Sarah Laouiti

Sarah Laouiti

Academic and industry experience before Imperial

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

Before coming to Imperial College Business School I had undertaken internships at both start-ups and established entities in various sectors, namely financial services, retail, consumer apps and in-flight entertainment technology.

Why did you decide to study an MSc in Business Analytics and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?

My International Management undergraduate degree provided me with a general foundation on the workings of businesses and the various divisions, from finance to operations through to marketing. I wished to specialise following this. Given the increasing interest in extracting and leveraging data to solve certain business problems, I saw an opening in developing this practical toolkit which would make me ready for those data scientist positions that would be ubiquitous to any company. Imperial is a well renowned STEM institution, as such I expected the teaching to be heavier on the practical side and so far have not been disappointed.

Studying MSc Business Analytics

What makes MSc Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School unique?

After deciding that I wished to pursue Business Analytics I was faced with the next challenge of establishing which universities offered this course. In my research, Imperial stood out as I had known it for its Engineering and Sciences and I extrapolated this scientific approach to their general teaching. This was also demonstrated in the curriculum that encompassed far more content than other universities I was considering attending. The fact that the programme was designed by companies who place emphasis on data analytics further substantiated the transferability of the skills I would acquire into employment. Finally, as Imperial is a renowned institution the faculty was expectedly going to be world class.

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy, and find most rewarding?

By far and wide, the feeling of translating what I want the computer to do into code successfully has been the most rewarding aspect of this programme. As this tends to be quite a frustrating uphill battle, you can understand that achieving your aim feels that much more satisfying.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

This brings the idea of programming as being a double-edged sword, so to speak. I myself had not coded prior to starting this programme and as such I had to work in tandem with the programme on upskilling myself to keep up with the demand of the various modules.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

My favourite module so far has actually been one of the first: Data Structures and Algorithms. This module essentially introduced me to the world of programming. Thanks to the wonderful structure of teaching laid out by Dr Heikki Peura and his fellow teaching assistants, it was a smooth introduction which paved the way for most of the following courses.

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

Given Imperial is widely recognised amongst employers and academics alike, the number of seminars, events and guest lecturers I have had the opportunity to assist or attend to were plentiful. Of those, the most memorable ones are those linked to my programme directly. For example, in my Big Data in Finance elective, our professor invited speakers with various positions within the financial industry. All were linked in leveraging analytics to achieve their respective goals however the approach itself varied depending on their sector. It was very interesting to get a practical view as to how things I am currently learning are being applied in the real-world and particularly within an industry I am interested in joining.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

It is really hard to pick just one favourite professor because all were exceptional in teaching their respective content and have their own way of doing so. If I had to choose however, I would say my favourite professor was Dr Martin Haugh. You can imagine that a module entitled Advanced Machine Learning would be quite demanding – which it was! However, Martin placed a particular emphasis on understanding the content and extended this philosophy in class, when giving asides to comprehend the underlying workings at play, and in the assignments, where the answers required further information than solely what was provided in class. This meant there was no way of avoiding truly grasping the topic. In order to do well you had to question anything and everything that was unclear. Although perhaps frustrating at times I thank his approach as it helped me feel like I truly understand the content and therefore how to apply it.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what did you like the most about working in this type of environment, whether it be group assignments or class discussions?

This environment truly helped me discover my strengths and limitations when working with others. That is to say, although I undertook group projects in the past, given this higher expectation associated with a Masters, the level of interaction was elevated and as such it was less a matter of squabbling over who should do which part of the work but rather considering who is best at what. Additionally, regardless of the deadline, my fellow group mates would help me in understanding those parts I didn’t understand and wasn’t proficient at. Ultimately the groups I was in ended up being a form of support system, complementary to the lectures.

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

Although you may think that undertaking a masters would take up most of your time – which it does – you learn to find a balance which is ultimately necessary if you want to remain sane. Having played football since high school I joined the women’s football team and the cross country team. Aside from these extracurricular activities, I was involved in a number of competitions held for students such as the Inside LVMH Program and KPMG AR Ideation Challenge.

Opportunities from studying at Imperial

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

One of my favourite amenities provided by the Careers and services is their online Sector resources. They provide snapshots into various industries and centralise vital information that can help you navigate your career options early on as well as practice for online assessments and interview questions.

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.

I would tend to agree with this statement as many companies have their head offices in London and although they hold events at universities and therefore they make their way to you there are a number of events held at their offices or within the vicinity which would not be easy to attend if you were not based in London.

Advice for future students

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

The biggest ask of this programme is the ability to code or learn to code fast. You should therefore be motivated to take on this challenge. This may seem as a no brainer given the degree however I believe not enough emphasis is placed on this fundamental fact. Undertaking this programme is demanding if you’re new to the field, as I was. If you have the right mind-set and drive you will do well. Without this, I believe you will not reap the rewards this programme can provide. You should therefore question whether you are willing to put the time and effort in.

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online or on campus information sessions? Did you find these a useful part of the recruitment process? Would you recommend that prospective students attend these events?

Funnily enough, I attended an online information session for the Management MSc. Although not the subject I wanted to study, the session provided information on Imperial that satisfied me in proving why it is such a reputable institution. It was following this session that I was convinced and applied. I would highly recommend partaking in the sessions. As a prospective student you most probably will have hundreds of questions and instead of attempting to answer them yourself it is much easier to have someone linked to the course/university to answer directly and in all honesty. Doing so will convince you of your decision as it did in my case.

Nationality: French Tunisian

Undergraduate education: BSc International Management, Warwick Business School