2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Kathryn Heppinstall, Warwick Business School

Kathryn Heppinstall

Warwick Business School

A genuine, professional and inspiring individual who is making the transition from the battlefield to the boardroom.”

Hometown: Salisbury, UK

Fun fact about yourself: Once worked as a Kit Kat taster for Nestle.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Reading, Food Manufacture, Marketing & Management.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Director of Logistic Operations NATO Special Forces HQ, Mons, Belgium.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Not applicable.

Where will you be working after graduation? Building a portfolio career as a Non-Executive Director in the UK.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Trustee of The King’s Table, Kenilworth.
  • Committee Member of the Warwickshire Women’s Professional Network.

King’s Table Kenilworth: I became a Trustee of this community cafe and Fairtrade shop when I first moved to Kenilworth to study at Warwick Business School. By chance, I had coffee with the chairman who persuaded me to stand for election and has mentored me on boardroom practice. In return, I am leading their regeneration project which aims to transform the cafe and shop.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My marketing assignment. Not only did I achieve a high mark (80%), the recommendations are being taken forward by The King’s Table with an investment of up to £30,000 – the most significant in the charity’s history since it started.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had been selected to Command 19 Tank Transporter Squadron, the largest, most complex, and challenging sub-unit in the British military. It was a competitive selection process and I was humbled to know that senior officers had so much faith in my capability.

Who was your favourite MBA professor? If I am allowed…. I nominate Ross Noon. He is the unsung hero of our course staff and has provided invaluable help and support often at very short notice (usually around assignment deadline dates…) His calming, pragmatic, pro-active personality is exactly what we need when under pressure.

If it needs to be a lecturer….. I would nominate Lisa Weaver. Anyone who can take me from zero to hero on balance sheet finances deserves to be nominated.

What was your favourite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I particularly like the extra-curricular seminars such as the Marketing Insight Series (MiS). These really encapsulate the values of the school in promoting Curiosity, Openness, Restlessness, and Excellence. To be able to dip in and out of such world-class lectures is what makes WBS so fabulous.

Why did you choose this business school? If Carlsberg did business schools….

Warwick Business School felt 100% right for me. It has a world-class reputation for academic rigor and excellence. I didn’t consider any other school. Why would I?

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Do more than online research and get the personal touch. Reach out to someone already on the course and get the inside track.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: That it’s near Warwick.

Reality: It’s actually closer to Coventry…

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? People fascinate me and the rich and diverse nature of Full-Time MBA candidates is a glorious melting pot of experience, which I haven’t exploited as much as I could have done.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Cebo Mayekiso. I admire his diplomatic and considered feedback. He is beautifully expressive, genuine, and honest, leaving you uplifted even when he’s being critical. I want to be more like that!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Jo Haigh, personal friend, author, and award-winning Non-Executive Director. “Well frankly, if you cannot read a balance sheet, profit and loss account, and cash flow, you have no right to be in the boardroom.” Wise words!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • To be a Non-Executive Director of a FSTE 250 company.
  • To write a book, Battlefield to Boardroom.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? The person they could turn to most for advice.

Hobbies? Orienteering (I am a cartophile – I love maps)

What made Kathryn such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“What a poised, reflective, and composed lady Kathryn is. She is an outsider in the cohort from an age perspective – after 22 years in the armed forces she is probably 10-15 years above the average – and in terms of a career. Kathryn has served with the British Army, UN, NATO, and the Australian Defence Force which has seen her travel all over the world in particularly demanding situations.

Kathryn has displayed constant curiosity despite the civilian world not being known to her. She has strong ideas of where her next role will be and is very focused on doing her analysis of what is right.

Not only is she a committed member of the MBA cohort, but she is very involved in her local community after moving to Kenilworth while doing the programme. She has thrown herself into her village life and is already a trustee of The King’s Table in Kenilworth, which is a café that has been the heartbeat of the village for many years, a real hub of the community.

She is also an active member of the Women in Finance Network and the Women at Warwick Society and wanted to move to a nearby village so she could cycle to campus every day.

“Her CV is very impressive with a long list of tales of overcoming challenges. She has been the lead expert for food logistics for the armed forces and was telling me how flying food to the Falklands involved stopping at Ascension Island to refuel, by then the army decided close down the station at Ascension Island, so she had to work a new route, and find food that could survive the long journey without compromising the health of the soldiers and their families that rely on that supply – it sounded incredibly complicated but she worked it out.

“She also developed joint solutions with the US Marine Corps for the provision of bottled water throughout Helmand Province, improving supply chain resilience and reducing exposure of marines and soldiers to insurgent attacks, making potential savings of $118,000 a day.

“Kathryn is a very competent individual, methodical and charming, and a great asset to the MBA cohort.”

Catherine Wiggins
CareersPlus Coach


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.