Alex Lee

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Chinese

Undergraduate education: BA Economics, University of Reading and MSc, Finance, SOAS University of London

Current position: Worldwide Strategy & Planning Director, Micro Focus

Weekend MBA 2017-18

Professional background

Graduating with a degree in Economics at the University of Reading, I went on to complete a Leadership Rotation Programme at Hewlett-Packard (HP). Each rotation was insightful and inspiring but it was my last rotation – assisting in building out a world-wide go-to-market strategy – that would prove pivotal in my future development and leadership roles. During this professional experience, I discovered two key qualities of the CxOs in leadership positions at multi-national firms: financial acumen and an appreciation of adaptive strategies to operate within a global environment. The rapid advancement of technology has undoubtedly changed business, but what effect does this have on leadership teams and their approach to conducting business? How should they create an operational globalised model and effectively manage organisations & teams with very diverse experiences, backgrounds and cultures? These two questions were key in determining my next steps – I went on to study an Masters in Finance at SOAS, University of London in addition to continuing my development in regional and international roles.

Following my MSc, I assumed the role of Worldwide Business Strategy & Planning Director of the Big Data Analytics division at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and am currently acting as Chief of Staff at Micro Focus.

Why the Weekend MBA and why Imperial?

I am a firm believer that education is critical to success – whether that’s in the classroom or through professional experience. I knew that the MBA would provide me with the personal and professional development necessary to maximise success in leadership roles; a focused environment with like-minded, ambitious individuals at a top-tier educational institution, with opportunities to apply learning in a practical setting – there is simply no better way to learn and the MBA at Imperial offers all of those and more.

The Weekend MBA is a great programme that allows me to accommodate my demanding professional role as well as my desire to study in the classroom and get the face-to-face interaction, which I think is essential for effective learning. Having got to know everyone on the cohort, it is clear to see that everyone is motivated, and has the skills and determination to succeed, which provides a key facet of an MBA – a global contact list of future leaders. The format ensures everyone is able to be fully focused in concentrated periods throughout the year and immerse themselves in sharing their own experiences to enrich the rest of the class.

Lastly, the prestigious reputation of Imperial was truly global; the comprehensive combination of a STEM-focused institution, coupled with the focus on innovation from a business perspective, set in the heart of London, made it difficult for rival schools to match. It’s very exciting to see that ICBS is rapidly investing in the programme to continue its development which is helping students to have an even more enriching experience.

Balancing work, studying and life

One of the most crucial skills learnt during the Weekend MBA was time management. Whilst this point is usually laboured during any programme, this was greatly honed during the Weekend MBA. We have to balance work, family and study, all at the same time. Naturally within the cohort, you have existing and aspiring leaders who work hard, so everyone is in a similar situation and supports each other.
 Prioritisation is key! You quickly discern what is a ‘priority’ and what is not. Many students a few months in wonder what they did with their time prior to the MBA, and now many are questioning what to do with all the free time afterwards!

Organising global opportunities and speakers

I was determined to leverage mine and the school’s network with corporations and institutions to further external development for his cohort and Imperial College. I organised Simon Woodroofe, the owner and founder of Yo!Sushi and an original ‘dragon’ from the UK show Dragons Den, to come in and speak about his entrepreneurial journey, as well as a class trip to Berlin to learn more about the tech start-up scene and how the local business schools were reacting to this new sector within their economy.

Both were great experiences to learn more about leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity in different business problems. It also highlighted the possibilities for the WMBA students to experience international opportunities using Imperial’s global network which includes a one-week Global Experience Week trip abroad (Vietnam and Cambodia were the most recent destinations) as well as multiple destinations for further study exchanges, such as the eight-week course at the National University of Singapore I attended.

Key learnings and biggest challenges

Apart from time management, working on your ability to lead, motivate and inspire others through your conversations and working together on projects during the MBA has been invaluable. In our everyday lives, you will need to influence and motivate others; during the MBA you will have many opportunities to do so with your cohort, faculty and other business professionals. Being a student ambassador, I am able to put these talents in practice when answering questions and speaking to potential students about my personal feelings on the Imperial MBA.

The cohort

The Weekend MBA has smaller than average class sizes compared to other MBAs which is a clear positive. You are able to truly get to know every one of your classmates and have the ability to make strong connections, strengthening the community spirit. The class is very diverse, with more than 56% of the class coming from outside of the UK from all different professional backgrounds, as well as 40% of the class being comprised of women. One of the true differentiators of any MBA is the people you will be studying with and learning from; Imperial does a fantastic job in selecting not only intelligent individuals but those with collaborative mindsets who are genuine in their approach to help you succeed.

What advice would you give to anyone considering applying for the Imperial MBA?

You need to have clarity on what you want to achieve from an MBA. Whilst I’m of the mindset that education is pivotal for success, an MBA is not necessarily suitable for everyone. You need to know you can dedicate a vast amount of time and resources in order to ensure the MBA will generate an effective return on investment.

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: how will this education contribute towards me achieving my end goal in a way I can’t get anywhere else? How does Imperial’s philosophy fit in with mine? Knowing this helps with the application process and gives you an advantage in understanding how an Imperial MBA will contribute to your personal journey.

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Chinese

Undergraduate education: BA Economics, University of Reading and MSc, Finance, SOAS University of London

Current position: Worldwide Strategy & Planning Director, Micro Focus