Imagine London as a word cloud. Chances are, it would include all the landmarks: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, and The Underground. People would cite black cabs and double-decker buses, fish and chips with ale, rowboats in Hyde Park, and clippers along the Thames. Don’t forget rain, royals, and pigeons too.
Most picture history and tradition, culture and sophistication – a city home to 300 languages.
Before COVID, London featured a combined 40,000 musical and theater performances annually, along with over 850 art galleries and 200 festivals. In other words, London is where people go, things happen, and fortunes change.
ACCESS TO THE WORLD’S TOP COMPANIES
MBA students have a different take on London. Just ask the Class of 2021 from Imperial College Business School. Alberta Asafo-Asamoah, an analyst and entrepreneur from Ghana, calls London an “epicentre of multiculturalism.” Spandan Shah has spent the past five years working for KPMG in London. He notes that the city draws students from over 200 countries, which enables MBAs to tap into an array of different perspectives and experiences, Shah explains. That’s just one benefit.
“It is one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the world,” he adds. “Studying in London gives you an opportunity to establish an international network, whilst at the same time enjoying an exciting social life.”
Before business school, Madhav Mahendra worked as a senior associate in one of India’s largest asset management firms. He notes that London boasts some of the globe’s largest investment banks and venture capital firms, with names that include Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Lloyds Banking Group, Octupus Ventures, and Balderton Capital. That’s just finance! Venture into the city and you’ll quickly run into Fortune 500 powerhouses like BP, GlaxoSmithkline, Unilever, Prudential, and Vodafone.
“As an international business and finance hub, London gives MBA students access to the world’s leading companies, and many opportunities in Europe,” writes Shannon Wong, an investment banker from Hong Kong. “London is where many renowned technology and financial companies’ headquarters are based. Additionally, numerous fast-growing technology and fintech startups have set up their offices in London. There are plentiful opportunities for students to reach out to or network with these companies to secure internship or full-time offers.”
“YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU WILL MEET AT A PUB HERE”
Ronald Johnson II, a senior operations officer in the U.S. Army, boils London’s assets into three distinct buckets: diversity, resources, and access. In London, he observes, MBAs can cultivate a global mindset and communicate cross-culturally without leaving the UK.
“Studying here is a great opportunity to increase your cultural intelligence and your capacity for empathy as we all try to make the world a more inclusive and understanding place,” he observes. The resources in this city are endless – the financial institutions, human talent, and simply the creative inspiration. Whatever you need to propel your career forward is in this city. Lastly, access to politicians, global business professionals, and global academic minds is unmatched. Personally, I have already culturally immersed myself in the city with my classmates, tapped into the academic minds on campus, and met several professionals in my industry while grabbing a pint. You never know who you will meet at a pub here.”
And Imperial is right in the middle of it all. Sitting next to the museum quarter of South Kensington, the business school is just a 20 minute drive to the Financial District. This strategic location, explains Olivia Xu, enables MBAs to capitalize on a range of professional and recreational possibilities.
“From the beginning of the programme, I have been using my candidacy at Imperial to network and interview at companies that I would not have had access to otherwise. Along the same vein, I live close to a charity shop, so I am able to volunteer there once or twice a week, which has been an incredible opportunity to learn about how a second hand shop operates, as well as give back to the community. Besides coursework, I have filled my days off with sightseeing and learning about London’s rich history. There is plenty to do both by yourself and with classmates!”
QUARTER MILLION AND BILLION DOLLAR DEALS
Those Imperial classmates include Teniola Esan, a practicing attorney. He was once given the honor of ringing the closing bell of the Nigerian stock exchange. Another claim to fame? He acted as general counsel for a $2 billion dollar real estate deal for a royal family in West Africa!
Esan wasn’t alone in racking up big numbers. In six months, Joanne Long built one of the world’s thirty-largest crypto currency trading platforms, one that has grown to 350,000 users. In contrast, Madhav Mahendra left behind promising professional paths in aeronautical engineering and cricket to pursue banking. Turns out, it was the best career decision he could’ve made.
