“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson’s homage is as true today as it was in the 18th century. Back then, London was the jewel of the British Empire, a brightly lit mix of brick and cobblestone, crowded, and noisy…a bit grimy, too. Today, London remains teeming with possibilities. There is history and culture, of course — along with high pay and career growth.
Opportunity, energy, diversity: Who could be bored in London? There is always something happening — and you can always find a tribe who shares your experiences and passions.
THE PLACE TO BE
Let’s go down the list. London boasts a population that speaks up to 300 languages. With that many nationalities — and 18,000 restaurants — let’s just say the cuisine extends far beyond fish and chips and meat pie. It includes 800 art galleries, 350 music venues, and 200 museums, creating a seamless transition from Monet to Hirst, opera to reggae, and National Gallery to Natural History. The city’s sprawling transportation system, highlighted by red buses and The Tube, make it easy to get around London Town. If you ever need to leave, Heathrow covers 200 destinations.
Contrary to its Dickensian “Big Smoke” reputation, green space now makes up 40% of the city.
When it comes to education, London is home to 45 universities and 300,000 students, a third of whom hail from outside the UK. One of those institutions is the London Business School, one of the premiere full-time MBA programs in the world. Here, business students can capitalize on nearly every conceivable career path or industry. After all, London is the headquarters for 17 Fortune 500 companies, including Unilever, Barclays, HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, and Prudential. That doesn’t count the London-based outposts of nearly every major company, with Google recently socking a billion dollars into its million square foot King’s Cross UK headquarters (replete with basketball courts, massage tables, and nap pods for its 4,500 employees).
Ranking alongside New York City as the world’s top financial hub, London has also emerged as startup central. Tech startups garnered $21.3 billion dollars in investment from 2019-2020 — with another $13.3 being raked in during the first half of 2021. The city also features over 1,300 venture capital firms and over 200 incubators and accelerators. In the past year alone, three London unicorns —Revolut, Checkout.com, and Hopin — have raised a combined $1.6 billion dollars to produce a collective market value of $53 billion dollars!
“BOLD, YET REFINED”
That means connections, expertise, credibility, and jobs for London Business School MBAs. Yes, London makes for an unforgettable two years — who wouldn’t love having The Shard, The Gherkin, The Eye, or Big Ben as their backdrop every day? In the end, London simply sets up LBS grads for a greater return on investment, a chance to be an insider who can make an impact anywhere in the world.
Noam Kan, an Israeli Naval veteran and tech entrepreneur, hopes to leave his mark by commercializing a way to make oceans cleaner. In the meantime, he is looking forward to capitalizing on his surroundings as a member of LBS’ Class of 2023.
“As the buzzing business hub of Europe, with the most mature VCs and the largest number of start-ups, London is an MBA candidate’s dream — the opportunities are endless,” he writes. “There’s no better place to try different directions in your MBA journey, and experience those alternatives throughout your time at London Business School. An MBA in London is not just about sitting in class and studying; it’s about experiencing the studies and their practical applications in unison, in the heart of the city and alongside a variety of operating businesses that range from the largest to the smallest.”
London Business School itself sits on the edge of Regent’s Park, just a few minutes from the Financial District and Tech Centre — a “sweet spot” in the words of Seun Akingbogun, who moved into finance after earning her Master’s in Chemical Engineering. Her 2023 classmate, Ken Lee, has already been enjoying London life, calling it the “city that keeps giving.”
“When I walk along Regent Street, or take a boat ride down River Thames, I am reminded of the intellectual brilliance that birthed some of the world’s greatest inventions, best restaurants, influential artists, and most powerful corporations,” writes Lee, a former medic in the Singapore Air Force who became a market manager at Facebook. “London is inclusive yet diverse, bold yet refined. It is an evolving city that has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a career in private equity, to expand your family business, or to launch a start-up, the richness of London’s business landscape will provide you with opportunities.”
MORE ALIKE THAN YOU THINK
However, London Business School is more than an entry point into London’s business nobility. True to the city’s international character, the school features 67 nationalities among the 511 students in the Class of 2023. In many ways, this is in response to the global nature of the curriculum, something that served as a major draw to students like Julia Hamilton, a Goldman Sachs VP who grew up in New York City.
