Connie Chau

Connie Chau

About you

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

My first internship was when I was 17 years old, for former President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, Organising for America-Nevada. I was a winter caucus intern, which meant I helped with voter outreach support in terms of making over 100+ weekly calls, and helping plan, implement, and support various events held in Las Vegas. Highlights of this experience included attending a private speech by President Obama, and attending and meeting Michelle Obama during another speech. I then was a nominated Senate Page helping represent Nevada on the United States Senate floor in Congress for a summer session. I also was a legislative intern for a Nevada congressman in both their constituent and Capitol Hill office.

I also worked in various other jobs, like being a senior circulation assistant at a law library at my undergraduate university’s campus and being a Chinese-English translator for a small Chinese garment factory during the MAGIC Trade Show in Las Vegas. Interestingly enough, I had no formal business experience or internships before coming to Imperial, but I really was able to develop my soft skills such as working in constituent/client-facing roles, providing customer service, and working in fast paced environments – that will be useful and transferable to other jobs and environments.

Why did you decide to study MSc Management at Imperial College Business School?

I decided to study MSc Management at Imperial College Business School because I was looking for a business programme that would help supplement my existing albeit different degree and experience in politics, that would not require me to have prior years of existing working experience like an MBA, and that would be practical and applicable in the modules and teaching methods, while also being in the centre of London. Imperial is also known for being at the cutting edge of research, technology, and innovation, so that was also really exciting to me as well. But what really solidified my decision for me was how I was made to feel like part of the community already and valued as a student before I was even formally offered a spot, and just based on the amount of help and guidance I got during my application process. Being a student here now, I still feel very much part of the business school community and the wider Imperial campus.

Did you receive a scholarship?

I did not receive a scholarship from Imperial College London or the business school, but I did receive a scholarship from a local Las Vegas organisation, which is where I am from originally. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Las Vegas generously gave me a scholarship to help with my tuition fees, and this was very beneficial because it allowed me to focus more on my studies and not have to worry as much about my tuition payments. Any form of scholarship or grant students are able to receive is always helpful, because it helps alleviate some of the cost and burden of funding for a postgraduate degree and experience.

Programme

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

Overall, I do really enjoy the programme – albeit it being challenging and difficult at times, it is still very rewarding and stimulating/fun. I really liked how the modules were structured to be as practical and applicable as possible, and how the lecturers tried to do so as well when teaching, like supplementing theories with case studies and real-life examples. It made topics more relatable, and for students to “connect the dots,” so to speak, between theories and seeing it play out in everyday life or with products/brands.

I particularly enjoyed when we had guest speakers as well, and/or exercises or simulations in class to help us further learn topics. I also really enjoyed getting to work with such a diverse and hard-working cohort. Getting to work with them to accomplish various group projects and coursework was really rewarding, since it really allowed you to transcend any differences in background or prior working/school experiences, to submit a high-quality piece of work or do a presentation. The programme overall is structured quite well, and you really get the absolute most out of your time doing it.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

My favourite module has been Innovation Management, because I’m quite interested in learning about and working in tech one day so the concepts and theories learned in this module were at the intersection between tech and business application. The concepts were very easy to see play out in real life situations, but at the same time the innovation management knowledge we were taught was not necessarily “common knowledge,” even amongst business theories. It was really interesting and valuable information, and we had a great instructor with prior experience in the technology and consulting world to teach us.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

The most challenging part of the programme is just balancing wanting and having to do everything! It really is true the “work hard, play hard” motto for my cohort – people are constantly working hard, studying, and preparing for electives/modules or job applications – but then people will also constantly go out with mates to explore London or travel. There are constantly so many opportunities to pursue on campus and also in greater London that it really comes down to being able to prioritise what matters the most on a day to day basis.

