2020 MBAs To Watch: Charlotte Lavelle, Warwick Business School

Charlotte Lavelle

Warwick Business School

“An energetic and hard-working people-centric personality who is eternally curious, reliable and generous.”

Hometown: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK

Fun fact about yourself: Aged 18, I traveled around India on my own for two months as part of my gap year. I spent the previous six months working at five different part-time jobs (at the same time!) to fund the trip and traveled completely on my own. I learned more about myself and the world in those two months than I ever thought possible. It was the best and hardest experience of my life!

Undergraduate School and Degree: History, University of Sheffield, UK

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Software Product Manager, BT PLC

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? As a 1 year program, we don’t do summer internships. But I did spend the summer before my MBA traveling around Colombia learning about the country, which was incredible.

Where will you be working after graduation? Still working that one out! Looking for somewhere smaller where I can make a real impact and with a purpose that I can really get behind.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am in the process of organizing a summit at the business school to focus on the next 10 years of women in the workplace. I have also organized multiple social and sporting events to help encourage people to get to know each other in different contexts and stay active and healthy during our MBA.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of encouraging all of my team members from my syndicate group in Term 1 to all present in front of our class during our end of term Strategy presentations. Many in the group didn’t want to present as they were nervous presenters, even more so when having to do it in English; everyone just asked if I would do it on behalf of everyone. But I really believed this was a vital opportunity for those who were nervous to practice and learn in a safe environment. The marks were not important, as we’re all here to learn and push ourselves out of our comfort zone. We agreed as a group that everyone would present something on the basis that I would coach them through it. I ran multiple sessions to coach and support everyone through their presentations, looking at speech patterns, body language, and confidence tactics. It was such a rewarding experience as everyone did a fantastic job at presenting. It was the most rewarding experience of the term seeing their happiness knowing they had done such a good job in front of 60 people – and everyone has gone on to present again and done it with much less fear!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the time that I identified and resolved a major potential issue with a customer deal before it became a massive problem. It was the largest deal we had had in this market, with very senior visibility in the business. It was very far down the sales track before I realised that the solution wouldn’t work for the customer. Having called it out multiple times, I eventually managed to persuade them of the size of the potential issue and put the deal on hold. I then worked with the customer and all the internal stakeholders to build a new solution that would work for the customer. This was my proudest achievement for a number of reasons. First, I put myself out there and made a really tough call that was unpopular with a lot of very senior people, but I knew it was the right thing to do for the customer and for the business. I am also proud for the way in which I brought all the stakeholders together when they were all very reluctant to do and solve the problem. I am also proud of the way that I dealt with the customer side of the issue – I put them first, was honest and open with them, and built a very good rapport with them in a situation that could have ruined our working relationship and saw them walk away.

Who was your favourite MBA professor? Dr. Maja Korica teaches as part of our Organisational Behaviour module and is definitely my favourite professor. Her lectures cover some very important but difficult topics such as diversity and inclusion, which is hard for anyone to lecture on. However, she brings an incredible level of professional knowledge to the topics whilst challenging us and helping us to uncover elements to the topics that are revealing and thought-provoking in a sensitive but challenging way. I have learned from her about how to interrogate things that we take for granted in the business world and understand some reasons why they are the way they are – and how they could be different. She speaks to the very depth of human nature and how that transfers into the workplace. I will take what we have learned in her lectures with me for the rest of my life – personal and professional!

What was your favourite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The absolute highlight of my MBA so far was our Cultural Evening. We are a cohort of 40 nationalities, which is completely incredible. The purpose of the cultural evening was to learn and explore all of this incredible diversity through the best medium of all – food! So one Monday evening, everyone brought some examples of their local food and drink and dressed in traditional clothing and we all shared food and stories about our home nations. I learned so much about the world and my fellow students that evening – and went home absolutely stuffed! We even ensured it was a fully plastic-free evening in recognition of the importance of the future of all of our nations relies upon being more sustainable. It was a night I won’t forget!

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Warwick because they made it impossible not to want to go there! This was for three reasons. First, it was because of WBS’ amazing Careers Plus service. I am doing an MBA because I want to make a big career change, and I knew I would need the support of an excellent career service to do that. Having access to a personal Career Coach, weekly career development workshops with world-class speakers, and so many opportunities to meet other businesses and employers – it’s been completely brilliant! Second, it was the environment – going to WBS and speaking to the staff and previous students, I could just feel this was the perfect environment for me to learn and grow and challenge myself. Finally, I chose WBS because it wasn’t in London. Having spent 6 years living and working in London, I knew there was a world outside of the city that I wanted to explore and learn about the world outside of the London bubble. I knew I had made the right decision from Day 1 of term, and I haven’t looked back!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My honest advice is to just be yourself. All of the students at WBS are genuine people who are there to learn, challenge themselves, and make some friends for life. We are all different and we relish in that, so just be yourself – it’s the best version of you!

