Here’s an experiment: Place 119 accomplished – and very different – professionals together for a year. What do you think will happen? Will egos rage and fights flare-up? Will classmates retreat into their tribes? Or, will these men and women come together and form a community?
Every year, Warwick Business School repeats this experiment with their full-time MBAs. Inevitably, the results are the same. Amid their differences, they discover common ground and recognize the value of working together. This creates curiosity and trust, the kind that enables them to open up, embrace new ideas, and recognize the possibilities. That was the case for Julian Villalta, a technical project manager from Equifax who was accepted into the Class of 2020.
PASSION, ENERGY AND DRIVE
“I would say that every single day as well as every conversation I have with one of my classmates I learn something new about them,” he explains. “Just recently, from conversations by the coffee machine, I learned that I have classmates who are musicians, photographers, entrepreneurs, hold two PhDs, and the list goes on. Every conversation we have is rich in knowledge, and a small chit-chat often turns into an enlightening conversation.”
One reason? Each profession approaches a problem differently says Alexandru Fugariu, who comes to Coventry from the world of planning and supply chains. As a Warwick MBA, he has been intrigued by, for example, the contrast between how a general surgeon and an aeronautics engineer approach a marketing assessment or presentation. This stirs the creative juices, sure – but Warwick’s real trick has been fostering a supportive culture where classmates are champions as much as colleagues.
“Each individual brings something different and unique to the table,” observes Jamie Graham, a senior operations manager at British Airways. “There is a great deal of passion, energy. and drive from the people I’ve met. This ‘get up and go’ attitude is reflected across all 16 syndicate teams, where natural competition to achieve the best grades possible is also met with collaboration and a willingness to want to see others succeed. See it as ‘co-opetition’. In the business world, wanting your competition to succeed is rare, but seeing it play out with cheering voices echoing between the walls of a lecture theatre during a formal assessment is a truly heart-warming experience!”
A CULTURE OF OPENNESS
That’s not easy at a program like Warwick. The Class of 2020 itself features students from 40 countries. What’s more, 87% of the class hails from outside the United Kingdom. Despite this, Damian Manire, a PwC senior consultant, calls his class “one big international family.” It is a family that is defined by its openness, adds Sharad Khandelwal, a chemical engineer who has transitioned into both publishing and entrepreneurship.
“We have a diverse mix of 40+ nationalities and each country has its own problems, reservations, skepticism, global image, taboos, etc. What I find most comforting is we can all challenge each other’s ideas, concepts, and beliefs without the fear of being judged. This openness has helped create an environment of learning, growth, and trust among the classmates!”
It isn’t just the cohort that’s global, notes John Hancq, a hostage negotiator who became a social entrepreneur. In March, Warwick MBAs head overseas for a week-long immersions of their choice to Canada, China, and Italy. What’s more, students can complete modules at programs at the University of Michigan, ESADE, and Melbourne Business School. This programming was a big draw to Salvador Miramontes, a wealth manager from Mexico.
“[What was important to me] would be all the activities off-campus and after graduation, the treks, the international trips, the possibility to take additional modules in partnering universities and in another campus – even after graduation,” he says. “The high degree of internationalization is not only palpable, but you get to live through it.”
Let’s rewind. After graduation? That’s right, the Class of 2021 can take up to two modules at no cost after graduation. “The “change is a constant” is branded in the structure of the program,” Miramontes adds, “allowing us to come back for one or two modules after graduation to continue learning as change unfolds.”
Of course, the Class of 2020 hasn’t just watched change take root. They’ve been driving it. Take Ruchi Sankrit, who has addressed gender and poverty issues at events sponsored by the United Nations. A renewable energy manager in India, she created a distribution channel for a clean energy product that’s run by women. In the process, she has empowered over 10,000 poor women by developing their finance and leadership skills and providing access to water and sanitation. In contrast, Julian Villalta made his mark by leading local number portability in his native Costa Rica, which freed consumers to switch mobile providers.
FROM RESEARCHER TO RECORD PRODUCER
“Part of my challenge was meeting the tight deadline we were given: a deadline that gave us significantly less time than the industry’s standard for implementing such a process,” he explains. “At the time, there was abundant media coverage in Costa Rica regarding this new process; thus, any delay or errors in our delivery would not only cause our client to incur fines but would also negatively affect its image country-wide. Under my lead, we delivered a well-designed implementation within the limited timeframe.”
