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It's time for another Applicant Question Of The Week at BusinessBecause!

Each week, we give you the chance to ask one of our chosen admissions experts anything you want to know about getting into business school. One question is chosen each week for our expert to answer. 

This week, our question comes from an experienced financial professional, who wants to break into new roles through a business school program.


Applicant Question Of The Week

Dear BusinessBecause,

For professionals working in the finance industry, higher education is pretty important.

A master's degree from a top university in the US looks appealing, but for a professional with more than five to six years' experience, a Master in Finance is not really an option.

Most of these top schools ask more experienced professionals to apply for an MBA in finance. My question is: why are most master's in finance programs in the US not open to professionals with more than five years' experience? Where should an experienced professional do a master in finance?


The Answer

While US programs seem to be reluctant to admit applicants with more experience into their master in finance programs, European schools seem to be the exact opposite.

There are multiple reasons why most US schools don't look at experienced candidates for their master in finance programs. 

To begin with, let us look at how the degree itself has evolved. Specialized master's programs (including one year MBA programs) are more of a European concept, and are widely accepted there. 

Later, they began to be offered in the US too, but recruitment patterns in the two regions are different. 

Most recruitment from master in finance programs happens in corporate banking, asset management, and investment banking roles, but most middle management roles (that you would expect after five to six years of experience pre-master) are taken up by MBAs in this sector. 

These institutions prefer MBAs owing to their wider skill-set. 

Further, most employer institutions recruit either through the analyst route (best for people with lower work experience) or through internships. 

Having internships as part of the program structure would require a longer program duration, and most applicants with higher work-experience would find that too long for a program that is specialized only with respect to finance.

This may not apply to programs that are highly focused on only one area of finance, say quantitative analysis. 

As evidence, consider the Haas master of financial engineering program, and the UCLA master of financial engineering, which last for 12 and 13 months respectively, and have class profiles with an average of over four years of work experience pre-enrolment.

In contrast, most European master's programs (and quite a few MBA programs too) are one year long. They also have excellent acceptance in industry. 

There, you will find a number of post-experience master's programs, including ones at top schools. In fact, this is why master in finance rankings (both pre-experience and post-experience) are dominated by European schools.

Another factor which contributes to this outcome is that while MBA programs can get their intake among applicants from diverse backgrounds, MS finance programs would struggle to help those applicants who don't already come from finance backgrounds to transition to a career in the domain. 

These applicants would not align with early-career roles in finance, and getting them into experienced roles would be hard. 

Further, add the fact that many recruiters now look for professionals with a CFA behind their name, and the CFA is easier to pursue along with a job, and one starts realizing why high-experience applicants are not the best fits for master in finance programs.


Check Out Another Applicant Question:

How Can You Advance Your Marketing Career With An MBA?

marketing mba


That said, it is not as if schools don't have them. Around 30% of students at Master in Finance programs do have substantial experience, though that experience is much more likely to be aligned to finance, and may also be backed with a Bachelor in finance or economics.

Finally, the reasons have nothing to do with business schools wanting to push applicants to the MBA just to get those students to pay higher fees. 

When a school recommends such an option, it is only doing so because it feels that you would be a better fit with the MBA. 

In MIT's case, this is very understandable, as the average experience of its Master of Finance class is only 14 months, and assuming you have over seven years of experience, you would be a much better fit with its MBA class, which has an average of five years' work experience.

In general, programs with lower average experience in its class profile would also have recruitments more aligned with roles suitable to that level of experience. 

A school may be willing to consider some applicants with higher experience as exceptions if their skill set and experience aligns with the kind of roles they could get after the Master of Finance. 

If that match is not seen, it is natural for the school to suggest the next alternative to help you achieve that goal - the MBA in Finance.


Ask an Admissions Expert a Question

Next week, you'll have the opportunity to ask Susan Berishaj, a New-York based admissions consultant, anything you want about getting into business school. 

Susan is based at Sia Admissions, offering coaching to MBA applicants who are applying to US, European, and Canadian schools. 

Got a question you'd love Susan to answer?

To be in with a chance of featuring next week, submit your question on our Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages, or send us an email to info@businessbecause.com!

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Japan’s financial sector is experiencing something of a slump. Despite the country’s prominence in other industries—from robotics to light industry—things are slowing down in this important region. 

Since the 1990s, Japan’s GDP per capita has been on a slow downward trajectory, while fintech innovations such as cashless payment go largely unimplemented.  

Nearby, though, China’s financial sector is experiencing rapid growth. Currently valued at $44 trillion, the market has benefitted from increased overseas investment, along with the quick uptake of new technologies.

In this shifting financial landscape, how do Japanese executives keep up?

Hoping to update their industry knowledge, Minoru Kosaka and Sosuke Ishida left Japan to undertake the Master of Science in Global Finance from HKUST and NYU Stern (MSGF).

With forward-looking modules, including fintech and behavioral finance, taught in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York, the MSGF program aims to equip students with the skills they need to make the most of new developments in the industry. 


Staying competitive

Minoru Kosaka (pictured below) had 17 years’ experience in asset management when he chose to undertake the post-experience master in finance program.

In his early career, Minoru worked in New York, re-entering Japan after a decade. Since his return, Minoru has worked for a US-based asset management firm in the heart of Tokyo, rising to the position of business developer.

Over the course of his career, Minoru came to recognize major shifts in the industry.

“The global financial market is going through major shifts, including the growing presence of Asia, particularly in Shenzhen and Shanghai. These cities are expected to be key financial centers globally as China’s local share markets open up for non-local investors,” he explains.

“I want to stay on the forefront of those changes to ensure I can remain flexible, adaptable, and competitive.”

For financial professionals in Japan, being competitive will likely mean embracing fintech—a subject which the MSGF program embraces.

Japan has been relatively slow on the uptake of new financial technologies. Its major banks have retained most of their brick-and-mortar branches, even though internet banking use has shot up by 40% in the last five years. 

Mobile payments will be another tricky area for Japan to navigate. China’s Alipay is set to enter Japan’s mobile payments market before local developers can get their own platforms off the ground. 

“As Japanese, we will have to seriously think about how to invest in the Chinese market given its long term potential,” Minoru notes.


Expanding Expertise 

Sosuke Ishida (pictured below) selected the HKUST-NYU Stern Program to bolster his technical knowledge.

