2023 MBA To Watch: Chris Holmes, Imperial College

Chris Holmes

Imperial College Business School

“Clean energy and hiking enthusiast, with a weakness for good coffee and dark chocolate.”

Hometown: London, UK

Fun fact about yourself: I partially got over my fear of sharks by scuba diving with them – Sharks are slightly less scary when you’re under the water. I’ve also lived in the UK, China and Australia, and sometimes speak with a slightly Australian accent – it’s infectious!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Durham University, Masters in Mechanical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Arcadis Gen, Project Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I started my 1-year MBA in September 2022. I was working and planning start-up ideas for clean energy businesses at the time.

Where will you be working after graduation? I plan on working at a clean energy business in a commercial management role, but I am also open to roles in energy transition strategy.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I’ve entered a team into the Climate Investment Challenge. This is an exciting global competition where teams provide innovating financial ideas to fight climate change. I’m also the Business Lead on a consulting project to help a major renewable energy company develop a strategy to succeed in the growing hydrogen power market – which is another fantastic opportunity the programme supports. As an active member of the Energy, Sustainability and Consulting clubs, I’ve been involved in setting up events such as a panel discussion on the impacts of COP27 in the industry – the student-led events really bring in a lot of interesting speakers in sustainability, innovation, and technology, and are a real credit to Imperial College Business School.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Representing Imperial College Business at the Shaping Future Governments challenge, at the world government summit in Dubai, was a fantastic experience. Here, I worked with four other MBA students, Enrico, Nabila, Jose and Aarushi, (and Professor Jonathan Pinto), to develop a new digital rights charter for the United Nations. It was a fascinating challenge, an opportunity to meet other Business and Public Policy students from universities around the world and attend talks, conferences, and events from leading government experts around the world.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest achievement was as Programme Manager at Arcadis Gen, I led a 25-person global team to build and implement a £3 million+ data analytics software solution for a major infrastructure client. It was challenging, but a lot of fun working with great technical, product, and commercial teams and leading everyone towards a common goal.

Seeing the Elizabeth Line in London commissioned is very cool, since I spent the first 2 years of my career as a graduate engineer working on the design and construction of the tunnel section. It’s great to see yourself make a real physical impact, even if relatively small!

Why did you choose this business school? Imperial College London is the world leader in entrepreneurship and technology, and this is exactly the blend of skills business leaders need most to solve challenges in the energy transition. I’m an engineer and project manager by background and want to make an impact in clean energy. Therefore, Imperial College Business School made perfect sense. Imperial also has a proven ability to develop start-ups in the sector such as Bramble Energy and Breathe Battery Technologies, so it gives you successful examples of what you can do coming out of the programme. If you’re interested in this, the ‘Entrepreneurial Journey’ module gives you a great chance to learn and try your business building skills.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Franklin Allen is not only a leading global expert in finance, but also an excellent teacher and somehow brings a humour to corporate finance. I really enjoyed his first course so much; he talked me into signing up for a further two electives focused on clean tech investments and sustainable finance, which is not what I thought I was going to do heading into the course!

What was your favorite course as an MBA? So far, innovation and entrepreneurship has been my favourite. Professor Michelle Rogan built the course with a great blend of theory and case studies, giving us a great understanding of intrapreneurship within big companies and entrepreneurship within start-ups and scale ups (which is exactly what I was looking for). Not to mention, the food truck simulation was a fun chance for the class to compete against each other selling ice creams…

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Winter Ball at the Natural History Museum is a school highlight. Imperial College Business School hires the whole museum, which is just down the road from the school, and the many exhibits and rooms all are lit up for a great party. It was quite surreal dancing under the famous blue whale.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Only being halfway through, I don’t have any real regrets, but I will be making sure that I spend as much time as possible socialising, working, and interacting with all the great people on the MBA. I’ve made great friends on the cohort and I will definitely miss the people the most when the MBA finishes – hopefully most people will be in London afterwards!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Quite a few people coming from abroad were surprised at how green London is – with Hyde Park just 5 minutes’ walk away, and some great parks around London, it’s actually a very green city.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Well, I grew up in north London, so I am a bit biased, but what is great about London is the sheer variety of things to do on every day of the week. From weekday comedy clubs, and fantastic Thai, Turkish, and Chinese food, to great bars theatre and year-round sports, you can never get bored in London.

What surprised you the most about business school? How fantastic the rest of the cohort is. I’ve really enjoyed how much of a family feel it has, how supportive everyone is, and how many inclusive events people organise – from weekly food clubs to a Diwali boat party – everyone is keen to share their own culture, and experience others.

Second, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the quality of excellence and teaching at the faculty is superior. There is Professor Franklin Allen, who taught at Wharton for 36 years and teaches from the book he co-authored; Professor Jonathan Haskell, a leading British economist, who advises the National Statistics Authority and the Bank of England; Dr Michelle Rogan, who taught for 11 years at INSEAD; and Dr Ian Mackenzie, who is an ex-professor at Harvard Business School and ex-BCG.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? It was talking to Imperial Alumni, researching extensively online, and really understanding what made Imperial special – technology, innovation and finance – then building my preparation around that. Understanding in detail what I could offer the Business School, and how to best express how it would help me take the next step in my career, made my personal statements and interviews compelling.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It would be Felicity Box, who is not only fully involved in the MBA journey but is also president of the Dean Student Advisory Council at Imperial. It’s inspiring that Felicity gives a lot of her time to helping improve the student experience at Imperial College Business School and does it in such a positive and collaborative way. Also, Felicity always brings interesting insights to class on the balance between profit and purpose, which is such an important point, if we want our businesses to have a positive impact on the world going forward.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d love to lead the development or commercialisation of a new technology or business model in clean energy that I see makes an impact in decarbonising our energy system. I’d also like to tackle energy challenges all over the world, particularly in Australia and Norway, because they’ll be so involved in offshore wind and hydrogen, these are also countries I’d love to live in.

What made Chris such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Chris Holmes is a stand-out student in his cohort – he is fully engaged with his programme, as well as extra-curricular activities. He is a pro-active advocate for sustainability and fighting climate change alongside his studies, making him an excellent role model to his peers. We have been impressed with his work on the Climate Investment Challenge and his active membership of the Energy, Sustainability and Consulting club. He provides an excellent example to others of leveraging opportunities outside of the classroom. We are very excited to see what Chris goes on to achieve.”

Markus Perkmann
Academic Director of the Imperial MBA 
Academic Director of the Imperial Enterprise Lab

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