Each class brings together experienced managers, professionals and executives from around the world. They are a diverse and highly engaged group of individuals who are working at the very forefront of the rapidly changing world economy.
Hear what students and alumni have to say about the programme: the challenges, debates and what they learnt from each other.
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- Mariam Almoosawi
- Corporate Governance Manager, Abu Dhabi Ship Building
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2020)
“The EMBA-Global programme, with the best two schools worldwide, was the best programme in the market to provide me with an enriching experience.”
“Living in the UAE, I wanted to broaden my horizon beyond the region,” says Mariam Almoosawi. In her current role at Abu Dhabi Ship Building, Mariam is responsible for overseeing the company’s overall budget and leading its finance team. “I ensure efficiencies are utilised through continuous ERP system enhancements and implement LEAN principles to processes and procedures across business units,” says Mariam. She was able to build upon this knowledge with the Operations Management elective course offered by the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme between Columbia Business School and London Business School. With emphasis on how to apply LEAN principles and streamline business processes across different industries, Mariam found she was able to apply her knowledge directly from the classroom to her current role. “Every time I came for a block week, I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge that I was able to take with me and share with my colleagues, starting from the first block week,” Mariam says.
Prior to her current role, Mariam worked at the Tourism Development and Investment Company in the UAE for five years. She led significant regional cultural projects, worth more than $US1bn. However, what motivated Mariam to join the EMBA-Global programme was her goal to start her own business in the fashion industry. “The EMBA-Global programme has provided me with the knowledge on how to plan, execute, and start running a business. Moreover, it has provided me with the network from all parts of the world that will be essential to running my own business,” Mariam says.
Among the core courses taught through the programme, Mariam found Leadership and Organisational Change to be one of the most useful courses. Designed to provide students with the practical tools to influence, negotiate and lead change in organisations, the course gave Mariam insight on how organisations operate through the Alignment Model and its different components.
For Mariam, her interaction with her classmates from different industries and backgrounds has been an invaluable experience. “Coming into this programme, I never imagined that I would be able to get along with 66 individuals from different parts of the world. Yet, we were able to blend in well and act as a big family despite our various backgrounds,” says Mariam. “We would support each other in case any of us were struggling with any of the subjects by arranging private tutoring sessions. Some of us had medical emergencies, and like a family, we were there to support each other.”
“I thought travelling between New York and London would be a challenge, but it has been the best part of the programme, since I am gaining two very valuable business perspectives in real-time from world class faculty and from the numerous global perspectives from my classmates. This is a lifetime experience that you should not miss. If you ever get into the programme, then enjoy every single moment of it.”
- Alyse Vishnick
- Director, Relationship Management North America Institutional, Invesco
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2020)
“I felt the impact of the programme on my job immediately. After returning to the office after the first block week, I felt empowered.”
“While I have a liberal arts background, most of my career has been in asset management. I learned nearly all of what I know on the job and through self-teaching or post-bachelors certificate programmes. However, I wanted a formalised structure in which I could gain the knowledge and confidence I needed to perform my job well,” says Alyse. Aiming to be better versed in quantitative metrics and subjects, Alyse decided to pursue her graduate degree with the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe. She took on several quantitative courses that helped her build a solid foundation on subjects like financial modelling and valuation, building efficient portfolios, and how to question analytics to arrive at better and more informed business decisions. Taking several leadership courses, such as Executive Leadership and Leadership and Organisational Change, Alyse also learned the tools and frameworks to help assess her strengths, weaknesses and leadership style. “These courses made me pause and consider how I could incorporate these learnings to change my behaviour and approach, especially with colleagues with whom I had less in common. This has had a positive effect on external perceptions of me.”
Alyse also found the Achieving Strategic Agility and Paths to Power courses to be meaningful to her career, particularly on how to approach structuring a department, aligning incentives, networking, and building bridges among different (and sometimes opposing) groups. She is able to incorporate classroom knowledge and skills directly into her role as an Institutional Relationship Manager at Invesco. Responsible for Invesco’s North America branch on the retention of assets and cross-selling investment strategies to clients, her role requires her to be fluent in performance attribution and risk metrics, stay up-to-date on individual holdings, the macro-environment, and asset classes, and stay abreast of any developments and changes at the enterprise level. “I must also know what the consultants’ views are on the investment landscape, how they view our strategies, and what the needs are for the end investors. Anticipating client issues and proactively addressing them is also key to my role.”
On a personal level, Alyse also found that the programme changed how she saw herself. “I have more confidence in my understanding of many important financial and business areas and in my ability to multitask amid an intense environment. I have grown and no longer reside within the confines of my comfort zone, and encourage my team members to be brave enough to fail. Sometimes the best lessons are from what went wrong. Moreover, the EMBA-Global experience awakened my openness to relocating internationally, a differentiator for today’s globally tethered world.”
When joining the EMBA-Global A&E programme, Alyse knew she would expand her knowledge and horizons and grow professionally and personally as a direct outcome of the classroom instruction. However, it was the people and relationships she built that made the programme more impactful. “Both Columbia Business School and London Business School have world renowned professors who are leaders and innovators in their respective fields. However, what I failed to envision was the extent to which I would learn from my cohort, in and out of the classroom. The diversity of cultures, nationalities, religions, and industries was nothing short of spectacular. Being from and working in New York, having studied abroad in Spain and Germany, and having traveled extensively have all been wonderful experiences; however, the environment the EMBA Global A&E programme provides has exceeded all of those combined. Gaining fresh perspectives and insights with respect to how different countries conduct business across industries from executives currently living in those countries was eye opening. But the most meaningful impact has been personal. I can honestly say that I am a more well-rounded and knowledgeable individual because of these lifelong friendships. I cannot imagine my life without them. We are a network and unquestionable support system for one another. I am truly grateful.”
For incoming students, Alyse’s advice is: “Always have tenacity and prioritise. Work is taxing. School can be stressful. Family and friends deserve attention. Yet, there is only one of you and only so many hours in a day. Realise you will not likely operate at the same high level in all areas at all times once on the programme. Prioritise daily. And importantly, do not give up when overwhelmed. Keep your mind open to the learning process – it goes well beyond the classroom’s walls.”
