Carra Torres

Professional background

After graduating from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, I worked in digital advertising at an agency in New York City for three years. I started out as an Analyst where I spent time getting to know the ins and outs of the industry. As I learned more and took on more responsibility, I was promoted to Senior Analyst and Manager, where I was accountable for the overall success, growth and direction for my own account.

One of my career achievements to date was expanding the scope of the account before I left. Originally, my client had one specific, small media channel that we were running on their behalf. After being in that position for eight months, we expanded to four or five other channels, which is pretty unusual for a small firm of 150 with a Fortune 500 client. It was both extremely exciting and a little stressful, but mostly demonstrated the quality of work and talent within my firm!

Why an MBA?

My background is in non-profit and development work; I grew up with my family doing a lot of that work abroad. Long term, I want to go back into that sector and one of the biggest opportunities I see for that area is bringing efficiency and smart business skills and acumen to the non-profit world. After studying politics during undergrad, I instead decided to try my hand in the business world. My first job was intended to both introduce and submerge me in business, and after I reached a saturation point, I knew I wanted to hone the preliminary skills I had developed more formally. I was at a point where in order to get the most out of my own career growth and improvement, I needed to have these skills in my repertoire – which is why business school made sense for me.

Choosing Imperial College Business School

There were several facets of the Imperial MBA that played a part in choosing it to study for my MBA. Firstly, I loved the School’s focus on sustainability and innovation, and how to combine the two together. Second, the one-year programme fit really well into my overall plans and helped me finance the MBA. I was also awarded a Forté Foundation scholarship for women in business to help the transition. Finally, the idea of being part of a truly international network enthralled me – and there’s no better place to do that than Imperial in London!

The Full-Time MBA programme so far

My favourite module on the programme so far is Decision Analytics. It was tricky because I had never been taught to think in a framework of setting up your problems to allow for variation and change. I have used Excel a lot already in my career, but I just jumped so much in terms of my ability to think through the steps of a problem and be able to tackle and analyse it from every single step. That was the module where I felt both the most comfortable and the most challenged – which is an interesting combination to have in class!

The most challenging part of the programme has definitely been all the finance topics. I don’t have a background in finance, and I think the last maths class I took was in my first year of university. I definitely felt I had a huge learning curve when it came to understanding those modules. However, the professor for our Corporate Finance module, Franklin Allen, is amazing. He’s one of the best professors at the Business School and is really great at explaining things in a way that everybody can understand. That’s definitely been the most difficult part of the programme, but I knew that coming in so I was prepared to work really hard at it to get the most out of the subject. I’m not going to work in finance after my MBA but I now understand the perspective that you need to have when you’re making big investment or financial decisions. It was the hardest but also one of the most rewarding parts of the programme.

Incredible guest lectures

My favourite guest lecture was the hologram lecture on Women in Tech, it was so cool. I worked in advertising technology so I felt like I could empathise with the guest speakers who are working in that industry. I walked away feeling so inspired. I love that Imperial was one of the first communities to have a hologram lecture and then also to use that opportunity to focus on women in technology. And then to use that as a platform to further all of these goals was amazing. It is one of my highlights so far of my time at Imperial.

Wonderful and accessible faculty

The faculty have been really wonderful. At a really large university it’s usually hard to feel like the faculty are accessible, but I definitely feel like they are at Imperial. For the most part, faculty members have taught their subject before and they’re really good at taking on feedback from the previous years. In order to teach a module in five weeks, you have to be really good and organised with what you’re going to teach. I’m just really impressed with how well everything has gone because it’s not easy to do that.

The people

One of the things I’ve learned is to not think of other people as competition, but rather to identify the strengths within a group and use that to build each other up. When I began the MBA I thought I’m going to have to do this alone, I’m going to do the best I can. But I realised that I’m not here to do this alone, I’m here to work with my cohort, help them and in return receive help from them. That’s been one of the biggest things, understanding my own strengths and weaknesses as well as the strengths and weakness of others, and being able to lean on those when appropriate.

