Programme: Weekend MBA
Education: BSc Applied Technology, Cardiff University
Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Senior Consultant, CACI ltd
I have worked as a business development manager for 10 years within financial services, healthcare, legal, not-for-profits and public services. My day-to-day activity involves identifying client challenges and promoting the services my company can offer to solve them. During my career I have both managed and led a new business development team and worked alongside a wide range of leading brands to support their requirements.
Why Imperial College Business School?
I chose Imperial because of its reputation as a leading business school, as well as its focus on entrepreneurship and sustainability. I see both of these as essential skills to gain if I wish to advance further in my career and make an impact in my role. I specifically chose the Weekend MBA programme so that I wouldn’t have to put a stop to my current role and would be able to immediately apply the new skills I’d learned. It’s been tough balancing the 15+ hours per week studying with a 40+ hour job, but it’s also been extremely energising combining the two.
In terms of funding, I had thought about pursuing a Master’s for a number of years, so have always put a large proportion of my earning towards saving for it.
Developing skills in new areas
I have certainly advanced my overall ability to take a problem and break it down to come up with viable solutions. Combining this with a wide range of skills from the core modules means I can look at problems from different angles and reduce the amount of bias I might previously have held in my decision making.
Before starting the programme, I thought some of the modules such as Corporate Finance would be quite daunting. However, this module taught me that practice and learning from others is key to overcoming challenges you initially think you will struggle with. While I may not need to price a company share value all that often in my daily role, it’s satisfying knowing I can do it, and gives me a deeper level of understanding of what drives businesses.
I have also greatly developed my skills in entrepreneurship. The ability to not only generate ideas but also implement them has given me a wider range of skills that will be valuable whether I decide to start a business or simply lead projects on behalf of another company.
Balancing your time
Being able to work full-time while attending lectures was a huge plus for me. If you’re willing to accept not going anywhere on holiday for a while, then there is no need to reduce your hours or take a pay cut (making funding the MBA a lot easier as well). Of course, if your company is able to support you with time to study that also helps. Looking back on my first year, I was able to spare about six to seven days of annual leave for non-study days which was used for the Christmas holidays and a short break away after the exams.
I soon learned I was not alone in this, and while everyone’s circumstances in the cohort will vary, most of you will be in a similar position. Understanding this is a huge help in keeping you motivated especially when the workload gets intense. You make a lot of friends throughout your time and there is a sense of comradery that you won’t find outside of the programme.
My regular routine took me a while to really nail down. In the end, I found myself to be an early riser, preferring to study before work. Admittedly there were many Saturdays and Sundays that didn’t particularly feel like weekends, but there were certainly enough moments where I found I was able to switch off.
Highlights and challenges
Acquiring a wide range of skills that can be applied directly to my work has definitely been the most rewarding part of the programme. It gives you the belief that you can dive into any leadership role and make an impact on day one, while being confident in your decisions and instilling trust in your team.
My favourite module has been the Entrepreneurial Journey elective. It was a fantastic and unique opportunity to take an idea and then turn it into a business. I gained an array of useful skills to use both in work and beyond to develop ideas much further than I had previously. For example, knowing how to effectively test your own assumptions is key for any idea you have in business, and using the skills I have learned to effectively do this will be valuable going forward.
The most challenging part of the programme for me has been the exams. It has been 10 years since I last had to review several different textbooks simultaneously and absorb as much knowledge as one can before four exams. It was not exactly enjoyable (especially as some exams were on a Saturday), but it reminded me how something as simple as practice and repetition can make a significant difference when learning brand new skills.
Working with others: faculty and cohort
The faculty at the Business School are enthusiastic, motivated and passionate about their subjects. They clearly demonstrate how their area of expertise impacts businesses, and give you a different way of thinking about your role. With the School having a strong emphasis on sustainability, many of the lecturers have applied this to their teachings and do a great job of highlighting the need for organisations to consider this as part of their future strategies.
My cohort at Imperial are equally as great – ou make a lot of friends throughout your time at the Business School . Working with a diverse set of people on various group projects has shown me the importance of having a great team, enjoying the work and coming together to effectively deliver successful projects. It’s particularly great having a cohort of students who also work full time, as they each contribute techniques and skillsets gained from the time they’ve spent at their respective organisations. There has been great variety in the group projects we’ve worked on so far, and I’m yet to experience any that felt like a repeat of an earlier project. Some are more challenging than others due to the limited experience I had in some areas before the MBA (such as accounting), but they have all been a great opportunity to apply the new skills I’ve gained.
Clubs and societies
I was mostly involved in the Healthcare Career Club because of my experience in the sector, where I organised events and guest speakers to come in and help with the committee. I also joined the Technology Media and Telecoms Career Club where we hosted a number of different events including visits to local tech company headquarters.
The transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was tough at first. Not having the physical element of being in a classroom and being unable to network with others felt like a major part of the MBA being lost. However, I feel like I have since adapted and even gained some wider skills for networking online, which may be an important tool to have as the world changes.
The Careers service has been incredibly valuable in helping me understand how I can be more effective at work. At the start of the programme I took part in a number of activities that helped me understand more about myself and where I can build on my strengths within work.
Looking ahead to life after Imperial, I believe the modules I have studied will provide me with a wide range of tools that I can implement every day, covering everything from problem solving to leadership. As I move up in my career, I now feel I can apply conceptual frameworks to analyse organisations and present information effectively, something which I could not do previously. Alongside the soft skills gained, I will emerge from the MBA with a thorough grounding in the core management disciplines, and now feel well equipped to apply innovative thinking to international problems.
Advice for prospective students
My advice would be to have a good idea of what you aim to get out of the MBA. There is so much to gain beyond the lectures themselves, but this will require effort on your part to do the required networking and get involved.
For example, if you are looking to start a business or want to expand on an existing idea, Imperial has a wide range of excellent resources to help you with entrepreneurship. From a talented network of staff that work at the Imperial Enterprise Lab, to excellent startup events, there is lot to get your teeth stuck into. You just need to make the time for it.
If you are thinking about the Weekend MBA, be prepared to have your social life slightly reduced. The first year is especially demanding and requires long hours each week. It’s worth it but you might find yourself occasionally stretched if working full-time as well. I recommend checking in with your cohort outside of lectures as they can be of huge support when the going gets tough.