The programme material was also particularly difficult for me at times (but not impossible to manage or learn), since I did a very sharp, 360 degree pivot from my previous academic and work experience in politics. So electives or modules that were more “numerical” in nature, like finance or accounting, I had to put some extra time and effort in learning, since my prior background was so heavily based on reading and writing essays. However, I knew this was part of the challenge when I accepted my offer to do this programme, and at the end of the day, I got the experience of broadening my existing knowledge and skillset. I really came in with very little formal or informal business knowledge or experience, and my learning curve was very steep at times, perhaps compared to others who had taken a business-related subjects prior. But most people still had new areas that were introduced to them on our programme – so everybody still had things to learn. However, my programme and my cohort overall were very supportive, so that really helped immensely to overcome any challenges knowing you had help and support from others.

Did you attend an international trip? How was it beneficial to you?

I attended an international trip to Lisbon, which was a really great opportunity supported by the school to travel outside of London to continue learning. It was beneficial to me because I got to see some of the business concepts we learned in the classroom applied outside of the classroom, in real-life businesses. It’s always exciting when you can recognise a concept or theory you’ve been taught in the real world! It also allowed me to understand the kind of businesses and innovation trends that were happening in Lisbon specifically, and you can’t necessarily get that kind of experience unless you’re there yourself – speaking and interacting with the locals. It was also beneficial in hearing about people’s journeys to get to where they are, and for them to give us career advice.

People

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

The best word to describe my cohort at Imperial would be “family.” Not only does everyone come from a wide range of backgrounds, in terms of where they grew up and went to school, but also in their age, working experiences, and life and travel experiences as well. It’s incredibly diverse and refreshing to constantly meet such different people, and get to know them. However, these are also the people you spend hours with in lectures and tutorials, then doing group projects and in group meetings… and then we all still want to go out together after class and hang out! You become incredibly close with people, going through class, job application, and job interview stress and feelings together. It’s a strong bond and understanding we all intrinsically share with each other, being in a cohort doing this programme together. It’s just comforting being surrounded by a great group of people and just generally being able to laugh, cry, argue, disagree together openly – but ultimately always coming back together, moving forward, and getting stuff done.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

All of the professors were really great in their own way, and had diverse and long experiences to add leverage to the material they were teaching us. I particularly liked Jeffrey Pittaway, because his work was very interesting and applicable, and the topic he was teaching was extremely relevant. He was also just really friendly and funny during class and after lectures to answer questions, and you could tell he really knew the subject he was teaching, backed by his professional experience in the business world. He was a tough but fair grader when it came down to our exams, and wanted the best for students by making sure we actually understood the concepts, and not just being able to recite vocabulary back just for the sake of passing a test. Overall, he was one of my favourite professors because he and the topic he taught was very engaging, interesting, and relevant.

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

Imperial placing a large emphasis on group work in hindsight is actually a really great thing, and will more than prepare us in life and workplace situations. I think in hindsight, I liked the most that working in this environment was great because you got to meet new people, and learn about different countries and their working styles, but I think we gained experience that could not be taught in classrooms and had to be learned – which was leadership and group management. You got to learn how you work in a team, and to work to a consistently high standard, and also to learn what kind of people you best worked with and their own approaches to work and their respective personalities as well. So in the moment, I really liked working in this type of environment because it allowed me to work with such a diverse and international people to accomplish something, whereas in the long-run I liked working in this type of environment because it gave us all real-life experience in learning how to work in a group and best practices.

Opportunities

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

The greatest opportunity I have had at Imperial is to just be surrounded by such a supportive cohort, administration, and university as a whole. I don’t think that is an opportunity that is easy to come by – there are many universities with strong programmes and opportunities, but I think the opportunity of being around such amazing people is harder to come by. I think once you know you have supportive people helping you and cheering your little and big achievements, in a non-competitive way, it is really reassuring and confidence boosting in the long-run for one to then pursue any other opportunities that come your way.

One really great opportunity I had the support of pursuing at Imperial was being a Student Ambassador. I love talking to new people, and about my experiences at Imperial and trying to help them with their questions and applications. Imperial really just allowed students to engage with this role, like giving me various opportunities to speak on recruitment days/events, calling newly admitted students, doing a “day in the life” Instagram takeover, and even participate in a photoshoot for next year’s marketing campaign. I would have just been happy talking and helping students, but Imperial really gave me even greater opportunities to help represent the school which I am thankful for.

