“Entrepreneur, service-leader, adventurer, people-person. Pursuing new ways to deliver enduring impact and purpose.”
Hometown: London, United Kingdom
Fun fact about yourself: I spent seven years in the British Army. In that time, I led servicemen and women in a variety of roles from combat reconnaissance to military intelligence. My work took me far-and-wide: African game parks, Middle Eastern deserts, the Canadian prairie, up alpine and Rocky Mountain peaks, and in post-Soviet Eastern European cities. I also commanded a division of ninety horse-mounted ceremonial guards on HM The Queen’s birthday parade.
Undergraduate School and Degree: Durham University (UK) – History, International Relations and Economics
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? After leaving the Army in 2019, I joined KPMG International’s Global Cyber Security team as a programme growth and consulting manager. It was a career opportunity that I embraced because it exposed me to the intersection of several exciting industries and trends, and leveraged my risk-management and leadership experience in a role that promised me a new commercial education. I also respected the mission-driven culture and business vision of the team’s leadership, and the great people in the team.
I managed consulting projects and internal initiatives across technology, life sciences, and financial services sectors. My team also set a new Guinness World Record for a marathon learning initiative that taught online safety to over 120,000 children in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I interned at DVG Partners, a veteran-led private equity and venture capital search fund focusing on the US lower-middle market. I was drawn to DVG because it is a conscientious company that believes that values-driven leadership underpins equity growth creation. Its partners operate a business model that places high-performing veteran CEOs (typically with MBAs) in businesses that can benefit from savvy strategic decision-making and high-energy, passionate leadership who embody selflessness, grit and determination to succeed. I worked across the US conducting origination and due diligence analysis on potential acquisition targets, and as a de-facto Chief of Staff responsible for introducing and delivering new strategic projects for portfolio company CEOs. This included working for an environmental services portfolio company to identify new adjacent markets to enter, before pitching my ideas to the company Board for approval to execute.
Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation, I plan to found a new venture with a compelling impact proposition. In February, I joined Antler’s London venture capital accelerator programme as a founder. Antler is a global early-stage VC firm on a mission to fundamentally improve the world “by enabling and investing in the world’s most exceptional people building the defining companies of tomorrow”. Antler enables its founders to build impactful and ground-breaking technology startups by helping them form complementary co-founder teams, supporting teams with deep business model validation, and by providing a global platform for scaling startups to maximise their impact. I am currently working on a cleantech idea to help solve the UK’s plastic waste predicament.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: LBS’s greatest strength is its community, and I am particularly proud to have been chosen to lead the School’s Military in Business Club (the largest MBA military club in Europe). In this capacity, I support veterans from all over the world transition into the private sector by managing relationships with top post-MBA employers including investment banks, tech unicorns, and strategy consulting firms, and running clinics and interview practice sessions. I also helped lead the club’s impact consulting project, sponsored by McKinsey & Company, to help develop a new business strategy for an international disaster-relief charity, and to give students a brilliant opportunity to work on a challenging project supervised by and using the tools of some of the best consultants in the world.
As an LBS scholar, I also support veteran scholarship applications, as well as helping other prospective students prepare for LBS applications. I have also used my previous consulting experience to contribute to student recruitment preparation and in a Bain-sponsored student impact project to support a COVID-19-critical UK hospital with a challenging relocation.
Outside of my MBA, I continue to lead a team as a military reservist volunteer, and I am a serving member of the Independent Monitoring Board for Wandsworth Prison where my team monitors the day-to-day life of one of the largest prisons in the UK to ensure the fair and humane treatment of prisoners and detainees.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last year, I volunteered to lead a Turner MIINT impact investment team to compete in the world’s largest impact investing competition. I am proud to have built the team and driven the progress of the winning entry in the 2021 LBS competition. I was drawn to the competition because it offered a holistic learning experience, including helping a startup overcome obstacles to success, pitching, and fundraising and using new methods for quantifying both company value and impact. After interviewing a plethora of different startups, we chose to represent the brilliant SafetyNet Technologies (SNTech), a revolutionary startup that delivers precision fishing tech products to monitor fish stocks in near real-time, make fishing discriminate and perform the right interventions to protect delicate marine ecosystems.
