Sotiris Kopatsaris
Sotiris Kopatsaris was an MSc Management class of 2017 student. After graduating from Imperial College Business School, Sotiris now works as a hotelier and engineer.

Academic and industry experience before Imperial

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

Before joining Imperial College Business School I completed two engineering internships. The first one was during the summer of my second year when I worked at IMI plc, an engineering FTSE-250 conglomerate, as Competitor Analyst. The second internship was in a completely different engineering sector; I spent the summer before the MSc Management programme as Assistant Engineer at the world-leading Foster + Partners architectural practice. I had the honour to work with very charismatic engineers and architects from a wide range of backgrounds on stunning, prestigious global projects with a very significant degree of confidentiality.

Internships aside, I had also taken over – remotely – the sales and business development of my family business (a boutique hotel in Santorini); nowadays it’s more than possible to run most of the sales operations whilst being away from the physical business. I have now been continuously leading the sales and business development of the family business for the last three years.

 

Studying MSc Management

Why did you decide to study an MSc in Management and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?

Imperial College Business School offers an unparalleled advantage; sharing the same roof with the world’s most renowned academics, experts and scientists from any STEM field. This means that an osmosis between business and technology happens here every day, something that enables the creation of the next generation of businesses and startups. The experience, the demanding timetables and the stimulating conversations is something not to be missed.

What makes the MSc Management at Imperial College Business School unique?

The MSc Management at Imperial College Business School is an incredibly flexible degree. With pathways, an option for an internship or a consulting project, the ability to study abroad and plenty of electives, everyone gets a very tailored curriculum to fit their own interests and career goals. Finally, it’s the collaborative atmosphere; you will work in teams again and again and again – even for the smallest of projects!

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy, and find most rewarding?

I think that the most interesting aspect of the programme is the diverse cohort. A very wide range of cultures and backgrounds ensures a very interesting level of debate and of course learning. I have met some incredibly charismatic people throughout this programme and I am very grateful for that.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

The most challenging part has definitely been managing teamwork deadlines across several groups. Work can get very intensive at times, especially near exam season. Towards the end of the degree it also felt quite challenging as I had to communicate with three different teams about three different deadlines within the same week! It has taught me resilience and a strong work ethic.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

My favourite module has to be Entrepreneurship because it was such an organic learning process. Developing a three-year long business plan, complete with financial projections and demand estimates to be pitched in front of a panel of judges was something that was incredibly rewarding. Working out a go-to market strategy together with my group proved to be the most difficult thing; everyone seemed to have a different opinion and for every collective yes we said there had to be five nos. Ultimately, this module enabled us to be creative but also think analytically at the same time.

Another great module I had the chance to take part in is the student exchange with ESSEC Business School in Paris, focusing on Luxury Brand Management, Diversity Management and Business in the EU. A truly unforgettable experience which adds another great, international aspect to the MSc Management programme.

Which pathway have you chosen and why?

I chose the Financial Services pathway as I had a great interest in Risk Management. The study of external and internal sources of risk and how to tackle them before they fatally affect a business is something beautifully complex and surprisingly appealing. After I completed this module, I was in the position to understand how the different financial institutions drive the economy and can impact overall business activity within a country.

Did you attend an international trip? If so, which trips did you attend and how have they been beneficial to you?

As Head Delegate of Imperial College Business School at the World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai, I had the rare privilege to work together with Imperial’s delegation and present a vision for the  future of government to a room filled with students from the other leading business schools, as well as advisors of Sheikh Mohammed and other esteemed business and government leaders. The presentation was broadcast live on the conference’s website. Aside from the presentation, we had the opportunity to network and attend some incredible keynote speeches by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Elon Musk, Christine Lagarde and others. This opportunity was truly inspiring. The video of Imperial’s presentation can be found here.

I also had the opportunity to represent Imperial College Business School at the 2ndDelphi Economic Forum in Greece, which brought together some of the most respected leaders in business and politics across the European continent and beyond. Having the incredible privilege to meet the former Prime Minister of Italy Mario Monti, attend a session with Professor Glykantzi-Ahrweiler and even take part in sessions led by Greece’s leading entrepreneurs and CEOs was an incredible experience.

 

Guest speakers

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

I truly loved the guest speaker from Nestlé Italy in the Global Operations & Projects module. Discussing the complexities present in manufacturing and inventory management and how these can affect business strategy cemented my belief that operational excellence is what separates the good businesses from the mediocre ones. Nestlé is a fantastic example of a company that has mastered lean manufacturing practices despite the overwhelming complexity and diversity of its product offering.

 

The faculty

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

My favourite Professor was Haresh Sapra who turned Accounting, a subject that I found to be very boring and dense in the past, into something enjoyable and remarkably understandable. The enthusiasm and passion for teaching was something that also contributed to the overall learning experience.

 

You cohort

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work, what did you like the most about working in this type of environment?

I liked the diversity of the teams; different nationalities, ages, degrees and career goals. With all these parameters being different, every new group was a new challenge but also a great opportunity to learn not only about other people but also about yourself and how you relate to others.

