2019 Best Online MBAs: Asmar A. Atif, Imperial College

Asmar A. Atif

Imperial College Business School

Being an AI Technology Solutions Strategist, I enjoy helping C-suites digitally transform their businesses.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Lahore, Pakistan

Fun fact about yourself: I try traveling to a new capital every weekend as I find traveling the single most revealing and relaxing experience.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Institute of Management Sciences – PAk-AIMS.

Bachelor of Computer Science

Where are you currently working?

1- Chief Digitalisation Officer and Head of Octopus Digital, Middle East & Pakistan [Startup, wholly owned subsidiary of Avanceon]

2- Director General and Head of Advisory Board, Battle-Tested Consultant, Saint-Etienne, France [Startup]

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While working for Avanceon (i.e. Octopus’s parent company), we helped the world’s largest district cooling company called Empower, Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation in Dubai. We supplied them with the world’s biggest district cooling SCCDC (Supervisory Command, Control, and Data Center) and IoT system. The system connected all buildings all over Dubai via IoT to a central control room for autonomous management via AI (Artificial Intelligence). It was a team effort that led to the birth of Octopus Digital to replicate that success across countries and industries.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Having worked in establishing international business units and teams across the Middle East, USA and Pakistan from 2005-2016, I had always wanted to upgrade my education to better myself while conducting international business. Hence, I got accepted in 2016 for the January 2017 Global Online MBA programme, a decision that I now rate as one of the wisest investments I have done so far.

I chose Imperial College Business School for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the top-10 global universities, one that is very international with its Global Online MBA program. Secondly, and more personally, my grandfather did his Ph.D. in Botany in the early 1950s at Imperial College London and was one of the first Ph.D.s in Pakistan after independence. Hence, there is a fair bit of family history here.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? That’s pretty straightforward. My most favourite and difficult thing, was to ‘unlearn’. Our cohort was brilliant: we came from 30 different countries, many different backgrounds, and cultures, and (of course) some of us came with some ego, myself included. But we all learned to throw away that ego-baggage of the past and start fresh. The whole process of having done so was quite enlightening and revealing.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I would say for the overall programme that it was the “self-discovery” element. I had initially thought it would just be an educational programme, but what has actually happened (apart from learning) is that I now know myself a lot better. I have become more self-aware than I used to be. And that’s the biggest takeaway in my case.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I found online much more flexible in terms of managing my work-life balance. By no means am I trying to say it was easy. Yes, I did have all the opportunities to rekindle my time and activities around my own priorities. The classroom experience was truly great because we could interact digitally with all other classmates and all our responses were recorded, including in lectures, so key pointers which we could have missed has been documented by classmates. This has this been a great in-class online experience.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? The programme is a great opportunity to learn and network with people of incredibly high caliber. We should make the most of every interaction on the platform as that would uplift us intellectually, sometimes covertly and sometimes otherwise. We know we become those five people that we spend the most time with.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would probably add a couple of things. First, include remote students to all the events happening on-campus and that can be done digitally. Secondly, even though the programme support and technical assistance were impeccable, having a 24/7, 365-day student support helpline would go a long way towards servicing students end-to-end.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I see online education as an overall digital transformation happening all around us. It is another industry getting digitalised. I have landed two great jobs right as I finished the programme. First, I got promoted to head a new business entity called Octopus Digital as Chief Digitalisation Officer, which is a subsidiary company (aka startup) of the parent company where I have worked. This is an outstanding career opportunity to establish a next-generation digitalisation company from the ground-up that provides AI and IoT centric services to manufacturing industries in the Middle East and Pakistan. Secondly, I have also invested private equity in a French consulting startup called Battle Tested Consultant based in Saint-Etienne, France, that provides internationalization services to innovative French SMEs.

Both Octopus Digital and Battle Tested Consultant provide me with the opportunity to apply the knowledge from my MBA right where it is needed the most (i.e. establishing two new companies). Exciting times!

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? I definitely would, without an iota of doubt, for a bunch of reasons. Imperial College London is an outstanding institution. The faculty is great as is the online experience including their online learning platform, The Hub, technical support staff, and programme team. And most importantly, the network of people that we get to connect with are great as well.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To create or lead an enterprise that significantly impacts the well-being by enhancing the quality of life of people. Artificial intelligence, which is my passion, has the potential to achieve that hence my continued devotion for the subject.

What made Asmar such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“During his two years on the Global Online MBA programme at Imperial College Business School, Asmar Atif has proved himself to be one of our best and brightest students.

Academically, Asmar thrived on the programme. As an AI technology solutions strategist working at Advanceon, he juggled a busy full-time workload while studying for his MBA. He graduated on the prestigious Dean’s List, placing him within the top 10% of his MBA cohort.

Despite being located in the United Arab Emirates, Asmar made a huge effort to be as engaged in Imperial life as possible and took on every opportunity available to him. He went above and beyond effort to get the most out of extra-curricular activities on offer around the world. For example, he worked on a consulting project with other MBA students in Lisbon as well as taking electives on campus in London. He attended international recruitment and consulting events, and attended international events focused on Technology, his specialty area.

As a student leader for his class, Asmar has done an incredible job in building his cohort community by fostering a bond among students. This can be difficult in an online MBA programme, but Asmar has succeeded to strengthen his class’ community. Asmar worked closely with me as Programme Director to pass timely feedback from his cohort and develop ideas to improve the design of the programme.

In addition to excelling in his studies, Asmar demonstrated an understanding of online education and started engaging with classmates, faculty and external stakeholders in innovative ways. His legacy at Imperial will be remembered through short videos he published on LinkedIn and Twitter with notable faculty, like Dean Francisco Veloso and Associate Dean Leila Guerra, as well as some of the guest speakers we hosted at the Business School.

It was a pleasure working with him over the past two years and he is a wonderful representative of Imperial College Business School – a brilliant mind who will go on to be a future leader of society. His impact here has well and truly been made.”

Dr. Paolo Taticchi

Programme Director of the Global Online MBA and Director of Global Initiatives



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