“Flexibility” is a term you’ll hear often on London Business School’s Regent’s Park campus. For some, flexibility is the ability to adjust quickly. To others, it signifies access and opportunity: sampling a wide range of options and moving at their pace – and according to their interests. Call it what you will: fluid, versatile, or receptive. In education, flexibility enables students to fit their experience to their aspirations.
It comes in all forms at LBS. In a world where speed is a differentiator, the school urges students to take it slow, to try different approaches, roles, and industries. That flexibility exactly is what brought the Class of 2022 to London, writes Sijia Hao, a financier in the clean energy industry.
A TRULY GLOBAL EXPERIENCE
“I want to use the next two years to explore multiple potential career avenues, from entrepreneurship to impact investing and get first-hand experience with different job functions across multiple industries. LBS not only provides ample resources and support for entrepreneurial endeavors, it also facilitates internships both in the summer after the first year and during the second year of school by allowing a highly customizable schedule. I have found that I oftentimes narrow in on my next job prospect by learning what doesn’t work for me, and LBS provides the opportunity to experiment in a variety of areas that interest me.”
Not surprisingly, career pivoters thrive at LBS, where they are free to explore and gain experience in the areas where they are passionate. At the same time, they are immersed in a global environment. The Class of 2022, for example, features students from 66 countries. This global exposure – amplified by a diverse faculty body and profoundly international outlook and programming – instills a broad-minded perspective that informs graduates throughout their careers.
“Having lived and worked across multiple countries in Asia, I recognized the immense value of being exposed to new frontiers,” explains Sid Singh, a 2020 LBS grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. In an increasingly interconnected business world, I believe that we grow the most while working on complex multidimensional issues. LBS provided a great platform for this. The school has a strong emerging market focus, faculty thought leadership and derives tremendous value from being in the world’s cultural capital: London.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Yes, location is part of the package too. Akhil Pawar, a project manager from India, had previously enjoyed a short stint in London. He describes it as “an evolving city” – one that “offers something for everyone – and I mean everyone.” It is a place, he adds, where the class “will never be short of new experiences.” You won’t hear any disagreement from his classmate, Sijia Hao.
“London is one of the biggest business, culture, gastronomy, and art hubs in the world, making it an epicenter for innovation. There’s no industry or activity, no matter how niche, that can’t be found in London,” she explains. “Studying in London allows me to access this hugely diverse and international range of opportunities and learning experiences. Additionally, London is a prime location that provides access to other European destinations, which allows for easy traveling for both work and play.”
The program’s flexibility is also reflected in its student-run approach. Akhil Pawar, for one, was struck by how students have a “true mandate to drive new projects and engagements entirely on their own.” In addition, the program is structured so students can choose different lengths of study, adds Tsepo Serakalala, a corporate strategist from South Africa.
“LBS gives you the option to complete your degree after 15, 18 or 21 months. This is because the 2nd year of the MBA is solely focused on electives, allowing you to take as many of the classes as you deem important for your career aspirations.”
RAISING CRICKETS…FOR FOOD
The Class of 2022 has some big and audacious goals. They must – just look at what they were doing before business school! Take Lucía Donnangelo. An economist by trade, she became the policy director for the presidential campaign of Ernesto Talvi. Here, she built a 300+ member team from scratch, managing their efforts to produce a Policy Plan in 50 areas with “clear diagnoses, achievable goals, and concrete courses of action.”
“It was a big challenge but, more importantly, an enriching and life-changing experience,” she writes. “I was entrusted to lead and, in doing so, refined my personal and professional goals. I’m grateful to have met so many people driven by the desire to contribute and impact a country’s development. It is gratifying to know that this policy unit is still active, with some of its members in government roles.”
Sijia Hao is more of a free spirit. “In this past year, I’ve worked as a line cook in a Michelin-starred restaurant, a yoga teacher to an inner-city high school’s track team, and a cricket farmer supplying crickets to local restaurants,” she writes. Before that, she managed to break into a top renewable energy startup without any formal education or experience in the field. Turns out, the job wasn’t too big for her. After all, she spent five years in the industry, even serving as a financial advisor to a multi-million dollar solar energy project.
Hao’s secret? She isn’t afraid to follow her convictions and take risks. Her latest venture is Exhibit A of her philosophy. “I left my stable, well-paying, socially-laudable job in financial advisory to pursue an uncertain, open-ended, and somewhat-strange cricket farming project, without knowing whether I would succeed or how far I could take it. I had been gestating this idea for quite some time, and it was the ultimate passion project for me because it combined my two greatest interests: sustainability and food. In the past year, I’ve established a production schedule of my stock, incorporated the business, and had been working with local chefs to develop dishes unique to the ethos of their restaurants… before ultimately shutting down the project due to mass-scale COVID-related restaurant closures.”
GOING WHERE THE ACTION IS
Alex Parker shares a similar spirit with Hao. A British Naval Architect, Parker considers his stint as a part-time chef in Mumbai restaurant as one of his biggest achievements. “It was humbling to lead a team of ten chefs and floor staff whilst they cooked and served an eight-course menu originally devised in my kitchen at home. We cooked for authors, royalty, and Bollywood actors that evening, as well as my lucky wife.”
Risk-takers abound in the Class of 2022. Alexandra Lipski founded the first social enterprise in New Zealand devoted to closing the gender investment gap. In contrast, Christine Livet joined Engineers Without Borders Canada at 22 – moving to Uganda despite never visiting Africa before.
“This experience prepared me for business school in two ways,” Livet writes. “First, l mastered the ability to work effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Second, I gained the ability to quickly adapt to new and ambiguous situations or projects, where there was little precedent or data to rely on, and having to hustle and “make things work” in very creative ways!”
Livet isn’t the only world traveler in the class. Katie Stolp focused on serving on missions she believed in. They included “free and fair web access at the Web Foundation, ending extreme poverty at the ONEpaign, promoting global trade at the U.S. Trade Representative, clearing unexploded ordnance with the U.S. State Department. Less magnanimous, but maybe more fun is my work has taken me across six continents. I’ve missed only one flight at that time.”
LOTS OF COURAGE…OR BAD JUDGMENT?
Closer to home, Emma Moberly helped develop a strategy for the Wellcome Trust, which engages in over a billion dollars on health-related charitable activities. At Bain & Company, Shalini Chudasama worked on the firm’s talent strategy for women. How about Tsepo Serakalala? He led a team that authored a $2 billion dollar government proposal – one that could yield a $40 billion return over 20 years!
Outside work, Chudasama entertains herself by juggling basketballs. Alex Parker was a quarterfinalist on the BBC’s MasterChef – and opened a living room supper club soon afterward. At 15, Lucía Donnangelo had already opened a dance academy. By the same token, Christine Livet openly admits that she is an “adventure nut.”
“I don’t have the best awareness of safety, including trying to cross Victoria Falls during rainy season, wandering too close around the open Erta Ale volcano in the middle of the night, and eating unusual things that have gone on to make me horribly sick.”
Our Meet the Class of 2022 Series
* For in-depth profiles of 11 members of the Class of 2022, go to Page 3.
* For an exclusive interview with LBS’ Admissions Director, go to Page 2.