- Daniel Menoni
- US Offshore and LatAm Distribution, Allianz Global Investors
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2020)
“Meeting the amazing cohort and learning from such a diverse group of leaders helped me better realise and develop my professional goals for the next two years and beyond.”
“I always thought I would do an MBA, but my professional career led me to move to different countries and not have the time to focus on a full-time programme,” says Daniel Menoni. As a result, Daniel began considering Executive MBA programmes, which generally provide the same breadth and depth as full-time programmes but are designed to accommodate the schedules of working executives. Daniel knew he was looking for a programme among the top business schools, but one that could also provide a truly global experience while located at the centre of finance and innovation. He found Columbia Business School’s and London Business School’s EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme to be the perfect fit. “The EMBA-Global not only fulfilled all my expectations of having a great education from two great schools in two global cities. It also gave me a unique international network and long-lasting friendships,” Daniel says.
In his current role, Daniel is responsible for international sales and business development for the global investment management unit of Allianz. Prior to Allianz Global Investors, he worked at GMTA Capital LLC, a New York-based investment company, and at Itaú Unibanco, one of the largest private sector banks in Brazil, within its international institutional sales department. Through the courses taught on the EMBA-Global programme, Daniel was looking not only to enhance his finance skills, but more importantly, to improve his leadership skills and better lead and manage people throughout his career. “I learned from key finance leaders in the M&A, value investing and asset management space, and subjects like ‘Power and Influence’, ‘Leadership and Organisational Change’ and ‘Personal Leadership and Success’ helped me develop important professional and personal values”, says Daniel.
After the first week of classes, Daniel knew that the people in this programme would make an impact on his career. “Meeting the amazing cohort and learning from such a diverse group of leaders helped me better realise and develop my professional goals for the next two years and beyond. This programme has the unique benefit of being strongly diverse, as our students are currently based in different parts of the world and travel monthly for classes,” Daniel says. Together, they worked towards managing calls on multiple time zones, and tight assignment deadlines, while juggling other professional and personal demands.
For prospective students, Daniel suggests: “Plan ahead, as it can be very demanding on your professional and personal life. But make the most of it and enjoy every minute, as it is a unique experience. And it goes by fast!”
- Beenu Arora
- Founder and CEO, Cyble
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2020)
“Whatever it is you want to do, the EMBA-Global will expand your view on how you look at the world and give you choice in how you want to utilise your core skills."
Learning and absorbing
I hail from a cyber-security background, with a bachelors degree in computer engineering. Before joining LBS, I worked for large organisations within consulting, high-tech, and telco, where I helped to build up and mature their cybersecurity capabilities.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but prior to the programme, I had never actually scaled a business for myself. Despite being an expert in my area, I realised that I lacked the skills and confidence in many other key areas of business that I’d need to make my own venture a success. This inspired me to apply to the EMBA-Global programme. It proved the perfect opportunity to develop my network and expand my knowledge in such a variety of areas. Hearing my fellow classmates’ success stories, especially the successful entrepreneurs, gave me the chance to learn firsthand from their experiences and draw on their advice. It was a great way to learn how successful companies are made and the differing approaches which allowed them to shape their business. The programme helped me to understand the fundamental business frameworks and all the intricacies, such as coming up with a business plan, understanding what a marketing strategy is and looking at revenue streams and pricing models. These were all areas that I had had no exposure to previously, and which have proved indispensable in setting up my venture.
Building something bigger
The Strategic Management course delivered by Professor Dominic Houlder was fantastic. He brought so much energy to the class and did a phenomenal job with bringing to life the case studies we worked with. Another course which I loved was Marketing Strategy with Professor Oded Koenigsberg. It helped me develop a thorough understanding of marketing essentials and gave me the knowledge I needed around pricing your work and how you look at the customer lifetime value. Columbia Business School's courses and professors were fantastic too – Corporate Finance by Jay Dahya was such a tremendous learning experience, and it helped me to understand the building blocks of valuations, capital structure etc. The VC, Private Equity and LBO course by Professor Scott Gallin was outstanding in helping me to understand the frameworks of a deal structure, and of course, the “classroom pitching experience” is unforgettable. The Napoleon Glance course by Professor William Duggan was also enlightening, and it has the potential to change your way of thinking.
In April 2019, I launched a cybersecurity startup called Cyble - a cybersecurity enterprise solution focused on providing visibility to cyber threat and risks in supply chain using automation, integration and intelligence. Supply chain cyber risk management is a growing concern for organisations further pressed with increasing regulations and compliance requirements globally. Cyble’s four-dimensional view of supply chain cyber threats and risks allows organisations to get a holistic view of supply chain threats and risks and enable them to manage them proactively – we’ve also been admitted to cybersecurity accelerator Cylon. Within three months of launching, we gained a lot of traction, including an enterprise customer; this summer we closed the second round of seed investments. We wouldn't have got this accelerated momentum without the weight of the London Business School and Columbia Business School brand on my portfolio - it allowed me access to some of the networks, especially within the VC space, who may otherwise have ignored a founder seeking counsel, and most importantly the team I was able to secure through the LBS and CBS networks. Within my cohort, I found one of my first advisors and investors, and recently, my key management staff – something that I could have never imagined would happen before joining the programme.
A helping hand
The idea for the business started at LBS when I pitched it to one of my classmates, a successful entrepreneur. Along with several mentors in my current cohort, they helped me to further refine the concept in terms of understanding where the real problem is, and how it could be solved. It has been an enormous advantage to be surrounded by people who are so supportive and experienced. They knew how to shape the idea in a way that meant it was ready to pitch to a customer as well as potential investors.
The cohort itself is a huge asset, and I have met some wonderful people. Having always been the ‘tech guy’, I had some level of scepticism as to how people would view me, as I felt I was primarily just an engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit. My cohort was amazing as many people were willing to help, in terms of giving me the mentoring and the guidance I needed to develop a staunch business acumen. So many of those around me have gradually become involved with my company. One of my classmates who works for a high-tech company has since become an advisor, and another classmate became an advisor and an investor as well. This is where the power of the EMBA-Global student body comes in; being surrounded by people in different phases of life that work in a variety of industries, from VC funds to investment banking to deep-tech. Because of this diversity, different people can help you in different ways, and it all starts with establishing a respectful relationship with each other.
