Athena Casarotto

Athena CasarottoNationality: American

Institute and subject studied for Undergraduate degree: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, BSc Mechanical Engineering

Work experience/internship(s): Prior to joining this programme, I interned twice at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation within Sikorsky Innovations and twice at athenahealth Inc. in product innovation.

Greatest academic, professional or personal awards/achievements: Personal: during undergrad, I was named captain of a varsity team that I didn’t actually play for – I was the team manager!

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Programme

Why did you decide to study your programme and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
I wanted a degree primarily focused on innovation management to complement my technical background. I had not originally considered a degree in entrepreneurship, but once I looked into this programme further, I decided the entrepreneurship component would only be an asset. I was specifically looking to move abroad, and I knew I wanted to remain tech, so I looked for an international business school as connected to tech as I was. Luckily, I found Imperial College Business School, part of a world-renowned STEM university. The MSc IEM programme had everything I was looking for and more so it was the only programme to which I applied!

What makes the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management at Imperial College Business School unique?
When I realised that a Master’s degree in IEM was right for me, I did my research to make sure I found the right one. Imperial’s programme stood out because it was both theoretical and practical – the five-week terms cover a range of information that we can then apply ourselves during the summer projects. IEM also offers a one-week International Study Tour which is a really exciting opportunity!

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?
I really enjoy the diversity of the cohort and the blend of theory and practice throughout the programme.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
Coming from the US, it took a bit of getting used to the UK grading system (and the rainy weather).

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
I have expanded my options for potential career paths as a result of the modules and the things I’ve learned about myself during the programme. I had not envisioned myself as a future entrepreneur until we started building our own business plans during the Entrepreneurial Journey module. Now I see entrepreneurship as a real option for my future.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
We are only at the beginning, but I am most excited about Entrepreneurial Journey Part II, when teams find an idea and create a business plan around it. It is going to be a hands-on way to apply the lessons learned in lectures. At the end of the module, each team presents their pitch at a business plan competition!

People

Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
I attended career sessions with speakers from a variety of companies, which were open to all members of the business school. I particularly enjoyed the entrepreneurship panel (Imperial College Business School alumni who have started their own companies) and the speaker from Google.

How would you sum up the Business School faculty?
The faculty in the business school are knowledgeable, passionate, and engaged. Our professors are recognised in their fields and their expertise is noticeable in the classroom. It is common for course readings, case studies, or textbooks to be written or co-authored by the lecturer!

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?
My favourite professor so far has been Dr. Andreas Eisengerich for International Marketing. It is not a subject I had experience with but his enthusiastic teaching style and relevant examples made it easy to understand and fun to learn. I have gained a new appreciation for, and interest in, the field because of his class.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work, what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?
Nearly every assignment in this programme is completed as part of a group. The value of teamwork, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs, cannot be emphasized enough. Whether it is with your founding team, investors or potential customers, knowing how to work and communicate well with others is crucial. The team-based environment at the Business School makes me more comfortable with different working styles and personality types, which will be invaluable when I begin working full-time. Additionally, working in groups is a great way to get to know other members of my cohort, experience different perspectives or new ways of thinking, and build on ideas collaboratively.

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
Diverse! We represent dozens of countries, cover a complete spectrum of academic backgrounds, and each of us has individual hobbies and interests outside of the classroom. I suppose the only thing we all have in common is that we are passionate, ambitious members of the IEM cohort!

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?
As part of IEM, each of us is automatically a member of the Imperial Entrepreneurship Club. I also joined the BioPharma and Healthcare Society and the ICL Gliding Club.

Opportunities

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
The greatest opportunity I’ve had at Imperial is also the reason I applied: the opportunity to pursue a stimulating programme at a fantastic university, all within the heart of London!

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?
Early in the year, we had several career sessions to help prepare us for interviews, assessment centres, networking, and other professional situations. During an exercise on negotiation, we learned that women are statistically less likely to negotiate an offer, so I arranged a private session with a career counsellor to become more familiar and confident with the process. After the session, the counsellor sent me additional resources to look through and even kept in touch to wish me luck as I negotiated a job offer.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
Part of the reason I chose this programme was its connection with the science and engineering departments at Imperial, having previously studied engineering myself. There are always events, speakers, and seminars hosted by Imperial, which are open to the entire university. My favourite so far was an Imperial Fringe event called Food of Tomorrow showcasing futuristic food science and engineering projects by Imperial students and faculty. The event was held in the atrium of the Business School, highlighting the unity between Imperial College Business School and the wider Imperial community.

