Academic and industry experience before Imperial College Business School
What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?
I did not have any formal work experience when I applied to the programme, except from a teaching assistant role and the two years I spent at the Junior Enterprise HEC, a small student-led consulting organisation at the University of Lausanne. However, I had spent a few years developing and maintaining a few websites and Android applications as a hobby, some of which became quite popular with millions of visitors/users and considerable advertising revenues.
What is you greatest academic, professional or personal awards/achievement?
This is probably not the most lucrative of my projects but definitely the one in which I invested the most of my time: Profecie, a science-fiction novel that I self-published the year before joining Imperial, after a successful crowdfunding campaign (in French only, www.profecie.ch). It marked the end of almost three years of writing for a book in which I mixed all my passions for technology, economics, politics and, of course, story-telling! It is a rewarding experience when you hear from people who read your book, got captivated by its universe and have their own opinion on each of the characters. I really hope to be able to write the second volume and have it translated in English in a few years when time will allow again. Studies and work have kept me busier than I expected!
Studying MSc Business Analytics
Why did you decide to study the MSc Business Analytics and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
In the Swiss culture and education system (quite similar to the German one), possessing a Master’s degree is pretty much a requirement for you to be considered seriously in the job market and to apply to most popular positions. It was thus natural for me to think about where I would pursue my studies at the postgraduate level.
Imperial College was (and still is) one of the few top schools in the world to offer a degree in Business Analytics. I could have continued towards economics but I was finding it a bit too research-oriented (leading more easily to PhDs and research positions than to the industry), and my feeling was that studying management wouldn’t make me learn much more than I already knew from my undergraduate degree, and can still be studied later on through an MBA. Business Analytics was the perfect combination of technical and business thinking, keeping open doors in both IT firms and traditional finance/strategy companies, and I thought it would complement very well with my previous experience in web development. In addition, data science is a very hot topic these days.
What makes the MSc Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School unique?
It is designed specifically to fill the knowledge gaps in the industry. The technologies taught are modern, adequate and directly applicable in real life. I had my first technical interviews during the programme and was surprised to see that all the questions I was asked touched on almost exactly the same topics and tools we covered in class.
Which module stood out for you?
Statistics and Econometrics, as it was very well taught and my first interaction with R, a very handy programming language that I use almost instinctively now. I had studied a lot of statistics in my undergraduate studies so was already familiar with most of the topics, but seeing it under a new light and approaching it from the perspective of R definitely improved my understanding and intuitions.
What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
The very steep learning curve. The difference between your approach of basic analytics problems at the beginning of the year versus at the end of the programme is striking; in general. I became much faster at coding and comfortable around data in one year, which gives a real sensation of progress.
What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
You are on your own a lot since simply going to the lectures and handing your assignments on time will not be sufficient to acquire the necessary skills to perform well in interviews and later in your job. Courses give you the direction, highlight which tools are important and how to approach problems, but if you really want to master the topic, you will have to allocate a lot of time for self-study. The reason is that business analytics is a very different field from our undergraduate degree (for most of us), so there is a lot of catching up needed. For example, the courses will teach you what is strictly necessary for the assignments, but if you are interested to get the most out of each programming language you will probably have to spend a few dozen extra hours on online classes in Computer Science.
Working with others
Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?
We had a lot of group work, some we could form our own teams and some where the teams were randomly pre-assigned. The most inspiring is probably when you find your area of specialty within a group, which allows you to contribute significantly to the team. For me, working in a group always creates a kind of positive pressure as I know other people count on me.
How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
This is the most diverse class I have ever seen, with people coming from every possible background, with or without previous work experience. It was easy to connect as everyone was open to meet new people, and it will probably remain a strong community as we continue in our respective lives.
How did you find living in London?
London was ideal to study, but also for interviewing and for social events. If you are outgoing, you will meet many students from other London universities. Companies are also much more likely to come to the campus since it is centrally located. Many career events are organised directly at businesses’ London headquarters, making it easy for you to participate. In addition, when it comes to interviews, you avoid a big hassle since most corporate offices are just a few tube stops away from the school. And travelling from London is ideal, either for day trips or week-ends across Europe.
Where did you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I lived in the Gradpad Griffon postgraduate studios. They are quite pricey but really modern and comfortable. For a student, it is also a big advantage to have a receptionist take care of your packages and not having to worry about administrative issues such as taxes, Wi-Fi, electricity and gas. Also, Gradpad has a nice common room where events are regularly organised, with almost 90% of its residents being students at Imperial, from all the faculties. The biggest drawback is the distance, as it takes about 40 minutes to get to the school by public transportation. But it is well located within London, only 10 minutes away from both Victoria and Waterloo by train, with a large ASDA and Lidl supermarket at a walking distance.
Opportunities from studying at Imperial College Business School
Please outline your career path since studying at the Business School, including information about any internships you completed and your current position.
I went for two 3 month internships, the first at Google (Dublin, Finance Business Intelligence) and the second at McKinsey (Geneva). I decided to join McKinsey, notably due to my preference for the location, where I am still working as a Fellow (the Swiss/German equivalent of the Business Analyst role, as a generalist strategy consultant).
What do you enjoy most about your work and what are the main challenges that you face?
What I enjoy the most is the diversity. Industry, function and country are different in almost every project: it is like starting a new job every two months. The main challenge is to adapt fast enough to those new environments, as the problems are never identical and the co-workers and clients always different. Working as a consultant feels like an extension of my studies, given how much emphasis is put on learning!
How has your MSc Business Analytics contributed to your career success?
At Google, my degree was directly linked to my tasks: I could not have performed my work without what I learned at Imperial. At McKinsey, it is of course not necessary to know how to use analytics tools to be a generalist consultant, since a large fraction of the projects do not involve any data science. However, analytics is becoming increasingly important to our clients, and it is frequent for a project to involve some analytics in a work stream, in which case I seize the opportunity.
Recently, I worked with(in) QuantumBlack (the analytics firm that McKinsey acquired) alongside data scientists for a four months project. Typically, there are consultants on one side and data scientists on the other, but my analytics background definitely helped me bridge the gap, and on occasions I would even support the project by coding some of the components. There, all of the classes of the programme were of great use and extremely relevant to the work we did. I intend to continue as a generalist for a few more years and to specialize later on in digital and analytics.
What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying MSc Business Analytics and a subsequent career in the sector?
Think about what you want to become, and what is reasonably achievable in one year. If what you want is to work in a data heavy business role, in business intelligence or as a management consultant in the analytics division of a big consultancy firm, this programme will definitively prepare you appropriately.