Meet The Imperial MBA Class Of 2019

Neel Savani

Imperial College Business School

Hometown: Brighton, UK

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a passion for tea tasting around the world. Incidentally, I have visited 34 countries and also make a point of doing star poses in front of every famous monument possible.

Undergraduate School and Major: MSci Physics, Imperial College London. PhD Space Physics, Imperial College London

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Research Faculty at University of Maryland Baltimore County

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I created a new model to forecast solar storm characteristics arriving at Earth, improving the current technology from one hour to more than 24 hours. The new capabilities of more than 24 hours will finally allow companies to take mitigating decisions, which has not been possible until now. Businesses and governments have predominately ingested forecasts to inform the possible cause of losses.

This new architecture is now being prototyped in an operational style setting at NASA and has been replicated by others around the world. I also successfully pitched for startup funding in order to file a patent for this technology, and investigate the potential commercial value.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diversity. When considering strong and weak ties for personal networks and long-term friendships, I was looking beyond those from the usual banking and consulting, as I have this in abundance having been an alumni at Imperial. While the class hails from widely different experiences, this has not diminished their energy for life – I love it.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? As an alumni, I assumed other alumni would specifically try to go to other schools. To broaden my network, I choose to remain at Imperial for my MBA. In particular, Imperial College London has a world leading reputation on getting under-the-hood with technology and innovation, so I assumed many people at the MBA were not likely to have this experience but have a passion to gain exposure – I was not wrong.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Obviously, the TMT Club is something I will attend regularly. As a wild card, the FMCG club seems like a fun sector that data analytics can make a big impact – it is completely away from my wheel house, other than a short period I worked for a luxury travel company during my Ph.D. The FMCG team running the show is totally on the ball with many years of experience in roles like Tiffany & Co.

On a personal side, juggling club – I learned juggling with some great friends when I was an undergraduate here, but always wanted to expand my skills to a unicycle.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have always enjoyed two broad areas: Space technology, and the drivers of innovations from a commercial perspective. Until now, I felt the best innovation was being driven by governmental spending on the pursuit of knowledge; now, with lower entry costs into space, the commercial world is accelerating fast into the arena. I want to be ready at the precipice of change.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Honestly, I did not think heavily on the return on investment of doing an MBA. For me, financial incentive has always been the secondary driver, falling behind enjoyment of my career. I cannot imagine a scenario where my remuneration is low enough to worry, so I do not feel the need to optimise and maximise my salary.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?There were a few of the big names in the US and UK, but I did not proactively pursue many others. Ultimately, I wanted to come back to the UK, and I did not have a desire to do another big relocation post-MBA. London and the home counties, supported by the UK government, has made considerable efforts towards growth in the Commercial Space sector.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? After years studying for my undergraduate degree and Ph.D. at Imperial, I felt at home when I came back. There is something comfortable in knowing where nice restaurants and pubs are, as well as the general administrative procedures. It meant, when I relocated back to London straight after a flagship NASA mission launched that I have been heavily involved with, I could hit the MBA program running – without teething problems that add to the peripheral stresses of starting a new programme in a new country.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? This is a tricky one as I feel there have been three big turning points since a very young age. It was perhaps when I had two offers straight after my Ph.D.: a quant role at a top investment bank or a competitive JSPS research fellowship in Japan for just under a year. A friend of mine who was a trader at one of these houses suggested a quant role will always be available when I come back – so go enjoy Japan. Had I chosen to take the more financially lucrative and standard career path, I would have set myself down a very different career path. As it is, I have never felt so fulfilled and excited about my career.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I want to lead innovation in areas like telecommunications or space tourism. That said, I want to remain open to any form of genuine innovation through data analytics, including my continued pursuit of data visualisations in virtual reality. I think knowledge from within other innovative sectors for a short period can be ideal for knowledge transfer to the commercial space sector.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I would like to support the strategic ventures the UK will decide in their pursuit for promoting the Commercial Space sector, aligned with the new space port in Scotland, space tourism, and technological innovations.

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