Adopting a new mindset
I have been encouraged to think in a new way and challenge my perspectives. Whatever it is you want to do when you start, the EMBA-Global will expand your view on how you look at the world. It’ll give you choice in how you want to utilise your core skills and help you do what you are doing today even better tomorrow. I did not change what I wanted to do, and what I was good at; I kept those things as constant, but developed the building blocks I needed around them. My advice would be for people to come to the programme with an open mind, make friends, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from your cohort. It is such a safe environment, and somewhere you can openly ask questions. Your family support is another critical part of the programme. The programme is an intensive, life-time experience and due to the nature of it, you spend a lot of time travelling between New York and London, so it’s key to take your family into consideration when making the decision.
- Jenna Ahn
- Vice President, Data Analytics, J.P. Morgan
- EMBA-Global Americas and Europe (2020)
"You meet and work alongside people who are highly successful, but who wear their influence with integrity, humility and a real sense of accountability."
Jenna Ahn would describe herself as something of a “techie.” Her fascination for all things cutting edge, from data science and analytics through to AI and machine learning, has taken her from a BSc in Operations Research and Engineering at Cornell to an MSc at Northwestern in Predictive Analytics. Her career has followed a similar path, with strong leadership roles at multinational organisations. Today she is a Vice President in Data Analytics at J.P. Morgan, where she works on innovative solutions to shape the future of financial services.
Making the transition from “techie” is a trajectory that Jenna has found as challenging as it is rewarding – and one that required her to build both her business acumen and a broader, global perspective of how business is done, a realisation that brought her to the EMBA-Global programme at London Business School (LBS).
“My academic background is squarely built on quantitative sciences and was key to my ability to perform the roles I’ve had in the past, but at this stage in my career, as I started to move towards general management, I wanted to gain a broader mindset. Having lived and worked in the Far East and the United States, I needed a more European perspective, and that was something that LBS offered me.”
In London, Jenna has found a “world of diversity” that, she says, has enriched the learning experience exponentially. “Professionally as you gain more expertise and specialisation in your field, you sometimes have limited exposure to executives from different backgrounds. I've worked in financial institutions for my entire career. At LBS, everything is very different. I am part of an extremely diverse cohort and there is so much to learn from the perspectives of classmates from places like Azerbaijan, or from sectors like manufacturing, automobile, and tangible goods for example. You are pushed outside your comfort zone and challenged to see things very differently.”
"LBS faculty also brings an enthusiasm to their teaching and a real love of what they do that encourages understanding, no matter how complex the concepts discussed.”
Building her understanding of smaller markets – those outside London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore – will enhance her ability to do her job, says Jenna. And there’s another interesting insight into culture that the programme has delivered that has changed her worldview, she says.
“There’s this perception that the only route to success is through aggression and competitiveness, and that’s not the case. In the programme, this is abundantly clear, as you meet and work alongside people who are highly successful, but who wear their influence with integrity, humility and a real sense of accountability. It’s tangible evidence of how different styles and models of leadership can work.”
Doing an MBA mid-career is not only eye-opening in terms of what you learn from others, says Jenna. There is also an extraordinary potential to learn about yourself – about your personal leadership style, and the model of leadership to which you aspire.
“Part of the experience in study group is really opening up to each other. We are encouraged to give each other 360-degree feedback. When you take a step back from your professional life and you enter the MBA environment it’s an opportunity to say: ‘Yes, I’m successful and yes, I have accomplishments, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.’ So there’s a learning opportunity that comes from opening up and allowing in a certain degree of vulnerability.”
The peer-to-peer dynamic at play is something that will go on to build not only strong, international business networks, but lasting bonds of real friendship that sustain the learning experience – and life beyond. “You’re extending your perspectives and your horizons, but simultaneously you’re building bonds that are rock-solid with people that you may otherwise never have met. And that bonding experience is much stronger than I would have imagined. I think it’s safe to say that I’m a real MBA convert!”
- Craig O'Boyle
- Head of Entertainment and Media, Senior Industry Marketing and Client Strategy Director, Google
- EMBA-Global Americas and Europe (2016)
"For me, the EMBA-Global at London Business School and Columbia was a match made in heaven."
When Craig O’Boyle embarked on his EMBA-Global journey, he already had his career path clearly planned out. “I knew where I was heading. I was focused on that all-important path to the C-suite, and on developing my ability to help shape a business. But I was concerned about future-proofing myself, ensuring that I would be a commercially-literate, data-driven CMO – and one that was able to make the move to COO. In a competitive market, EMBA was my way of differentiating myself.”
Looking to combine the best of European and US expertise, Craig says: “I wasn’t willing to negotiate on the programme I wanted, so I only applied to one. For me, the EMBA-Global at London Business School and Columbia was a match made in heaven.” He found the global cohort offered by two top business schools particularly inspiring. “I’ve never been so humbled as the first day of class, listening to the backgrounds of my 68 classmates. There were industry leaders who ran their own multimillion dollar companies and family offices, leading financial executives, entrepreneurs, private equity professionals – every type of successful business leader you can imagine.”
Craig split his study between London and New York, but says that studying in London – his home for many years – took his relationship with the city to a whole new level. “The quality of the faculty, campus and guest speakers meant that our learning curriculum was incredibly varied. Equally importantly, we always had plenty of evening and weekend plans to get to know each other socially as a class. This helped create some of the life-long friendships that I now enjoy.”
These relationships are clearly important to Craig, both at a personal and a professional level. “I met people who now inspire me every day. They’re part of my global network, people who I can count on to be there with me on my career journey. I count some of my best friends amongst the EMBA class group - we are separated by continents and oceans, yet we speak every day.” And the benefits don’t stop there. “I regularly reach out to, and bounce ideas off alumni from both Columbia and LBS. I’ve also retained a great relationship with many of the professors.” Craig cites Richard Jolly, Lynda Gratton and Costas Markides as three of his favourite LBS faculty. “Executive leadership, organisational behaviour, strategic agility – these were great skills brought to life by professors who put practical industry knowledge at the forefront of their teaching.”
