2018 MBAs To Watch: Antonia Instone, Warwick Business School

Antonia Instone

Warwick Business School

“I’m dynamic, values-driven and people-oriented, with a wholehearted passion for excellence.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Oxford, UK

Fun fact about yourself:  I’ve spent over a year doing voluntary work on three continents – in an informal settlement on the Bolivian Altiplano, on the beautiful West-African coast in The Gambia, and here in the UK.  While always being in situ to serve local communities, I also gained so much including some highly varied(!) transferable skills: brick-laying (and keeping the walls straight!), how to teach scores of children through a translator, catering for hundreds without breaking a sweat, and how to motivate a crowd of teenagers to get up, make friends, and seize life and all its opportunities.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Durham University – Combined Honours in Social Science (Politics, Spanish, Theology and Middle Eastern Studies)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?  My last job was as Pastoral Care and Events Team Leader at The Titus Trust, a UK based charity.  At heart, my role involved seeking the holistic best for teenagers – that they might grow up to thrive socially, spiritually, intellectually and physically. I mentored and trained hundreds of volunteers and staff to provide high quality care to teens on activity holidays, and organised the large-scale residential events that facilitated those relationships.

People-oriented work success is sometimes hard to measure: an individual’s progress is qualitative and usually gradual over many years. So the watershed moments – when a young person changed role and moved from primarily being a recipient of care, and joined me on the leadership team to serve others – those were the moments to treasure.  Those ‘wins’ were repeated over and over again.  To other people, they’ll just be names: Emma, Jack, Sophie, Rachel, Lauren, Simon… but for me, they represent positive change and are those who have picked up the baton that was passed to them, and are running with it.

Why did I go into this line of work?  I was once one of the teenagers on the receiving end, and it changed my life.  Having benefited so much, I was honoured and delighted to be able to do the same for other and help fantastic young people with so much potential become the adults the world needs.  Technically it was ‘work’, but it rarely felt like it!

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? N/A (The Warwick MBA is a one-year programme)

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided – I’m exploring possibilities at the moment.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Before joining the MBA, I was awarded the ‘WBS Inspiring Women Scholarship for outstanding female candidates who are enthusiastic, engaging and inspiring role models.’  I’ve aimed to live up to that accolade every day, in how I engage with my studies, relate to my classmates, and pursue my future. As one way of embodying this, I’ve served as a student spokesperson – liaising with faculty on behalf of our class to achieve the greatest programme and success for our cohort and WBS as a whole.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While individual academic successes like coming top of the class in exams have been great, the things I’m most proud of involve teamwork and interdependency.  I love the challenge of being thrown into a scenario and having to work hard together to solve a problem – my proudest moment involves just that: my first-ever case competition.  Elected as team presenter, I led our team to the finals. The satisfaction of having successfully come together as a new and diverse team, working well together, and having clearly presented a credible business proposition for the first time under tight time constraints was great!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In a previous job, I ran a volunteer programme for school leavers, so they could serve in charities around the world before heading to university or the workplace. I helped hundreds of teenagers have life-changing experiences while doing valuable international voluntary service. My best days were when I debriefed returning teams – sometimes over a year after having first interviewed and selected them. The difference in character, convictions, maturity, global perspective, and self-awareness between before and after made every day’s work a day to be proud of. At the same time, the stories they’d share of what they’d done, and the impact they’d had were inspiring.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor John Colley. My background and John’s could not be more different: I’ve worked in non-profit since graduation, while John’s career has been firmly in the business arena. I’ve loved the high-calibre challenge to my worldview that his academically rigorous lectures (backed by years of practical experience) have given, and the opportunity to test my presuppositions in such an exacting context. I still may not always love the decisions that all businesses make, but thanks to John and his lectures, I understand them much better now.

What was your favorite MBA Course? LeadershipPlus – a course unique to Warwick that forces you to re-evaluate the way you think, plan, work in teams, and lead others. When else in life are you so encouraged to reflect on success, analyse failure, and think differently?  I came to business school to change direction professionally, seeking the academic insight and credentials to open new doors – and with LeadershipPlus I got a lot more. Within an academic framework, it provided opportunity for many personal ‘lightbulb’ moments and the initiative to recalibrate as I return to the workplace on graduation. I don’t just have a better grasp of the way to make business decisions, but a firmer idea of the kind of leader I want to be.