Sosuke began his career as an IT engineer, but realized after just two years that his interests lay elsewhere. In 2003, he embarked on an MBA and found a new role in Tokyo’s financial sector as an equity derivatives broker.

After 13 years in this role, however, Sosuke was ready to update and expand on his expertise. 

“I was only using a limited area of my knowledge in the course of my daily duties,” he recalls. “I felt it necessary to reorganize my financial knowledge, and observe market movements from a broader perspective.” 

As Sosuke selected his master’s program, location was key. With its focus on Asia, the HKUST-Stern collaboration fit the bill perfectly.

“As Asian markets get more and more seamless, it’s useful to learn from local specialists throughout Asia,” Sosuke observes.

With this new-found market fluidity, some Japanese banks are expanding their reach to elsewhere in Asia, with the hope of overcoming a drop in profits.

Japan’s largest bank, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, has certainly used this strategy, acquiring shares in prominent banks across Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia since 2013.

By obtaining local knowledge from experts around Asia, Japanese professionals undertaking the MSGF program can put themselves in a better position to keep up with this trend for expansion. 


A global network

For both Minoru and Sosuke, building a global network is vital for Japan’s financial professionals.

With an average of 18 nationalities per cohort, the MSGF program connects financial professionals from around the globe. Since the class has an average of 12 years of experience between them, they are able to draw on each other’s expertize.

“What is so unique about the MSGF program is that you get access to a faculty and alumni network from both schools,” Minoru explains. “Your classmates each have their own local knowledge to share.”

Sosuke agrees: “Since graduating, I have a network including financial practitioners from all over the world,” he says. 

If Japan’s financial industry is to keep apace of new and disruptive trends, these connections may prove vital. Both alumni say that with their updated knowledge and expansive network, they are better prepared for the future.

“I strongly recommend this MSGF program especially to financial professionals in Japan,” Sosuke concludes. 

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By Abigail Lister


As global Fortune 500 companies increase their hiring of Master in Finance graduates, the program is becoming an increasingly attractive option—according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, 52% of Master of Finance programs reported growth last year.

It’s not only jobs in the finance sector that are open to Master in Finance graduates, though—both the energy and the manufacturing industry are reportedly increasing their hiring of Master of Finance grads this year.

Specifically, a Master in Finance can be the perfect addition to a background in real estate—as was the case for Ben Tse, Han Liao, and Ken Ng.

They are graduates from the Master of Science in Global Finance from HKUST and NYU Stern, which aims to give students a truly international view of finance, and with modules ranging from Asset Allocation to Behavioral Finance, as well as dipping into crucial, new subjects like fintech and Asia’s emerging financial markets, graduation paths can vary.


khp


“The core issue of real estate is about finance or investment, and asset management,” explains Han, “and HKUST Business School is definitely the best choice in Hong Kong if one hopes to study business and finance.”

For Ken, who has been with global investment firm Angelo Gordon since 2006, going back to the classroom also seemed the natural next step in his career. “I was thinking it was the right time to go back to recharge, especially because of the changes including government regulations and risk controls after global financial crisis,” he says.

Ben (pictured above) concurs. “I work in private equity in the real estate space—it’s a marriage between real estate and finance,” he explains. “The finance knowledge I gained in the classroom and from my classmates really adds a big plus to my real estate knowledge.”


Finance and real estate

Prior to starting the Master of Science in Global Finance, Han was already working in Hong Kong as a project manager for real estate firm New World Development Company Limited, and has a bachelors and master's degree in Urban Planning.

So why consider doing a finance degree? “China’s real estate policy and market is essentially changing,” explains Han. “The business mode of many real estate companies in mainland China is transforming. We cannot truly understand this trend and adjust our business direction without financial knowledge and skill.”

“Financial knowledge is becoming increasingly important in the real estate industry,” adds Ben. “From financial modeling, valuation, capital financing, currency hedging, asset allocation—real estate investment is very much finance related,” he adds.


han-liao


Though Han’s work is in the real estate industry in China and Hong Kong, he cites his master’s degree as providing him with a truly international education.

In this year’s class of 2019, there were 18 nationalities represented in the classroom, with less than half from Hong Kong and China (42%)—students also hailed from the US, Canada, Russia, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Thailand.

“The one-year program was an impressive and memorable journey, during which you explore not only financial knowledge but also interact with people with various background—your classmates, professors, and guest speakers," says Han (pictured above).

For all these students, the location of the program—which is partly taught in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York—was ideal for getting to the heart of financial matters.

“This program ticked all of the boxes for me,” Ben says, and Ken agrees. “The curriculum is thoughtfully designed and taught by world-class faculty who are not only good at research, but also very practical and close to the market.”


ken-hkust


A valuable degree

Since graduating from the program in 2018, Ben gained a role as business development director for Asia Pacific at Global Student Accommodation, a real estate and asset management firm catering for Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).

In such a varied role, with both financial and real estate knowledge required, Ben says that a program like that offered by HKUST and NYU Stern can be hugely beneficial.

“The program really helped fill in the gaps in my financial knowledge, and now gives our investors and clients a stronger sense of my finance knowledge when I try to present a real estate idea,” Ben explains.

For Ken (pictured above), who now works as the head of China Real Estate for Angelo Gordon, the program provided skills necessary for his job—despite not being a real estate degree. “The tools and knowledge learnt from the MS in Global Finance program are very practical and useful,” he asserts.

Han agrees. He’s in no doubt that he gained skills that have been crucial in his career since graduating.

“The program is not just beneficial for my career development in the short term,” he says. “It will be one of the most critical aspects to my life-long learning.”

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If you’re an experienced professional looking to kick-start a career in finance, looking to China makes sense.

Rapid innovation in fintech and an array of opportunities linked to China’s Belt & Road—a massive infrastructure development project extending across the old Silk Road trade route—are creating more opportunities for new jobs and new business.

The HKUST-NYU Stern MS in Global Finance—a part-time, post-experience Master in Finance degree offered by Hong Kong’s HKUST Business School and NYU Stern in New York—offers students a unique insight into China’s financial industry.

The one-year program is divided into seven modules, with classes held in Hong Kong, New York, and Shanghai. Participants are required to have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of work experience.

HKUST’s knowledge of the Chinese market means students are exposed to the latest finance trends; they learn about doing business in China and work in teams on real-life financial issues.