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! London is a bustling, historic city with a well-established financial centre and a budding entrepreneurial scene. Many major companies have offices in London and many new ventures are getting started here. The combination of old firms and new businesses can appeal to anyone studying IEM. We frequently have speakers from a selection of companies in London, and have taken trips to visit local incubators and accelerators (of course, if you prefer more laidback networking, check out the Silicon Drinkabout every Friday evening!).

Career

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
I originally intended to focus on the innovation and management portions of this programme without much consideration for entrepreneurship. Now that we have begun the entrepreneurship module, I can really see myself starting my own business in the future.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?
I received a job offer at the end of my summer internship. I accepted the offer in November so I was not actively job hunting during the programme.

Where do you see yourself upon completing the programme?
I will begin working at athenahealth in the US in September!

Location

Whereabouts do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live in the borough of Hammersmith and it is a wonderful location for me. It has everything I need: several Underground lines, a shopping centre, supermarket, many restaurants, multiple parks, a martial arts gym and the Thames. The neighbourhood is safe, peaceful, and has a classic London feel. I actually met two of my flatmates through IEM and we went flat searching together!

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?
A weekend in London can look however you want. You can explore the city as a tourist and ride the London Eye for a great view of Big Ben, followed by lunch at any of London’s best restaurants; you can feel like a local, taking a jog along the Thames with your flatmates (stopping for a pint at a riverside pub) before enjoying dinner in the garden outside your flat; or you can do any combination you want! When you move here for an MSc, you feel like a tourist sometimes, when you visit the famous sights of London, but you also feel like a local when you get annoyed by people standing on the wrong side of the escalator.

In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.
While it isn’t exactly undiscovered, my favourite place in London is The Albany, a pub on Great Portland Street, where Ukulele Wednesday is hosted every Wednesday evening. That’s when ukers and friends gather to eat, drink, jam, and have a good time. Even if you don’t play the ukulele it’s worth checking out. A close second must-see are the shops and food stalls in Camden!

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
Benefits:
• You get to experience London as a tourist and a local.
• Most of your cohort has also just moved to London, so it is easy to arrange for housing together.
• You have a reason to live in London for a year! The city truly has so much to offer.
Challenges:
• Housing moves very quickly. You need to act fast when searching for the perfect flat!
• London is a fairly large city, and it can take a while to travel from one end to the other
• London is extremely diverse and sometimes it can take some time to understand all the different accents
Advice:
• Once you decide to accept your offer, begin all of your paperwork immediately! Visas, loans, housing, bank account, CID, SIM card, etc. A lot of things require other documentation before they can be approved, so get started right away
• It rains a lot in London, make sure you have good rain gear and good humour about the weather!
• London is a very expensive city, but it can be affordable. Do your research and you can find a lot of ways to keep costs under control if that is a better financial option for you. A simple rule of thumb is that places geared toward local residents tend to be significantly cheaper, i.e. grocery stores vs. dining out.

Tips

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the course?
As with any course, it isn’t the perfect option for everybody. That being said, if you think there’s a chance it could be right for you, go for it! Attend information sessions, contact admissions representatives and ask questions of current students or alumni – you’ll never know unless you ask. I narrowed my search so much that this was the only MSc programme I applied to, and I accepted the offer without ever having been to London before. I used to dream of visiting London someday, and now I get to live here for a full year while getting a Master’s degree! Be bold and opportunities will follow.

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online 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 an online information session and I found it very helpful. I was unable to visit in person but I could still ask questions in real-time, though most of my questions were answered in the presentation. I recommend it if you are unsure about the programme or have questions you would like answered.

Share with us a handy hint or trick which makes campus life that much easier!
If you’re looking for a healthy lunch between lectures, there’s a farmer’s market every Tuesday by the Queen’s Tower!