Ashley Cai MSc Business Analytics 2020-21

Programme: MSc Business Analytics

Nationality: Chinese

Education: BA Economics, New York University

Job after Imperial: Associate, L.E.K. Consulting LLP

About you

What work experience/internships (if any) did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

Prior to joining Imperial, I had three years of work experience in finance based in New York, working in risk management and operations roles at Morgan Stanley and Bank of China.

Why did you decide to study MSc Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School?

From my previous work experience, I understood the increasing importance of data and the skill of analytics in modern organisations. The MSc Business Analytics programme at Imperial College Business School is ranked #1 in UK and top five globally, and provides the best combination of data and technology insight with foundations of business. I am inspired by the spirit of striving for excellence at Imperial and I want to learn from the best in the field.


What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?

I really enjoy the great quality of our coursework, which is challenging but at the same time extremely rewarding. The programme not only equips us with the knowledge to become data analysts but also provides a great platform to go into other fields, such as consulting, tech, or startups. I am also amazed by the faculty and programmes team, who are always there to support us even during this unprecedented year.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

So far, I have found that all of the modules have been informative and beneficial to my personal development; two that I have particularly enjoyed are Data Structures & Algorithms and Visualisation. I like Data Structures & Algorithms because it helped me build on my existing knowledge of Python and learn about real-life applications of programming, as well as further developing a structured and logical process of thinking. I also enjoy the Visualisation module because it is eye opening on how we can process and utilise data to present our findings graphically, which has wide practical applications that are relevant for my future career.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

The most rewarding part for me has been the practical knowledge I have gained, as well as being able to leverage the excellent platform that the Business School provides. From my job search experience, I felt that having an analytics skillset gave me an edge in my interviews, especially given today’s trend of digitalisation and a focus on data-driven decision making among many organisations. Imperial College Business School also provides a recognised name and interview opportunities, and the overall experience has helped me achieve my goal. 

What has been the most challenging part of the programme? 

The most challenging part is that coming from a non-engineering and non-coding background, there is a steep learning curve, and a large amount of information and knowledge to be learned and digested. Especially because many students are also taking several student leadership positions and preparing for job interviews at the same time, the skill of time management is greatly tested.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

I enjoy my cohort at Imperial, because they are the smartest students coming from the most diverse set of backgrounds. The diversity comes from the countries we are from, the languages we speak, the educational backgrounds we have and the industries we were in. Everyone came in as the top from their individual backgrounds with unique skill sets and I am amazed at how smart, ambitious and hard-working everyone is.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

I have found the quality of the lecturers to be extremely high, as they are all highly knowledgeable and attentive to students’ questions, striving to create the best educational experience. I especially like Dr Wolfram Wiesemann, who teaches Optimisation & Decision Models, because he is very thorough and clear in his teaching, with a sense of humour. He is also very responsive to students’ questions and concerns, and I can tell he cares about us as students. His strives for precision and detail in academia, which also inspires me.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

The greatest opportunity is the resources we gain by being at Imperial. This includes the cutting-edge knowledge we gain from classes, the students who bring individual skills and keep inspiring me, and the different company events held at Imperial targeted specifically to us. The learning comes from all aspects, and this is a treasured experience in my life for sure.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

I really enjoyed the case study workshops hosted by Mark Daley from the Careers team, where we had Jamie Martine, a former BCG consultant, demonstrate live cases with us - which was very helpful for preparing case studies.

I also enjoyed the event ‘Career Routes in Data/Analytics’, co-hosted by an MSc Business Analytics alumnus Oksana Kovalenko, now Digital Analytics Product Manager at Expedia Group. Her experience of transitioning from working full-time to studying at Imperial has been inspiring for me as I share similar experiences in my own career.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I am working as the Consulting Sector Head for the Asia Business Club, leading and organising the consulting sector activities and events for students interested in consulting. I am also working as an Associate for the Imperial Consulting Group, where I am part of a team working to develop digital and AI solutions for a major global investment bank. Besides that, I am also a member of the Data Science Society and the Data Spark scheme.

Do you hold a student leadership position?

I am working as the SSC chair for MSc Business Analytics on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) team, representing the MSc Business Analytics programme collaborating with the cohort, programme Chairs and senior management to enhance student experience.