We spoke to two MS in Global Finance participants who explain why China is the go-to-place for opportunities in finance and how studying a master’s degree can set you at an advance.


Amazing opportunities—Kiana Shek

kaiana

Kiana Shek was working for Chinese internet giant Baidu in Beijing when she started thinking about going to business school.

She applied for MBA programs at Stanford and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the US. Instead, she ended up joining the HKUST-NYU Stern MS in Global Finance.

Kiana was introduced to financial technology—fintech—through the program, where she realized just how much fintech was disrupting the traditional finance industry.

Kiana saw an opportunity. After graduation, she left Baidu and founded her own company, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency exchange platform, designed to help people transfer digital currency in a more secure, convenient, and transparent way.

“I chose the program, not only because of its depth in finance and the two reputable business schools, but also because of its flexibility and the classmates I’d have,” Kiana explains.

“I met a group of smart people with extensive experience in China and there were opportunities to partner on new initiatives.

“With the resources I got from the program, combined with my knowledge in technology and the personal network I built in the US and China, I thought: ‘Why don’t I start my own business before I’m 30?’

“In China, when there is a problem, there is an opportunity to make a difference. China is the present as well as the future for us millennials.”


How a Master in Finance can help—Dominik Franz Josef Weigl

dominik


Dominik Franz Josef Weigl travels in from Germany to attend his Master in Finance classes. In Europe, he co-manages his own company developing and producing high-power flywheel technologies for energy storage.

He previously lived in China, where he project-managed a major M&A transaction between a Swedish manufacturer and a Chinese car producer, overseeing the transfer of around 300 machines from Gothenburg to Beijing.

When considering a Master in Finance program, he knew he wanted to maintain his ties to business in China because of the opportunities that the market presents.

“The fact that the courses where held over long weekends in the most important financial hubs combined with a strong link to China and Asia was particularly appealing,” he says.

The program, Dominik explains, prepares candidates for careers in finance in China in a number of ways.

“Firstly, you get access to a really large and high profile network of experts working in the financial industry, not only in Asia but also globally, often with a strong focus on the Asian markets,” he continues.

“Then, there is a course which takes place in Shanghai, offering in-depth insights into the Chinese financial industry, which is still different from Hong Kong or the Western markets.

“Finally, the course content is very broad and covers a lot of areas within finance, often linked to topics from Asia or China.

“You can choose from topics that are most appealing to you or can best support your career. You also choose your final project which could be tied to something you are working with or related to a financial topic with a focus on China.”

In the MS in Global Finance class of 2019, students have an average age of 34 and an average 11 years of work experience between them. The class is comprised of a mix of people representing 18 nationalities and working for big-name finance companies spread out across the globe.

But, even for experienced professionals, to achieve success in China, understanding the intricacies of the Chinese market is key.

 “As Confucius already said, success depends on preparation. You need to know the market you want to work in before getting into it and even eventually investing own money,” Dominik says.

“Understanding the markets and creating a strong network is what business school can help you with the most.”

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Financially rewarding and intellectually stimulating, a career in finance is often the most popular choice for business school graduates.

But the life of a young recruit at financial giants like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs is undeniably tough.

You’ll start your day at 6 am, be at your desk by 7 am, and can comfortably expect to stay until past midnight. Moreover, your employers will expect the best of you, as they strive to stay ahead in the competitive worlds of money, like Wall Street.

Preparing yourself for a job in the real world of finance and accounting isn’t something you can do in a classroom, or in exams—it’s so much about practical experience and application.

“The industry is incredibly competitive, and you need to reach that top level so that employers will pick you out,” explains Dr Umair Riaz, program director of the MSc in Accounting and Finance at Aston Business School.

Learning the skills will only get you half the way; learning how to apply them in real world scenarios with a professional work ethic is what sets aside the big fish from the minnows.


Qualifications for a lucrative career

aston-22.jpg

For graduates looking to enter into the world of finance or accounting, gaining certain qualifications is often necessary. For accountants, this is the ACCA; for financial analysts, this might be the CFA.

These courses are offered through private tuition, or even just for students to take in their own time. All it takes is the necessary textbooks and the right time commitment to studying. The MSc at Aston, however, offers something slightly different.

“You can get the education elsewhere,” Umair acknowledges, before adding, “What we offer is the entire university experience, teaching the conceptual background of these topics. It is not just about passing exams.”

The MSc in Accounting and Finance is a one year full-time program aimed at those with little or no experience in the field but looking to switch careers towards finance.

Students receive the fundamentals of both disciplines, including courses in financial analysis, management accounting, and ethics.

Umair also announces innovations, including a new course in Islamic Accounting and Finance, particularly relevant in a diverse region like the Midlands.


Understanding accounting and finance in practice

Preparing for the rigorous world of work is invaluable for Master’s students, and offering practical work experience is central to this.

While many Master’s programs require all students to complete a dissertation at the end of the program, the MSc in Accounting and Finance at Aston Business School allows students to take a project as an alternative.

For this, students are assigned a real company. They must evaluate the performance of the company using different methods, as well as identifying key competitors, and opportunities for improvement.

It is quite unique internationally, Umair says, and is a big pull factor for students for whom a standard dissertation, found on most programs, does not appeal.

The personal development program (PDP) runs throughout the course, and is centered on individual progress in terms of employability, helping students to identify and hone the key skills which will aid their career.

Part of this is the opportunity to take international internships as part of the program. Current students have landed internships working in Dubai as an assistant finance manager, and in China in a wealth management department.

The chance to meet potential employers is also integrated into the program. Umair invites organizations to feature on or sponsor certain courses, as a way of offering expertise as well as a chance for students to meet representatives of interesting companies.

For auditing modules, for example, Aston invites professionals from companies like PwC to deliver sessions. A sustainability module, moreover, analyses the efforts of Kellogg’s. Students submit a sustainability report, which is then presented to representatives from Kellogg’s, who can provide industry insight and real-world applicable feedback.


Why Master's?

But why not just take the ACCA independently and avoid the Master’s? What is the point of this extensive practical approach?

The MSc in Accounting and Finance is recognized by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA), and graduates get exemption for a number of courses on the ACCA qualification.

Moreover, it helps prepare students for an environment in which they are not going to be looked after and spoon-fed.