We helped SNTech with MBA business support, successfully pitched their business to scores of investors and judges through the competition rounds, and were selected to pitch in the global finals hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2019, while working as a consultant in London, I was asked to lead a project with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to support the London Crisis Team manage and prepare for the impact of COVID-19. As de-facto Chief of Staff, I supported senior NHS leadership and clinicians in the development of the initial crisis team and high-temperature operational plans necessitated by the significance of the challenge. This included coordinating multiple projects involving a wide range of governmental and private stakeholders, and included helping build the UK’s largest ICU hospital from scratch within an urgent two-week timeline, as well as the consolidation of much-needed emergency staff, equipment, and resources.
I am proud to have been part of a project that, though demanding, was so fundamental to saving lives in the initial battle against COVID-19 and in support of the incredibly brave and dedicated frontline health workers. It was also a project in which I was proud to draw on my previous military and consulting experience to apply the leadership, teamwork, operational planning, and logistical execution skills that I had developed in my professional history.
Why did you choose this business school? As an aspiring entrepreneur, it was important for me to study in London, the top destination for startup capital in Europe. LBS’s outstanding academic curriculum and extracurricular opportunities have strong roots in the British capital, and I was delighted to learn from professors and speakers with experience directly relevant to my career plans. I also was able to participate in numerous projects with VCs and startups across London, giving me brilliant hands-on experience alongside an invaluable network of investors and entrepreneurs.
As a Londoner myself, I was delighted to act as an ambassador for the city, but I also wanted an MBA programme where I had the opportunity to balance relevant career development opportunities with diverse and international opportunities to learn from others. LBS has an extraordinarily diverse student body, and I learned an enormous amount from the abundance of different backgrounds and experiences among my student colleagues. My first term study group, for instance, included students from Mexico, Thailand, Belgium, India, and America. I also benefitted from LBS’s international outlook when it came to my studies, including participating in a Fall Term exchange programme with MIT Sloan and studying overseas courses in Dubai and Miami. These international opportunities have given me access to great, new learning opportunities, courses and teaching methods, and exposure to new commercial landscapes, perspectives, and networks, not to mention new friends from all around the world.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? LBS’s highly international outlook and commitment to diversity of experience are reflected in its annual exchange programmes. I was fortunate enough to have been able to study at MIT Sloan School of Management and as a cross-registered student at Harvard Business School during my LBS international exchange programme. As an aspiring entrepreneur, the opportunity to study and share new ideas, technologies, and sources of capital with other students and professors was an exciting complement to my academic, social, and extracurricular exploration of entrepreneurship in London. I am also thrilled to be participating in LBS’s postgraduate design exchange programme with the Royal College of Art in the summer term ahead.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? For a transitioning veteran with comparatively limited commercial experience, the opportunities presented by LBS are vast. I have occupied my time taking part in student mentoring, impact and investing projects; participating in joint programmes with other leading universities; interning at two exciting high-growth startups and a PE/VC fund in the US; studying new and demanding academic subjects; and trading entrepreneurial ideas with my peers; and working towards career personal development in two of LBS’s future leaders’ programmes – LBS has enough on offer to fill several MBA programmes. If I was to do anything differently, it would be to carve out more occasions to think and reflect on my learnings and decisions ahead, to spend more time having fun with my friends, and to switch off and enjoy the company of the great people on the course.
What is the biggest myth about your school? I had heard that most business school students are highly competitive and that studying with MBAs could be an enormously pressurized experience with a lot of ego and judgement on show. However, my fellow students have been the antithesis of what I expected. I have met generosity and collaboration at every turn in my programme, and I have found exam revision, recruitment preparation and coping with failure. My involvement in challenging extracurricular projects all to be “sports” habitually played as a team. LBS’s MBA programme is above all a collaborative experience, and its students, diverse in background but collaborative in nature, are the greatest testimony to the school’s strong reputation.