What is the biggest myth about your school? If I am honest, I think the biggest myth is that because WBS isn’t in London or Oxbridge, it is not worth investigating as an option for doing an MBA. I have to say this is completely wrong. Having investigated many MBA programmes before choosing WBS, I found Warwick to not only be the most genuine set of staff and students, but it also has incredible opportunities. With a campus in The Shard in London, we get all the benefits of access to London but with the added benefits of access to the many other businesses around the UK and around the world. The links to other global business schools are amazing – a global study trip is included as part of our course, and there are a huge number of opportunities to do elective modules around the world with partner business schools. I believe that Warwick has all the benefits of other business schools, but with the added benefits that come from not being in the London bubble.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I think the key thing I would do differently from the start of my MBA is to give myself a bit more space to take everything in that is going on. The program is so immersive and intense, with so much to learn everyday and events going on in the evenings and weekends, that I didn’t take the time to process it all properly at the start. I have now learned how important it is to take a little time to take it all in, process it, and then go back out there and give the next day your all. It’s such a fantastic experience, and I am a complete believer that the more you put in, the more you get out of it, but I had to learn that to give it everything I had to take a little more time for me to get the most out of it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Tsitsi Dhlamini. Not only is she a fantastic asset to our cohort – smart, interesting, and challenging, but she also gave birth to her first child a month before the start of our course! It is incredible to see how well she is managing with a newborn baby whilst also still taking a full part in the MBA. She always adds very interesting and insightful comments to every lecture, take a very active role in group work and our cohort, and is one of the people I have learnt most from on the course. The fact she is single-parenting during the week is completely inspiring and I take energy and inspiration from her every day!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My colleague, peer, and friend at my previous company, Kate Coyne, is the reason I am doing this MBA. I had always known that MBAs existed, but I never imagined I would be able to do one myself. Kate was the person who made me realise it was a possibility, that I had something to offer and that an MBA was an accessible thing – not just for ‘other people’. She and I sat next to each other every day at work for two years and discussed and challenged each other on our work, environment we were working in, and the world outside. We were both ambitious but eternally curious, acknowledging that we had so much to learn to be the leader that we both wanted to be. She also made me realise that an MBA was the best way of learning everything I wanted to learn and needed to learn to become the leader I wanted to be. I am only here because of those challenging and eye-opening conversations, and her encouragement and drive to never accept things the way they are.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Firstly, I would like to manage a big change project successfully. Change is a very hard thing to get right, but it really impacts employees’ everyday lives. I would like to manage a big change and know that I have done it well; to ensure that the employees were at the centre of that change programme and I reduced the negative impact it had upon employees as much as possible. Secondly, I would like to have the opportunity to manage a global expansion project. I am so fascinated about the world and how businesses must adapt to new environments that I think it would be an amazing challenge and learning curve to support a business in doing that.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like them to remember me as energetic, curious and hardworking, but always with time for anyone if they ever needed anything.

Hobbies? Playing the cello in the University of Warwick Symphony Orchestra, watching rugby, running, reading historical novels and cooking for friends.

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

“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Charlotte is ‘energy’. She is very positive, humorous and somebody who demonstrates an absolute curiosity about everyone she works, every subject and everything she is doing.

“Charlotte has been very vocal from the start about appreciating the opportunity of doing an MBA and how fortunate she is to be doing one, and that positivity, optimism, and open-mindedness feed others on the programme.

“She maintains a pace that allows her to stay on top of everything from a social and academic perspective and from a desire to move to the next best job she can. Charlotte has been great at bringing the MBA group together, building relationships, and keeping everybody in a positive frame of mind. She has used sport to do that organising a weekly run at the park for the cohort and squash.

“Right at the start of the year, she organised a huge party for the Rugby World Cup final as she is a big rugby fan. We have a lot of international students and she wanted to introduce them to English culture and this was a great way of doing it. She worked tirelessly to book a lecture theatre and get a big screen organise; she made bacon sandwiches for everybody – a true English delicacy – sausage sandwiches, cooking hours beforehand to get them ready. It wasn’t just students, but staff and parents of students came along as well. It was a fantastic atmosphere and everybody loved it, it was a great way of bringing people together.

“It was an early demonstration of how Charlotte values people and connections. She is somebody who really wants to give back and make an impact. She mentored two youngsters from West London affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster, supporting them through their education challenges and career opportunities.

“She is always looking out for other people and keeping them involved, she is the Ambassador for the MBA trip to Vancouver and will make sure everybody is positive and upbeat on that trip – she is a great addition to the cohort and our school.”

Catherine Wiggins
CareersPlus Coach


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