“We are teaching them to be an individual who graduates, and is ready to go straight into the world of work,” Umair underlines. “Just by studying at home, or in a smaller institution, you won’t get these skills or experiences.”


 

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The connections you make at business school can not only make your experience on a program; they can alter the course of your whole career.

If your cohort is one that challenges and inspires you, this will undoubtedly be for the better.

Tommaso Loreto and Carl Olsson were both students on the Master’s in Finance at ESADE Business School in 2016, and the story of their mutual success since graduating is closely tied to the bond they forged over the course of the program.

tommaso.jpg

“I met Carl during the first week of classes and we immediately connected,” recalls Tommaso (pictured right).

From the beginning, the two friends were able to share their knowledge and experience and were eager to help each other in their careers.  

“At that time, I had a solid academic background, but I did not have any relevant work experience in my CV,” Tommaso explains. “Carl gave me many insights into how to prep for interviews, as he’d already received a full-time offer from Nomura, the company where he completed his summer internship just before starting at ESADE.

“I definitely owe part of my achievements up to today to Carl—he’s a great source of motivation, and an even greater friend.”

 

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This exchange of knowledge was a two-way street. Tommaso would ultimately graduate in the top 5% of their class at ESADE, and Carl (pictured right) says that his friend’s academic rigor helped to push him to excel in his own studies.


“We aced every class together”

Tommaso hails from Italy originally, and Carl from Sweden, and for both of them, the school’s strong international academic recognition and the internationality of the course at ESADE Business School were key factors in deciding to enrol.

The Master’s in Finance course alone hosts students from 31 different nationalities at the school’s campus in Barcelona, a famously international city. In combination with the international study trips on offer, this creates plentiful opportunities for students to network and share knowledge.

Both Tommaso and Carl highlight the three-week-long study tour to Sao Paolo in Brazil as a “turning point” in their friendship. It was also abroad, during Tommaso’s semester in Paris as part of ESADE’s double degree program, which allows second year students to study the prestigious CEMS Master in International Management, that he met Alessandro Maffey, a fellow Italian student who was to become an important figure to both himself and Carl.

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“[Tommaso and I] worked on basically everything together during our time in Paris,” Alessandro (pictured right) recalls. “We realized how similar we are and what a great team we were—not only in professional terms but life in general. We aced every class together and helped each other with job applications.”

These applications sent Tommaso to London to work for financial services company UBS after graduation, while Alessandro went to New York to work for a small real estate fund.

After a year in the States, Alessandro moved back to London, and now the three grads live together, all putting their skills to use in London’s bustling financial sector. Both Alessandro and Tommaso work at Blackstone as analysts, while Carl works at Aleph Capital Partners as a private equity professional. 


“Today we are like a family”

These friendships are just a part of ESADE’s legacy for the three grads, and they continue to have a positive impact on their careers every day.

“[Tommaso] is definitely the one person who helped my professional career the most, supporting me through the entire process,” confirms Alessandro. “To date he’s one of my greatest sources of motivation—just seeing his grit, tenacity, perseverance, and ability to plan his future makes me a better person.”

Carl, too, has had a big impact: “He’s one of the people I’m most grateful for in life as he challenges me daily. He’s always keen on sharing his professional experience with people and to help you when you’re in need.”

The trio now describe themselves as a kind of family, discussing their career goals and supporting each other through big changes.

When Carl was shifting his career from investment banking to private equity last year, Tommaso and Alessandro offered an essential point of reflection and support.

This is all with the added benefit of the shared knowledge that they gained from the program at ESADE Business School, from the practical approach of the classes, to the acquisition of skills such as open-mindedness and teamwork.

“Looking back, I would say that the people I was surrounded by was probably one of the best points,” says Tommaso. “I am happy to share part of my life with some of them here in London today.”

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With UK politicians still deciding on the best method for withdrawal from the European Union, banks are already anticipating a financial crisis.

Since the Brexit referendum on 23rd June 2016, more and more big players in the finance industry have been jumping the metaphorical ship and moving large parts of their business to continental Europe including, prominently, the city of Frankfurt.

Just at the end of last year, newspapers predicted that London would lose up to $900 million in banking assets to Frankfurt, with 37 finance firms planning on relocating to Germany, including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

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This will inevitably prove a boost to business schools in the city, including Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, which is located in the center of Frankfurt.

“We’ve already had a huge boost in intake last year,” explains Grigory Vilkov (pictured above right), academic director of the Master of Finance program at the school. “I feel like it’s the combination of several factors—including Brexit.

“Senior people in the finance industry are being moved from London, and lots of companies in Frankfurt say they will be hiring in the next few years, and hiring on a top level.”


A top finance program

Frankfurt School’s Master of Finance program was ranked the best in Germany in last year’s Financial Times Master of Finance rankings, and 18th in the world for average salary three years after graduation, which stands at $89,659.

For Grigory, Frankfurt city’s growth in the last ten years—“I’m starting to see traffic jams that weren’t here 10 years ago!” he quips—is testament to its growing place as a European hub for finance jobs.

“The city is changing very, very rapidly,” he says. “In the past, the financial industry has been so concentrated in London, but now finance knowledge is spread around Europe, which is certainly beneficial for our students.”

Julia Knobbe, program director of the Master of Finance at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, agrees with Grigory that Frankfurt is growing in importance in the finance industry—and says that this will provide ample career opportunities for finance students in the city.

“Frankfurt does offer unique opportunities for Master of Finance students,” she explains. “We have both the European Central Bank and the Bundesbank—this is something which is very much unique to Frankfurt.”

Julia also cites Germany’s economy as a possible boost for finance students in the country— “we have a strong job market,” she adds. “Even in the non-financial industry, corporations are desperately searching for young talent in corporate jobs.”

Alongside these unique job attractions, Frankfurt School offers unique opportunities for students on their Master's programs to get practical experience in the finance industry by employing a three-day study model for their programs.

Students are only required to attend lectures on three days of the week, including Saturdays, which leaves three days free for students to work part-time.

“It’s obvious there are more job opportunities for students in a finance hub like Frankfurt,” Julia attests. “At Frankfurt School even while studying students can take advantage of this—just being next door for job interviews is so useful.”


READ MORE: 4 Reasons Why You Should Choose Frankfurt For Your Master In Management

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Gaining crucial experience

It was Frankfurt School’s unique three-day study model that attracted Nikolas Domingues Duisberg (pictured) to the Master of Finance program at the school.