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

There are always workshops, events, and guest lectures going on at the business school and at Imperial that I’ve attended, and have been helpful in developing my skills and knowledge. I would say that the guest lectures held within class are always fun to attend, since speakers often talk about topics directly related to what we have learned in class. The events that have been useful are the career fairs, because it allows us to gain exposure to companies that we may have not heard about before, and/or interact with representatives from companies to find out more about opportunities and the work. As for various workshops, they have been helpful in further developing skills related the career search, or like Excel spreadsheet knowledge.

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

I try to be involved as I can in other societies/activities at Imperial, outside of class and other commitments. For student leadership positions, I was one of the careers leaders for my MSc Management cohort (on the Student-Staff Committee), while also being a Student Ambassador. Outside of these activities, I tried to attend as many events as my schedule would allow for the Women in Business Society and the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications business school career club.

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

I benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community by being part of a campus that had motivated, incredibly smart and driven but super friendly and kind students. I also had the opportunity to work as a student caller on the spring 2018 fundraising campaign, in which I got the chance to meet people from the other schools/subjects within Imperial. It was really great because we were still all able to relate together by sharing the “Imperial experience” and talk about commonalities between going to school here, despite learning very different subjects at Imperial. The people I’ve met have just overall been very friendly, always keen to hang out or chat outside of all of our respective busy schedules at uni! It’s just really great being part of a community that just feels very warm and welcoming, yet you still have people doing amazing things and are very smart/knowledgeable about their subject fields.

Career

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

I went into the programme not really knowing what area I wanted to focus on. I thought about consulting, but wasn’t sure. I originally wanted to be a product or project manager, and I still would love to ideally be one eventually, after building up other experience. However, for now, my main focus is to just break into the technology sector, as someone who does not come from a purely technical background – and being at Imperial really helped me gain confidence in pursuing this area and realising this is what I really wanted to do. I am still quite flexible and open to new opportunities at the entry level in the tech sector, but am still thinking about being a tech consultant. Really, I am pursuing any opportunity that allows me to work at the intersection between business and technology, ideally with products, or mediating between engineers and business people. At Imperial I was able to realise all of this along the way. Firstly, I had the opportunity to learn how to code, which has a goal of mine for so long, by doing the Code First: Girls programme. This just helped me to further develop my coding skills, and to meet mentors who worked in the technology space already to connect me to other opportunities and to learn more about the industry. I was then able to attend some technology conferences in Europe and in London due to generous scholarships by the conferences, and really solidify my desire and passion to work in tech. The focus on tech and innovation sprinkled throughout and highlighted in our modules also helped further spark my interest. But overall, just being at Imperial and in London as a tech hub, has provided me so many opportunities to just talk to people in the industry, learn more hard skills, and to be surrounded by a supportive cohort and community to make me feel confident that I can pursue whatever I end up choosing to do so in the future.

How did the services from Imperial College Business School Careers help in your professional development/securing employment?

Careers helped in my professional development by allowing me to speak to and get help from more knowledgeable people any time I had something as simple to do, such drafting an e-mail reply, or to more complex situations, like interviews and assessment centres. Especially coming from America, where our application processes can be a bit different, and coming to London where it’s super competitive and the processes are more complex and longer, it was really helpful having a supportive Careers service and team at university to be able to reach out to and get clarification, or practice and support/reassurance. They had a good attitude in helping students get the help and resources/preparation they want usually, while being supportive and reassuring.

