What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?
After graduating in 2013, I began my career in the development finance sector of Afghanistan as a risk management professional and later advanced to the leadership of the Monitoring and Supervision Department at the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). My area of focus during this tenure included organisational assessments of the development finance organisations which included microfinance institutions, microfinance banks, and NGOs. During my tenure at MISFA, besides microfinance and SMEs, I also worked on other poverty alleviation interventions such as the Targeting Ultra-Poor Programme. Furthermore, I also served on the Audit Committee of Mutahid Development Finance Institution from 2016 to 2017.
Why did you decide to study an MSc Economics & Strategy for Business at Imperial College Business School after completing your undergraduate studies at Imperial?
Whilst working at the Monitoring & Supervision department of MISFA, I gained sufficient understanding of the prevailing issues in the development finance sector of Afghanistan. These inadequacies included archaic financial supervision frameworks, lack of innovation, fragile governance structures, weak risk resilience, and vulnerable sustainability outlooks of the banks and microfinance institutions. This on one hand impeded the efforts of financial inclusion and on the other hand resulted in wastage of millions of pounds of public money each year.
The MSc Economics & Strategy for Business programme at Imperial College Business School offers a balanced blend of the modules within the programme ranging from strategy formulation to macroeconomics to strategy implementation and risk management. A practical approach to teaching in the form of case studies, workshops and consulting projects further augmented my interest in this programme.
Did you receive a scholarship? If so, what were the benefits of receiving this?
My MSc was financed by the Chevening Scholarship. This scholarship was instrumental in two important ways. First, I would not have been able to finance the programme if it was not for the Chevening Scholarship. Second, if it was not for the Chevening, I could not have thoroughly focused on my studies without worrying about my financial needs. In addition, this scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships which opened many doors of exposure and networking opportunities with other 1600+ Chevening scholars currently studying in the UK from more than 130 countries.
What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy, and find most rewarding?
I truly enjoy the interactive nature of lectures where teachers encourage students to ask questions and engage in intellectually stimulating conversations.
Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
Macroeconomics for Business has been my favourite module. First because it resonates with my career goals. Second because the module leader was extremely knowledgeable, linking theories with contemporary macroeconomic issues, and open to taking questions and encouraging students to critically discuss the frameworks and share how these frameworks are applied in different economies around the world.
What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
The most challenging part of the programme has been keeping balance in allocating time and efforts to academic, non-academic and career related events.
Did you attend an international trip? If so, which trips did you attend and how have they been beneficial to you?
I attended Model WTO in April 2018 held in St. Gallen, Switzerland. My participation in this conference was sponsored by Imperial College Business School.
I gained a lot from attending this conference. It was full of learning and networking opportunities. As a new member of WTO, Afghanistan lacks expertise in WTO rules and regulations. It was for this reason that I wanted to benefit from the magnificent exposure offered by the Model WTO where I was able to share my perspectives about my country and learn from participants of the summit about their achievements and challenges. This summit on one hand provided me with hands-on understanding of WTO rules and on the other hand it helped me to establish a network of accomplished individuals from every corner of the world.
How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
I would describe my cohort as an amazing blend of different cultures, intellect, and professional backgrounds. This diversity enriches the discussions during lectures and team projects. It also offers a great opportunity for building a strong global network.
Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?
Associate Professor, Pedro Rosa Dias, who taught us Business Economics during the Autumn term has been my favourite lecturer. There are lots of things I can say about Pedro that make him such an inspiring teacher. However, I would like to be brief and point out the following distinguishing traits Pedro possesses. He is the kind of teacher who is keen to get students involved in the discussion and counter his arguments. His ability to explain the complex economics models and theories in an interactive way and through real-life examples makes him stand-out from his contemporaries. The kindness and openness in his behaviour make him an extremely likeable and easy to approach person. This makes the life of a student easy as he/she doesn’t need to think if he/she should contact Pedro if there is a problem. During the lecture and outside classroom, Pedro is a real motivator and confidence booster.
Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what did you like the most about working in this type of environment?
Working in teams has been challenging, but it was also a rewarding experience. The challenging part was getting everyone to contribute to the work by assuming their share of responsibility and managing conflicts. The rewarding part was that it provided me with a good opportunity to understand different cultures, their attitudes toward work, and conflict management, which prepared me well for today’s workplace which is universally globalised. It also allowed me to get to know creative insights and make good friends.
What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?
The greatest opportunity I have had at Imperial has been the quality of teaching and diversity of my cohort.
Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
Guest lecturers by seasoned professionals from the financial sector have been very useful. Also, the events organised by finance society on application of new technologies such as blockchain in financial services have been very informative.
What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial? Do you hold a student leadership position?
I have been involved with Imperial College Finance Society, TedEx, and the Gandhi Centre for Inclusive Innovation.
How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
Being part of wider the Imperial College London community benefited me in numerous ways. It added to my intellectual richness, improved my communication skills, provided me with a pleasant and eventful environment, and enriched my network.
What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
I have always aspired to work in the public sector or the large multilateral organisations which not only fulfil my need of having a rewarding career, but also help me in the pursuit of my aspiration of making a social impact on a larger scale. My long-term career goal is to contribute to the amelioration of Afghanistan’s economic and financial spheres. My goal is to make Afghanistan’s Economy truly innovative, resilient, sustainable, and self-reliant.
I made considerable progress towards realisation of this long-term aspiration whilst studying at Imperial. I gained a great deal of knowledge from leading professors. Imperial also offered a platform to interact with industry experts and experienced economists whose insights have been enriching and inspiring. Besides, I have made this strong network with members of my cohort, professors, and other professionals who would be of enormous help in my endeavours to achieve my long-term career goals.
Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme (please give details of roles you have accepted, what you will be doing)?
I do not have an explicit offer in hand. But my previous employer (the one I was working for until I left to study at Imperial) is keen to have me back after completion of my MSc. This is a government organisation. Its work revolves around developing a sustainable and efficient development finance sector in Afghanistan. In my previous role, I was working in the monitoring and supervision department of this organisation where I was responsible for monitoring and overseeing the investments made by this organisation to make sure they are used judiciously.
How did the services from Careers at Imperial Business School help you secure employment and help in your professional development?
Since I was not looking for job in the UK, I did not avail services of careers. However, the networking sessions and other formal and semi-formal gatherings with leading companies have been very helpful.
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.
Absolutely! If you are studying a programme that is hugely business related such as MSc Economics and Strategy for Business, the location of the university matters a lot. For me the most distinctive benefits of Imperial’s location have been the ease of access.
It was particularly helpful during my consulting project where I was working as a consultant for KPMG on a project that was part of the academic requirements of the programme. During this project which lasted for 8 weeks, I was commuting between Imperial and the KPMG’s office at Canary Wharf every week.
Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live in Hammersmith. There are two reasons why I choose to live there. First and foremost, it is near Imperial which makes commuting easy. Second, my family also lives in Hammersmith.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time in London? Have you had opportunities to travel?
I enjoy sitting by the side of the Thames and reading books on Economics, Philosophy and several other subjects. I also visited museums which are located next to Imperial. I sometimes travel outside London, and I have been to Windsor which I thoroughly loved. I have also been to Bristol, Southampton, Bath, and Swindon.
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 did not attend such events specifically. However, when I was applying, the admission team was very helpful. They introduced me to one of the MSc Economics & Strategy for Business students whom I talked to throughout my application process. His inputs were extremely helpful in refining my personal statement and overall application package.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?
My number one bit of advice is to apply as early as you can. I made the mistake of applying very late and then I struggled a lot before I could get the offer on time which was required by the scholarship sponsor by the deadline. This is especially important for those applying through a scholarship scheme such as Chevening.
My second bit of advice would be to get in touch with the students currently enrolled on the programme and get their feedback on the application package.