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Nikolas is half-Brazilian, half-German, and spent his youth in São Paolo, Brazil. When deciding where to continue his university education, Germany was a natural choice.

He completed his Bachelor's degree in business administration with a focus on banking in Mannheim, and thanks to Germany’s state-run ‘dual-study’ model, was able to work for German/French bank ODDO BHF in alternate three-month stages while studying for his degree.

After deciding to pursue a career in finance, the Master of Finance program at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, with their three-day study model, proved a strong attraction for Nikolas. “Since I had already gained so much practical experience, it was a very natural choice,” he says.

Nikolas also considered business schools in London for his Masters, but the prospect of Frankfurt becoming a crucial business hub and the prospect of working and studying at the same time made Frankfurt “a great door opener” in his eyes.

“When I was applying to programs, I was aware that Brexit might really impact how the financial hubs are spread across Europe,” he muses. “You have all the major players in the finance industry here in Frankfurt, and you keep hearing that more players are extending their offices and coming to the city.”

While Grigory is certain that London will remain a popular place for finance students even after Brexit has taken effect, he says Frankfurt’s influence in the finance space will only grow.

“London will not be defeated, it will remain one of the major financial and academic hubs,” he states. “But Brexit has definitely given other centers the chance to catch up.

“Other European cities, like Frankfurt, will provide the same opportunities as London to finance students in the next few years,” he adds. 

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The financial crisis of 2008 prompted a global investigation into how banks were actually doing business. Now, consumers want to be more aware of how their banks are operating.

Add to this that technological advances have seen more people gain access to financial services than ever before—there’s been a 20% increase between 2011 and 2017 in the number of adults around the world with access to a financial institution. In a world where everyone is connected to finance, responsible leadership and management are now more important than ever.

With this in mind, the Fanhai International School of Finance (FISF) at Fudan University is taking steps to ingrain responsible leadership into its students from the very beginning of their careers.

“At the outset, we always remind our students, ‘you are playing a very important role in the economy,’” says Professor Charles Chang, deputy dean of academics at Fanhai. “The concept is very simple. The world has resources and those are limited, and our job is to apply those resources in a way that achieves the most for everyone.

“That’s what finance does. It sources money from people who have more than they can spend and provides it to people who need it.”


Creating responsible leaders

To put this mantra into practice, the two-year Elite Master of Finance at FISF includes a course taught throughout the program entitled CARE—culture, arts, responsibility, ethics.

On the CARE courses, students have the opportunity to meet leaders from a variety of industries outside of finance, including within the social services, governance, or the arts.

Students will also have the chance to meet ethical leaders within the world of finance, such as those who work in responsible investing or social enterprises.

“This is something we’ve put together to help our students have a broader vision than just ‘I need to find a job,’” explains Charles.

“If I run into a student and he says ‘I want to be an investment banker because I want to get rich,’ what we always tell students is ‘that’s not enough,’” he adds. “It will be enough for one or two years, and then once you’ve made it you’ll start to wonder why you’re doing this.”

For Charles and Fanhai International School of Finance, the goal of the Elite Master of Finance is to create students who are socially-minded, and who understand how their financial decisions can affect others.

“We never focus on the career goal in and of itself,” Charles says, “we always focus on, ‘what do you hope to achieve in your lifetime, and what career will help you to achieve that?’”


Mentoring

As well as a core part in social responsibility, students get to learn about the best leadership practices through a mentorship program.

Fanhai currently has over 100 mentors available to coach students, all from various industries both inside and outside the financial world.

Charles says that the mentorship program on the Elite Master of Finance at Fanhai International School of Finance is different from those available at other business schools.

“These mentors they’re really there to share how to be a professional, to teach you how to be a leader in this space,” Charles says.

The mentors even go through their own selection process, in which the school “filters them in terms of their own moral ethics,” Charles explains. “These guys all go through interviews we want to hear what their value proposition, so the mentors we end up bringing in are genuinely the ones that want to help.”

While at many business schools, the aim of mentoring is to secure full-time jobs for students after their studies, at Fanhai they take a more responsible approach. 

“Choosing mentors with good intentions is just another part of us making sure that our students view themselves as custodians, and people who are expected to serve, just as these mentors do,” he explains.

The mentors available to students on Fanhai’s program are “listed company CEOs, from globally known firms,” Charles adds. Though Master in Finance students may not gain an internship or job through their mentor, they learn what it takes to be a good, responsible leader.

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On a work trip to Basel, Olga Kotenko fell in love with Switzerland. “It’s extremely beautiful, people are very polite—and everything works!” she laughs. 

At the time, Olga was working in financial regulation, developing international standards with the Central Bank of the Federation of Russia.

“Although the work was interesting, I felt it was quite a theoretical field, and wanted to see something more tangible,” she remembers. 

Hoping to broaden her expertise and find a new career, attending business school was a natural next step.

It was also the perfect opportunity to move from Russia to Switzerland. 

Poised in the middle of Europe, Olga was excited by the country’s highly international business environment, as well as local innovations in the tech and finance spheres.

While researching Swiss programs, she discovered the Strategy and International Management (SIM) Program at the University of St Gallen, and quickly decided to apply. 

“The decision was not a hard one,” she recalls, “SIM was just the best program.” 

After graduating from St Gallen in 2018, Olga successfully changed her career, landing a job with tech giant Apple in Singapore.


An international mindset 

When she arrived at St Gallen, Olga found herself surrounded by a diverse cohort, around 90% of whom were international students like herself.

The experience, she says, helped her develop an international mindset, which has stayed with her long after graduation. 

When students finish the SIM program, working internationally is common. In fact, 55% of alumni move to a new country soon after graduation.

When Apple reached out to Olga, she joined their number, relocating to Singapore to work on the company’s supply chain. 

Olga had visited Singapore once before, undertaking the double degree program on offer at St Gallen. 

This meant studying at Nanyang business school, which gave her the chance to explore the country’s culture and business landscape.

Olga's time at Nanyang also connected her with Apple, as the company is one of the school's business partners.


Restarting a career

With its large international community and prominent manufacturing economy, Singapore has a surprisingly similar business environment to Switzerland. 

Despite these parallels, though, adapting to a new continent proved challenging for Olga.

“It was a huge cultural shock,” she recalls, “I had to learn how to communicate in a totally different way.” 

