Sofia Varela
Programme:
MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management
Nationality:
Panamanian
Undergraduate education:

BA Communications, Boston College

MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management

About you

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

Before attending Imperial College Business School, I worked for almost three years as a Brand Strategist in one of the leading branding firms in my country, Panama. I had the opportunity to work for clients in diverse industries, from banking to retail, mainly working on brand strategy and consumer research projects. This was a rewarding experience as I was able to earn responsibility and interact with senior managers from companies in the region of Latin America.

Why did you decide to study an MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management at Imperial College Business School?

Firstly, I knew that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree at a top business school and that I wanted it to be in the city of London. Doing some research, I found the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management programme, which was a perfect fit for me as I wanted to enhance my managerial skills, while learning how to transform ideas into viable ventures.

Did you receive a scholarship?

When I received my acceptance letter, I was notified that I had been shortlisted for one of Imperial’s limited scholarships, but it was not until the end of May that I was informed that I had been granted a £10,000 scholarship, based on the academic achievement demonstrated in my application. Asides from the financial benefit, the scholarship allowed me to have an enormous appreciation towards Imperial and take advantage of its resources, community and events.

Programme

What aspects of the programme do you enjoy the most?

I particularly enjoyed being part of an incredibly diverse cohort, which allowed me to learn from different cultures and explore different ways of thinking and approaching problems. Another aspect of the programme that I liked was listening to inspiring guest speakers who shared their real-life stories and enhanced what we learned in class.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

My favourite module was Venture Capital & Growth Finance, as I was able to learn about new venture creation and new venture growth, which is very applicable if I ever build my own startup. Also, the way Dr Miguel Meuleman taught was effective, as it was engaging, practical and structured.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

The most rewarding part of the programme for me, was the networking that took place with our culturally diverse cohort, the guest speakers from lectures and the panellists of various events held at the Business School. I was able to learn from people who inspired me and having the chance to share my experiences with them was invaluable.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

Coming from a non-business background, it took me more time to understand the concepts from the modules that were quantitative. Also, I was not used to exams that accounted for 70% or 100% of your grade, as this was not the case at my previous university. . However, it challenged me to truly grasp the theories, modules and frameworks and become comfortable with it over time.

People

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

My cohort is very diverse, in terms of culture as well as educational backgrounds. I also found it to be inspirational as some of the students have already established their own businesses prior to joining the programme, and most of them are working really hard towards achieving their personal and professional goals.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Dr Miguel Meuleman was such an enthusiastic professor who was able to keep us focused, despite the lengthy lectures. His way of teaching was great because the class was interactive, and he introduced us to real life examples of entrepreneurial finance through both case studies and guest speakers. Also, the fact that he was a member of a business angel fund made it even more interesting as he was able to share personal stories and make the class more hands-on.

Opportunities

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

The greatest opportunity I’ve had at Imperial has been the people I’ve met, which I am sure I will maintain lifelong relationships with.

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

The Business School holds many events that as a student you have to take advantage of. Personally, I enjoyed a Tableau workshop that was offered by the Consulting Club, as it gave me a base understanding of this useful software. In terms of events, the Social Impact Day & Ideas to Impact Challenge was absolutely inspiring and allowed me to feel proud of the high-calibre students that study at Imperial and learn how they are tackling global challenges to positively impact society. Lastly, my favourite guest lecture was Inma Martínez, who lectured us as part of our Entrepreneurship module. She was such a charismatic and inspirational speaker who enriched my knowledge about digital challenges and the power of negotiation.

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

Some of Imperial’s clubs that I joined included the Latin American Business Club, the Consulting Club and Innovation & Entrepreneurship Club. I was also able to help the Latin American Business Club with promotional material for events.

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

By being part of the wider Imperial College London community, I was able to build a stronger and larger network of acquaintances as well as potential future business partners, who all have a particular expertise.

Did you get involved in any initiatives hosted by the Imperial Enterprise Lab?

I was indirectly involved in initiatives hosted by the Imperial Enterprise Lab as I was able to help two female led-startups from my programme with their pitch decks and posters, in preparation for their participation in competitions such as VCC and Ideas to Impact Challenge. Over the course of the year, I noticed that the Imperial Enterprise Lab holds many events to encourage entrepreneurs and support them.

Career

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

After Imperial College Business School, I would like to work as a UX designer in a big corporation. After taking the Design Thinking for Innovation module, I was able to learn more about discovery and research, synthesising and even prototyping. I really enjoyed the programme and I am confident it will help me achieve my future goals.

How did the services from help in your professional development/securing employment?

Careers at Imperial has been very useful to me as they were able to help me fix and tailor my CV, and they were happy to help me whenever I needed it. During my time at Imperial, I’ve noticed that the Business School cares for its students and is always offering job opportunities and holding events from leading companies.

Location

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

For sure! Studying in London has allowed me to participate in events that I would have otherwise not been able to do so. One of the best opportunities I’ve had was attending The Oxford Saïd Entrepreneurship Forum, where I heard the journeys from renowned entrepreneurs such as Rich Pierson (Founder of Headspace) and Dhiraj Mukherjee (Co-founder of Shazam).

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

I live in South Kensington which is a 15-minute walk to Imperial. I decided to live in this area because it is close to thr university, it is safe and has a lot of cultural offerings.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

When I am not studying, I enjoy visiting art exhibitions at the Tate Modern or the V&A. I also like sitting and relaxing in the green spaces London luckily provides, such as Hyde Park. Lastly, the theatre and variety of culinary options around London is something I have taken advantage of.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London?

If you are moving to London, I would suggest speaking with someone you know that lives there or even a Student Ambassador from the programme to give you advice on finding a flat. A lot of times you need to sign a contract very fast as apartments go quickly. If you are not in London, you want to make sure that at least someone you trust is able to do the viewing and makes sure that the area is safe.

Tips

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

Luckily, I was able to attend an online webinar as well as an on-campus information session when I was applying to Imperial. I found it useful as I was able to understand what the Recruitment and Admissions teams were looking for in the application. Speaking with Student Ambassadors via LinkedIn or Unibuddy is another thing I would recommend because they are happy to help you and answer any specific questions you might have about the application, interview process, as well as the programme itself. 

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

Speak with current students or Business School alumni who are studying on the programme or who have already completed it. Talking to them will give you a better sense of the programme. Once you feel confident, send in your application. Good luck!

Programme:
MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management
Nationality:
Panamanian
Undergraduate education:

BA Communications, Boston College