What surprised you the most about business school? It was how much I have learned from my fellow MBAs. I expected to be impressed and kept busy by LBS’s MBA programme, but I was pleasantly surprised about how many academic and professional development opportunities were student-led. I have learned a great deal from other students socially, but also by participating in club events, competitions, professional placements and projects, conferences and entrepreneurship accelerators all initiated by the student body.
What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Before applying, I took the time to compare and get to know the different business schools in which I was interested. This involved speaking widely to MBA candidates, meeting representatives of student clubs, and speaking to admissions and faculty staff to really understand what made each school special. This helped my application and interviews because I was able to clearly articulate not only why LBS was the best school for me, but why my personal story and aspirations made me a good fit.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Robbie Laing is a fellow former Army officer and MBA2022. Robbie brings the best of the military with him to his MBA programme. He is a leader by example who has consistently volunteered to lead and contribute to projects with dedication and tenacity, including a McKinsey & Company impact consulting project the Military in Business Club conducted for an international disaster relief charity. Robbie succeeded in receiving an offer to work at a top strategy consulting firm post-graduation and has been tireless in supporting other students with recruitment preparation – his commitment to helping others and sharing his success has been definitive. Furthermore, Robbie is a new father, and his seemingly effortless ability to excel across opportunities provided by the programme, while helping other students, and juggling his responsibilities as an exemplary parent makes him a true role model for those with ambitions to balance a loving and dedicated family life with an ambitious and fulfilling career.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? During the summer of 2020, my good friend Albany Mulholland, an MBA2022 at MIT Sloan School of Management, sent me the LBS MBA application form and challenged me to give him a good reason not to apply. Albany’s professional career has been typified by his indefatigable determination to seize the day and any opportunities life presents him with. He was kind enough to share with me his conviction that an MBA programme at a great school would significantly expand my opportunity horizon and was within my grasp. Without his advice, I may not have considered joining a leading MBA programme as either a feasible or financially viable life decision. Albany will be joining a top strategy consulting firm post-graduation, but also harbours future entrepreneurial ambitions.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
1. Run a successful company alongside brilliant and mission-driven entrepreneurs, which manages to deliver compelling impact in lockstep with value creation.
2. Invest in brilliant new entrepreneurs and impact ventures with ambitions to find solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.
How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? As an aspiring entrepreneur, I have noticed with interest a new leadership approach emerging in companies that have succeeded and been most cherished by their employees during the pandemic. This has included a flattening of hierarchies and a reframing of who we consider our “valued workers”; a heightened need for empathetic and compassionate management and an appreciation that external stresses and uncertainty are exacerbated when managers fail to listen and balance professional pressures; the fundamental importance of business agility, diversification and creativity to survive significant change and solve seemingly impossible problems; and finally, the importance of preserving meaningful human connections and relationships to keep employees inspired and retain customers’ trust.
This final point may prove to be particularly important and, as we pioneer progress in the metaverse, I believe it will be crucial to find original ways to protect the human connections that are critical for so many successful teams and businesses.
What made James Cochrane-Dyet such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?
“James’ journey through the MBA is inspirational. From a non-typical pre-MBA industry, James has shown that your past is not what matters. They key to James’ success on the MBA is having the right mindset, energy and passion to really make the most of his experience.
From his leadership role in the School’s Military in Business club, to his ongoing work as a military reservist; from his desire and commitment to pivot to an entrepreneurial post-MBA future, to his self-awareness and focus on empathy as a leader; from his unexpected enjoyment of Finance, to his increased understanding of the value of having a truly global perspective – James has embraced all the opportunities that the LBS MBA has opened to him. And, critically, he has done so with humility and understanding, recognizing the importance of human connections, in the midst of a pandemic that challenged this significantly.
James is an exemplary LBS MBA student, not only demonstrating our key values of being open and curious, but inspiring those around him to do the same.”
MBA Programme Director
London Business School