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Diverse, charismatic, ambitious, young.

 

Extracurricular activities

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

My involvement in the wider school community started early on as I was selected by the Programme Team to be one of the Student Ambassadors for the MSc Management programme. Through this role, I met with prospective applicants/students and discussed how Imperial and this programme fits their career goals and what to expect from the course. It was magnificent to speak with so many talented people who want to come to Imperial and I am extremely proud that some of them will be part of next year’s class as a result of having a coffee together and discussing the programmes.

 

Opportunities from studying at Imperial

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?

Networking with the world’s best scientists, technologists and STEM students. I keep repeating that but it’s only because I found it to be extremely rewarding throughout my studies at the School. The Business School is part of the College so it makes sense to take advantage of the extended network of alumni and contacts, which are global and include almost every sector and job level.

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

Incredible library support and facilities and of course many new friends not necessarily from a business background! Imperial College Union is also an inseparable part of the student experience with thousands of activities to take part in. As an active member of Model United Nations conferences, I had the chance to find people with the same interest in politics and globalisation and develop this interest parallel to my studies.

 

Career goals and jobs

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?

I benefitted from a strong support network during my career selection process. They helped me edit my CV to perfection, secure interviews and meet people who have set up their own startup. The Careers Service is perhaps the strongest aspect of this programme and that can be evidenced by the very impressive employment rate upon graduation. They treat every person as a unique case and help them find their own niche, realise their own ambitions.

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

This year has been truly transformational. I entered this course considering to work in Project Management, then acquired an interest in Consulting and then I realised that entrepreneurship is actually what I always wanted. Becoming an entrepreneur was always a long term goal; I just didn’t believe I could do it without working at least three-five years in industry as a consultant. Imperial however gave me the confidence to run my family business effectively and come up with plans to launch my own spin-off startup company very soon. This is the next big challenge and I look so forward to it!

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme? (Please give details of roles you have accepted, what you will be doing and how you secured it).

I received several job offers in Engineering and Consulting (and even more rejections, when you apply to the best companies, rejection is part of the game) but I decided to turn them down and pursue my desire to create my own startup.

 

Life as a student in London

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.

Definitely. Business is primarily all about location. Being physically close to where you aspire to work or to the people you want to network with offers constant opportunities to network and find new opportunities that sometimes are not even posted on careers websites. As my family business is in the hospitality industry, I was able to attend the World Travel Market exhibition in London this year; the most prestigious tourism industry event in the world. Everything is literally happening in London all the time, everyone can chase up opportunities, events and of course, meet new people.

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

I live in White City, on Imperial’s new campus. Wood Lane Studios was easy to book and only minutes away from the White City and Wood Lane tube stations. White City is a relatively quiet residential place but it still enjoys access to so many shops and food places due to the Westfield Shopping centre being just metres away.

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?

Best weekend for me? A morning stroll in Southbank and coffee with scones and clotted cream at Tate Modern’s café, which boasts panoramic views to the City of London. Continue the day with a sushi lunch in South Kensington with good friends and potentially do some groupwork on campus. End the day with a pint of pale ale at one of London’s historic pubs; my favourite is Prince Albert in Battersea. Sunday has to be a day reserved for quiet reflection, long walks in Hyde Park and light food.

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?

London’s biggest issue has always been housing; while there are plenty of places available for rent, just like any other major city, prices are sometimes too high for a student budget. And Higher price doesn’t necessarily translate into better quality. The best advice is to secure your housing asap and to ensure is near a tube station. It doesn’t really matter which zone you pick to live in; as long as there is a tube station nearby commute times won’t be that long as the Underground network is incredibly convenient to get to most places fast. The benefit of moving to London is to be a citizen of one of Europe’s most beautiful and forward-thinking big cities with a remarkable history spanning centuries. London’s diversity is unparalleled and the everyone is truly welcome to be part of this bustling community. I have learned so much about myself through the constant, daily interaction with people who are completely different from me; it’s been a journey of personal growth and reflection that I wouldn’t replace with anything else in the world.

 

Advice for future students

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

My advice is to definitely apply and apply early. Before you apply it’s also good to try and have a coffee with the student ambassadors or contact them via email/skype. This together with attending the information sessions (online or on campus) will enable you to understand whether this programme is right for you. If you do decide to apply then keep it simple and authentic but don’t forget to sell yourself in the application; the Admissions Team wants to know your achievements and background to assess your suitability for the programme. Entry is very competitive as expected from a top tier business school, but you shouldn’t be discouraged by that at all!

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 was lucky to be in Sheffield when the campus information sessions were held so I just hopped on a train to London and met with the Admissions Team as well as students and alumni from the programme. It helped so much to understand the atmosphere of the school and the career impact of the MSc Management programme. The whole place felt so right, so it was an instant match for me.

I did however also attend the online sessions, which I found very informative and interactive. I would advise strongly to attend these events as they can really shape your understanding about whether this programme and business school is right for you.

Role
MSc Management
Nationality
Greece
Undergraduate education :

MEng Mechanical Engineering with German The University of Sheffield – TU Dresden