Craig says that EMBA-Global helped him decide to transition from a global marketing role at the world’s biggest interactive entertainment company, to lead international client strategy for the Entertainment & Media sector at Google. “The programme armed me with the skills and confidence to make the move and gave me a great grounding in broader areas of finance, economics and business – skills that you need as a leader at a multibillion dollar global business.
“Everyone leaves EMBA-Global knowing more about the world, better able to hear other people’s viewpoints, and with a new mindset. I learnt to question a lot – about the industry I’m in, and how I might succeed in the future - and listen to the answers.” And to make the most of EMBA-Global, some of the best clichés hold true. “Be willing to go with the flow, and invest time in building a network outside of the classroom,” says Craig. “You get out what you put in. It isn’t a programme for the faint hearted and your two years will go by in a blur. But the investment is worth it x10 - what you ultimately get back will pay you dividends for the rest of your life.”
- Florent Breton
- Senior Manager, North America Business Operations, Tesla
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2016)
“The EMBA-Global programme gave me the academic knowledge that I was missing, even after 10 years of experience in international roles.”
Filling in the gaps
“The EMBA-Global programme gave me the academic knowledge that I was missing, even after 10 years of experience in international roles as an entrepreneur, a management consultant and a department manager. When walking into the programme, every single hour that we spent in class opened my mind and helped me look at things in a different way. It helped me to develop better strategies, sharpen my skills as an entrepreneur and gave me the knowledge to operate within the international business landscape, through navigating different campuses whilst working and studying out of Dubai, Shanghai and Hong Kong. These kind of academic experiences really reinforced my ability to operate in a much more intense international environment and pushed me to make a transition out of my comfort zone.”
“After completing the EMBA-Global programme I made the decision to uproot life for my wife and me, moving out to San Francisco in the pursuit of a new adventure. At the time, I only had an extension of my student visa from Columbia and had been based in Paris for many years. It was a very risky move leaving my comfort zone, but London Business School gave me the confidence to make the jump. It was attending one of my lectures that really inspired me and helped me to change the perspectives on my personal and professional goals. I discovered that this was the very beginning of my journey, and realised that it was a good time in my life to venture into new opportunities. The experience had a tremendous impact on me beyond just academic knowledge. The school gave me the capabilities to take risks – it gave both me and my wife the confidence to make a change, encouraging us both to quit our jobs and move somewhere new with limited resources. It was inspirational.”
Connecting with the community
“Even just within my own class, the community aspect of LBS was a highly positive force. It opened my eyes to others taking risks in their careers and what other people had been through. One of my classmates had made the move from London to Tanzania and we remained in contact, discussing the challenges around being an expat and how to make that sort of move, not only from a professional point of view, but also how to cope with a life-changing event for our families. I arrived in the USA with no job, contacts or prospects. It was a difficult transition to make as I had to completely rebuild my network which takes time, but I also knew that I would be able to lean on the LBS community to help find my new career. Upon moving to San Francisco, my starting point was to connect with LBS’ local Bay Area alumni club, where I’ve since stepped into the role of President. It was very insightful and useful for me to have the club as a starting point for networking. The club president at the time looped me into some of the local events and introduced me to the local alumni.” “Through the network I connected with people like myself, who had come from elsewhere in the world and were now based in San Francisco. It was a great safety net, as I knew that I could rely on the network to get in with other people from LBS. Soon enough, I landed a role at a startup, and eventually was offered a position at Tesla within their management team. With my duties covering everything from people management to operations and strategy, it’s been a huge step in my career that I may have never taken if it wasn’t for LBS.”
- Katie Jenkins
- Southern Europe Manager, YouTube Artist & Creator Development, YouTube
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2017)
“Everyone says it, but my classmates were one of the best things about the programme.”
Katie Jenkins has what many might consider a unique job. As Southern Europe Manager for YouTube’s Creator and Artist Development team, she manages five people who mentor people with 100,000+ followers for their respective online channels.
Rising YouTube stars take a six-month programme to learn how to increase the time viewers spend watching their channel, how to broaden their audience and ways to monetise their content. “It’s about helping people who have reached a certain level with their subscriber base really start to build their career on the platform,” says Jenkins, who got the job 18 months after taking the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme at London Business School (LBS).
Jenkins’ team works with YouTubers across a variety of content areas such as the people behind Quantum Fracture, which produces educational videos about physics; Les Revues du Monde, a French history channel; and Italia Squisita, a cooking channel featuring top Italian chefs. “We want to inspire, empower and enable the next generation of YouTube talent,” she says.
Before joining YouTube in November 2018, Jenkins worked at Google as a consultant to luxury brands, helping them manage their media strategy and digital transformation. At that point in her career, Jenkins wanted a management role but she needed to develop the skills and frameworks to lead others. That realisation inspired her to join the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme in 2015.
“I specialised in luxury and media and wanted to take the EMBA-Global programme to open my eyes to other industries,” Jenkins says. “That was one reason for studying at LBS; the other was to move into a management role. I wanted the formal business training, management theory and operational rigour that this programme would bring.”
Among the core courses, the Executive Leadership module really resonated with Jenkins. Led by Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour at LBS, the course covered various leadership models. It also explored when leaders should assume control and when to step back to empower someone else in the team to take charge.
Establishing psychological safety within the team so that people aren’t scared to make mistakes when trying new things was another topic that appealed to Jenkins. “I use this principle with my team,” she says, “I encourage them to discuss the things that didn’t quite work out and what they’ve learnt from the experience rather than just focusing on what went really well.
“If you have trust, everyone in the team will be more willing to talk to each other when problems arise instead of always pretending everything is fine. We should reward trying rather than just focusing on succeeding.”
During the two-year programme, Jenkins studied in London and New York and graduated with two MBAs – one from LBS and the other from Columbia Business School. In that time, she also visited Shanghai for her Global Business Assignment and attended the Paris Trek with the LBS student-led Retail and Luxury Goods Club. She regards the exposure to different cities, cultures and classmates from diverse industries and cultural backgrounds as invaluable.
“Everyone says it, but my classmates were one of the best things about the programme,” Jenkins says. “I met people from different industries, many of whom were already in very senior positions, developed my cultural awareness and got a range of perspectives from people who have worked in different markets.
