Ivan Kovynyov

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Russian

Undergraduate studies: BSc Information Management & Engineering and MSc Service Management & Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Current position: Manager, kobaltblau Management Consultants, Zurich

Weekend MBA 2018-19

Professional background

Being a computer scientist and an economist, I am constantly on the edge between these two worlds, translating technology into commerce, bringing both worlds together to generate value and facilitate change. I graduated from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany) with a Master’s degree and went to Swissport, the world’s leading airport ground handling company. Being employed by a company offering its services at 200 airports worldwide, I learned how to work with diverse and geographically distributed teams including managers, IT experts and ramp workers from London, Tokyo, New York, Johannesburg and Sydney.

After several years in the aviation industry, I began consulting. Today, I am working for a boutique consulting firm based in Zurich, advising senior executives in Swiss-based and European corporations on digital strategy, technology, leadership and innovation. I am proud to work with a fantastic set of clients and spend an average of 4-5 days a week on the road.

Experiences from the Weekend MBA

I really enjoy the onsite weekends. From early on, I established strong bonds with my fellow students. We developed a strong team spirit and a feeling of belonging. The weekends have been very busy so far: attending various classes, networking events, guest speaker series and group meetings. Over the few last months, I have definitely improved my ability to manage competing demands and deliver under time pressure.

In terms of teaching, I really enjoyed Decision Analytics. I’ve learned how to structure a real-world business situation and solve it through decision trees or linear/non-linear optimisation. This knowledge turned out to be extremely helpful to me in my work as a management consultant.

I was further impressed by Organisational Behaviour. In my line of work, I’ve seen many organisations and observed different behaviours of people within businesses across various industries in different countries. From time to time, I was able to recognise certain patterns in the behaviour of individuals, group of individuals or organisations, but failed to give them names. Through this course, I gained the theoretical terms for the behaviours I had noticed. I was able to match my personal experience to the theories. Ultimately, I’ve been provided with further theoretical foundations on organisational behaviour helping me in my day-to-day work.

Personal Leadership Journey

So far, the most rewarding part of the programme has been the Personal Leadership Journey. As part of this module, we are supposed to talk to inspirational business leaders and write a reflective final report. I am currently interviewing senior business leaders including CEOs, business angels, entrepreneurs and politicians, who have successfully developed their careers being openly LGBTQ+. It is enlightening to go beyond the industries in which being gay has been traditionally considered to be an advantage (e.g. fashion and entertainment) and to interview LGBTQ+ leaders from industries such as financial services, banking, technology, chemicals, automotive, manufacturing or life sciences.

Recently, I have come to realise that companies, such as McKinsey, Bain, Amazon, Google, Goldman, JPMorgan, PwC, have discovered LGBTQ+ as a source of talent. The number of targeted recruiting events has significantly risen over the last years. This is a reason why Imperial College Business School and myself have founded a new LGBTQ+ business club providing a platform connecting Imperial business students with employers and firms hiring in a more inclusive manner.

London start-up culture

London has a unique start-up culture to which I have been attracted. Years ago, when I first time came to London, I realised that British people are fiercely independent and critical thinkers. Therefore, London is naturally full of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity.

I chose Imperial because of its entrepreneurship focus and strong, unique profile combining technology, business and innovation. I was wowed by the start-up culture at the school. Imperial offers an invaluable range of entrepreneurial resources such as Enterprise Lab, Imperial Innovations, and ThinkSpace. In particular, I am keen to experience the Entrepreneurial Journey which is part of the Weekend MBA during the second year.

Balancing work, life and study

As a management consultant, I’ve gotten used to tough deadlines, long nights and challenging tasks. Don’t get me wrong: consulting is a lifestyle and it has many advantages such as good pay; smart and amiable people; great networking opportunities and steep learning curves.

Combining my MBA and a demanding consulting job is definitely a challenge. When travelling to clients 80% of the time, it is not a big deal to fly over to London for a weekend from various locations. However, organisation is key. You are better off sticking to hotel and airline loyalty programmes to be able to redeem your points against hotel stays, free flights or upgrades. Being a gold member, you can speed up your airport screening process by accessing the fast track. Also, you should carefully watch your exercise and nutrition schedules to avoid excess fatigue, gaining weight etc. After all, you need to maintain a certain level of flexibility as well to be able to come to London for promising networking events or group meetings.

Having a tough schedule, it is vital to dedicate a certain amount of time to relax, refill and digital detox. For this reason, I spend at least one weekend a month in Klosters (Switzerland) enjoying the nature, biking or skiing. Also, at the end of the first term, I am going to spend a couple of weeks in London discovering the city and preparing for the exams.

Advice to prospective students

Before applying for the programme, I found it extremely useful to attend information sessions and networking events offered by Imperial in London and Switzerland. I searched for alumni in my region and talked to them about their career development post-MBA, including commuting to London and personal experiences from the Global Experience Week and Entrepreneurial Journey. This helped me figure out if the programme is a right fit for me and my lifestyle. On top of that, I did a profile check offered by the Admissions team before formally completing my application.

In general, I would take the admissions process very seriously. I tried to be well prepared for all interviews and use the opportunity to focus on my motivation and formulate my career goals.

In terms of the programme itself, I would strongly encourage you to do all the pre-study modules. These courses helped me to refresh my knowledge and fill the gaps. I took a week off to go through the primers.

Throughout the programme, I wouldn’t underestimate the amount of work to be done between the onsite classes. In the first term, we had five subjects at the same time and you need to make sure to keep on top of everything. In addition, we had several group assignments, individual assignments and quizzes. You definitely need to work on your time management skills in order to get things done. I would also recommend doing all required pre-session readings.

After all, people pursue an MBA not only because of learning more about accounting, finance, strategy, innovation or building business skills, but also for the networking and personal experiences. I would definitely encourage you to use the services of the Careers Development Team and get engaged with your career coach. Never miss an opportunity to make new friends and extend your network.

You only do an MBA once. Make it count.

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Russian

Undergraduate studies: BSc Information Management & Engineering and MSc Service Management & Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Current position: Manager, kobaltblau Management Consultants, Zurich