Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Claudia Cecilia Kesala, London Business School

Claudia Cecilia Kesala 

London Business School

Cautiously optimistic

Limitlessly curious

Avidly athletic

Utterly resilient

Dutifully loyal

Immensely diligent

Abundantly cheerful

Hometown: Helsinki, Finland

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a lifelong tennis player and have always loved all forms of athletic pursuits. However, recently, I’ve discovered a rather unexpected new hobby – chess!

Undergraduate School and Major: Washington and Lee University (USA), B.Sc., Accounting and Business Administration with a Double Major in French, magna cum laude. Exchange semester at HEC Paris School of Management.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Private Equity Investment Associate at Pamlico Capital

What makes London such a great place to earn an MBA degree? London is amazingly dynamic, and that to me is what made it so compelling for pursuing my MBA. London is incredibly culturally rich. Yet, given the diversity of its ever-evolving population and its size, that richness is constantly shifting and expanding. The city also continues to command immense influence in some of the oldest powerhouse industries in the world – finance, for one – yet constantly drives enormous growth towards newer frontiers, such as its increasingly active startup ecosystem. The flexibility and global focus of LBS’ MBA program provides students with a near-infinite playground for learning, opportunity, and exploration. Stepping outside its city campus doorstep, however, that playground multiplies by a thousand-fold, with London’s centrality and easy access to all corners of the world.

London Business School is one of the most culturally and professionally diverse MBA programs in the world. How do you see these global perspectives enhancing the value of your business education over the next two years? Diversity to me means that there is no one dominant viewpoint or archetype present within a group. By default, diversity breeds growth because it forces individuals to hear, consider, and challenge ideas, opinions, and ways of living beyond their own. Business, much like anything else really – cuisine for instance – is done vastly differently around the world. Just as we find delicious dishes in every country, we find commercial ecosystems operating effectively in many ways.

What this tells us is that there are many ways to drive towards and reach success. Each of us here at LBS – from different countries, various styles of companies, and specialized industries and roles – brings unique flavours of valid modus operandi to the table. So, in each of them there will be tastes to be acquired, and lessons to be learned. The LBS program thoughtfully and thoroughly lays down the foundations of how great businesses run, but it is our interpretations of those foundations that will not only bring them to life, but most importantly allow them to evolve.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of London Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was also drawn towards LBS’s focus on student-driven leadership. The program itself incorporates numerous elements that enhance one’s management and leadership skills. I was, for instance, particularly excited by the Global Leadership Assessment for Managers (GLAM) module and the accompanying Leadership Launch journey. I see GLAM as crucial to my continuing future in private equity. It will hone my strengths and weaknesses through customized skill sessions will help to prepare me for eventually taking the lead on investment decisions and becoming an effective Board member across my portfolio.

However, I noted early on that LBS’s clubs are all student-run too – as are cohort events. This does not even include a myriad of other aspects of the LBS MBA experience, from career liaisons to academic advisory to even MBA program development efforts through a continual feedback loop between candidates and school administration. So, not only does LBS hand you leadership development opportunities on a platter, but the program’s very nature also pushes each of us to become real self-starters. By that, I mean individuals who learn to take initiative and ownership of their MBA here, and to forge their own niche if one doesn’t already exist. That to me is the real beauty of LBS. It is engrained opportunity, but simultaneously limitless capacity to expand upon that, in whatever direction is most individually compelling, productive, and impactful for us.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at London Business School? I would say there are two clubs I am equally excited by – the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club and the Women in Business (WIB) Club – for interrelated reasons. Having several years of private equity investing and M&A experience myself, my interest in PE/VC may seem at first one-dimensional. It is certainly a powerful medium for me to continue building upon my investing acumen, share my own lessons, and further expand my network in the space (especially here in London, where I’ll surely be exploring opportunities to continue my PE career post-MBA).

However, especially if I am fortunate enough to be chosen for Club leadership, it is also a prime opportunity for me to hopefully encourage more women to participate and explore investing, whether professionally or even just intellectually. This is where WIB comes in. I believe there are opportunities for further joint ventures between the two clubs through guest speakers, networking events, and the like. There is certainly room for increased female representation on investment committees and in boardrooms in all corners of the world, and I would be excited to play even a small part in making those routes more intriguing and accessible for other women!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far. Over the last five years, I’ve closed many exciting transactions, worked with some incredible management teams, and executed truly impactful projects with my portfolio companies. Still, I would say my proudest accomplishment has been revamping my last firm’s new associate training program, as well as putting together a robust proposal around restructuring and improving pieces of the holistic associate experience.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching. I’ve tutored throughout my academic career, and I actively volunteered to run the new analyst training program at the investment bank I worked at directly after university. I did the same with the new associate training program at my latest private equity fund. With this latter program, I was able to take true ownership of content direction and creation; many of the practical proposals I suggested were quickly incorporated. I’m so very proud of this undertaking, not only because it was successful, but especially because it was entirely of my own initiative. Furthermore, I was able to bring other associates’ voices to the table, give something back to a simply incredible firm, and hopefully help make future associates’ experiences there even more amazing than mine!

What do you hope to do after graduation (at this point)? My goal is to continue to advance in private equity, progressing to the investment officer level. This includes stepping up to lead deal teams; drive investment strategy via directing new opportunity sourcing; and impart more personal strategic impact on my portfolio as a formal Board Member and active thought partner to my portfolio executives. Drawing on my experience, I intend to continue investing in technology, which transcends every sector, and healthcare—especially pharmaceutical development, the forefront of medical innovation. That means driving real impact both on how we experience the world and are constantly evolving, creating runways for influential future investment and career-long learning. I also wish to evolve into a truly global career and expand my aperture into impactful international M&A. I can’t imagine a better place to prepare myself for all this than here at LBS.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into London Business School’s MBA program? At the risk of sounding cliché, I would really encourage applicants to showcase their backgrounds, skills, and passions as genuinely as possible – and to tell their story with integrity. To put it simply – avoid forcing yourself into narratives and goals that aren’t yours. It’s almost too easy during the application process to compare your own achievements and profile to those of others, and to feel compelled to embellish and modify the things you write and say to fit preconceived ideas of what the perfect LBS MBA candidate looks like. The thing is, there isn’t one, and there isn’t “a right answer” to any given MBA essay, or interview question for that matter, either.

As an institution, LBS proudly places utmost value on diversity, and even higher value on thoroughly, honestly respecting and learning from that diversity. My cohort is truly “a mixed bag” of incredibly interesting, vastly different people. It is their divergent quirks, interests, opinions, unique experiences, humour, and personalities that make them such a dynamic, enriching group to grow with for the next couple years here in London. LBS looks for individuals who bring something to the table and who are, I believe, willing to put themselves – their real selves – out there to do that and grow through embracing others doing the very same. So, just be honest and real. The rest will follow!


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