Salwa F Darraj
Studying MSc Economics and Strategy for Business
Why did you choose to study MSc Economics and Strategy for Business and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
I felt that having a full grasp of these two subject areas was crucial to have an understanding of the global business trends, world economies, and strategic market shifts and disruptions. I wanted to build on my education in Finance and felt that having an understanding of how economics and business strategy correlate would help me improve my analytical skills and gain a holistic perception on world economies, financial markets, and business shifts.
I felt that Imperial College Business School was the best option to pursue my studies, not only because Imperial College is constantly ranked among the world’s top universities (during my year it was ranked as the second top university worldwide), but also because I felt being at the heart of a financial capital like London would tremendously benefit my knowledge about economic and financial global trends, it would provide me with great networking opportunities, and most importantly would allow me to explore the established financial and consulting sectors, while at the same time have access to the start-up hub of Europe.
What was the most important learning point you took with you from the Business School?
During my time at the Business School I learned the importance of balancing between maintaining academic excellence, professional exposure, social networking, and extracurricular interests. At the Business School there was a high level of inclusiveness and learning never stopped, be it academic or non-academic, and this taught me that to be successful in a fast paced world it is crucial to never stop researching and to be respectfully accepting of all opinions and phenomena.
What was the most surprising thing about the programme?
Joining a top ranking university was intimidating, I expected to receive a wealth of information and to be taught by world-class professors, but what surprised me the most was the warmth of the environment at the School, the approachability of all staff and professors, the constant care about the well-being and future of each individual student.
How do you view your experience of studying at the Business School since you left?
Looking back at my time at the Business School, I have to say that it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life and choosing Imperial was absolutely one of the best decisions I ever made. I am utterly honoured to have been a student at Imperial once, I would definitely go back if I decide to pursue my studies further, and I am forever proud to be an alumna and part of Imperial for life.
How has the programme changed you?
The programme pushed me to continuously explore, it refined my financial and strategic consulting skills, it widened my horizons, and it brought out the entrepreneur in me, as before enrolling into the programme I would have not considered launching a start-up or investing in one.
Career & professional development
How has your programme contributed to your career success?
Before joining the programme I did not have any full-time work experience, however post-graduation I became an entrepreneur, an Associate Consultant at a top tier professional services international firm, and Board of Directors Member at a NGO, and this is only the beginning of my professional journey.
What did you take away from your learning experience that has been most applicable to your current role?
Perseverance, professionalism, a wealth of knowledge and skills, as well as the ability to maintain a balanced work-life schedule.
How do you plan to use the skills and knowledge you gained during the programme within your career going forward?
I will utilise all the knowledge and skills that I obtained at the Business School and I will constantly develop them to stay ahead of the dynamic and constantly changing business shifts. What I learned at Imperial formed the base that I will build on and adapt to overcome varying challenges that I may face as a professional.
What is your current role like?
My current role as an Associate Consultant entails providing advice to international businesses about the optimal forms of establishing a business, about financial tax structuring, mergers and acquisitions tax advice, and about the application of international trade and tax treaties, among other areas.
Also, for my new role as a Private Client Services Consultant, I will be advising families and family-owned businesses on the best strategic options to guarantee the success and prosperity of both the family and the business for generations to come. The areas of advice will include: wealth management, strategy, finance, corporate governance, succession planning, tax, and investment, among others. Internally, for business development purposes, I have worked on identifying and enforcing potential business-digital alliances that can benefit the firm and can be utilised to win in the market and expand the firm’s market share locally and regionally. Moreover, I have been involved in the firm’s bid preparations and the pricing of engagements and commercial packages.
What do you enjoy most about your current work and what are the main challenges that you face?
What I enjoy most is the ability to work with international companies and clients with global presence operating in almost every industry. I enjoy learning from the different business cultures and approaches of the clients. I also enjoy having access to a wide set of databases, systems, and technologies, not to mention being part of a global EY with all of its programmes, initiatives, and international opportunities.
One of the biggest challenges I faced after transitioning from being a student to being a professional was the ability to manage people, be it co-workers or clients. Luckily, this is not always unattainable, although at times it can prove to be harder than the technical work itself.
What is your proudest achievement in the job so far?
One of my proudest achievements at my current job was when only a few months after joining EY I was chosen to be part of the “My Story” initiative and my picture along with a personal quote was shared across all of the firm’s social media platforms and it went viral when it was retweeted by the Women’s Day Twitter account.
Another proud achievement was when I was awarded the EY “Shukran Star” for exceptional quality and technical excellence, which is given to professionals who exhibit exceptional and role model professional and personal behavior.
The alumni network
In what way is remaining connected to your alumni network important to you?
Staying connected to Imperial, the Business School and the alumni network is crucial to me, as on an emotional level I love to stay connected with my fellow classmates and friends, and on a professional level it is exciting to have a network of people with similar academic experience and it never ceases to excite me when I come across another professional who has graduated from Imperial and from the Business School in particular.
Due to this interest, I am helping in establishing the Imperial alumni community locally, and I try to stay involved and connected with the Business School and the Alumni Relation’s Office as much as I can.
Have you volunteered at the Business School since you graduated? If so, why do you feel it’s important to volunteer your time and experience?
Yes, I have volunteered remotely, where I have been a Student Recruitment Ambassador since my graduation. Also, I have attended several Imperial’s Women Network events and I am part of the Imperial Mentoring Scheme where I will be a Mentor for two students.
It is very important for me to volunteer as I want to give something back to Imperial. Also, I would like to benefit other current students and potential Imperial students by sharing my experience and knowledge with them. Lastly but importantly, volunteering with Imperial allows me to feel connected to this great institution.
Advice for future students
What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying the same Business School programme as you?
I would definitely encourage them and I would advise them to make the best out of their time at the Business School and in London, to never miss an opportunity to be involved in a School’s activity, to make friendships that could last a lifetime, and to never shy away from going after what they want.
How did you find living in London?
To put it simply, particularly for a student, living in London was a once in a lifetime kind of experience. Absolutely amazing and enriching for life.