Have you had opportunities to work/socialise with students across programmes within the Business School?

The school-wide leadership opportunities mentioned above allow me to meet and work with students from other programmes such as MSc International Health Management, MSc Economics & Strategy for Business, and MSc Strategic Marketing etc. Learning about their coursework, job prospects and life experiences has enriched my experience at Imperial.

How have you benefited from the Business School’s connection to the Imperial College London community?

I have definitely benefited a lot from the Business School’s connections to Imperial College London. During my job search, I reached out to many Imperial alumni, some from the Business School, others from the main College. Those from Imperial College are equally happy to chat and share their experiences with me as a fellow Business School alumnus.

How have you found the multi-mode teaching delivery?

I found it to be effective in teaching, as students on campus still have the chance to go to classes every week, and during online delivery, lecturers all encourage us to speak-up so the classes are very interactive as well. There is also a video recording of each lecture on The Hub, so we can re-watch it to go over the class materials or if we miss certain classes due to time differences or conflicting events. I can tell the School is doing everything they can to provide the best learning experience given the current situation and I am grateful for that.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

I aspire to take on positions where I can help firms grow and succeed in the international market in a strategy consulting or strategic planning role. I came to Imperial with the goal of transitioning from finance to consulting and realised this goal within three months after starting at Imperial, as I was able to successfully obtain several full-time consulting offers. Imperial provides a great platform and career services for students searching for jobs, and these have been very helpful throughout my job search.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I received my dream offer from L.E.K. Consulting and will be joining as an Associate after graduating. I will be working as a general consultant to start with, helping clients solve their business problems, do market research, perform analysis and come up with solutions to improve clients’ businesses.

How did the services from Careers help you secure employment/in your professional development?

I started using the Careers services at Imperial early in the summer before the start of the term. I attended several seminars, panel talks on consulting, and booked one-to-one sessions to improve my CV and cover letter. Once the programme started, Careers also organised many insightful events such as case study workshops and mock interviews, which best prepared me for my interviews and helped me to land job offers.  

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

Definitely. First, most of the organisations, whether in finance, consulting or tech, have a London office, so they will be hosting London wide information session and I can register to attend. Second, there is a great Imperial alumni network in London, and it would be convenient to schedule a coffee chat or learn more about their work. Third, it is a lot more time and cost effective for me to get to interviews when they are scheduled in-person.

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live in the Hammersmith area, near Ravenscourt park. I chose to live here because of the easy commute to the College (20 mins tube ride), the quietness of the area (so I can focus on schoolwork and get a good rest), and the convenient moving experience (because this is a student housing, the apartment came furnished).

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

I am a travel enthusiast, so this year has been challenging because of the limited opportunity to travel. Most of the time I’m spending indoors. I enjoy home workouts and dance to stay active and fit, and if I have time, I enjoy cooking a good meal for myself as well. There are some students from our programme living in the same building as I do, so we watch movies, chat about life and cook together once in a while.

What have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?

I moved to London from New York after living there for six years, and at Imperial, I got to meet a diverse group of classmates and worked with people from all over the world. The benefit of being in a global metropolitan city includes the education resources, great network, job opportunities, the exposure to different cultures and the chance to learn from elite students from around the globe.

The challenge is to adapt to a new environment, likely without many people you know, and start building your own network from scratch. This year it is especially challenging in that we do not have many chances to go outside, but I found the whole moving/adapting process fairly smooth, mostly because of the support provided by the College. So do not worry if you are in a similar situation, reach out if you need anything, people are very willing to help!


What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

I highly recommend that you to apply for the MSc Business Analytics programme, as you will surely learn and grow a lot from doing so. The advice I would have for future applicants is to start preparing early and to understand more about this programme beforehand. This is a very quantitative programme, and the requirement is the same whether or not you have coding experience. I would suggest you look through all the core module descriptions and understand what you will be learning. If you have time, start learning coding in Python, SQL and R, as many students came in with those skills already.

Programme: MSc Business Analytics

Nationality: Chinese

Education: BA Economics, New York University

Job after Imperial: Associate, L.E.K. Consulting LLP