Follow Sthephany in her Weekend MBA video diary
I hold a Bachelor of Commerce in Management from Canada and since my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to gain international work experience. I began my career in Sweden, working for a tech company that was rapidly expanding (Spotify). During that period, I realised the magnitude of bridging technology and business to deliver optimised business solutions. After a few years, I moved to Belgium and transitioned into the Supply Chain and Logistics industry. The change seemed like a natural move for my career since Supply Chains are evolving as new technologies optimise processes and unlock new business opportunities.
Choosing an MBA
I decided to pursue an MBA for two main reasons. Primarily to bridge the gap between my prior business education and work experience. Given my background, I was looking for a programme which emphasised technology and strategy, thus the Imperial MBA seemed like the perfect fit.
Secondly, I was looking for an MBA which would further enhance my international work experience. A typical workday in my industry encompasses working with colleagues in various countries and clients in various regions. I was looking for an MBA that would help strengthen my network and leverage my unique experiences. The Imperial brand is recognised worldwide and has already proven to be an asset by expanding my network.
Furthermore, I have progressed quite rapidly in my career and wanted to keep that momentum. I knew that in order to successfully propel my career to senior management and above, I needed additional education to develop my leadership skills. Although an MBA may not dramatically alter my career path in the short-term, I am confident that alongside strong effort, it will pay dividends in the long-term.
The Weekend MBA
Originally, I was looking to pursue a Full-Time MBA. However, given my years and level of experience, I was at a crossroads between a Full-Time and an Executive programme. I wasn’t keen on joining a programme in which many candidates would have as little as three years working experience, nor in which candidates would have 12+ years of experience. The Imperial Weekend MBA offered a happy medium between these two options. The Weekend MBA’s unique position resonated with my MBA objectives as I wanted a programme from which I could equally learn from my classmates and the faculty. Another reason for choosing the Imperial Weekend MBA was the fact that I could focus on my MBA studies without taking a career break. The flexible format allows me to keep climbing the corporate ladder and accelerate my future through the MBA without taking a career break.
The most rewarding part of the programme has been getting to know my cohort – we are a very dynamic and intelligent group of individuals, each with different strengths and experiences. Networking within the cohort has allowed me to gain a holistic view of business and an insight into how other organisations are managed. Outside of the classroom, I have learned about blockchain technologies and their potential in the realm of business, gained insights into procurement, risk management, investment banking and even medicine. Prior to embarking on the MBA journey, I did not have much knowledge about these areas of business, and it is thanks to the wonderful and ambitious individuals that make up my cohort. Working with people from various industries challenges you in a position to think about concepts in ways you may not have thought of before.
My key takeaway from the core modules has definitely been the Organisational Behaviourclass with Professor Jonathan Pinto. It was a course I had taken in my undergraduate studies, but having worked in a multinational organisation, you get a different perspective from the topics discussed in class. Learning theoretical frameworks and hearing about my classmates’ experiences has opened my eyes to a whole new standpoint in dealing with management issues. It’s refreshing to hear how other organisations deal with pressing matters and how I can apply their approaches to my work.
From a personal perspective, the MBA has taught me not to underestimate myself. Prior to commencing the programme, I believed MBA students to be very accomplished, well-connected and extremely ambitious. I seemed to have placed them up on a pedestal, yet once I became an MBA student myself, I realised I already possessed all these qualities and more. I was already up on the pedestal, I simply didn’t acknowledge it.
Working in groups
Working in syndicate groups has been a great experience so far. Due to our diverse personal and professional backgrounds, every individual will bring something different to the table. Furthermore, we each have varied personalities which play out differently and act as strengths when completing our coursework. For example, since I manage projects for a living, I am an extremely organised person, whereas, others have quantitative or marketing strengths. When we pool our strengths together, we are able to deliver quality work, which pays dividends in return. The key aspect is that you are exposed to various ways of accomplishing tasks in a team, you learn that there is no single best way to approach any academic or professional project.
The Business School and the faculty have been extremely flexible and accommodating, they are always available to answer any queries and provide assistance. My favourite class thus far has been Financial and Management Accounting with Professor Jolande Bot-Vos. Even though I had studied accounting before, thanks to her way of teaching, I can confidently say that I finally understand accounting. She managed to teach the class in a very effective and engaging manner. Not only were those with a minimal accounting background intrigued, but also the professional accountants in the room. The classes are very long, you are in class for approximately four to five hours at a time; however, the lecturers are able to grasp your attention and build interest.
The London factor
It is needless to say that London is a global city. I wanted to get a global experience during my MBA as I did not want a degree that would confine my professional career to a certain geographical area. London and Imperial College are both strong brands to have on your background if this is the career path you are interested in. London is a very vibrant and forward-thinking city, which has enhanced my MBA experience. Whether it’s academic, professional or social, there is always something to do in London. Even for those of us who commute from outside the UK, there are speaker series on the weekends, which enhance the MBA experience. When I’m in the UK and I say I am completing my MBA at Imperial, I get a sense of respect almost instantly. In the UK and the Anglo-Saxon world, it’s a good brand to be associated with.
I would like to continue growing my career and reach an executive level. I plan to leverage my experience, the MBA and my networks to get me to where I want to be in the future. In order to be a senior executive, you must have both managerial and leadership skills. Whilst I have some managerial attributes, I need to work on my leadership skills and the MBA is a safe environment to challenge my status quo.
I do want to remain within the same industry as I am passionate about Supply Chain, Logistics and Project Management. However, to be a female executive in a male-dominated industry, you need to bring something different to the table. An MBA and exceptional leadership skills can certainly help me attain these goals and Imperial is the right place to attain them.
Advice for prospective students
Do your research, look into as many schools and programmes as possible, and be ready to challenge yourself from day one. It is a big investment of both time and money, so you want to be sure that you chose a programme and school that is right for you. It goes without saying, but you must take the MBA seriously. It’s not just another Master’s course, it’s a life-changing, demanding and rewarding programme, whether it’s full-time or part-time. You have to be sure that you want to do this for the right reasons and bear in mind that your performance not only impacts your future and reputation, but also that of the Business School and your classmates.
As an MBA student, you must keep in mind the power of networking. Use the MBA to leverage your position and build personal and professional networks. Get involved, participate in class, and try to connect with as many people as you can on the programme. Half of the learning comes from your classmates, so do not neglect the opportunities to expand your global network.