Through the SIM program, though, Olga had developed some useful insights, teaching her to interact with people from diverse backgrounds with diverse interests. 

This ability has helped Olga succeed at Apple too, she says.

In her current role as planner, she helps Apple to launch new products, open new stores, organize promotional events, and ensure that everything runs smoothly.


A dynamic work environment

For Olga, Apple’s fast-paced environment delivers an exciting and challenging work life. 

“What I do today, I can see the results of tomorrow,” she says, “it’s a very rewarding feeling.” 

Joining a large, innovative company like Apple is not unusual for SIM grads. Google, HP, and E-On all regularly take on St Gallen alumni.

The soft skills that students develop on the program are one important reason why graduates succeed in these businesses.

“Apple culture is quite similar to SIM culture,” Olga observes. “People constantly look for improvements and challenge the way things are.”

Because her work involves collaborating with different parts of the business, effective communication is another key skill for Olga.

Modules like ‘strategic management’ helped Olga to refine these communication skills, but she believes that her peers were just as instrumental to her overall development.

“The greatest growth I experienced was thanks to the people I studied with,” she reflects.


Taking the leap

Olga plans to stay with Apple in the coming years, exploring new locations and functions.

The SIM program gave her the confidence to go after this completely new career, she says.

“If I didn’t study the SIM, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I’m really grateful to SIM for the opportunities it opened up,” she reflects.

Although she was anxious to set out on a new path, Olga is satisfied with the new direction of her career.

The SIM program helped her to make the leap, she says.

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Rob Etheridge heads up workforce management and analytics in the Human Resources department at Deutsche Bank.

“My current role involves shaping the bank’s workforce strategy for its 140,000 workers,” he explains. “This means providing insights through people analytics.”

Having cultivated this specialized focus for the past 10 years, Rob wanted to broaden his insights across other areas of the business, and keep improving his ability to help the bank tackle the challenges it faces in the ever-changing financial landscape. 

While researching various business school programs, he came across the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at LSE, dubbed the alternative to a traditional MBA.

“Having specialized in HR for some time, it felt right to find out what makes organizations tick as a whole,” he explains. “The EGMiM course at LSE seemed like a really good way to do that.”

Thanks to sponsorship from Deutsche Bank, Rob set out on the program in 2018.


Deeper understanding 

For Rob, the EGMiM program fitted his lifestyle and learning outlook better than a conventional MBA.

With its contextual approach to learning, the program immediately stood out. “I really liked LSE’s focus on discovering why things are the way they are, as opposed to just churning out management models,” he explains.

“Understanding the context and reasons for something make learning stick—it feels more practical.” 

Rob also believes that this style of learning harmonizes with his current role. “It felt like this approach was in line with the analytical nature of my career,” he explains, “and it was definitely in line with the way I’d like to continue to grow.”


Keeping up with change 

So far, Rob has found the module in Marketing Strategy especially influential, prompting him to ask how new technologies could be applied to his current role.

“There’s so much to learn from the explosion in digital marketing that can be applied in the HR arena,” he says, “it was both interesting and immediately applicable at work.” 

Understanding these trends can help HR professionals like Rob to stay abreast of the changing world of work, and use new technologies to streamline practices.

Digital innovations like AI, for instance, are already being implemented by HR professionals. One recent development at DBS bank saw the creation of an AI that helped the talent acquisition team to source suitable candidates.

The software, dubbed JIM (Jobs Intelligence Maestro) shortened screening times per candidate from 32 to eight minutes, and was able to respond to 96% of all candidate queries, significantly improving their application journey.

By understanding how this kind of digital disruption can be implemented, Rob believes, he will be able to keep up with industry trends, and influence the future of his sector. 

“I believe in being ready to make the most of new opportunities,” he says.


New perspectives

Rob says that his fellow students on the program have been another valuable learning resource, helping him to further broaden his outlook.

The average EGMiM program attracts students of 20 nationalities, across a wide range of industries and job functions. For Rob, connecting with entrepreneurs and innovators was a particular highlight.

“It’s been fascinating to connect with people with their own startups,” he notes. “Their experience is very different from my own and it’s really adding to my perspective.” 

As large organizations continue to partner with more agile startups, this insight is likely to be valuable in the coming years. In fact, one survey found that 53% of C-level banking executives believe partnering with fintech startups is important in 2019.


The future of work

When he graduates from the EGMiM program in 2020, Rob plans to apply what he has learned to challenges facing Deutsche Bank—from the increased popularity of online-only banks, to customer retention.

“I am particularly interested in working out what the future of work will look like for employees at financial institutions,” he says.

“I think my time at LSE will widen the range of opportunities I see, and give me confidence to work in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to previously.”

For others hoping to prepare themselves for the future of business, and bring fresh insight to their current role, he highly recommends the program.

“For anyone who has some professional experience behind them, and wants to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to continue making the most of opportunities that come their way, the EGMiM is a winner,” he says. 

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For Sarah Adomakoh, international development was always the goal.

At eight years old, she joined her father on a trip to his native Africa, and was taken aback by the widespread poverty she saw.

“My Dad was very socially minded,” she explains, “he and my mother gave me a mindset to understand what need is, and pay attention to other people’s needs.”

The experience stayed with Sarah, and went on to shape her career as an adult. 

In the first decade of her working life, Sarah was involved with a  number of public health projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.

One particularly rewarding project was co-founding a branch of Dance4Life in Barbados, she says. 

The organization empowers young people through sex and relationships education, helping them make healthy, informed choices, and form lasting relationships.

After a number of years tackling health and social issues across the globe, Sarah embarked on the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at LSE.

Since graduating in 2018, she has used her newfound insights to expand her work to Africa, acting as an independent consultant. 

Here, she helps SMEs to connect with partners in the private sector and government, to achieve sustainable long-term growth. 


A global career

Sarah began her career at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as a research consultant.

Less than two years earlier, she remembers standing outside the school, saying “I want to work here, and I want to change the world.” 

Over the years, Sarah has worked with a number of development initiatives across the Carribean and Latin America, co-founding a consulting company in 2004.

The consultancy's main goal was to involve the private sector in local development, balancing revenue with social impact. During one project, Sarah and her team were able to help a medium-sized business expand their reach into five countries in five years, creating dozens of new jobs.

