Jonathan Zimmermann

Jonathan Zimmermann

Academic and industry experience before Imperial

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

Except from the two years I spent at the Junior Enterprise HEC, a small student-led consulting organisation at the University of Lausanne, I didn’t have any formal work experience to showcase when I applied to the programme. However, I had spent a few years developing and maintaining, as a personal hobby, a few websites and Android applications, some of which became quite popular and attracted millions of 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 last summer after a successful crowdfunding campaign (in French only, 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 really 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 have kept me busier than I expected!


Studying MSc Business Analytics

Why did you decide to study your programme 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 only 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. 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. Also, 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; not based on what academics or the government deem to be important but based on what you will need to perform in the business world. The technologies taught are modern, adequate and directly applicable in real life. I had my first technical interview in a large firm two months ago and was surprised to see that all the questions I was asked were touching on almost exactly the same topics and tools we covered in class.

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?

The variety of the topics covered; the small size of the classes, which allow you to quickly connect with everybody (Professors included), and its central location at the heart of London!

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 won’t 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 to know and how to approach problems, but they clearly don’t go far enough and 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 totally different field from our undergraduate degree (for most of us), so there is a lot of catching up to do. For example, courses won’t really teach you how to program beyond what is strictly necessary for the assignments, so 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.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

You can see your progress in real time when you compare how you approached a basic analytics problem at the beginning of the year with how you would do it now, or when you compare how much time you need to write a basic data cleaning script today compared to the beginning of the year.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

Statistics and Econometrics probably, 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.


Working with others

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

I tried to go to most guest lectures organised specifically for our programme. They generally give you a good idea on how the job market looks like for business analytics. In the beginning of the year extra coding workshops organised by different clubs can be useful too. And if you really want to, there is practically a talk to go to every day around the campus! What I regret the most is probably not having taken part in any hackathon.

How would you sum up the Business School faculty?

Diverse and very involved with their students – much more than in my undergraduate university. They will gladly help you or answer your questions and you have many opportunities to discuss with them very casually during informal events organised around the year. I think this year especially, since it was the first year of the programme, they were extremely open to any student feedback!

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Definitely Wolfram Wiesemann, who taught the Optimisation and Decision Models course, and I think most people would agree with me. He was overseeing every detail of the class to make sure that it would run smoothly and gave clear instructions for every assignment, in-class quiz and the exam. Very importantly, he always provided the detailed solutions to these exercises and assignments immediately after the end of the deadline, and made sure everybody understood their mistake, not hesitating to confess his own errors and correct grades when necessary. He was also a very good teacher with a lot of humour.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?

We have had a lot of group work this year, some in which we could form our own teams, some in which 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 really contribute significantly. 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 probably the most diverse class I’ve ever seen, with people coming from almost every possible background, with or without previous work experience. It was really easy to connect with them as almost everybody was open to meet new people, and it will probably remain a strong community as we continue in our respective lives. I also met my girlfriend here and we now live together.

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

Social representative at the Student-Staff Committee and worked on a project for the KPMG Data Spark initiative. Occasional involvement with Imperial’s newly funded Data Science Society.


Opportunities from studying at Imperial

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?

We received many opportunities to directly interview for full-time positions, but I didn’t take them as I am not looking for a job yet. The main difference is that at Imperial, many companies come to you; you don’t need to go to them. Also, if your time allows for it, there are numerous prestigious clubs and societies at Imperial you can get involved with.

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?

The most useful services were probably all the organised career events and talks, as well as the weekly jobs newsletter and online jobs platform. I only used the help of the career consultant once at the beginning of the year to review a few aspects of my resume and cover letter, but I could have used this service much more if I was preparing for consulting case interviews.

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities? Please share any positive experiences you have had.

Definitely. If you are outgoing, you will meet a lot of 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 business’ London headquarters, making it easy for you to participate. And obviously when it comes to interviews, you avoid a big hassle since most corporate offices are just a few tube stops away from the school.


Career goals and jobs

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I didn’t apply to any full-time positions, only to three internships and received an offer for the three: McKinsey (Geneva), Google (Dublin, Finance – Global Business Intelligence) and King (London, Data Scientist).

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

My main goal was to acquire sufficient technical skills to be qualified for data science oriented positions and perform well in their interview process, which I believe I achieved.

Where do you see yourself upon completing the programme?

I have accepted the internship offers for McKinsey and Google. I will complete both internships and then decide what I want to do, depending on my experience at these companies and on whether I receive return offers. Today, I am most tempted by working in strategy consulting.


Life as a student in London

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

I live in the Gradpad Griffon postgraduate studios, owned by Imperial. 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.

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?

If a deadline is due on the Monday, you will most likely be working. You might also spend quite some time at the beginning of the semester learning how to programme and applying for jobs later in the year. Otherwise, there is certainly a good opportunity to visit London, and since every few weeks there are no classes on both Friday and Monday, you have a long weekend where you can travel around Europe.

In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.

No such thing in London. Wherever you go, it will have crowds of people and a Wikipedia page for it.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?

My very personal advice: open a free account on Revolut, a smartphone app from a London FinTech startup that allows you to transfer and change money at the interbank rate and get a free credit card before you even have an address here. Or at least transfer your money through a service such as TransferWise. Just really make sure you don’t pay any unnecessary exchange fees since the British pound is most likely not the currency of your home country (especially to pay for the tuition fees).
Order your student Oyster card (London transportation card) in advance, as it takes a few weeks to come, but don’t buy a full year travel card since you are unlikely to use it that often and it doesn’t leave you much spare money. Instead buy multiple monthly cards when you need them.
If you have a lot of things to ship to your new accommodation, don’t use postal services but a cheaper luggage service such as SendMyBags.
Take advantage of the numerous online student discounts, including the free six months of Amazon Prime.
Also it can be quite cold and rainy in London so don’t forget a good coat.


Advice for future students

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the course?
Think about what you want to become, and what’s reasonably achievable in one year. If you want to become an expert data scientist and you have never programmed before, chances are you won’t succeed unless you are really motivated. If what you want is to work in a data heavy business role or as a management consultant in the analytics division of a big consultancy firm however, this course will definitively prepare you appropriately.

Share with us a handy hint or trick which makes campus life that much easier!

Get a small and light laptop, as you really don’t need a beast to code. Buy your lunch at the farmer’s market on campus every Tuesday. They have really good food.
Don’t forget the Business School has its own computer room hidden in the Sherfield building, which is a good place to study.

MSc Business Analytics, 2015- 16

Nationality: Swiss French

Undergraduate education: BSc in Economics, University of Lausanne (HEC Lausanne), Switzerland

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