The Stereotype-Defying MBAs In The Class of 2018

Alex Kovacevic Duke

Alexander Kovacevic

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A British/Bosnian who loves history, politics and sport; I’ve spent the last 8 years in the toy industry

Hometown: Bedford, Bedfordshire UK

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve been named ‘Best Dressed Man’ in the UK toy industry for the last two years in a row.

Undergraduate School and Major: Durham University, Archaeology and Ancient History

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
Owner – MH Footballshop UK
Brand & Marketing Manager – Hy-Pro International
Brand Manager – Re:Creation PLC
General Manager – Grant & Bowman Ltd
Head of Marketing & Licensing – Simba Smoby Toys UK

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I joined the Simba UK senior management team 3 years ago, the company was purely a UK sales office. My task was to create an entirely new marketing department within the business and engage with kids’ media owners who worked with the larger Simba Dickie Group (but not with the UK office). Now upon leaving to do my MBA, not only has the company’s revenue doubled since I joined, but the company is working with every major brand owner in the industry – including Disney, Nickelodeon, Hasbro and Mattel.

Whilst previously in my career I have had great achievement with individual projects, campaigns or brands at Simba I affected positive change across the whole internal culture of the business and successfully communicated that externally to change the company’s reputation and deliver significant growth.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? The first advice I’d give to anyone considering applying to business school is to seize the moment and go for it! Don’t be put off by the GMAT, the cost, any of the application processes, or the idea of spending two years studying again (probably quite a long time after you were last a student.) The one constant you get from speaking to any MBA is that business school is an incredibly positive transformational experience, and that begins with what you learn about yourself during the application process itself.

Don’t waste the chance to do some intensive, in-depth self-reflection. Caught up with a busy career, it’s often difficult to stop and think about your achievements, failures, and ambitions – both professional and personal. The application process forces you to do this, so embrace the opportunity and be completely honest with yourself. Not only will this inform better essays and help you come across better during the interview, but you’ll also be in a much better place to make the most of your business school experience when you arrive.

Make sure you’re as organized as you can possibly be all the way through from taking the GMAT to arriving on campus. Applying to business school is a hugely time-consuming experience, so start as far in advance as you can, since nothing you or your recommenders submit should be rushed or poorly thought-through in any way. Also, don’t underestimate the amount of work involved in preparing for school after being accepted and deciding where you want to go, especially if you are an international student.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? At first, it seemed difficult even to decide where to apply, let alone which school to eventually attend, particularly as an international applicant who hadn’t had the opportunity to visit any of the schools in person. I tried to do as much fact-finding as I could about all of the schools I was interested in before applying – reaching out to and researching as much as I could online from past and present students and reading everything each school published about itself.

Just this process of discovering the unique culture and approach of each school sharpened in my mind what I was looking for. I knew I wanted a rigorous and challenging academic program from a school with a great reputation and network that would rival any in the world. I knew I wanted to be away from a major urban centre to get a closer community and more immersive educational experience. Most importantly, I knew I wanted a truly collaborative environment where everyone made each other’s success as important as their own.

Understanding these personal priorities, it quickly became clear that Duke would be the perfect fit. Attending Blue Devil Weekend in April really showed me how the Team Fuqua community is not an abstract school philosophy – it genuinely affects every aspect of how students and faculty here live their daily lives, creating one of the most amazing environments I’ve ever experienced.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? I’ve loved working in the kids’ sector for the past eight years and especially working with Disney on the incredible brands they create and stories they tell. On the toy side, it’s been a real privilege to help bring those brands and stories to life for kids to play with every day.

We all have concrete formative experiences of Disney brands from our childhood and my dream job post-MBA would be at Disney playing a part in creating and delivering the dreams and inspirations for generations to come.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I’d like them to say I was a great classmate: that I worked hard, contributed useful knowledge and experience to the group, helped in every way I could and delivered good, original ideas and insight to the classroom.

On a personal level, I’d like it said that I was an integral part of the community here, that I would go out of my way to get involved in as much as possible and that I made a positive impact to everyone’s experience of being at Duke.

Lastly, I hope I can make a lasting impact on the community, even if only in a small way, whether that might be founding a new club or creating a new tradition – something that can endure long after I leave the school.