“I wanted to influence businesses, to make sure they can profit with purpose,” she says.

“My focus has been on maximising the ability of small and medium firms to improve their impact through innovative partnerships.”


A turning point

Despite the positive impact that Sarah was making, she wanted to take her work to Africa, and ensure her projects had a long-lasting impact.

“I implemented programs, but after the implementation phase, outcomes quickly started to die off,” she explains, “there was no real sustainability.” 

Hoping to better understand the socio-economic factors that influenced these outcomes, Sarah discovered the EGMiM program at LSE.

“LSE was a turning point for me,” she says. “It provided me with the space and opportunity to refocus my career, while raising three boys.” 

With its comprehensive curriculum, Sarah found that the program suited her learning style perfectly.

“The program takes you deeper than a traditional MBA," she explains.

"In addition to looking at the theoretical side of the business world, it takes one further into exploring how theories play out in the real world."

Studying topics like strategic decision making, management, organizational behavior, and innovation channels, Sarah felt her experience was a well-rounded one.

The program’s focus on emerging economies, including trips to China and India, also made it an ideal fit for Sarah’s career. 

During the class trip to Beijing, Sarah visited BMW and Boeing, to learn how multinationals are successfully integrating themselves into the Chinese economy. 

“It was a complete eye opener for me,” she recalls.  “It really shows you what emerging markets are doing, and what’s possible.”

The program also helped Sarah to improve her confidence, resulting in a strengthened network.

“At LSE, I went from never networking to thoroughly enjoying it,” she says. “The way LSE arrange networking events is all about bringing like-minded people together.”


Sustainable futures 

As her capstone project at LSE, Sarah founded Market Works Global, an organization dedicated to helping community-based startups grow and be impactful—sustainably.

“Development agencies don’t want to keep giving handouts,” she emphasises, “there needs to be an element of sustainability.”

With this project, Sarah hopes to forge lasting, mutually beneficial relationships between startups and larger organizations. 

When she graduated from LSE in 2018, Sarah set out as an independent development consultant, and was finally able to switch her focus to Africa. 

“I’m also on the board of an Africa-focused company, Invest In Africa,” she adds. 

Since its launch in 2012, Invest In Africa has created 32,000 local jobs in the continent, and added $116 million to local economies.

The organization provides local businesses with investment and training, working largely in Kenya and Ghana. 

“Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing emerging market regions,” Sarah notes. “With Brexit and the US-China trade war, there’s a lot of interest in the UK developing trade with Africa.

“It’s a great opportunity to influence actual development outcomes on the continent.”

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Global airline KLM recently made a surprising request to its customers—don’t fly. 

The public announcement came with an open letter from their CEO, as part of the airline’s new ‘Responsible Flying’ campaign. 

Customers were asked to think twice about flying. If instead you could take a train, or reevaluate your travel plans altogether, do it in the name of reducing your carbon footprint. 

Is this an example of cynical ‘greenwashing’—promoting green values as a marketing ploy—or is it an example of the growing sense of urgency companies are feeling to act on the climate crisis?

Either way, climate change is a topic at the front of the minds of business schools, with curricula shifting to focus on sustainability. The leaders coming out of MBA programs must be both aware of the climate emergency and recognize the business opportunities it creates. 


Dedicated departments—but not transversal

Sustainability has existed in business school curricula to varying extents in the past few decades. 

The crucial concern, however, is that it is mostly taught separately, as a discipline that is distinct from other business and management disciplines. 

Aurelien Acquier, head of sustainability on the Master in Management at ESCP EuropeMaster’s in Management (MiM) program at ESCP Europe, explains the conflicts that this method causes.

“[The risk is that] students have a dedicated module on sustainability, and then they go off to another module on finance where all they hear about is shareholder value maximization, and nothing else matters,” he explains. 

This silo mentality—where themes are conflicting rather than complementary—is counterproductive when emphasizing that climate change is a challenge that is going to affect all areas of business. 

The positive trend is to gradually introduce sustainability as a transversal theme. “Infuse the school with sustainable values,” Aurelien says. 

This has become more common in many schools. 

At ESCP Europe, the Master in Management offers a specialization course on the circular economy: ‘Rethink: Social innovation, alternative business models and sustainability’ (see the video below).

As well as this, for the first time this fall, all 400 students on the program will participate in a week-long introductory seminar around the theme of sustainability. 

As the school's biggest program, this seminar will implement a responsible mindset that, Aurelien hopes, will spread throughout the institution.



Progressing awareness into knowledge

When it comes to talking about climate change education at business school, awareness is one thing, but truly understanding it is far more complex. 

Aurelien thinks schools must educate on the wider effects and impacts climate change has on society before you can begin to examine the way it will affect business. 

“You have to broaden business school curricula, otherwise people are talking about solutions to problems they don’t properly understand,” he stresses. 

The MiM program at ESCP begins with the big issues that society is facing with regards to the environment—the challenges to biodiversity, energy, erosion, among others. From this, a crucial question is posed—‘Is our society able to continue to grow and sustain life?’

“Once you’ve raised this question, you can make the link with business, showing that business can be the source of the problem, as well as the solution,” Aurelien emphasizes. 


Innovation

Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to push sustainability onto the agenda in business school is to frame it as an opportunity for innovation. 

“It’s our responsibility to show them the realities, as well as to show students that it’s a space for business innovation,” Aurelien stresses. 

Students on the Master’s program are forced to think of ways to address the challenges posed, as well as to think critically about the way that companies answer this problem, like with the KLM campaign he says. 

“It’s important that students develop their critical thinking skills about this. Just because a company has developed a sustainability strategy, doesn’t mean that it’s going to solve the problem."

For the cynics who say it isn’t just the companies who need to solve the problem, it’s the system of capitalism that is flawed—resolving this also comes down to innovation, Aurelien explains. 

“Capitalism has always changed throughout history. The model we are in today—around shareholder governance—was not around when companies first emerged, and it is certainly not carved in stone. The company always has, and must, evolve.”

Why is sustainability the hottest topic at business school? Evolution and innovation, Aurelien says, are the paths to addressing climate change. They should be at the forefront of every master’s student’s mind. 

Otherwise, Aurelien laughs, “we are doomed!”

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With an almost endless list of business masters degrees to choose from it can seem overwhelming when faced with deciding on which one to pursue. 

