Nico Schulze, Weekend MBA 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: German

Education: MSc Psychological Science, University of Glasgow MSc Occupational Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London BA Business Administration & Psychology, Euro-FH in Hamburg, Germany

Role: Innovation Coach, COSMO CONSULT AG

My career journey: aiming high by combining studying while working

Early on, I decided to approach my education and career in a very unusual way, which, for me, turned out to be the right thing to do. I first chose to (almost) always work while studying to gain business experience very early on. And second, I (almost) never started a job in a junior position and have never applied for an intern job. Instead, I tried to convince the recruiter and potential manager that I would quickly grow and adapt to a more senior position. That was a very bold and oftentimes challenging way, yet very rewarding.

As a result, I worked for several years as a headhunter for middle to senior management while I was still doing my Bachelor’s. This experience allowed me to head the Recruiting and People department of a rising tech startup in Hamburg, Germany, again while I was doing my Master’s. Before starting the Weekend MBA at Imperial, I joined COSMO CONSULT, a leading Microsoft Partner in Europe, as an Innovation Coach to expand my occupation from business psychology to innovation and change.

Now, one year into the Weekend MBA, I have been given the chance to start a corporate venture at the age of 28 at COSMO. Reflecting on my journey so far, it does make me proud of what I have achieved. However, the feelings of pride and gratefulness are more personal than in terms of achievements.

My criteria for selecting the right MBA programme

When applying for an MBA programme, I evaluated three criteria. Firstly, I looked for a university with a long-standing and excellent reputation while showing a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit. Secondly, I aimed to find a programme offering more than traditional managerial subjects, including covering future-oriented topics such as Digital Transformation, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Finally, the programme should be as flexible as possible to fit in with my busy working schedule. As such, the Imperial's Weekend MBA programme was my first and only choice, and I was delighted to get admitted.

Funding my MBA

I am used to funding my education by myself and with the help of my family. In this way, I remain independent during my career. Obviously, this comes with additional and significant expenses. Therefore, I was more than grateful to receive Imperial's Future Leader Scholarship, which covered some of my tuition fees.

Choosing an MBA that looks toward the future

What's unique about Imperial's MBA is the integration of management and technology principles which puts the university ahead of many others that do not anticipate the future as much as Imperial does. My daily bread and butter is to consult organisations during a digital transformation. Understanding the relationship between technological aspects that impact business growth is crucial for my job.

My favourite module: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

My favourite module so far has been Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This is a core module of the Weekend MBA programme and is currently taught by two competent professors in their fields. The lectures were highly interactive due to the mix of case studies and practical simulations, such as running a negotiation on equity split in founder teams. That teaching approach educated me on multiple levels, while at the same time being entertaining. I genuinely enjoyed the module, and as a result I am going to choose electives the will build upon Entrepreneurship and Innovation, like Digital Business Model Design and Venture Capital Finance.

Working in diverse syndicate teams

The most rewarding part of the programme so far has been the teamwork within the syndicate group. In the beginning of the MBA, you get grouped into a team of five classmates. Naturally, you do not know anyone before, and the syndicate teams tend to be very diverse. Moreover, marks for modules usually incorporate some group assignments. Hence, you are very much dependent on your syndicate team's performance to achieve top spots. In sum, I am more than proud and thankful for how much we pulled together, even when the pressure was high. Our team brings different skill sets to the table; from product building to data analytics, over to finance, software engineering, and psychology – that diverse and enriching, we were often joking about starting an own venture. All in all, we created some long-lasting memories together.

The outstanding Business School faculty

The faculty at Imperial College Business School is top-notch. Usually, the professors have alma maters from leading business schools, such as LSE, INSEAD, London Business School or Yale. Most of their lectures incorporate award-winning case studies paired with innovative insights while not neglecting the original theories. That is exactly what you can expect when studying at a top 10 university in the world.

Future plans: becoming a thought leader

Honestly speaking, I do not believe anymore in the necessity of purely capitalised products and services without benefitting third parties. Nor do I believe in organisations and cultures which do not put people and their capacities in the centre. My response is to become a thought leader in innovation and change to help future leaders and their teams to make meaningful and purposeful contributions. The Weekend MBA so far has helped me in that way by building significant skills in the realm of strategy and innovation. The next step would be to grow our organisational transformation agency while continuing education by doing a PhD.

Advice on balancing the Weekend MBA with running a business 

Having a business or starting a new one (as it is on my end) can be very challenging while doing your MBA. My take on it is that everything comes down to setting the right priorities, time management and rest. It may be tempting to study hard week in, week out during your MBA. On the other side, you want your business to grow as fast as possible; hence you push as hard as you can. My biggest takeaway from the Strategy module applies very well in that context: "Knowing what not to do".

A week has only seven days of 24 hours each. You cannot give energy to everything which seems essential. Sometimes you cannot postpone a critical business meeting, which means you miss a lecture. It's okay - watch the recording, take notes and ask your classmates. Likewise, you do not necessarily have to be involved in every business aspect, so that you can focus on lectures. Have faith in your working colleagues. They will be as smart or better, even smarter than you are in their disciplines. Suppose you cannot delegate and miss a business meeting. In that case, it basically means you have prioritised MBA over speed in business growth - so what, you intended to do the MBA, right?! Even when life seems (too) demanding, at least for me, it is much easier to accept it when you know the rationale behind your prioritisation.

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: German

Education: MSc Psychological Science, University of Glasgow MSc Occupational Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London BA Business Administration & Psychology, Euro-FH in Hamburg, Germany

Role: Innovation Coach, COSMO CONSULT AG

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