- Irfan Iltaf
- Head of Commercial Digitalisation and Innovation, Rio Tinto
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2011)
“It was pretty immersive - you are right in the heart of the mix, in two of the world’s foremost commercial and innovation hubs."
The future of work fascinates Irfan Iltaf.
As Head of Commercial Digitalisation and Innovation at global mining group, Rio Tinto, he is more than accustomed to keeping his finger on the pulse when it comes to change and advancement.
“We’re really just at the start of how business is being transformed by technology. What’s shaping the playing field today simply wasn’t part of our reality a decade ago. AI, machine learning, blockchain, big data, robotics, the internet of things and virtual/augmented reality – these things are already transforming our experience beyond anything we could have imagined. I look at my nieces and nephews playing with iPads and engaging with technology at a very young age and I wonder what their future will be like when they enter the workforce.”
It’s this curiosity coupled with an appetite for change that brought Irfan to London Business School (LBS) and the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme, which is jointly delivered by New York’s Columbia Business School.
A computer scientist by academic training, Irfan’s career has spanned technology leadership roles in some of the world’s most innovative players in the electronics, pharmaceuticals, commodity training and energy spaces.
In 2009, managing technology strategy and delivery at oil and energy behemoth, BP, he felt it was time for a new challenge.
“I’d reached a point in my career where the conversations were evolving from bits and bytes to how technology was contributing to business strategy. My background had always been in technology. Now I wanted to really understand what makes businesses tick in the broader context and take on a broader level of leadership. Mastering finance, marketing, strategy and operations, and building my leadership capabilities were a key part of that. I was ready for a real step change in my leadership and in my career.”
He chose the EMBA-Global because of the global dimension of the programme and the flexibility it afforded him to balance full-time study during on-campus block weeks with the opportunity to apply the learning in a work context.
“It was pretty immersive and I loved spending the time with faculty and classmates during the campus weeks in London and New York. You are right in the heart of the mix, in two of the world’s foremost commercial and innovation hubs, while the Asian component of the programme in Hong Kong helps you build a really global perspective.”
Irfan’s decision paid off in terms of broadening his thinking. The different challenges embedded within the programme together with the enriching diversity of his cohort had the combined effect of knocking entrenched approaches off course and challenging him to try new concepts, methods and techniques. He also became sharper in terms of time-management, he says.
“There are never enough hours in the day. But over the course of my 18 months I learned to become adept at giving myself over to the learning, studying and preparing for my classes, while working and absorbing lessons from applying the frameworks from the programme. You get very good at regulating time.”
Irfan’s decision – and his dedication – also paid off in terms of his career. In 2011, straight after graduating from the programme, he was appointed CIO at BP’s oil and gas trading arm, covering the Eastern Hemisphere, a move that took him from London to Singapore. It was also a move that delivered a much greater commercial focus and that brought him into the company’s regional executive leadership team.
“For me this was the definitive transition I’d been looking to make: a commercially focussed technology leadership role in a trading business, where technology and data were critical enablers in driving and delivering strategy.”
Today Irfan leads the formulation and execution of digitalisation and innovation strategy for Rio Tinto’s Commercial Group, and is a member of the company’s global commercial senior leadership team. He still finds time to nurture his connection with LBS and Columbia Business School, mentoring MBA students – the leaders, he says, of tomorrow.
“I had excellent mentors and support during my time at LBS and throughout my career. Being a mentor myself, I’ve learned that mentorship is not just about giving, because there is so much to learn from the people you are supporting. You get new perspectives in return. I believe that part of leadership is understanding that you have a duty to pay it forward to future generations, and to keep on learning in the process.”
And for anyone thinking of taking up the EMBA-Global to accelerate their own leadership, he has these words of advice: “It’s a tough experience because you are working and studying full-time, so you want to be absolutely clear about what your goals are and what it is that you need to get out of the programme. But it’s also a lot of fun and there is so much enjoyment waiting for you.”
“If I had the option, I’d absolutely do it all over again.”
- Lisa Shaforostova
- Director, CBRE Group, London
- EMBA-Global A&E (2017)
Lisa’s global exposure was already strong. But, with a promotion to director at CBRE Group, she needed to develop her leadership skills, fast.
With more than 10 years of experience working on strategic consulting projects around the world, Lisa’s global exposure was already strong. But, with a promotion to director at CBRE Group, she needed to develop her leadership skills fast.
Lisa worked in the US, the UK, Germany and Russia on a number of real estate development, investment, portfolio strategy and M&A assignments, so it’s unsurprising that in the long-term she dreams of starting a value-investing real estate fund. But Lisa’s fund has a caveat. “I’d like to set up a fund with a focus on sustainable and quality buildings that will transform the way people work and live,” she says.
Motivation one – leadership
As director, Lisa needed to be able to successfully run a global business function and to build high performing teams. “EMBA-Global gives me exposure to the faculty and learning resources in two world-class business schools,” she says. It provides a rich platform to help meet Lisa’s leadership objectives.
Lisa was inspired after taking a ‘Leadership and Organisational Change’ module. “It helped me evaluate my goals and values,” she says. “We did a number of tests to analyse our networks, motivations and leadership styles. I found it really powerful in helping develop my vision.”
Motivation two – transformation
Lisa aims to take advantage of the expertise from both schools. With the help of London Business School (LBS), Lisa plans to increase her exposure to real estate investment companies through the Real Estate Club and gain insights with the electives. At Columbia Business School (CBS) she will expand her network with the Paul Milstein Real Estate Centre.
“I’d like to run a global business,” she says. And for that, diversity of network and trust are fundamental. “In the business school community, we make friends for life and strive to help each other as much as we can. I already see a number of opportunities that I can explore with my classmates located in different parts of the world to invest in real estate projects, gain insights and develop connections with local businesses.
“The LBS network is truly international with students and alumni from various industries and CBS mirrors that. The conversations both in and out of the classroom have been of tremendous value for me in learning about the industries, varying ways of doing business in different countries and finding new investment opportunities.”
With two strong school networks, Lisa’s well on her way to making an impact on “the way people work and live”.
