Lena-Katharina Gerdes

Programme: MSc Economics & Strategy for Business

Nationality: German

Undergraduate Education: BA International Relations & Economics, University of Reading

Job after Imperial College Business School: Commerzbank AG (London), Associate Equity Research Analyst Small & Mid Caps

MSc Economics & Strategy for Business 2018

About you

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

After my first year of university in 2015, I interned as a Summer Analyst in the Equity Research department of Berenberg Bank in their London Office. I was re-invited for another 3-month summer internship in the following year, which I decided to do in Private Banking at their Düsseldorf Office. Prior to my Private Banking internship, I worked as Research Assistant at the University of Reading in the Department of Economics, conducting research in the fields of Behavioural Economics under the UROP Scheme (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme). Throughout my final year of my undergraduate degree I worked as a freelance Market Analyst for a boutique market research company in Berlin. During that year I worked with several European and International clients on a wide range of topics regarding market trends, product development as well as strategy.

Why did you decide to study an MSc Economics & Strategy for Business at Imperial College Business School after completing your undergraduate studies?

I trusted that Imperial College Business Schools MSc programme would offer the best preparation to achieve my goals. By deepening my understanding of the core analytical concepts of economics and business, leading to the development of innovative thinking skills for strategic implications, and finally testing the developed knowledge on real-world cases, I believe that the three-phase term structure has provided me with the essential skill set for my future professional endeavours.

Furthermore, the School’s provision of both outstanding research facilities and the support of Imperial College Business School Careers,  has enabled me to prepare for a successful career in the professional world while maintaining close contact to corporate executives – an important input to my research and professional endeavours. Studying Economics and Strategy for Business at  Imperial College Business School has thus provided me with a smooth transition from academia to the private sector.

With the school being highly renowned for its faculty and its wide-ranging network in both the public and private sector, I strongly believed that conducting my graduate studies at Imperial College Business School was the best choice to further enhance my international understanding in all aspects.


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

I very much enjoyed the project work along the taught lectures throughout the programme. The projects were either about real life cases or projects/firms, or at least mirroring very close examples. Having to apply the taught content in such a practical nature very much helped to develop a truly thorough understanding of the matter at hand, discovering where the deviations between theory and practice occur, but also how to use these insights to find new solutions. This experience has been especially rewarding once I started working, as I keep coming across daily cases or problems that are very similar to what I was confronted with throughout the programme  – sometimes even identical cases! That really has demonstrated to me how good this MSc has been for starting my career.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

I have in fact had three favourite modules: Economics and Strategy for Innovation taught by Dr. Jonathan Haskel and Dr. Anu Wadwha; Corporate Strategy taught by Dr. Dmitry Sharapov and Strategy Implementation taught by Dr. Sarah Ottner. Economics and Strategy for Innovation was taught in the first term and was a true dive into the challenges faced by firms nowadays in order to maintain or establish a competitive advantage through means of innovation. The module offered an in-depth qualitative analysis of these challenges as well as the different approaches to handle them, while extending our understanding through econometric analysis of the topics at hand. Corporate Strategy took these insights a step further by looking at the different strategy choices companies have in order to main competitive in both the short and long run, as well as why some of these strategic choices result in great success for some and great failures for others. Finally, Strategy Implementation offered a comprehensive conclusion to the theory and practical approaches of the previous modules, by educating us in the decisions companies have to make and how they choose the right strategy as well as the crucial factors for successful implementation. I very much enjoyed these modules as they built upon each other and enabled a comprehensive understanding of the corporate environment and the economic factors surrounding and influencing corporate success.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

The programme places great emphasis on project work that is usually conducted as a group. Given the variety of backgrounds and nationalities in the cohort, this is both a great learning multiplier but also very challenging at times. Everyone on the programme has come with great achievements and experiences at hand, but at times this also translates into very different styles of targeting tasks and projects. Thus, one of the main challenges throughout the MSc had been the coordination of these different strengths (and weaknesses) – which also takes some time to figure out – in such way that projects are not only completed on time, but also fulfill the high standard expected from the School and trying our best to exceed that standard and go that extra mile with the solutions and conclusions we present.


How do you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Diverse – in culture, experience, age, and worldviews.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Dr. Sarah Ottner! She has been extremely encouraging in making us think critically and engage in the content she taught (Strategy Implementation). Not only is she extremely knowledgeable and smart, but she also has  a talent to infect you with her curiosity and thinking about the various case studies and real-world problems from a different and often new perspective. The classes were filled with discussions and student engagement by her facilitating and calling upon our different views and ideas. Also the final assessment through a Case Study Competition was a refreshing end to the third term.

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

Honestly speaking this has been the most challenging and often frustrating part of the programme , however, it was this kind of group work that taught me the most. Not necessarily in regards to the actual module content, but rather in regards to management: managing the different roles we play in a team, aligning these in the most efficient way possible in order to produce a product that we would all be proud of. The group work mostly had to be completed within a limited time frame, with several different projects due in the same, short period. While this had at points been very challenging, the rewarding feeling you get from receiving positive feedback for your efforts is more than worth it. Furthermore, working now in a corporate environment, this kind of group work has on the one hand greatly strengthened my resilience, but also made effective time management a natural habit.


