BSc Actuarial Science, LSE
Senior Strategy & Planning Manager – Europe & North Africa, British American Tobacco
Following my graduation in 2010, I joined British American Tobacco on a two-year Finance Graduate Programme where I held roles across Group Finance, Corporate Strategy & Planning, Operations & Marketing Finance across three countries (UK, Hungary and Ireland). Since then I have had the opportunity to work in various end-market, global and regional capacities with a focus on revenue management, investments and strategy and planning.
Why Imperial’s Weekend MBA
I had been researching MBAs for about two years before I joined Imperial College Business School. Despite having a commercial background, I wanted to use the MBA to expand my knowledge into areas that hadn’t been part of my core professional experience. I strongly felt that an MBA would help me pick up the relevant knowledge and skills to better navigate through the rapidly evolving challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
In my MBA, I was looking for the following: a culture that focused on innovation and entrepreneurship along with a format that allowed me to learn and apply in real time. A diverse cohort - I wanted my MBA experience to challenge my preconceptions and help me to better understand challenges and opportunities across different industries and professional practices. The cohort has on the programme boasts an incredible mix of people from various professional backgrounds and geographic locations. And finally, a flexible approach. Imperial’s Weekend MBA format is perfect for anyone with a demanding day job looking to develop personally and professionally through an MBA. Offering enough face-to-face interaction to build an effective network and a strong sense of community, there are very few business schools with Imperial’s reputation that offer a programme so well-tailored to professionals looking to accelerate their career without taking an extended break.
I found all of these attributes and more within the thriving ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship that the Business School has been very successful at creating. Supported by the world-class affiliations and institutions (e.g. the Grantham institute, the Imperial Enterprise Lab, etc.) that keep Imperial at the forefront of innovation, there is a connection and learning experience that lasts well beyond the two years of the programme and can be built upon for many years after graduation.
I also did my due diligence in researching the programme by attending recruitment and taster events, speaking with current students and alumni who really helped me re-affirm my decision to attend. I strongly suggest prospective students reach out to current students and find out as much as possible in the build up to their application.
Picking up new skills
My main focus whilst on the programme has been pushing my boundaries around topics I previously knew little about. Although this was how I approached it, the flexibility of the programme means it is up to an individual to decide if they wish to specialise or not. I chose my electives accordingly and selected topics that truly helped me in pushing my boundaries, such as Climate Change and Business Strategy and the Entrepreneurial Journey. The former helped me broaden my understanding on climate change and critical impacts on the sustainability of businesses, while the latter helped me finally take the leap into setting up my own venture – which I am continuing to pursue beyond the programme.
Applying your learnings in real-time and employer support
The knowledge and skills you pick up are largely dependent on your ability to apply them across both projects at work and in your second year as you move through different projects. I was lucky to have a very supportive employer and team who helped fund the MBA and provided support for out of office study days. There are also multiple scholarships and financing programmes available to suit individual requirements.
Balancing work, life and studies
The main strategies I employ to keep my time well-balanced are as follows:
Managing expectations. The Weekend MBA is of course a commitment for myself, but it was also important that my colleagues, family and friends were on board with it too. It sounds simple, but talking about the programme with those closest to me really helped with transparency and the management of everyone’s expectations.
Maintain a healthy balance. Studying is not just about achieving top grades, it is important (and also fun) to socialise with your cohort and really get to know them on a personal level. It’s not just about networking, it is about forming relationships that will stay with you for years to come.
Knowing what works for you. It helps to know how you can be most effective and what works best for you no matter what you’re doing, but I find this applies particularly to areas such as group work or exam preparation. I really enjoyed putting the effort and time into group coursework and presentations which meant I had to carefully balance my time and subsequently dedicate a few weekends to studying in the library during the build up to exams.
Enjoy it. The programme is a demanding process, but I have tried to enjoy every moment as much as possible. You get out what you put in, so do your best to stay engaged, contribute and enjoy it!
Finally, understand that it’s ok to fall behind schedule - with work, life and MBA commitments I felt that I was always playing catch-up. And it is ok! Everyone is facing the same challenges, so having a support system within your cohort who can help you takes a lot of anxiety out of the process.
Extraordinary people: faculty and classmates
I cannot fault the lecturers and the faculty. They are at the forefront of their respective fields, engaging and always pushing the cohort to challenge the status quo. I loved the fascinating lecture discussions and debates. Getting the best from a classroom full of opiniated individuals sounds daunting, but the skill and experience of the lecturers resulted in a rich classroom experience. Recent COVID lockdowns meant that the teaching had to move to remote delivery at short notice, and while this isn’t quite the same, the standard of teaching and engagement has remained impressively high.
I was also blessed with a very diverse and active cohort (credit to the recruitment team!). We have a strong sense of community and my experiences went far beyond meeting my expectations of what I expected from fellow students of the Weekend MBA. 30% of our cohort are international and based in different countries, which has most certainly enriched the experience. Furthermore, the diversity of the cohort’s professional backgrounds means that there is a subject matter expert on just about any topic - only a phone call away whenever you need them.
Advice for prospective students
My top pieces of advice for anyone thinking of applying to the Weekend MBA programme are as follows:
- Talk to as many current students and alumni as possible
- Really think about what you want to get out of the Weekend MBA and plan your MBA experience accordingly
- If you think you are too busy to fit in an MBA, you may be surprised how quickly you learn to prioritise
- Make sure your family and colleagues are also on board and include them in the decision-making process
- If you are looking for support from your employer, engage with your key stakeholders as early as possible in the process. Speak with senior leadership within your organisation who have gone through a similar process. Highlight the benefits you can bring to the business through the MBA
- Once you decide to take the plunge, commit to it and enjoy!