- Philippe Fezans
- COO, A3BC Ltd
- EMBA-Global Americas and Europe (2016)
The joint London Business School/Columbia programme offered the curriculum toolkit Philippe wanted across two top business schools.
Philippe Fezans always wanted a dual education in engineering and business, but he knew right from high school that he’d go into engineering first. He would then gain an MBA to accelerate his career further down the track. “Early on I worked with some great companies – Orange, Renault and GE – before moving back into a project management role at Renault Sport, where I managed some excellent and fast-paced projects. Ultimately though, engineering provides limited career options outside highly specialised roles,” he says.
Philippe decided to do the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe to develop new skills and open up professional opportunities outside his existing scope. To advance his career, he needed wider cross-organisational understanding and a less “France-centric” background. The joint London Business School/Columbia programme offered the curriculum toolkit Philippe wanted across two top business schools; a monthly block week structure that suited his working life; and a deeply collaborative learning environment.
“EMBA is intense – you travel, work and socialise together – and you don’t sleep much! The geographical diversity in my class saw people flying in from locations as far afield as New Zealand, India and South Africa. We’re talking about extraordinary people from different cultures and with a broad range of perspectives,” says Philippe.
Being exposed to a community of highly successful people with a strong appetite for opportunity was inspiring, he adds. “Prior to the programme I was very risk averse – a typical French engineer who liked to be in control – but learning about my classmates’ experiences made me take a long hard look at myself, and at my career. LBS’s Executive Leadership module was also key, providing a useful self-assessment framework, and helping me develop new soft skills and risk management mechanisms.”
By the time Philippe finished the programme he had abandoned his original, more traditional plan to head back to a large organisation. Instead, he took advantage of the US training visa that EMBA Global offers and jumped straight in to developing a car sharing start-up in New York City. It was a steep learning curve for a venture that ultimately failed, thanks to the US election results.
“Almost overnight, our project started to stall as uncertainties around policy and funding prevented the governmental agencies we were working with from taking on new projects,” says Philippe. “But as frustrating as it was to pull the plug, I’m pretty relaxed about the outcome of my first start-up experience. I like to compare entrepreneurship to skiing, my favourite hobby – you need to learn to fall, and what to do to avoid it, before gaining momentum.”
This first experience led to an exciting new opportunity with a fellow MBA in an industry closer to Philippe’s computer science background. He’s now back in France working as chief operating officer for a start-up in biometric identification for transactions. A working prototype has been developed, filed and granted a patent. Says Philippe: “We’ve signed our first B2B customers and are in the process of our second round of fundraising, so if everything goes to plan we should have a pilot location in production in the coming months.”
Philippe says he wouldn’t be helping launch a new venture if it weren’t for LBS. “EMBA-Global generated entrepreneurial opportunities that I could never previously have dreamed of. The skills I learned on the programme are invaluable, but in an increasingly more global and mobile world, my best piece of advice is to network, network, network. It’s the network that provides the opportunities to use your knowledge and really shine.”
- Angelina Jiang
- Vice President, HSBC Bank
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2014)
One thing that's clear is that everyone on this programme aspires to be the best they can be. We all want to change the world, even if only in a small way.
Reputation was always the single most important driver in my choice of business school. There were other considerations too – programme duration, location, teaching format, class size and calibre – but I knew that the partnership I developed would extend years beyond graduation. I wanted to feel proud of my association and I also wanted a school that would truly represent the value of my own investment in time and energy. Visiting a number of global programmes and speaking with faculty, students and alumni, it was clear from early on that EMBA-Global Americas & Europe was the best fit for me. This was confirmed through discussions with an alumna who used to work in the same company as me in Bermuda; her story offered me a preview and helped validate my choice.
Entrepreneurship is a new territory that I’m exploring and there is excellent support throughout the programme in this area from both London and Columbia Business School faculty. Electives like the Entrepreneurship Summer School and Advanced Entrepreneurship teach you how to take ideas right from concept to launch. Financing the Entrepreneurial Business, Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity electives provide insights into how venture capitalists look at a start-up, so you can learn how investors think before pitching to them. I have a business venture that I’m keen to launch in my second year and there are successful entrepreneurs, PR and fashion professionals in my class that I’ve been bouncing ideas off. I’ve also spoken with alumni and Executives in Residence and Sounding Board members, all of whom are willing to give back to the School community and whose words of wisdom – and caution – may well save me many years of struggle on my own.
Balancing the programme with work is never easy, but because management is an experimental science, the office is the perfect environment to practise theories and add value. My company recently restructured and I was given a lot more responsibilities than before; if I hadn’t covered the theories in class I would have found it enormously difficult to balance everything. Even the smallest changes have proven effective - now I make sure my meetings are a maximum of 30 minutes and we walk in with a concrete agenda and walk out with precise takeaways and action plans. With a limited number of hours and more ground to cover, you just have to be really honest about what you want to achieve.
An inspiring learning environment
Just one year after starting EMBA-Global Americas & Europe one thing that’s clear is that everyone on this programme aspires to be the best they can be. We all want to change the world, even if only in a small way. I’m filling gaps in my professional knowledge by learning about disciplines and industries that I haven’t previously had exposure to and it’s such a privilege to learn from classmates across other sectors and industries. In amongst the hard work, commuting and coursework, this programme is simply an amazing opportunity to get to know brilliant people. Life is no longer the same – you have to adjust and constantly make choices - but the key to survival is to be honest with yourself. Embrace the challenge, learn as much as you can and don’t forget to have some fun and the rewards you reap will be second to none.
- Arseny Seidov
- Partner, Baker & McKenzie
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2013)
EMBA-Global Americas & Europe gave me access to the superb faculties at both London and Columbia, but also to the most phenomenal student network.
My journey to the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme was motivated very much by a desire to see things beyond the typical boundaries of the legal services industry. As a tax specialist my role had previously been limited in terms of functionality and I wanted to be able to participate in a broader spectrum of idea generation and implementation. Even though I was already at partner level, I also wanted an understanding of my own value and the chance to benchmark myself against an intelligent, dynamic and global peer group.