“The LBS curriculum is enriched in this global mindset, with core courses and electives always offering a multitude of perspectives,” Hamilton explains. “The school actively seeks out a diverse MBA class each year across a multitude of identities such as gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality and ethnicity, religion, and more. LBS also offers a language program — a powerful element of the LBS MBA…When there are more unique voices at the table, the opportunities and paths to solve a problem increase by ten-fold and having this global view at LBS is fantastic. The world is such a big place, and any great leader needs to be able to navigate a host of cultures, identities and personalities to be successful in their field.”
In the process, these leaders often connect with people who may seem entirely different on the surface. That was the case for Damilola Olagunju. Arriving in London, Olagunju hoped to learn ways to better support African micro-merchants, whom he describes as the economic “backbone” of many African countries. During orientation week, he quickly found common cause with a Colombian classmate.
“She began talking about several projects she had worked on and various ongoing initiatives in this sector of the country,” Olagunju explains. “As she spoke on, I began to realise how similar both countries are in terms of the challenges faced in the sector. From this conversation, I identified a number of innovative solutions that could have high potential at addressing the challenges faced in Nigeria if correctly replicated.”
5 STUDENTS, 5 NATIONALITIES, 5 INDUSTRIES
Hugo Winn, who earned a MSc in Politics and Communication at the London School of Economics, also lauds LBS programming like the required Global Business Experience, where students travel outside the UK to complete business projects, and a robust international exchange program. At the same time, he points to his class intake being over 90% international as a true differentiator among business schools globally.
“The variety of backgrounds among my classmates brings a wealth of different perspectives and makes discussions more interesting,” he observes. “My study group of five people has five nationalities and five different professional backgrounds. The global nature of this network will also open up new opportunities for me long into the future.”
Yes, LBS delivers a truly international class. That’s not the only measure of diversity that matters, adds Dean François Ortalo-Magné, who spoke to P&Q in May. “The school used to hand out flags to new students on Welcome Day to represent their nationalities, but many students had more than one flag. The question, ‘Where do you come from?,’ was so hard to answer. Is it where a student it born? Was educated? Has lived most of their life? Where their parents are from? The question of nationality almost became meaningless. “There is such a richness and multi-dimensionality to the diversity of our people.”
LEADERS AT FACEBOOK, GOLDMAN SACHS, AND BCG
How diverse? Just look at the professional backgrounds of the class. Start with Ken Lee, who served as Facebook’s “Quarterback” in combatting cyberbullying. He led a team of 17 peers from 17 different countries to roll out a strategy to better protect Facebook users. To do this, they customized their approach by country using “local language and cultural nuances.” Speaking of high profile assignments, Julia Hamilton led the global Pronouns Initiative at Goldman Sachs, which enabled employees to better embrace their authentic identity in the workforce.
“This initiative introduced new avenues for employees to share their pronouns via email signatures, name-tags, and “Pride Flags” to display on desktop monitors. We also created an internal website to educate employees and an external website to increase awareness amongst clients and external counterparts…We elevated the conversation on allyship to extend beyond just gays and lesbians but to be actively inclusive of our whole beautifully diverse LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, more Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming folks at the firm felt they could come out and be not just accepted but valued and celebrated.”
Lien Le exhibited that same level of leadership at the Boston Consulting Group. When COVID-19 first hit, she was selected to be part of a global BCG taskforce that evaluated how they would support clients during the disruption.
“As part of our response efforts, I helped to design, create, and populate a centralized internal site for general and industry-specific COVID-19-related materials, sourcing information and sharing guidance with BCGers across the world as we worked to provide whatever direction we could to clients and external partners. The experience could not have been more different from my usual focus in market insights for consumer goods and private equity cases, but it was deeply inspiring to see — and to help — my colleagues from around the world pull together in the face of massive tumult and uncertainty.”
Next Page: Interview with MBA Programme Director, Helen Foley
Page 3: In-depth profiles of 15 members of the Class of 2023
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