Meet The Imperial MBA Class Of 2019

Ekaterina Li

Imperial College Business School

Hometown: Moscow, Russia

Fun Fact About Yourself: Participated in model shows when I was 10-years-old.

Undergraduate School and Major: Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Banking.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ABInBev, Business Analyst.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Progression from Audit Consultant to Junior Manager with PwC Russia in four years while taking Junior Manager position being 24-years-old.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Very diverse but very similar thinking. I was amazed by the variety of people in my cohort: every time I had a conversation with someone, this person usually had a different experience, background, job, or country of origin. In other words, everyone had something extraordinary and interesting to share – something you have never ever experienced in your life. At the same time, we are very similar, not despite this diversity but thanks to it. We think alike; we have targets and priorities;  andwe know why we are studying MBA. We do this for so many different reasons, but those reasons keep us in the same boat facing the same direction: together.

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? Two things were most important for me: time effectiveness and the opportunity to learn from people with actual experience. Imperial offers a one-year programme. While it may not be relevant for some people, I considered it extremely significant because time is the most valuable thing in this life for me. As for actual experience: first, the professors who are delivering the lectures have spent years working in the industry or business, which I consider very useful, as an MBA should be more about practice than about theory. Second, I have been interested (and still am) in entrepreneurship. So far, I didn’t have any opportunity to try this myself. At Imperial, I have a chance to try making my own startup in safe environment as a part of my MBA journey.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I never could choose between things I am interested in, so I hope one day I will have a time turner to be in two places at ones. Until then, I try to do as much as can fit into my schedule. They include volunteering at a student-led technology initiative to teach technology literacy to elderly residents near our White City campus called ‘What the Tech.’ I also study Spanish, have three to four group classes a week at the gym, write a blog about my MBA journey on Instagram, and work as a Student Ambassador. Next term, I plan to learn salsa dancing and renew my volleyball sessions. I look forward to all of the above, including studying the core classes because it’s not like it was back at my undergraduate university, when you are studying for the sake of studying. Now I am studying because I am interested in it and I understand how I will apply this knowledge in the future. The thing is, living life is about constant personal and professional challenges for me. Otherwise, there is no development and no point in doing something whatsoever.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The same time last year, I was stuck. I understood I didn’t want to do what I did, but I couldn’t fully change my specialisation and career path because I didn’t want to start all over again. I figured an MBA could help me do several important things:

  • Give me time to think and understand what I really wanted to do;
  • Develop myself professionally and personally as well as bring some entrepreneurial knowledge and global acumen to my life;
  • Provide me with an opportunity to change what I do by leveraging my current knowledge, not by starting from square one.

I couldn’t even imagine how much more I would get. I now have opportunities to take part in volunteering projects, learn a new language, try rock climbing, etc. And this being in the beginning of the third month, so I can only imagine what will happen next.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Some people are willing to pay for things. Other focus on comfort or status. I am ready to pay for experiences because proper experiences can bring all of the above to your life. Studying is valuable because you can learn something new; teamwork is valuable because you can share experiences and learn from each other; networking is valuable because you can meet interesting people, extracurricular activities are useful because they shape you as a person. The MBA has everything and more and I do not consider it just an additional education. I consider it a valuable experience, which broadens the thinking horizon as well as gives time and opportunity for all-sided development and just an extremely interesting year of my life. To me, something like this is always worth the investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to Hult International Business School and Kellogg School of Management.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I was very interested in entrepreneurship and marketing, as well as just getting international experience outside Russia. At Imperial, there is the Enterprise Lab, where you can try your idea out. I also knew the cohorts tend to be very diverse in terms of geography, which is very exciting for stretching exposure. I previously had experience in project and team management, so I considered it can be leveraged for the case studies, which are usually used in business school. Additionally, Imperial offers a lot of interesting marketing related electives which I am also planning on taking.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I remember I was 18-years-old and I was sitting in my room, clicking ‘apply’ with a shaking hand on the PwC website. Then I took a couple of online tests, sat back, and thought they would never get back to me: I was too young, born and raised in the Moscow region, and was just in the beginning of my bachelor programme at university. I was not confident that I was good enough to work in the international company with a well-known brand. They did get back. I started as a technical assistant, then worked as a personal assistant before moving to the audit department after getting my bachelor’s degree. I progressed from Audit Consultant to Junior Manager in just four years. By applying (even though I was scared to death), I had my defining moment. And reflecting on it, I understand how it shaped who I am now because I am entirely confident that even if you’re scared, it is always worth a try. There are only two options: you either take or lose it. I take it.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I am only two months into my MBA programme, but my plan A is to do strategic business consulting. I consider it a good equilibrium for my previous experience and my knowledge of business. It also has an element of marketing in it, which I am very passionate about. I will also try to support my creative and caring for social impact side via taking part in extracurricular activities, and I am sure top consulting firms provide plenty of opportunities like this.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years I will try to concentrate more on balancing my career and personal life, which will for sure require hard work for several coming years. I consider success to be a process not the result, so I will do my best to always develop and expand my expertise, independently of where I work and at what stage of my career I am.

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