with a medical background – they bring such different experiences and perspectives from their careers which has been brilliant.

A change of perspective

When I applied for the MBA I thought I would continue to dedicate my entrepreneurial time to my love of food. After working with other students from around Imperial College my focus switched from food to science, where I saw the huge humanitarian and commercial opportunities of certain innovations.

What’s next?

I will be joining as ThinAir Water’s CFO after my MBA. This completes the perfect journey for me, having entered as an investment analyst and leaving to join a pre-seed business with huge humanitarian and commercial opportunities.

My advice for future MBA students

One year goes in a flash! Although I think it’s important to enter an MBA with an open mind, I do think it’s important to have an idea of what your end goal might look like. This helps in understanding if an MBA is even needed to help you get there. It has given me a great period of time to reflect on everything I have done previously and focus on exploring new avenues. Having this focus and understanding of an end goal means that you can extract so much value from all the opportunities open to you. Finally, give a lot of time to research the institution where you want to study…and then be prepared to work very hard!

Ben Kirk

Nationality: British

Undergraduate education: BA in Geography and Humanities, University Of Nottingham

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Analyst, Henderson Global Investors

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