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

Meeting and being able to work with some very strong and intelligent individuals at an outstanding academic institution that is constantly surrounded and exposed to a very competitive and international corporate environment. I have had the pleasure to make some great new friendships, with individuals that are all very motivated and smart, and with whom I am looking forward to tackle the business and economic challenges we are and will be faced with. Imperial has equipped us with the tools and skills we need, now it’s up to us to use this opportunity and prove ourselves in our endeavors.

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

I enjoyed the various evening corporate sessions the most – often it was one or three representatives of well-known firms or banks, often Imperial Alumni that shared their experiences and challenges with us. This not only provided a chance to discover and find out more about potential future employers and careers, but more importantly start building a strong network with inspirational and successful people.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?

One factor that has always fascinated me, and inspired me in the first place, about Imperial College was its roots in the field of science – more specifically that of physics and engineering. Coming from a family of engineers, I was eager to be a part of such university and combining it with my own interests in Economics. Furthermore, a lot of the current economic developments are about problems such as identifying and implementing sustainable energy solutions and resource management – studying at the Imperial College Business School allowed me to be faced with the cutting edge research and developments in these fields and thinking about ways to facilitate these in our economy through smart business approaches. The people and knowledge one is exposed to at Imperial College London definitely widens ones horizon and way of thinking and tackling modern day problems.


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

I have always been eager to use the knowledge I am gaining throughout my education, and the opinions I am forming, to put to proper use – I have always dreamt of at some point being able to have an influence and a voice allowing me to implement my views and ideas. Imperial has been another milestone on the path of achieving this by challenging me but also widening my network, scope of thoughts and general understanding. My time here has inspired me to continue working hard for my dreams and daring to put my ideas into action.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme (please give details of roles you have accepted, what you will be doing)?

I have in fact already started in my new role as an Equity Research Analyst covering German Small & Mid-Caps firms at Commerzbank here in London. I am very excited about this position, as the nature of the German Mittelstand has always fascinated me being the foundation of the German economy´s success, but also communicating this “German expertise” on a UK and international level through my own research.

How did the service from Careers help you secure employment and help in your professional development?

The personal support I´ve received from Imperial College Business School Careers– especially from Mrs Chloe Chambers – was outstanding. She took the time and effort to understand my personal ambitions, goals and struggles and helped in every possible way that would (and has) enabled me to reach my dream-starting job. She always found time to meet, also on short-notice, and always gave appropriate advice that made a well-rounded and appropriate preparation possible. Thanks to her, I did not encounter any surprises in the interview/hiring process and was able to complete this process in a self-confident manner. Furthermore, I attended the many networking and speaker events the service has provided us have been extremely helpful., This is a unique and outstanding service and has helped me to further define my ambitions and goals, while communicating with experts in my targeted fields easier. Also the provision of online tools such as the VMock and Wall Street Prep has been extremely helpful.

London location

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

Most definitely! Being located so central made it very easy to meet with companies, attend corporate and networking events and generally getting a feel for what it means to be working and living in this incredible city.

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

I live in Westminster, close to St. James´s Park. I absolutely love the location as it is very central, yet quiet at night (I do value a good-night’s sleep highly!) I am surrounded by a majority of London’s famous landmarks such as the House of Commons and Buckingham Palace, but also there are many cute cafés and restaurants in Pimlico. It’s also just three tube stops from Imperial!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time in London? Have you had opportunities to travel?

Even though I have been in London for some time now, you never finish discovering and enjoying London! There is always something new to stumble upon and this city always has something perfect to offer, whatever mood you´re in. Even though it can get a bit hectic or stressful at times, as soon as I am away for more than two weeks I start missing it. But if you do feel like going on a little escape trip it is extremely easy – either to travel from one of the many train stations to somewhere within the UK, a quick trip to Paris, or catching a flight to somewhere on the continent!


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars 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?

I attended two of the “Admitted Students” Events – one before I made my final decision to attend Imperial and one after. I would most definitely recommend attending the events offered. At the point where I had to make a decision, I was torn between some offers at hand – but when I first set foot on campus here I knew that this was the right place for me. Furthermore, the events also enable you to get to know some of your future course mates, making the start and the first group projects a lot more comfortable!

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

Be conscious of what you want – if you want to stay in academia after the programme, an MRes might be the smarter choice; if you want to dive into the working life straight after – then go for this Master’s! You will get the most out of it if you´re determined and have a fairly good idea of what you want to do afterwards. This of programme does not mean that you cannot change your mind throughout, but given the pace and the workload it is definitely helpful to have a clear goal you are working towards to.

Programme: MSc Economics & Strategy for Business

Nationality: German

Undergraduate Education: BA International Relations & Economics, University of Reading

Job after Imperial College Business School: Commerzbank AG (London), Associate Equity Research Analyst Small & Mid Caps