Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sarah R. Miller

London Business School

“I am enthusiastic, gregarious, and intentional in pursuing personal growth and empowering others.”

Hometown: Rancho Palos Verdes, California, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a travel Instagram, @travelwithsmiller, which is an absolute blast to run! The page acts as my creative outlet where I can share my love of travel through fun facts and personal anecdotes.

Undergraduate School and Major: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA

Double Major in Economics & Legal Studies, Minor in European History, Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Apple, Technical Project Manager – Retail Store Systems Expansion

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I project managed the development of employee-facing applications for Apple’s first retail store in Thailand. With just two years of work experience in a completely different function, I spearheaded 17 track leads to provide country-specific, compliant, and properly-functioning systems by Grand Opening day. Having no technical background, I found success by keeping calm, asking simple questions, and learning from my peers.

In a company such as Apple and a group such as Retail Expansion, the “success” of a Grand Opening is determined by how little goes wrong. This silent success made it inherently difficult for me to gauge the relative health of the project, as well as its endpoint. It was not until after the Grand Opening, when I returned from Thailand and saw that Apple Iconsiam’s internal systems were consistently operating smoothly, that I viewed the project as my biggest career accomplishment yet.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I have interacted with my MBA classmates via pre-orientation chat groups thus far, and they seem to all share the qualities of openness and fearlessness. The leap of faith required to move to a new city or a new opportunity demonstrates my MBA classmates’ shared bravery. Everyone’s early willingness to reach out to one another and provide advice about the move to London is a testament to how my classmates embrace the unknown by supporting one another.

What is the best part of coming to London to earn your MBA? I am ecstatic, exhilarated, and even relieved to return to London to earn my MBA. In 2017, I lived in London temporarily for an Apple work assignment, and the brilliance of living in the city significantly impacted my life and changed my career goals. Previously, the idea of creating a life abroad was a distant dream, governed by the belief that exploring my passion for European culture was relegated to vacations. With that in mind, I absolutely loved life as a short-term Londoner; I passed Big Ben on my commute and befriended international colleagues with whom I am still close. The wonderful reality of living in London inspired my determination to return permanently while earning my MBA. I look forward to propelling my personal growth by embracing the inevitable discomfort that comes with building a life in a new city, as well as creating community through my London Business School classmates.

Aside from your classmate and location, 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? The high caliber education offered at London Business School was key to my applying to the full-time MBA programme. Learning while working at an organization is incredibly powerful and certainly propelled my growth while at Apple. That said, I am thankful for the opportunity to return to the classroom and devote time to formally studying key business concepts. Through London Business School’s world-class courses, I will build a solid foundation on which I can confidently base business decisions.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Outside of professional clubs, I am most looking forward to joining the Expedition Club at London Business School. I love the outdoors, but I have not had the opportunity to hike or camp outside of the USA. While I’ve always enjoyed traveling to cities and diving into different cultures, I am eager to explore locations that are intertwined with natural vistas as well. Expeditions are also a great way to get to know new people by enjoying the sites, spending time and working together; I am excited to build friendships with LBS classmates through these trips.

 What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I chose a very personal topic for the optional and open-ended question: “Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School?” As I wrote the essay, I was in constant conflict between the formality of a business school application and the authenticity required to share who I am. The fact that the topic was self-imposed made me feel even more vulnerable in sharing, yet I am glad I challenged myself to be fully open in the application.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? When I began considering my next career move, I found myself searching for marketing roles in London. Until this point in time, my job functions, post-graduation, had not included marketing and seeking a role outside my home country of America was an added challenge. Pursuing my MBA at this point in my career offers the winning combination of re-entering the classroom (I love academia), freely exploring marketing and other areas of interest, building my arsenal of skills (and therefore confidence in business decision-making), expanding my network, and creating new community through classmates turned friends – all in a city in which I am so excited to live.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None! I am confident that LBS is the best place for me to cultivate a life and career in London.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? As I began researching schools, I quickly saw that in order to achieve my ultimate goal – to build a career in London – I needed to be centrally located, and in a programme that was well-connected locally and renowned globally. These criteria led me to London Business School and when I shared with an Apple coworker that I was researching the MBA programme, she connected me with a friend who is a current student. This class of 2019 MBA candidate had incredible insight into the culture of London Business School as both a student and an American studying abroad. Her glowing review and excitement at my interest confirmed to me that London Business School would be the right fit.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? From kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended a small private school where I felt completely and totally comfortable. I had great friends, knew the campus, and could follow the footsteps of my brother, who had attended the school through grade 12. At age 14, I could easily foresee what years nine through 12 would look like and I felt no urge to challenge that safety.

Powers higher than myself (my parents) told me I would be leaving this comfort zone and attending a much larger school in the area, where I knew almost no one. I was terrified. Of course, now I am very thankful to my parents for shaking up my previously prescribed path, for it was essential in formulating who I am today.

My experience at the new school could not have been better. Going to this blindingly new environment sparked in me a fearlessness for change. I grew into a more flexible, personable, outgoing, and nonjudgmental person. I had my first taste of the independence and possibility that comes with starting anew. This defining moment informed my wonderful undergraduate experience at Northwestern, my professional life at Apple, and now my pursuit of an MBA at London Business School.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I can see myself mentoring people as an experienced peer, a leader within an organization, a manager of a small but mighty team, or a founder of a small company. Through my MBA, I am most excited to learn how to build a team and encourage professional growth in others.

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