2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Eva Belonohy-Borba, Imperial College

Eva Belonohy-Borba

Imperial College Business School’s Global Online MBA

A life-long learner and experimental physicist recreating the process that powers the Sun.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Budapest, Hungary

Fun fact about yourself: I love languages. I spoke 5 languages fluently when graduating from high school and am currently studying Japanese and Portuguese.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Ph.D. and MSc in Physics from the Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary.

Where are you currently working? I work at the UK Atomic Energy Authority as the Deputy Coordinator of the European Team in Naka, Japan for the JT-60SA fusion project. The construction of the JT-60SA fusion experiment was completed in March 2020, and once it starts up this year, it will be the world’s most modern largest experimental fusion device. I am very excited about joining this project and contributing to the creation of a joint European-Japanese team to exploit this new fusion experiment to the fullest in the next decades.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2009, I had an opportunity to join a European training programme on the operation of fusion devices. The next year I became the physics pilot of a medium-sized fusion experiment in Germany and was selected into the best 12 out of 50 European candidates to train on the world’s largest fusion experiment in the United Kingdom. I excelled in the training and fast-tracked to achieve my full physics pilot license in four years. Working in the control room, creating fusion plasmas hotter than our Sun is the most exciting work I had done. I moved to the United Kingdom permanently and coordinated the elite group of European physics pilots here for seven years. In 2017, I was selected as the youngest member of the advisory board on operations for ITER, the world’s first international experimental fusion reactor.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program?

As a scientist, I knew Imperial College for its rich history in research and innovation in the STEM fields. I was delighted to find out more about its business school and innovative learning environment. I decided to join Imperial College and have thoroughly researched leading part-time MBA programmes. The university provided me the full package:

  • Its reputation of being one of the global top 10 universities.
  • STEM focus. The ability to learn from its world-class leading research, connect to its professors and alumni.
  • Flexible and adaptable MBA programme that only required one-week on campus at the start and end of the programme. The rest of the modules could be done completely online. There was a versatile range of onsite, global, glocal, or online electives as well as the opportunity to do electives at partner universities.
  • Strong focus on self-awareness and self-development with the Personal Leadership Journey being an integral part of the MBA. An attentive Careers team with broad experience available at short notice.
  • A very diverse and global cohort. As travel was not a restriction, our 80-person cohort was made up of a multitude of cultures, industries, languages, and personalities. It was a pleasure to get to know them and learn so much from each of them.
  • There was a large number of initiatives, seminars, clubs, and student research and entrepreneurship programmes that we could participate in even as online MBA students. I joined one of the data analytics consulting projects in my second year.
  • The user-friendly, innovative learning interface called The Hub was one of the decisive points for me. I was able to test it before my application and it was far better than any I have used in MOOCs before.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? When I joined Imperial College Business School, I expected to learn from world-class professors. What I did not expect, especially from an online programme, was the strong personal connections and friendships I have made with many students from the cohorts. We were there for each other through ups-and-downs, to cheer and support each other for life events as well as the MBA through our WhatsApp group. People visited each other in various parts of the world. Exams were day-long celebrations as the cohort finished in Asia first, followed by Europe and the Americas. Even one year after completing the MBA, we still frequently catch up through messages and calls.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? The great benefit of the online environment is its flexibility and adaptability. Imperial College breaks down its modules into 10 weeks and each week into multiple bite-sized videos, articles, and interactive content. Being online, I could learn anytime and anywhere. I could read a Harvard Business Review article in my lunch break or listen to a few videos in the evening while leaving taking notes to the weekend. It also meant that in case of a business trip, I could catch up with the content in the following week. The exams felt equally hard and we sat them at our local approved universities. Being older and having a full-time job while studying made all of us more conscious of our priorities and we learned to manage our time extremely well. Finally, it was surprisingly more social and more diverse culturally and personality-wise than my previous university days.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? It would be the ability to join all extracurricular university events virtually through online streaming or recording. The preparations were already there during my MBA, and I am excited for the new cohorts who will have the chance to enjoy this. As the average age and experience level of online MBA students are higher, it would be nice to see more extracurricular programmes aimed at mid-level careers or higher.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Doing an MBA part-time while working full-time gave me the opportunity to implement the new skills and know-how into my work during the MBA programme. While experimenting with them, I could further seek advice from our professors and cohort. My time management and written communication skills improved greatly. I focus more on the bigger picture and actively seek out ways to add value to the organisation’s goals. The programme inspired and encouraged me to start two new initiatives at my company that I am very excited about. Near the end of my MBA, I got promoted to a new position and project. I am now expecting to move to Japan to help start-up a new large-scale fusion experiment and build the foundations for a successful joint scientific exploitation in the future.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Nuclear fusion is a process that powers the Sun and can provide a sustainable carbon-free energy source on Earth from abundant resources such as water and lithium. It can deliver a base-load supply of continuous energy complementing renewable energy sources in the future. I hope I can contribute to this effort and continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself to get outside my comfort zone. I hope to be there in an influential role when we put nuclear fusion power to the electricity grid for the first time.

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