Sabrina Hearn

Professional Background

Before my MBA, I was working in quite a specialised industry, I first worked for a start-up that provided certifications for sustainable businesses and after 18 months I moved into a large property company. For the next three years, I worked in the sustainability sector, advising investors on how to improve their CSR strategies and I then moved into change management. I enjoyed these roles but they were each very specific so I believed an MBA would help me gain a broader understanding of business and allow me to move into a more general role.

Why Imperial?

I had been to a few open days and what stood out to me was Imperial’s culture. Everyone seemed competent but in no way arrogant. Everyone was very welcoming and collaborative. I liked that as I had felt some apprehension about studying an MBA. I was worried that it would be an aggressive and overly competitive environment. Imperial were also really clear on what they were trying to achieve and you can see that reflected in the people and the culture. I love the practical science and entrepreneurial side to the Imperial MBA. I’ve got a background in biology so it fit my profile.

Brilliant Minds Scholar

My MBA was 50% funded from the Brilliant Minds scholarship and the rest was funded from personal savings I had built up over time. The scholarship was very helpful because prior to that I was considering getting funded by my company. That would have limited what I was able to do afterwards as I would have been tied-into going back to that company. The scholarship has given me the flexibility to think about what’s best for my career afterwards and to take a step in a new direction.

Gaining confidence

My key takeaway from the programme is the confidence and soft skills I gained by doing an MBA. If I was going to recommend the programme to anyone, it would be because it opens up your options careers wise and gives you more understanding of what’s out there. It also provides you with this confidence in what you do know and what you don’t know. Maybe it’s not going to make you a genius in finance, but you will have an understanding of what you need to know and what you will need support with. You will gain confidence that you are able to do all these things by testing yourself in so many different environments. It’s quite an intense year so it feels pretty good once you have gone through it all.

A new way of thinking

I think the MBA really changes the way you think. I noticed a couple of weeks in that I was starting to think about everything much more strategically and from a wider viewpoint than I used to. I’m definitely going to try and remember what I have learnt this year around working in teams and how behaviours and actions come across in group settings. It’s been so useful to be able to focus on these areas this year. You are constantly put in new situations, such as working in new teams with tight deadlines, but you don’t have so many work deliverables and clients to focus on, so you can focus on yourself.

The Imperial MBA emphasises the importance of having an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial mindset, which I think is a huge asset that differentiates the programme from other schools. It’s the only MBA I know that teaches Design Thinking as part of the core modules. That really does epitomise Imperial and the way you are taught to think creatively and come up with new ideas in a pragmatic way. You can see that across the university, they are constantly innovating but in ways that are practical for the world and business. It’s an exciting energy that you feel across the school.

Favourite module

Organisational Behaviour was my favourite module because it evoked the most discussion in the class. It’s all around how people behave, how to be a good leader and the different styles of leadership including how to empathise and deliver a good speech. I didn’t realise how much of this could be taught, I thought it was all innate or based on experience. Celia Moore, the professor, made us do various tests to better understand ourselves which was eye opening. She also discussed ethics in business and how we should conduct ourselves. That was quite fitting for Imperial as well; it’s not just about doing well, it’s about doing well in a positive way. So I really enjoyed that. I also liked Decision Analytics with Dr Martin Haugh. It’s a heavily excel-based module which some people weren’t comfortable with but he managed to teach it so well. I’ve never seen anyone teach Excel that way before. He’s also hilarious so his lectures were always enjoyable.

My cohort

I do enjoy learning so I liked the lectures and hearing from experts in various fields. What I didn’t realise is how much I would also learn from my peers. It’s been amazing to get to know so many people from so many areas of the world. I’m from the UK, I studied in the UK, I’ve travelled but I haven’t lived anywhere else. Getting to know everyone’s individual identities and cultures has been a true highlight of my year. We have such a diverse mix of people from so many different backgrounds but everyone has the same outlook and values. It’s empowering and energising to be surrounded by people like that.

