BA Economics with Development Studies, University of Sussex
Chief Compliance Officer, Cairn Capital
My story so far
I’ve worked in finance all my life within compliance and I am particularly proud of becoming a Chief Compliance Officer. I spent so many years of my career working hard to get to the top of my field and take tremendous pride in having done so. Not without challenge and toil, I may add.
I’m also very proud to have recently featured on the EMpower 100 Ethnic Minority Executive Role Models 2021 list, supported by Yahoo. Making an impact on industry via diversity and inclusion initiatives is something I am very passionate about. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if people in positions of influence were not pro-equality, pro-equity, meritocratic and progressive. In fact, the recent launch of Imperial’s Presidential Scholarship for Black Students is a tremendous initiative, which I hope proves successful and lasting. It is just one of many ‘soft indicators’ that reveals a little about the type of university that Imperial is and aspires to be.
Why I chose to study an MBA at Imperial
Studying an MBA was something I always desired to do but never could! Working within compliance — which is about monitoring and influencing human behaviour — you realise there are commercial aspects of the business you are not necessarily exposed to. As a relatively senior member of my organisation, I recently began to feel that that the commercial gap was too wide, and finally took the plunge. Imperial College Business School is a prestigious institution with a worldwide reputation. I have kept an eye on Imperial over the last five to seven years. It has been on my list of potential institutions if I ever studied an MBA. The School is practical, filled with accomplished academic staff and practitioners, and has been on an upward trend over a long period of time. I must also admit as a Londoner I had a soft spot for a business school within my city! Finally, once I had actually applied, I was impressed by the application process and the support provided by the Business School while making my application.
Funding my MBA
Funding an MBA is usually one of the biggest challenges most of us will face. To be honest, for many years I simply thought it was beyond my reach. My advice is: don’t let that put you off! At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when I finally came to the decision that I was going to act on this long-term desire, I set about applying. I was delighted to receive an offer from Imperial College Business School! But that is when the hard job of figuring out how to pay for it began! I am fortunate to have received a partial scholarship from the Business School. In addition, I am very grateful to my employer, who has also supported me in various ways. Nevertheless, the bulk of my fees are self-funded, and paying in instalments has helped to lighten the financial load. The further I progress through the programme, the more I have seen the value of what I am being exposed to, and what I am learning.
The parts of the programme that have impressed me most
I have been blown away by the rigour of the programme so far. The depth of the material and the commanding grasp of the topics by the academic team has been impressive. I have learned so much already and have been challenged by being introduced to new perspectives and academic theories. I already feel like I have been enhanced as a person and as an employee because I am gaining novel insights into the world of business, and reading and discussing real-world case studies. Academics aside, we are put into small groups called ‘syndicates’ of five to seven people. I would say your experience on the programme is viewed through the lens of your syndicate group. Given that group work is such a high percentage of the final mark, it’s so important to have a good shared experience and working relationship with the rest of your syndicate. It also means there are a group of people also suffering to meet the same deadlines as you, which oddly enough relieves some of the pressure! Shared successes, shared endeavours.
Learning the complexities of business strategy
I’ve really enjoyed the Organisational Behaviour and Strategy modules so far. They have pushed my understanding and views on commercial endeavours. The idea that there are different ways to formulate strategy, that there are different schools of thought on what strategy is and there are different ways in which to implement strategy, has been an eye-opener for me. Learning why it is important and how to ensure your staff/team understand and get onboard with organisational change and transformational change (particularly in the face of digital disruption) has been a paradigm shift for me.
Discovering unexpected sources of learning
I have had access to a wealth of career development resources, seminars and lectures, which has helped to shape my perspective and grow my skills. I have enjoyed seminars conducted on the art and skill of negotiation, how to develop to reach and operate on the C-suite, as well as a number of interesting and perspective-shaping lecturers given by practitioners in companies as part of our academic studies. To my surprise, group seminars involving just my MBA class/cohort have also been rich places of learning. We all come from different backgrounds with different levels of experience, and sharing perspectives and experiences with one another has been a great source of learning.