Working in my syndicate group has been really great. We all got along really well from the start. There’s always ups and downs because there are varying levels of stress and working styles, but I definitely think that my group members have helped me see things from different perspectives in a way that I had never before on a more thoughtful level.

Our MBA trip to Copenhagen

The European Insights trip to Copenhagen was very well organised and exciting. It is a really interesting city and perfect for the topic we were studying which was sustainability and renewables. It was really interesting to see first-hand how Copenhagen is prioritising sustainability, more as a cultural value and less as a tick box for investors. It’s really great to see that’s it’s doable to be sustainable, have a full-profit business and still be a leader in your industry. I feel like I had never seen a good example of that before, but we visited companies who are succeeding in business and sustainability across multiple industries, and in fact pioneering their own industries forward!

The weight of the Imperial name

As I’ve been trying to find a job, I have found that the Imperial name is pretty weighty, it means a lot. I’m appreciative that I’ve been able to lean on that and employers know that being from Imperia means l I will do a good job, there is a level of trust that is automatically established. More than that, people are very open to giving advice and meeting up for coffee to talk about their own career journeys because we have both studied at Imperial.

Utilising the Careers service

I really appreciate the effort that’s gone into organising the careers sessions and the wealth of knowledge that’s available at the Careers service. If I email them with a very specific request, within an hour someone will get back to me. They’re a really great touchpoint to get careers-related answers really quickly.

Also, the Personal Leadership Journey has really helped me get into the mindset of how I should be thinking about the next couple of years and even the next couple of months. It has helped me make sure that I’m doing something that I want to be doing, and not just doing to make money. My favourite part of the Personal Leadership Journey was before we came to campus, going through the pre-work which focuses on your strengths and what you enjoy the most. That was the most helpful for me to guide what I wanted and help me explore things that I had never considered before.

Moving to London

I moved to London from the United States with my husband. We arrived a week before the programme started, to maximise my time with family at home in America before moving to London. I actually recommend arriving a little earlier than that! It worked out for us because my husband was able to look for a flat while I was at the Business School beginning the MBA. Overall it’s not too stressful, the stressful part is that the turnover here is really fast. That’s something to get used to and know to expect.

For the most part, everything’s pretty accessible which is pretty nice. In Manhattan, where I was living before London, if you live on one side you can’t get to the other side all that easily, you can only go up and down. In London, it’s very much a web which is really well connected. I love that the neighbourhoods here are so international. I live in Vauxhall and it turns out there’s this huge Portuguese community right around the corner, so I eat pastel de natas all the time! I did not expect that but it’s been a huge highlight. I love how diverse it is. Every street feels different.

Using my MBA going forward

Ideally, the way the MBA is going to come in the most useful is to find a job that lets me work across departments. I would like to work with the finance team, or work either on or very closely to the marketing team. I would like to be able to work better with people, contribute on a higher level and bring different ways of thinking to the table. That’s what I’m excited about, and in the most immediate sense, that’s what I’m going to be able to do right off the ground. In the short term, I’m hoping to get a role at a tech company or FMCG. I’d love to stay in London for a couple of years at least, I do really like it here. Long term I’d like to go back to the non-profit sector.

Advice to prospective students

I highly recommend having a clear vision of what you want to get out of an MBA programme if you’re considering applying. More than anything, it needs to make sense for YOU at that point in time! For myself, I wasn’t positive I was going to do an MBA. In order to justify it, different boxes had to be ticked including the programme theory, whether it worked with my specific goals for the future, the financial aspect, and how I will use it afterwards. That’s definitely the number one thing I would say, have a very specific use of the MBA in mind, whether that’s to get onto a C-suite track or something else. But don’t do it just because you have nothing else to do.

Carra Torres

Nationality: American

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Princeton University

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Manager, Client Solutions, Kepler Group

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