“My most notable accomplishment was acquiring a £50 million mandate six months into my role as an analyst,” he writes. “Although I would go on to acquire larger accounts and add over £250 million to the firm’s AUM, there is something oddly satisfying about my first mandate. It was possibly the fact that mandates of this magnitude were usually associated with senior management and I was only a few months into my first job.”
NOT AFRAID TO MAKE CHANGES…OR FACE STEEP LEARNING CURVES
The Class of 2021 didn’t just excel in finance. Before business school, Jayshan Ratnakumar was responsible for developing steam-turbogenerators for the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent submarines. After that, he led an engineering team in developing generator technologies for wind turbines. Aoife Considine also cut her teeth in engineering. She became the first person to lead professional engineering at Heathrow Express…and she did it before she had even turned 30! Alberta Asafo-Asamoah found her calling in education. She launched AlgebrainTheCity, a learning center and curriculum designed to boost educational performance in math and English by low income students.
Vatshalan Santhirapala also answered a call to serve. Holding a medical degree from Imperial College and a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard, this research fellow headed to rugged and rural South India to put his ideas to the test. “[My biggest achievement was] working with Ashwini hospital in the Nilgiri mountains of India to design novel models of anesthesia care delivery and improve access to safe surgery for the local tribal population. The experience completely re-framed my view of “global health” and delivered tangible impact for the end users of the health service.”
For many, the road to the Imperial hasn’t been easy. Teniola Esan watched his first startup fail – an experience that taught him that success wasn’t merely a by-product of “passion and technical know-how.” Eugenia Sepulveda transitioned from not-for-profit to big tech. It was a move that entailed leaving behind a leadership role in favor of a junior position – and one that led her to become one of Uber’s top performers in Latin America. Then again, Shannon Wong made the move from liberal arts major to assistant vice president in an investment bank. How did she do it? Simple: she studied like crazy…and relied on peers to fill her remaining knowledge gaps.
“Without relevant undergraduate study or work experience, I experienced a steep learning curve as a lot of the work was fast-paced and highly technical. I felt out of place, and many senior colleagues were often too busy to help me out,” she admits. “For me, overcoming challenges outside my comfort zone has made me a more resilient, mature and a confident person. I have also become a strong believer in each individual’s ability; hence, I am incredibly passionate about helping my peers or my juniors to grow professionally.”
WHO NEEDS THE BEACH WHEN YOU HAVE INCREDIBLE MINDS AROUND YOU?
Outside Imperial, Aoife Considine has appeared on two engineering-themed TV shows – including one where she spent a week in the mountains living with five other engineers. Teniola Esan has also enjoyed a bit of celebrity. At 15, his rock band garnered a couple of hits and wrangled an endorsement deal form Nokia. Speaking of artistic talents, Jayshan Ratnakumar plays the classical flute (and builds drones). And how is this for a paradox?
“Even though I practiced ballet for 14 years, I have no rhythm,” writes Eugenia Sepulveda.
What led the Class of 2021 to Imperial College? For Luke Lindsay, an American manufacturing engineer, an MBA was a means to snag “a seat at the executive table.” “That may be a few roles away, but an MBA is the next big step towards getting there,” he jokes. Aoife Considine, a fellow engineer, also views business school as a long-term investment. For her, hitting the pause button and returning to class offered a time to reflect and answer questions many avoid amid a whirlwind of deadlines and demands.
“Pursuing an MBA gives me that pause to step back, evaluate, and look at the bigger picture of what I want to ultimately achieve,” she explains. “Some people might choose to travel the world for a year to figure out the answer to that question. For me however, I thought I’d double down and build a strong business foundation while figuring out the next steps. While my option is arguably the more expensive one, it’s a choice I couldn’t be happier with – who needs tropical beaches for inspiration when you can have a cohort of over 50 incredible minds alongside world class lecturers to guide you towards your goals?”
* To read 13 in-depth profiles of Imperial College Business School MBA candidates, go to page 3.
* To read our exclusive interview with school leaders, go go to page 2.