London location

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

Studying in a central London location is definitely so beneficial for networking and career opportunities. You have so many different sectors and careers/jobs in London, along with big companies and smaller start-ups as well. I’m lucky to have been able to visit the offices of Apple, Twitter, and Google, amongst others, just through various opportunities from Imperial and from outside, and learn more about their culture and any roles there. I think it’s difficult to find other cities where so many sectors and companies are so well represented in one central location. There are always so many events to attend at university and in London that will help you gain more exposure or knowledge to whatever topic you want, or to allow you to network, and many student and professional communities as well. Because I think also most people know how competitive it is to work in London, people are generally pretty open and kind about offering their time and help to answer any questions to students as well.

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

I lived in as Central London as you can get – in Fitzrovia, which is right near Oxford Circus and Soho. I choose to live there because I had lived in London previously due to studying abroad at King’s College London during my third year at undergraduate university, and I already had a pretty good knowledge of what the different areas of London were like. I actually decided between a flat share near university (South Kensington) and my current flat share in Fitzrovia, and ultimately chose the one I’m at now for different reasons. I knew if I came back to London, I would also want to come back to experience as much as London had to offer – which included the restaurants, events, etc., so being in Fitzrovia allowed me to be in the heart of all the action, but also allowed me many different and faster access to different transport to get to where I wanted to go across London. I didn’t mind the commute time, since it was only about 25-30 minutes by Tube to get into uni, which was average – while also allowing me access to the rest of London. I knew my programme was going to be intense, so my rationale was that if I lived by school, I would never leave that bubble since I know myself – so by forcing myself further away from campus, I got to experience more of London just by proximity, and allow me some space outside of the campus bubble. Growing up in Las Vegas, I’m very used to being a “city person” so I really enjoy for the most part being close to everything.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time in London? Have you had opportunities to travel?

When I have spare time in London, I am not sitting in my room and usually out and about! I like to try new restaurants with friends, or go to different cafes to try to get some work done and read. I like exercising, so I try to go to the gym or yoga, doing runs in parks, or doing specialised fitness classes like Barry’s Bootcamp. Going to concerts or seeing musicals, attending special pop-up events or booths, walking around museums, and generally just exploring and getting to know and appreciate all the nooks and crannies of the city are also things I do in my spare time. I absolutely adore London, and am happy to be in a city that is constantly growing, changing, and expanding.

I have been very lucky to have opportunities to travel. I’m really passionate and interested in technology, so I was very lucky to receive some scholarships to attend various technology and coding language conferences in Salzburg, Austria, and in Berlin, Germany, where I’ve met wonderful people in the technology community from all around the world. I also choose to study abroad in Bergen, Norway, for a social entrepreneurship programme and made some really great friends during my time there, from Norway, the States, and Canada. I’ve also had opportunities to travel with friends or solo to Warsaw, Barcelona, Stockholm, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Oslo, this year.

What have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?

I had already lived in London for an academic year prior, due to doing an exchange during my third year of university from the States at King’s College London, so I absolutely already loved London and wanted to come back. However, if someone has not lived in London before – I still recommend it! It was a bit of a “culture shock” for me coming back as well, and living and working as a full-time student, especially since I lived in very central London. The benefits are that there is always something to do, and ways for you to pursue your interests no matter what. There’s loads of museums, restaurants, events, music, exercise/fitness classes and opportunities, parks, etc. It’s a city that is always growing and expanding, and that makes it really exciting. The challenges are that everyone wants to live in London and things can get crowded! The advice I would give to someone in a similar position is just to keep an open mind about things, and try to experience as much as you can, especially if you’ve never been here before.

Tips

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

You should definitely apply – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was actually unsure if I should apply as well when I was first considering it, since I wasn’t sure if I would get into such a competitively ranked university, or if my background was qualified enough – but I decided to just try and give it my all, because you never know! You really don’t have anything to lose (except a small application fee) and a lot of gain if you get an offer and decide to take it! Just do your research thoroughly before applying, know who you are as a candidate and what you can bring and contribute to a cohort, what you want to get out of the programme and why Imperial specifically, and just apply!

connie Chau

MSc Management 2017- 18

Nationality: American

Undergraduate Education: BA Political Science, The George Washington University

Job after Imperial College Business School:  Product Support Specialist, Stripe

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