Responsive and helpful faculty
The Business School faculty have been extremely helpful! Everybody is trying to help you and do their part in ensuring that you succeed and have a great experience at the School. I found the tutors to be incredibly responsive. At times during the weekend or late evenings I might have a burning question and I have sent an email, and I’m always surprised how quickly I get a thoughtful and helpful response. Careers has also been exemplary in their willingness to engage and hold career consultations, brainstorm ideas and suggest resources that can be of help.
My experience studying online
Imperial’s online learning platform, The Hub, provides tremendous flexibility when it comes to preparing for classes. Given my job and the fact I have children, often I find myself going through the materials and watching lectures very early in the morning or very late at night, or going through multiple lectures and videos during the weekend. As a place for all of our readings, assignments, extra resources, data sources, notifications from tutors and more, The Hub is an extremely powerful tool and lens through which to see and work through the Global Online MBA materials and an ally when it comes to staying on top of all of your deliverables as a student.
Another benefit of it being an online, global programme is that many of the live sessions, of which there are several in a week, are held multiple times through the day. For somebody in the London time zone, that gives a lot of options. I can choose to attend a morning session, an evening session, or sometimes even an afternoon session if that works best for me that day!
Balancing my commitments
The most challenging part of the programme has been getting all the reading done and staying on top of all of the material! This is a part-time MBA but at times the workload can almost feel full-time. The reality is you will have two jobs if you’re working — your day job, and the MBA. Managing work, family, and syndicate engagement when we have group assignments to submit and individual reading time can be a lot to handle at times.
This will force you to be more efficient, to stop doing things that take up your time unnecessarily and to make sacrifices in certain aspects of your life. But in a strange way, this also adds to the value of studying an MBA. Personally, I have managed by working around my job and having an employer that is able and willing to be flexible around some of my delivery times. At home, having the support of my wife and children has been critical as there have been many weekends that I have simply been locked away in the study. But I keep pushing, looking forward to the day my family and I get to participate in my graduation. Inspiration enough!
Students from all walks of life
The cohort is so mixed! There are people in the navy, surgeons, entrepreneurs, CEOs, senior members of large organisations, the self-employed, authors, etc. My fellow students come from all walks of life and a multitude of different industries. In many ways this makes the programme even more edifying, as you are connected with people who are outside of the industry that you have worked in and you can see your sector from a different perspective. It’s always interesting to hear peoples’ perspectives when they ask questions or give answers in the live sessions.
Getting the most out of group projects
Group projects are a great way of practising one’s team working abilities. I’m very happy to say that my syndicate team are a great bunch of people and are all hard workers. It has been interesting to see how we have all settled into our respective roles that we play as part of the group. It’s very clear that everyone has a unique strength that they bring to the table. Given that group assignments are such a large part of your final MBA grade it’s important that you learn how to get the best from the group.
My involvement with Imperial’s clubs and societies
I’ve signed up to a number of clubs such as Finance Club, Consulting Club and the Africa Business Club, among others. They give you a good perspective of what is going on at the College, such as events and other opportunities.
Considering my future career
My original plan was to do an MBA to bolster my skills, given my seniority. I also feel the MBA will increase my appreciation of what the commercial and organisational considerations are of running/ managing a firm. Time will tell how best I utilise my new skills.
Imperial College Business School Careers has been amazing. From the psychometric testing, to CV reviews, one-to-one career consultations and facilitated career strategy sessions, there has been so much value added in terms of me thinking about my own career journey. Careers has also hosted a number of beneficial seminars — some of which I described earlier — on negotiation and the C-suite. You are forced to think about the future path you might take. This can be both very painful and very rewarding at the same time. I’ve found the process of being forced to think about my career action plan and strategy a beneficial and life altering exercise.
My advice for future applicants
Firstly speak to several people who have studied at a business school, ideally the ones you plan to apply for. Secondly, I would say speak to potential future employers or career consultants and get a realistic view of what the MBA will add to your job prospects given your ambition. I would say get a copy of the curriculum of the schools you want to apply for and really understand what it is you’re going to be studying and how you’re going to be assessed to get a sense of whether the MBA is something that is right for you given what you want to achieve.
Finally, once you’ve made the decision to study an MBA, find the school and programme that’s right for you and go about persuading others to help you on the journey.