Why did you choose this business school?  WBS is renowned as an excellent business school.  Beyond that headline, what are the things that particularly attracted me?  The Leadership course; the Professors of Practice – who aren’t just great academics, but those who have used their theory in business; the diversity of the cohort… I could go on!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Try!  You won’t regret it.  Apply – be yourself, and get ready to stretch yourself academically, and personally over the year that follows.  If you’re up for a challenge, want to be part of an excitingly diverse cohort, and are seeking to be a change-maker of the future, then Warwick could be a good fit for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That the workload is overwhelming. Yes, there is plenty to do, but with enthusiasm, discipline, and the support of a great cohort and faculty, it is absolutely doable.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  If I could have a do-over, I’d talk to myself in week 1 and say, ‘Say ‘yes’ to everything that interests you’. Having been out of academia for a decade, I was nervous about juggling the academic programme with wider commitments. Looking back now, I’d say to myself, ‘Don’t be nervous, just make it work. Take every single opportunity that comes along.’  I took my own advice from term two onwards, and haven’t regretted it since.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s a hard call! But Ana Paschoini, a lawyer from Brazil, is certainly one of them. She is always fully engaged in every class, brings a fascinating perspective to discussions, is indefatigably cheerful and kind, and admirably juggles her MBA with being a mother to her two daughters – seemingly all without getting stressed at any point!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Perhaps unknowingly, a former boss is probably the one who most impacted on this decision. He was Operations Director of an NGO I worked for, responsible for leading the organisation through significant change and growth in a difficult context. His own MBA was the backbone of his professional expertise. As I looked to the future with a desire to help shape and grow public and charitable organisations, I realised an MBA would help me to accomplish that to the standard of excellence that all ventures deserve.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…continuing work in the UK non-profit sector.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?  I would include a residential or international trip near the very beginning. Our class recently returned from a brilliant week at Sauder Business School at UBC in Vancouver, where we not only learnt lots academically, but came together as a cohort on a new level.  We’re benefiting from it now – but if it could have happened at the start…?

What are the top two items on your bucket list? An ongoing target is to visit at least one new country every year of my life. A shorter-term item? To climb a mountain. Last summer, I climbed my first munro (a Scottish nearly-mountain). It was exhilarating, and as soon as I’d got over the exhaustion I was ready to go again!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a friend, colleague and teammate who works hard, achieves highly, and brings out the best in others at the same time.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Big Short. It reminds me that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is… so dig to find out the real story.

What would your theme song be? “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. It might be a bit left-field, but I’m daily aware of the benefits I’ve received in every aspect of my life. This song reminds me of my un-deservingness, and makes me want to do all that I can to stay humble and to use my opportunities to serve others. For the record, I do have more mainstream taste too!

Favorite vacation spot:  A chalet in the French Alps (summer or winter), with my favourite people!

Hobbies?  I trained as a professional chef, and still love nothing more than to cook delicious food to share with people who enjoy it. My taste keeps changing, and is often inspired by the places I visit, which links to another of my passions – travel. I’m happiest discovering new cultures, learning about local histories, and meeting new people, and obviously trying the local cuisine too!  Alongside those? I’m an artist, avid reader, craft and woodwork enthusiast, and simply love doing crosswords.  I always want to learn new things so my list of hobbies is ever-evolving!

What made Antonia such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Antonia has a tremendous can-do attitude and is full of positivity. She is wonderfully calm with a lovely presence and her outstanding CV and voluntary work made her an obvious choice for the WBS Inspiring Women Scholarship. Her academic work has been outstanding so far, with very high marks and she is extremely participative in class.

Her energetic nature makes her a great team player in the syndicate groups and as part of the MBA Student Staff Liaison Committee Antonia offers constructive advice on how to improve the course and help students fully enjoy an intense year of learning.

One of the challenges of doing an MBA are the presentation skills needed, but as a qualified Public Speaking Trainer Antonia has been able to help her classmates with tips and advice and really excels in this area.

Working with non-profit organisations means Antonia brings a different set of skills and perspective to the cohort, she is a real giver, exemplified by her continuing work leading children’s and student workshops at local churches. She truly is an inspiration, her passion to help others and desire to ease suffering across the world is a lesson all business students can learn from.”

Bob Thomson

Professor of Practice, Organisation & Human Resource Management





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