When a large number of people from different industries and cultures come together to share their knowledge and vision, you very quickly realise that your own perception of things is not always the ultimate truth. The programme gave me access to the superb faculties at both London and Columbia Business Schools, but also to the most phenomenal student network. Faculty, courses and peer group all combined to give me a flavour of how the wider business world worked through a corporate and an entrepreneurial lens; it was also a perfect platform from which to learn what corporations and start-ups go through in terms of life-cycles.
Being able to personalise my own experience meant that I was quick to see tangible benefits and my current clients certainly appreciate my more business-oriented perspective. The Dynamic Capabilities elective I took as a block week on exchange at Berkeley was outstanding and a real opportunity to analyse and assess my company's business model. Elsewhere I focused on advanced finance courses to back up my tax and accounting knowledge, but I also took a lot of strategy electives. These courses have been critical in terms of building my broader profile and helping me harmonise tax advice with the individual and organisational strategies my clients are defining for themselves. The programme overall substantially increased my global business knowledge in a way that allowed me to better leverage my firm's global reach.
There is a huge difference between what I was like before the programme and now. My self-monitoring capabilities have increased dramatically and I feel like I can really view things in 4D. I have a completely different mind-set and the ability to look far beyond my original capabilities; moreover, I can step into other people's shoes and talk to any individual, from any country, in any industry. On a personal level, my most crucial takeaway has been the understanding that the world is moving in the direction of deeper specialisation. In order to compete effectively, individuals will need to utilise synergies from multiple specialist skill sets.
Everyone has a goal and everything is doable and it is important to think long term whatever you do. The key is in understanding that in most cases you will need to adjust your goal on the way to reaching it, and in some cases move in a completely different direction to get there. One option for me going forward is to build on my tax expertise by helping the large number of my US and Europe-based clients who are interested in developing business in Russia. The aim is to become one of Russia's leading lawyers with a strong tax planning and structuring background and strategic vision, primarily in the e-commerce, software and information technology industries. The programme has helped me realise that you can achieve anything you want - as long as you are prepared to invest the time and effort.
- Claude Fidelin
- Director, A.T. Kearney
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2012)
Before the programme my dreams were not as ambitious as they are today; following my time on EMBA-Global I realise that it’s a step towards something bigger.
An accomplished Management Consultant with 13 years’ experience delivering global projects for Fortune 500 companies, Claude is an expert in commercial negotiations and supply management. He started in London as a Manager at A.T. Kearney and after completing the EMBA-Global Americas and Europe programme in 2012, became a Director at A.T. Kearney in New York.
Focusing on priorities
I was not looking to change location when I applied to do the EMBA-Global programme; my chief objective was to become a partner in my firm. I wanted to look at the bigger picture and develop some key financial skills in order to progress. Nowadays, having completed the programme, my dreams are a lot bigger. My focus is not just on a larger pay cheque, but on my personal development and the positive impact I can have on the world. I have the EMBA-Global programme to thank not only for my relocation and promotion in New York but also for my positive change of perspective.
The programme was a major factor in my promotion. On a practical level, being required to take a week out each month to study taught me a lot about time management and how to delegate effectively. With limited time available, I had to find creative ways to make things work, which my employer recognised and appreciated. I was also able to display the benefits of my enhanced analytical and decision-making skills, coming up with new solutions for the firm and our clients. Having gained an insight into what motivates me, my leadership style is now far more congruent with who I am, and a lot more powerful, whether I’m working with my own teams or my clients.
Studying in both London and New York was a powerful combination. Two electives in particular stood out. In the personal leadership class we studied great leaders, from Mandela to Churchill, and considered how they could inspire our own leadership model. Another elective dealt with managing sports and entertainment. Although this subject matter wasn’t an obvious link with my consulting work, it really broadened my thinking on how to create a great customer experience and has been very useful on the projects I’ve worked on since.
The other major highlights were my two international assignments. Meeting chief executives of large companies in Cape Town and government figures in Hong Kong gave me a global, real-life view of how business is conducted in those countries. I was able to use practical examples later on when delivering training about the cultural aspects of negotiations. The experience itself has given me valuable insights when negotiating with Chinese suppliers – understanding that their focus may be shifting from supplying Western companies to creating their own brand for domestic consumption is an important factor to consider when discussing supply management strategy with my clients’ senior stakeholders. This depth of understanding wouldn’t have been possible from conventional classroom learning.
The programme encouraged us to think creatively, which was something our class fully embraced. The weekend before each class block week we organised a trip to a different location, arranging events that fed into our studies. I helped organise the session in Paris, which was hosted by A.T. Kearney and proved a great opportunity to interact with savvy entrepreneurs in a relatively small set up. It gave me the opportunity to develop my “brand” within A.T. Kearney, promoting my company to my classmates and promoting the programme to my company and successful entrepreneurs. There were 23 trips in total and I am tremendously proud that we took the initiative to make that happen.
A smooth relocation
Thanks to the EMBA-Global programme, my relocation to New York was a smooth transition. I had become familiar with the city when studying at Columbia Business School; it also helped that I knew my colleagues at the New York branch of A.T. Kearney, having met up with them when I was in town during the course of the programme. Through the faculty, students and executives I met on the electives, I built a network in New York that I can call upon at any time. It feels good to be here, and I also know that if I were to relocate again I would have the confidence to do so.
- Eric Janin
- Finance Director - Global Theatrical Distribution, Warner Bros. Entertainment
- EMBA-Global Americas and Europe (2018)
“Now I can see options where I couldn’t see options before. I have the tools, knowledge and experience to turn options into opportunities.”
When Eric Janin considered taking an MBA, he wasn’t aware of the dual-degree EMBA-Global programme – with London Business School (LBS) and Columbia Business School (CBS).
Since enrolling in 2016, he’s never looked back. “I knew an MBA would be international, but this? I lived and travelled with my classmates each blockweek in New York or London every month. We studied before heading to work, over lunch, every evening and on the plane.”
It’s not that Janin expected to become globally-minded, he notes, “Global was already our profile.” His peers have multiple passports. They’re multilingual and live, work and manage international teams in different countries across the globe. “EMBA-Global stretches your worldview,” says the French-born finance director for Global Theatrical Distribution at Warner Bros Entertainment Group.
