2023 MBA To Watch: Joe Blackburn, Alliance Manchester

Joe Blackburn

Alliance Manchester Business School

“Positive, direct, honest and fun Mancunian who absolutely loves football and musicals in equal measure.”

Hometown: Manchester, UK

Fun fact about yourself: I have seen Les Miserables on stage 12 times.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Newcastle University in the UK, Geography

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? BCL Legal, the market-leading legal recruitment consultancy in the UK.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? The Highbourne Group/City Plumbing. National role

Where will you be working after graduation? I am currently applying to commercial and strategic roles in my desired sectors which are: retail & trade, sports, music and entertainment.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Nominated VP for Social

Captain of football team

Runner-up in Venture Capital Investment Competition

Contributor and volunteer at Manchester homeless charity, The Booth Centre.

2x Manchester Matters speaker

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Finally achieving my lifelong dream of becoming an international footballer (when attending the football competition at the MBA Tournament in Paris) was pretty special, but I am most proud of finishing runner up in the Venture Capital competition. With my lack of finance experience, it was particularly challenging, and I learned so much. I had an amazing team that I loved working with and feel we were unlucky not to get the win!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of many things in my career: graduating into a permanent position from my first grad scheme in a FTSE-250 business, speaking at a conference of 120+ lawyers, and earning my first real promotion. Most of all, though, I am proud of being entrusted to start a team at my former workplace, managing people who were entirely new to the industry and building it from scratch to a successful department.

Why did you choose this business school? I first looked at the Alliance Manchester Business School because my dad attended the MBA here back in the 90s. He achieved all his dreams post-MBA so I hoped I could do the same. I was happy to find out it has improved up the rankings since then, and so the decision was made easy to stay in my home-city of Manchester.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Jenni Rose, our first finance professor. Jenni has managed to design the course in a way that makes accounting fun! My main worry before starting at AMBS was my lack of financial experience and thought it would be an area I was behind most of the cohort. The original accounting course was both fun and informative. It went at a slow enough pace that even with a complete lack of understanding beforehand, I was able to catch up with my colleagues in preparation for the rest of the MBA.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Practical Investing, led by Patricia Perlman-Dee. She has excellent previous experience in the field and so had some amazing insight. The course was a great blend of theory and practical and so I learned a lot. Hopefully, it will pay off in my personal investments over the coming years!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have taken part in more competitions. Due to adjusting to my new surroundings and getting back into the groove of assignments and projects, I stayed away from competitions early on in the MBA. The couple that I have taken part in have been some of the most memorable times of my MBA, and so I wish I had done more.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Manchester has actually been disproved by my MBA cohort. Here in England, they say there are no United fans in Manchester, and that City is the local persons team. Of the three genuine Mancunians in our course, 2 are United fans and only 1 is City. A resounding victory for the red side of Manchester.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I’m not sure where to start with this one; there are many things I love about my city of birth (although I am a little biased). I think the best thing is the people. Manchester is becoming more and more diverse as it grows as the largest city outside of London, but it has retained its friendly, welcoming, Northern spirit, a sentiment that I know any of my cohort will agree with.

What surprised you the most about business school? I did not expect to learn as much from my colleagues as I did from the professors themselves. I thought that the idea of learning from within the cohort was just jargon used, but the diversity of the cohort, and working in teams so regularly with people from very different industries and background has meant I have learned so much that I would never have been able to access staying in my former career.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spoke to as many people as possible, alumni and current and former staff in order to ensure I was a good fit, and how to best position myself.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Yunzhi Yu.

Yunzhi is a member of my final (and most important) project team for our International Business Project and as such I am currently working with her almost every day. She is a Chinese student who came over here in what was effectively mid-Covid. I cannot imagine travelling so far and to such a different culture, whilst also taking on an MBA, and she has done such a great job of taking on all the Manchester culture that she can! She is one of the most hard-working people I’ve worked with and is generally great to be around.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. I want to work in international strategy
  2. I want to be a CEO

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

“As a local student, Joe played an important role from the beginning of his MBA programme to help his international classmates settle into life at Manchester. He is a people-person, evident by his successful election by his class to one of two Vice President Social roles on the MBA Student Council. Joe has liaised well with his council peers and within the class to help arrange several social events to bring his classmates together outside of the class, which is very important for wellbeing and the holistic student experience. He has shown a positive, engaged attitude and I am sure will go on to a bright future.”

Naomi Blackwell
Assistant MBA Director


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