The Class of 2020 also includes Priscilla Lo, who launched a new hair cosmetics brand, reaching seven million people in six months through strategies ranging from opening pop-up stores to managing influencers. Alexandru Fugariu boosted his supply chain’s reporting turnaround time by 200% – cutting workload by 86% along the way. If you don’t believe dreams come true, Raghav Srivastava might change your mind. By day, he worked as a financial data researcher for Standard & Poor’s. During that time, he laid the groundwork to start an independent record label and talent management agency.
“Within one year, we were able to witness tangible results with some of our music releases gaining global traction which had (until then) been unheard of for an independent artist based out of India,” he points out. “Soon enough, other similar firms were trying to emulate our analytical approach to marketing. An EP that we produced was voted as the strongest release of the year in India.”
A CLASS OF ADVENTURERS
That’s not to say Srivastava’s ‘rebel’ spirit hasn’t gotten him in hot water. “I once spent a month in a remote village in rural India teaching high school students and I almost got arrested for having a beer because only a few weeks back a prohibition law had come into effect in that state. Needless to say, the students who had procured the beer from somewhere also got into a lot of trouble!”
Think that’s a good story. Talk to Jamie Graham sometime: “I have survived three natural disasters including a magnitude 7 earthquake, a tsunami, a volcanic eruption and being stranded in the Canadian wilderness in -20 degree Celsius conditions with limited basic supplies.” Sounds like he might have something in common with John Hancq, who solo climbed a 14,000-foot mountain in the American Rockies…during “the dead of winter.” Think that’s adventurous? Alexandru Fugariu has made to Everest Base Camp…and Chernobyl! Then again, brave might be the word for Julian Villalta. He taught inmates inside La Reforma, a Costa Rican prison featured in Netflix’s “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons.”
Overall, the Class of 2020 boasts 39% women, a higher rate than London Business School, INSEAD, and HEC Paris. On average, incoming students scored 652 on the GMAT, down four points from the previous year. At 32 years of age, the class is slightly older and more experienced than other MBA programs. What’s more, nearly a quarter of the class arrives from the Financial Services sector, nearly double the percentage of technology professionals at 10.8%. Consulting (8.3%), Manufacturing (7.5%), Energy (5.8%), Healthcare (5.8%), and Real Estate (5%) also represent sizable chunks of the class.
A Q&Q WITH KAREN BAKER, DIRECTOR OF RECRUITMENT AND MARKETING
As Europe wrestles with the Corona Virus, Warwick Business School is perfectly positioned for a new era of education, one defined by distance education. In March, the school ranked as the top online MBA program in the world according to The Financial Times, thanks to enviable post-graduation pay and high alumni satisfaction rates. In The Economist’s MBA ranking, Warwick ranked among the Top 10 in three survey categories: New Career Opportunities, Faculty Quality, and Potential To Network. At the same time, Warwick full-time grads are enjoying an $83,800 pay increase within five years of graduation according to Forbes. Better yet, Warwick is a one-year MBA, meaning students are able to return to work and recoup lost earning faster.
What can current and future MBAs expect from the Warwick Business School? This winter, P&Q reached out to Karen Barker, the school’s Director of Recruitment and Marketing. In a series of written responses, Barker shares the latest news on life-long learning for alumni, along with details on two signature features of the program: LeadershipPlus and dual campuses in Coventry and London.
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?
KB: “This year we have introduced a new feature for our MBA alumni where they will be able to come back and do two extra modules for free. They can use these two free modules at any time they wish after graduating from WBS.
We know our MBAs believe in lifelong learning and have been asking if they can do extra modules, so we thought this would be a good way to enable them do that and keep in touch with our alumni.
It will help our alumni to keep updating their skills and knowledge or dive deeper into an area that they are interested in. It might also help them if they take up a new position, where a module will enable them to establish what the latest thinking, strategic tools, and research are in that area. It will also allow them to connect with academics and ask them about the issues and problems that their organisation is facing. We think it will be a popular option for our MBA alumni.
It will also help our current MBA participants meet alumni, building networks and contacts that can help them move into the career they want after their course is finished. It will really add extra value to our MBA course and becoming an alumni of WBS.”
Go to next page to see a dozen profiles of MBA students from the Class of 2020.