2017 Best MBAs: Alana Digby, London Business School

Alana Digby

London Business School

“A warm and smiley, moderately introverted individual who’d share a pot of tea with anyone.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Fun fact about yourself: Before starting in consulting, I worked as a Research Assistance in a Mycology (Fungus) laboratory where I worked on everything from using fungus to rehabilitate mine site soil through to using fungus to control locust plagues….

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelor of Advanced Science (Microbiology) at the University of Sydney

Bachelor of Commerce, also at the University of Sydney

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was an Associate at Strategy& in Sydney

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016?  Janssen Pharmaceuticals (part of the Johnson & Johnson family), High Wycombe, UK

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be a Senior Associate in Strategy&’s Healthcare Practice in Berlin, Germany

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: At LBS, I was a Peer Leader, a Student Ambassador, member of the UK Youth Health Parliament and Captain of the Swimming Club.  Each of these roles helped me round out my skills in a different way.  For example, as a Peer Leader, I was involved in helping people prepare for their consulting interviews.  Working with people on their case study skills was a way to put something back into the school, get to know new people, and practice giving constructive, useful feedback. As part of the UK Youth Health Parliament, I was part of a team preparing and delivering a paper to the UK parliament on Personalised Medicine.  This role bought new challenges, such as working in a diverse team (of clinicians, scientists and ethicists) and debating perspectives on complex, topical issues.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In July 2016, I completed a solo swim across the English Channel.  The 21-mile swim from Dover, England to Cap Gris Nez, France, lasted 13 hours and 57 minutes and took me across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.  Training for the swim took more than a year, including up to 15 hours of swimming each week. During training, I gained ten kilos of body fat as insulation from the cold water (~17 degrees Celsius/ 62 Fahrenheit) and completed some long, cold swims to prepare – such as one memorable session of six hours in 12.9 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) in Dover Harbour in spring!

Training for the English Channel was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.  I learned that motivation sometimes disappears, and when it does, habit needs to kick in. I think I could probably pack my swimming bag, walk to the pool, and start swimming without even waking up. The most challenging thing of all was ‘the top 2-inches’ – managing my head.  When you are lonely, bored, tired and cold, you start to question why you are doing something, or whether you can do something.  These are dangerous thoughts, and my proudest achievement was learning to quash these bad thoughts and get on with my goal.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My last project before business school was about the business case for electronic health records in Australian states.  The project stakeholders included clinicians, technologists, academics, and public officials – on top of the complex content, fostering alignment between these stakeholders was sometimes difficult.  I worked with another junior for weeks, stakeholder-by-stakeholder, until we had a set of results that everyone could support.  I am proud of this work because we drew on so many of our combined talents to get to a result: sound analysis, interpersonal skills, leadership and persistence!

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Negotiations and Bargaining.  Before the course I knew little about negotiations and had always thought of them as a competitive process where opponents try to out-fox each other.  After this course (which included regular mock negotiations), I appreciate that negotiations are so much more effective when the two sides can build trust and work on understanding each other’s interests rather than trading positions.  I see this insight as being immediately useful when I return to work.

Why did you choose this business school?  I was attracted to LBS’s international atmosphere, a function of the student body and the London location. In the classroom, hearing perspectives from multiple countries on a topic is hugely thought-provoking.  Socially, having friends from all over let me travel the world without leaving Regent’s Park. Studying in central London has provided great access to companies and speakers I would usually only interact with through the pink pages of the FT.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I loved the opportunities to explore and challenge yourself.  Testing out new industries and functions through the various clubs, cases and conferences at LBS was like sipping from a fire hose in the best way possible.  For me, this was a great way to confirm that I wanted a career in healthcare.  Life as a student gave me the flexibility to take on my English Channel swim, which was not something I could have done while I was working in Sydney.
(Note: It goes without say that MBA friends are a highlight of the whole experience – but everyone knows that!)

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Despite what business school alums kept telling me, I really thought I’d have lots of spare time! I had planned to take some art classes and do a car mechanic course… but as it turns out, two years have flown by and I am left wondering how I ever fit work into my life. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. However, becoming ‘busy-sick’ at business school is a definite risk – I had to have some very frank conversations with myself about prioritising my activities and making sure that I was giving 100% to everything I signed up for.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t underestimate the Student Ambassadors as a resource to help you understand whether LBS is a good fit for you.  The Student Ambassadors can put you in touch with students right across the spectrum of activity at LBS – these people are great sources of insight into how the school can support you in pursuit of your MBA goals.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before I started at LBS, I heard that LBS was ‘a Finance school’.  This is true – we have a huge Finance curriculum and many of my classmates are completing concentrations in Finance. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I have only done a couple of Finance subjects, choosing instead to focus on Organisational Behaviour and Operations.  The faculty have been outstanding in both subject areas, and there was ample choice of electives (enough to leave me wishing I had more time here).  So, while Finance is a draw card for many, there is plenty more to choose from at LBS if Finance isn’t your game.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Dominique Carrie. Dom has landed her dream job at Social Finance UK, where she is working on innovative types of impact investing.  Dom is motivated entirely by the prospect of making a difference on a large scale and worked so hard from Day 1 of school to break in to the world of impact investing.  I admire her drive and altruistic motivation.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realised that I was getting too comfortable in Sydney and that Europe or the US would help me launch my healthcare career.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…studying medicine, or maybe doing a PhD in the ethics and regulation of new genetic technologies.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would love to be involved in designing novel business models to solve some of the thorny challenges in healthcare, such as antimicrobial resistance or personalised medicine.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My Mum and Dad for continuing to teach me persistence.  Minutes before my channel swim started, my Dad shouted out from the boat “I’m here to stomp on your fingers if you try and get out.” He was joking (I think?) but it is a great example of how they have always encouraged me to chase down the goals I set myself.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “That upbeat, optimistic mate … you can ask her for anything and she’ll help you.”

Favorite book: Roots by Alex Healy

Favorite movie or television show: I loved the first season of Westworld

Favorite musical performer: Stevie Wonder!

Favorite vacation spot: Byron Bay, Australia

Hobbies? Swimming, Hiking, Eating

What made Alana such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

Alana has achieved great things during her MBA. It was obvious from her application and interview that she would fit in perfectly and do really well on the MBA. However, she has taken the experience to new highs by taking on a personal challenge that only a few people ever manage to achieve, swimming the English Channel.

She has contributed to campus life in many ways, giving her valuable time freely to classmates and future applicants.”

David Simpson
MBA Admissions Director

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017