Programme: MSc Economics and Strategy for Business 2020-21
University and subject studied for undergraduate degree: BSC Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Warwick
What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?
Before beginning my programme at Imperial College Business School, I was an Investment Analyst at a Malaysian based venture capital company, where I was responsible for sourcing, analysing and managing Indonesia-based deal flow and portfolio companies.
Why did you decide to study MSc Economics & Strategy for Business at Imperial College Business School?
My decision to apply to the Business School was influenced by my lack of exposure to business fundamentals and insights. This skill gap was made apparent during my one-year stint working in venture capital as an analyst; I realised very quickly that I could add much more value to the firm and to startups if I had a better grasp of business and strategy. Choosing MSc Economics & Strategy for Business was a no-brainer for me as it offered a much more ‘applied’ programme compared to other available options.
Did you receive a scholarship? If so, what were the benefits of receiving this? What advice would you give to future scholarship applicants?
I was awarded an academic achievement scholarship for this programme, and it was very beneficial to say the least. Living in London is very expensive, and being able to take off some of the burden through a scholarship was a relief. It was also very motivational, as it signalled to me that the Business School saw potential in me and pushed me to achieve the best in my programme. Advice I would give to future scholarship applicants is to be as honest as possible in your applications; reviewers want to get the sense of the real you - not a persona - and thus being honest with your ambitions, strengths, weaknesses and what you want to do after the programme will help them with making their judgement.
What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?
I appreciate the degree to which my programme has been designed to offer ‘applied’ learnings. This has been reflected well in the modules that I have completed - many conventionally academic business fundamentals are taught with a uniquely ‘applied’ mindset, giving me more confidence in my eventual application of them to the real world.
Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
My favourite module so far would easily be Economics and Strategy for Innovation. Professor Gigi and Professor Simone are extremely knowledgeable and engaging teachers, even through Zoom. The concepts taught in the module are very conceptual but exceptionally applicable, especially for startups and venture capital. It was refreshing to find that the lessons laid out by the professors reminded me so much of my experiences in analysing early-stage startup investments, and I am certain they will serve me well when I leave the Business School and return to the venture capital landscape. For example, the case studies given out in the programme were identical to many deals that I looked at in the past year, and having the professors walk us through its intricacies has given me a new perspective for looking at businesses that I am sure to re-apply in the future.
What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
Given the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it has been quite difficult to keep tabs on coursework, group assignments, and generally any and all prior expectations of what I thought business school would be like. However, Imperial College did a very good job in transitioning everything online, and although the experience is undoubtedly unique, I am thankful that the programme was translated online as well as it was, and my fellow cohort were all very understanding of the difficult situation, helping to keep each other afloat through these trying times.
How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
Due to the pandemic, it was difficult to really get to know everyone as intimately as it would have been in a live classroom setting. However, from the limited classroom interactions that did happen and through the various Zoom sessions, I realised that the College attracted very bright and engaging people who genuinely want to learn from each other and strive for only the very best. I can confidently say that my cohort not only forced me to step up my game, but also created an environment extremely conducive to inquiry and learning.
Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
The various guest lectures and workshops that involved leading startup/tech entrepreneurs have easily left the biggest impression on me. I have read about many of these founders of billion-dollar startups at work, but to get the chance to listen to their story and ask questions to them directly has been extremely inspiring. Societies such as the Imperial Entrepreneurship Society, Imperial Investment Society, Imperial Data Science Society and many others are always actively hosting big-name speakers, and snapping up any chance to interact with them has greatly benefitted me in deciding where to take my career next.
One of the most memorable speakers for me was when the Imperial Entrepreneurship Society hosted the founder and CEO of OakNorth, Europe’s largest fintech company – listening firsthand to his story and the gruelling challenges of being a startup founder that are never talked about in the media was extremely refreshing. The Imperial Enterprise Lab is also a highlight, as they hosted a weekly “how to…” sessions with guest speakers covering very niche entrepreneur-related topics that I would find very difficult to Google the answers for - these were also very helpful in developing my skills and knowledge.