Working in groups

Group work is one of the most rewarding and helpful parts of the year. There are lots of situations where you form a group for a couple of days or a couple of hours and have to complete work to a high standard. This has been so useful, especially as in real-world agile work environments you will often be expected to work in cross-functional teams that are pulled together for a specific project. It’s about learning how everyone works, what everyone’s strengths are, what everyone likes and doesn’t like and what your role is in the team. These completely vary depending on the team, the people who are in it and also the tasks that you’re dealing with. My syndicate group worked well as we had very different strengths so different people took the lead in different situations and I learnt so much from each of them. It can be challenging but it’s definitely the thing you learn the most from.

Global opportunities

The global trips were a great way to get to know everyone. When you’re around the Business School you say hello to people and you talk, but when you’re in a different country you suddenly realise how close you are to these people. You see different sides to them and you really, properly interact over a number of days. The Berlin trip was fantastic for that because we were still getting to know each other and we had just had winter break so it was exciting to see everyone again.

The Chile trip was so impressive. The amount of information we were given about all the industries in the country was immense – I’ve travelled before but I’ve never looked at countries from that perspective. It opened my eyes in terms of working abroad and how important it is to understand the culture and landscape you’re working in. The country was also amazing and the organisation of the trip was perfect. Before the trip we all went travelling in smaller groups. We have a group WhatsApp and there were pictures coming in from all over South America. I went to Machu Picchu with my husband and then ten of us actually met up in Cusco because we all happened to be there at the same time. It was awesome to be across the world and still bumping into people on the programme.

Living in London

I’m from just outside of London and I have always wanted to live in London. It’s such a fantastic city, there are so many different industries and opportunities. It’s also a great hub to travel elsewhere and I love the vibe of the city and the lifestyle. I live in South-West London because it’s the closest to where my family lives in Surrey. It’s a nice mid-way between busy London and the quieter suburbs. It’s very safe but there’s still a lot going on. I’m just down the road from Imperial and South Kensington feels exactly the same. It’s a very enjoyable place to be.

My favourite thing about living in London is that there are endless options of things to do. If you’re thinking about what you want to do on a random evening, there are 10 plus things to choose from and you can get around so easily with all the transport links. I’m a member of a cinema in Piccadilly called Picturehouse Central. It’s got a bar that overlooks Piccadilly Circus and a hidden roof terrace and it’s also a trendy, retro cinema. That’s my hidden spot in the city that I really enjoy.

Work, life, family balance

Juggling everything was a bit of a learning curve. I didn’t see much of my husband for the first month and so I had to re-adjust. I also play hockey outside of school and I was managing and captaining the team this year so that was tough. It’s about getting a structure as much as possible, although your schedule is always changing, and making sure you’re fitting in things that actually matter to you. Also dropping some things that aren’t as important. It took me until the end of the first term to properly figure out the right balance for me.

Careers and Professional Development

The Careers service was fantastic in helping me find my next role. I got my new job through the CV book which gets sent out to loads of companies who then contact people they are interested in. AlixPartners invited me to a networking event which went really well. It was a very targeted event with 20 people from five different schools. During the application process, the Careers team were fantastic in prepping me for each interview. I had three mock interviews in the week leading up to my case study round. I went in there with so much more confidence than if I had just prepared by myself. With the Careers team, you just have to make sure that you actually use them. They are there for you, but you have to let them know what you need.

What’s next?

I have secured a job at a management consulting firm called AlixPartners. They are international and headquartered in America with around 400 employees in London. There will be weekly travel and lots of global opportunities if you want them. They are growing fast at the moment but they are focusing on maintaining their company culture which is one of the reasons why I was drawn to them. I’m quite excited about joining in September.

Not only will I use the technical knowledge and course material in my career, but I will definitely draw upon the soft skills that I developed during my time at Imperial. I furthered my ability to lead, work in diverse teams and have the confidence to tackle complex problems. Moreover, I plan to continue using the network I have build with my peers and alumni.

Advice to prospective students

The way to get the most out of an MBA is to really understand what you want out of it. Make sure that you have that clear in your mind and it will help you through the application process and also when you get on the programme. Also visit the Business School if you can. Get a feel for the school and the people and it will help you understand if it’s a good fit for you. If you can’t visit because you’re in another country, go through the website, read the profiles of the professors and the students. It’s about where you feel most comfortable and can thrive.

Sabrina Hearn

Nationality: British

Undergraduate education: BA Biology, University of Oxford and MSc Conservation, University College London

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Senior Consultant at CBRE

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