Janin’s corporate experience is as varied as it is international. Prior to earning his double masters, he worked and lived in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, the UK, France, Germany and Hong Kong and in various finance and accounting roles: he also studied abroad. His journey traces big-hitting auditing and consulting firms such as KPMG and Deloitte to giant tech players such as Skype and Netflix.
Nine months into his role with Warner Bros in London, Janin began searching for new ways to grow and, after speaking with Linden Selby, Senior Admissions Manager at LBS, and alumni, he signed up to the programme. The intense experience changed him after just six months. “I wanted to change my role and implement the new learnings,” he admits.
Rather than leaving the company, he took the advice of his business school network. “They encouraged me to talk to the US talent acquisition team, which I had not considered before.” That led to a chunkier international role at Warner’s headquarters in the US.
In December 2017, three months before he graduated, Janin took up position as finance director, Global Theatrical Distribution in Burbank (California), where he manages a healthy team of 20.
The intensity of the programme forced Janin to learn how to delegate at work. “The programme is extremely demanding and it is difficult combining work, study and life,” he says.
“Richard Jolly and Paul Ingram’s organisational and leadership insights have proved useful,” he notes. “I’ve been able to experiment with inspiring different team members in tailored ways.” He also has a better grasp of what motivates him. “We created personal values cards and I still carry mine in my bag.”
Thinking differently, faster thinking
Janin credits class discussions and group work for fuelling insights. “You get perspectives from all over the world because people living in countries such as Australia, Denmark, the UAE, Lebanon, Nigeria, Peru and the US travel to class.”
What you take back, he says, is a new lens. “You think differently. You are faster to understand problems and to solve them.” With a deep knowledge pool from which to draw, Janin became increasingly frustrated with traditional tunnel vision. “Global exposure on the programme allows you to connect the dots. My new way of thinking disrupted people around me.”
He adds: “Now I can see options where I couldn’t see options before. I have the tools, knowledge and experience to turn options into opportunities.”
On Janin’s phone screen 20 notifications light up. “It’s my classmates on WhatsApp,” he smiles. The programme may have ended but the EMBA-Global 2018s are still jetting around the world – they are still staying connected.
- Lisa Cleary
- Executive Director, CAAR Energy International
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2015)
I entered the EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme to broaden my global horizons and determine my next career move.
- Natalia Simonenko
- Co-Founder & Chairman, Movavi
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2015)
The EMBA-Global Americas & Europe programme is a journey. It is an amazing opportunity.
- Nell Derick Debevoise
- Founder and CEO, Inspiring Capital
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2012)
The programme is about discovering your own professional identity and getting involved in experiences you just won't find anywhere else.
My initial motivation for joining EMBA-Global Americas & Europe was relatively simple. I was keen to get into the field of impact investing, but my undergraduate degree was in psychology and I felt I lacked a number of important business skills. I was originally offered a place on London Business School's full-time MBA programme but around the same time I applied, I also met the founder of Tomorrow's Youth Organisation, Hani Masri. He asked me to spend six months helping establish his organisation and from there, everything moved incredibly quickly. I was living in the West Bank three weeks later, so I turned down the MBA offer.
Two and a half years on we had made enough progress for me to take a step back from the start-up. I loved London Business School the first time around but this time a US connection also appealed, so EMBA-Global Americas & Europe was a perfect logistical match. From the outset the programme gave me a thorough grounding in a range of complementary business skills; crucially, I was able to focus a lot of my learning around entrepreneurship and also learned how capital could be structured to form a business. In essence, though, it wasn't about better balance sheets or a single marketing document but about understanding how to integrate everything we studied, from organisational design, to strategy, to corporate and entrepreneurial finance.
The programme is about discovering your own professional identity and getting involved in experiences you just won't find anywhere else. I attended one particular seminar in Cape Town when I went from very high-level discussions with leading South African retail CEOs about their negotiations with Walmart; to visiting a grass-roots entrepreneur designing t-shirts and learning about his business story; to enjoying wine-tasting with friends. I also had the chance to get involved in a pro-bono project related to impact investing in Uganda, working alongside classmates who included a retail banking executive from Angola and a French product manager based in Hong Kong. Developing, coordinating and researching for the venture was an incredible opportunity, and culminated in a visit to Uganda. I'm still involved with strategy and fundraising for the organisation from the US.
There is no doubt in my mind that the entire EMBA-Global Americas & Europe package affects everything I now do. Since completing the programme, I've stuck with my love of social enterprise. I established Inspiring Capital to use my training and experience in global entrepreneurship to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of great non-profit organisations. The global network I have created across London and New York, play a central role in my day-to-day work as advisors, partners, and colleagues.
Personal and professional impact
The programme has impacted my life at every conceivable level, from professional ambition, goals and capabilities, to personal lifestyle, relationships and travel. There is no doubt that the programme is a challenge, but one of the upsides is that it really forces you to prioritise. You are so pushed and stretched that you have to make choices about what is the most important way to spend each minute of the day. My classmates are incredibly motivated, active, high-energy people who push you to do more than you would have thought you possibly can, professionally, personally, and socially. Thanks to the programme experience, and lasting relationships with classmates, I now have the confidence and drive to make my life happen the way I want, and ambitious, caring friends and potential business partners with whom to enjoy it.
- Suzanne Janse
- Vice President Publishing Services, Elsevier
- EMBA-Global Americas & Europe (2012)
The way I approach tasks and analyse business challenges is more complete - the frameworks and knowledge are available to me now.
EMBA-Global Americas & Europe has impacted the way I work. The way I approach tasks and analyse business challenges is more complete, the frameworks and the knowledge are available to me now. I now see what I didn't know before and where the gaps in my knowledge were.
There are roles in the future where perhaps I wouldn't have had the foundation of knowledge to undertake but now I do and the programme has given me the confidence to do so. I have no doubt that the programme and the network I developed will impact my career in the long-term. If I come across business challenges now I definitely feel like I can pick up the phone and can tap into a network of knowledge.
EMBA-Global Americas & Europe has really exceeded my expectations. Firstly the programme helped me understand myself better, then the aspects of doing business more and finally I have learnt where I can grow further and improve.