How have you benefited from the Business School’s connection to the Imperial College London community?
Given that I want to return to Indonesia after my programme, the Business School’s reputation has allowed me to reach out to many alumni who are now high-level executives in both tech startups and VCs in and around Indonesia. Even before the end of my first term I would regularly be jumping into calls and chatting with alumni, and even receive job and internship offers from alumni who were keen on taking a fellow Imperial College student into their team.
How have you found the multi-mode teaching delivery?
The multi-mode delivery of teaching has been executed surprisingly well. Although it was admittedly a hassle in the beginning, and it is obviously not perfect, I can appreciate the College’s dedication to improving it throughout the term. The multi-modal teaching delivery succeeded in allowing professors to teach the content as they normally would have (albeit now through a Zoom call), and never did I feel like I was missing out on any of the lessons. I must also give immense appreciation to the professors who all excellently adapted to online teaching, and had the patience to deal with the various internet issues and bugs that made it difficult. Nonetheless, I do not regret taking the programme in the multi-modal format, and I feel like I learned as much as I would have if it were done offline.
What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
My future career goal is to raise a fund and manage an ASEAN based venture capital company with my close colleagues. During my one-year stint as an analyst, I realised that a big gap in the region’s venture capital companies was the ability and willingness for analysts to actively engage and add value to portfolio companies. There is a massive knowledge and talent gap in the region, and by honing my skills and expanding my command of business at Imperial College Business School, I will be able to outperform my peers and earn the trust of the portfolio companies, prospective companies and LPs even more effectively. By amassing the skills and developing my network, the chance to feasibly raise a fund will increase over time - and Imperial’s programme has laid the foundation for that.
Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?
Since commencing the programme, I have been in talks and received offers from both startups and venture capital companies in and around Indonesia. I am looking to return to Indonesia after the programme, and thus I have focused my efforts there - though there are some roles that involve travel to other Southeast Asian countries. The VC roles are mostly senior analyst/associate roles, where I am expected to source and manage deals for the company to invest in, and to manage portfolio companies. The startups are mostly from tech companies of various stages, and the roles I have been offered include growth, business development, data analyst and marketing positions; these generally focus on thinking about how to best position the company to improve its growth prospects.
Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live in Holborn. I chose this area because a lot of my friends have their school and offices nearby, so it would give me the chance to socialise with them during my downtime – the pandemic has, of course, uprooted those plans, but the location itself is still very nice and accessible.
When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?
Given the lockdown measures initiated in London, I am usually playing video games during my downtime - a nice break from the numerous and intense coursework that this programme hands over every week. Being forced to stay indoors has also given me the freedom of time to explore the various online events and webinars hosted by the many societies and departments at Imperial College. I also like to keep track of Indonesian equity markets and the startup landscape, so I would often be chatting with friends halfway across the world to keep myself in the loop.
What have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
Finding accommodation is probably the most crucial part of moving to London, far and beyond anything else. My advice would be to prioritise looking for accommodation as you find yourself ‘competing’ with many students for the best places (in terms of convenience and price). The biggest benefit of moving to London is the environment – London is a melting pot, and meeting lots of intelligent people with different perspectives has really opened my eyes in a way that I would not have experienced had I stayed at home. At the same time, the biggest challenge is learning to adapt to extremely unconventional perspectives that at first might seem diametrically opposed to your own. Learning to critically evaluate these and using their understandings to supplement your views are a key takeaway for me, and would not have been possible without coming to London.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?
I would definitely urge prospective students to really think about why they are taking this specific programme and what they want to do with the skills gained by undertaking it. It is extremely helpful to enter the programme with an idea of what you want to take away from it and why - ask yourself questions like: “what kind of career path?” “What role?” “What skills are most relevant in these?”.
The programme being very ‘applied’ means that often you are placed into situations where you have to imagine using the knowledge in real life. Having an idea of what kind of career I want to go into has put me one step ahead of my peers and allowed me to perform exceedingly well, whilst at the same time exercising the taught skills into simulations of what I plan to be doing once I graduate.