Francisco Ribeiro, Weekend MBA 2021-22, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Portuguese

Education: New Communication Technologies, University of Aveiro

Role: Senior Product Manager, Glofox

My career journey: discovering the world of tech

It was during my last semester of my undergraduate degree - a time when I thought I would pursue a career in visual effects, that I discovered a startup at the university’s business incubator. I ended up joining and gradually grew into a product management role out of the startup’s needs. Being the second hire at such an early-stage venture was an incredibly dynamic opportunity, with ever-changing conditions and a constant need to adapt.

Eventually, I became curious about the other side of the coin and wanted to understand what product management was like at a massive corporation, so I joined American Express. Bringing my scrappy startup background to this financial giant truly allowed me to hone my skills from the best of both worlds.

Finally, deciding to meet the polar experiences I’d had in the middle, I joined Glofox, a B2B SaaS in the fitness industry just a month prior to starting the MBA.

Why the Weekend MBA was right for me

As a product manager - a role that implies being at the intersection of functions like engineering, design, marketing, and business - my main goal with the MBA was to expand my scope of knowledge and deepen my domain expertise of business, finance, and economics. The Weekend MBA provides this through world-class education and married it with an incredibly diverse international cohort, flexibility for self-paced learning, and, through the global exchange, Glocal electives, and Global Experience Week, a truly holistic environment for learning.

Additionally, the ability to keep progressing my career throughout the programme was an incredible value add. It created this loop of quickly applying the theoretical learnings from classes to my day-to-day work, which in turn consolidates the theory. I deeply value work-life balance and the programme has been perfect for that, giving me access to world-class education while still being able to work from other countries. When coupled with Imperial’s emphasis on science, innovation, and entrepreneurship, the resulting programme is one of a kind.

Choosing Imperial College Business School felt almost obvious, as one of the world’s leading universities, and a true differentiator - the sole top institution with such a flexible programme.

Funding my MBA

I was privileged enough to be able to self-fund my MBA. Additionally, the option to split tuition into four instalments made it considerably easier to gradually pay for the programme as we go through it.

Prepared for change

The best at business and strategy understand the fields’ inherent volatility and are nuanced in their perspectives, rather than dogmatic. Similar to how earthquake-proof buildings bend rather than resist, businesses need to constantly develop and reinforce this adaptability to the uncertain.

I think it’s easy to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of getting an MBA at a top university, but everything’s laid out and supported in a way that makes it super accessible.

Weekend MBA modules

Marketing Management has been my favourite module so far, as it really challenged my preconceptions of how to think about marketing. In retrospect, I feel my scope of marketing was always quite superficial and more focused on the promotional side of things, so having a module that really explores the strategy and market analysis angle was incredibly refreshing.

Even though they were precisely the reason I’d signed up as a way to challenge myself, I was definitely anxious about the business and finance subjects, as I hadn’t touched challenging maths for years before the programme. However, through the primer modules before classes, gradual learning throughout, and strong support by the programme team, these challenges were achievable.

The Weekend MBA faculty do a great job at bridging subject-matter expertise with an engaging style and content, leading to fruitful discussions and reinforcing learnings.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance

Due to work-life balance being essential for me, I actively look for systems that enable it. As such, I’m privileged to work at a company where I can easily balance other projects, and the Weekend MBA’s schedule made it a perfect fit. Ultimately, I try to study and work towards coursework on the programme at least every week, to ensure it doesn’t get overwhelming near teaching weekends.

Working with the cohort

Being with the rest of the cohort is my favourite thing about coming to London for class. I actually feel that the teaching quality can be similarly achieved remotely, as observed with the multi-modal setup, but the environment of being with classmates and going out with them after class is what really deepens our relationships. The group is extremely varied. One moment you’re talking to an engineer, the next a doctor, and another a banker, all from different countries. It’s an incredibly diverse group and one that’s easy-going, friendly, and fascinating to learn from.

I always favour coursework, especially group projects, over exams. It closely replicates working conditions with cross-functional teams, and the constant back and forth of perspectives leads to a much deeper consolidation of the materials.

Voluntary opportunities: the BMGA Fellows Program

Due to its promotion by Imperial, I became a mentor at the BMGA Fellows Program, a peer-to-peer social impact initiative designed to narrow the gender skills gap among female university graduates in Africa, through an experiential program that develops young women's fundamental employability skills to strengthen their marketability for a successful career.

The global outlook

The global reach was something I was extremely excited about. Through the global exchange, Glocal electives, and Global Experience Week, I truly feel the opportunities to leave the programme with a shifted global mindset are immense, and absolutely a reason worth taking the programme for.

The Imperial College London connection

There is a massive pool of incredible alumni to network with and the ease of connecting with them has been outstanding. Additionally, the doors it also opens when reaching out to other academic institutions is notable, making it easy to connect with faculty and alumni across the globe.

Career development

I’m in the minority that isn’t looking to change careers, industries, or roles immediately upon graduation, so I’ve leaned on the Careers services mainly as a sounding board for my overall career strategy and trajectory. Having someone to openly discuss options with and get independent expert feedback on is incredibly useful. Similarly, the Personal Leadership Journey sessions have contributed towards gaining a deeper conscientiousness towards structuring my career growth. Joseph Liu’s guest lecture on personal branding was fantastic, bringing some extremely actionable examples, including ones that I had never considered (like engaging with traditional press channels) for positioning oneself.

Post-MBA plans

I want to use my MBA to draw upon my newfound knowledge and connections to make me a better product leader. Often what separates good from great in product management is the ability to go beyond the focus on product and contextualise it in the wider business and socioeconomic reality, and that’s the level I plan to achieve.

My overarching aim is to generate a positive impact by developing great products and services that better people’s lives. Luckily, I was already on that path but I believe the doors that Imperial has opened to me will allow me to accelerate my goals and expand the range of opportunities to achieve them.

Advice for those thinking about the Weekend MBA

If you’re still pondering whether you should apply, I’d say, just go for it. The risk vs. reward in simply applying is so unbelievably skewed towards the reward, that there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t when there’s nothing to lose and potentially so much to gain. If you’re at least curious, you can also send in your resume and get feedback from a profile review; that’s what I did, and it definitely validated that it was the right option.

If you’re already set on applying, I’d focus on your personal narrative. Who are you, what drives you, why you want this, and how will it actualise your mission. Developing a well-crafted narrative - that reflects your personal beliefs - is what’s essential to effectively communicate in your application.

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Portuguese

Education: New Communication Technologies, University of Aveiro

Role: Senior Product Manager, Glofox

Is the Weekend MBA right for you?