Your choice will have a significant impact on your future career, so the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Luckily, help is at hand. 

Take this interactive quiz for guidance on which business master’s may be best suited to your goals and experience. 


This article was originally published on mba.comStart your graduate management education journey at www.mba.com by connecting to business schools, information, and tools to help you achieve your business school goals.

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Today, in the world’s top 100 largest revenue generators, 71 are private corporations, while just 29 are countries.

Businesses often have a far greater capacity to respond to the world’s crises, moving with the freedom and agility that state governments often lack. Setting the global agenda, therefore, often falls on the shoulders of business. 

This places a huge responsibility, and ethical obligation, on the leaders and future leaders of these organizations.

For students of the Master of Science (MSc) in Management at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, understanding the importance of responsible management is key to any ethically focused, globally minded leader, ensuring they have the right approaches and right solutions to effectively address today’s problems. 


The effects of globalization

One of the greatest effects of globalization on businesses is the fact that operations and transactions take place on a world scale.

Supply chains, value chains, operations—everything functions on an international level. 

Business leaders must be prepared to operate on a global scale, and Master’s programs must be able to reflect this. 

Laura Meulenberg sought an understanding of global business, and how these relationships operate in the international sphere, when she was searching for business schools. 

Nyenrode’s Master’s in Management had a strong emphasis on responsible management in the global arena, guiding students in how to navigate the challenges of international business with an ethical approach. 

A key element of this is business diplomacy—the management of interfaces between a global company and its non-business counterparts. This takes students through every level of the global sphere, interacting with companies, NGOs, and country authorities, all while understanding the local and global agendas. 

A trip to Geneva, as part of the international business and diplomacy elective, takes students to visit the World Trade Organization, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations, and the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.

Meeting these institutions first-hand, and interacting with some senior diplomats, offered Laura a fresh perspective on the advisory role that these organizations play.

“We hardly know anything about these great institutions, even though they play such a large role in trying to navigate the global players,” she illustrates. “Contrary to my previous belief, they play much more of a guiding role than a forceful one.”

“The perception is that these organizations force countries and people to do certain things. But on the contrary they try more to advise than to produce fear. It’s about sharing and informing.”

As an aspiring diplomat, Laura understands the importance on these institutions to share best practice and responsible leadership models around the world.


Promoting sustainability at the forefront of business


With the impending threat of climate change, sustainability goes hand in hand with responsible management. 

Responsible leaders must take the lead in driving environmental change inside companies, drawing upon the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as steps in the right direction. 

Rahul Nair (pictured), a Nyenrode alum, saw the direct impact of climate change while working for a construction company in India. It drove him towards wanting to make an impact. 

“I was working in an industry that pollutes a lot, and has a huge carbon footprint, and that inspired me to focus on sustainable development,” he remembers. 

Nyenrode’s emphasis on driving environmental change through business drew him towards their Master’s program, where he could meet and interact with global leaders in sustainability. 

One particular highlight was meeting the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organization of over 200 international companies from many industries, all with the aim of auctioning the SDGs. 

Rahul enthuses about a conversation he had with the president, Peter Bakker, who demonstrated the importance of working with a responsible mindset. 

“We’d learnt about the SDGs in class, but I wasn’t always clear about the roles of companies in this,” he notes. “He really helped me understand that sustainability should be in your genes—that you should always carry your responsibilities with you whenever you are doing business.”

The responsibility, he emphasizes, is firmly on the leaders of these organizations to practice good diplomacy. 

“These developments should always come from the top. That really inspires you as a small level employee, that sustainable theory can come from anyone across the organization,” Rahul stresses.

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Summer is well and truly underway. Far from the quiet business school campuses and empty classrooms though, many students are using this time to supplement their study experience with a stint in the workforce.

Among them are three Master’s in Strategy and International Management (SIM) students from the University of St Gallen. Salim Bugglé, Elsa Nordstroem, and Morten Lybaek are all making the most of their off-campus time, embarking on summer internships around the world as part of the program.

Working on three different continents, in three different industries, these jet-setting students have dispersed far and wide, making for a truly international study experience.

BusinessBecause caught up with the trio to find out more.


Name: Salim Bugglé

Industry: Venture Capital

Location: Singapore


Salim Bugglé was always skeptical about how classroom learning could prepare him for the demands of a professional role.

Through the SIM program, however, his opinion began to change.

“We did loads of company trips,” he explains. “We also had a lot of projects working with professionals, for example from McKinsey and AMG Mercedes.”

This summer, Salim is working in Singapore with Antler— a venture capital fund with an unusual business model.

“What Antler does is not only invest in companies,” he explains, “it also builds up companies from scratch.”

Every six months, the firm recruits a cohort of 100 entrepreneurs, puts them through a training program, and helps them to create their own companies. At the end of the training, Antler invests in the most promising new organizations.

“It’s super interesting, because I don’t only get the exposure from the Antler side,” Salim notes. “I’ve also had the opportunity to work with these founders, who have amazing track records.” 

Salim’s summer role has also encouraged his own entrepreneurial impulses. 

“I know my end goal is to be running my own business in a few years,” he notes, “so it’s just a question of growing enough knowledge and experience to get there."


Name: Elsa Nordstroem

Industry: Consulting

Location: Brussels and Zurich


Elsa Nordstroem is using her summer to complete an internship with Bain & Company, one of the ‘big three’ management consultancies.

“I’ve been interning in Brussels for six weeks, and now I’m going to Zurich for nine weeks,” she explains. 

“In Brussels, I was put on a case right away—I feel like I was really brought along, like I was part of the team.”

Although she acknowledges that switching from study to work is a big change of pace, Elsa believes that the SIM experience helped her prepare. 

“In SIM we did a lot of group work, and that’s also how you work in consulting,” she reflects, “I think there’s a lot of overlap.” 

With a Bain and Co. internship under her belt, Elsa is keen to pursue a career in strategy consulting when she graduates—a popular choice for SIM alumni.

Despite this, Elsa says, the SIM program encourages students to keep their options open. 

“Throughout the program, staff have made it clear that you do have other options besides consulting,” she notes.

“I think that I’m still trying to keep an open mind.”


Name: Morten Lybaek

Industry: Private Equity/Venture Capital

Location: Zambia


Almost 5,000 miles away, Morten Lybaek is spending his summer in Zambia.

Working with Kukula Capital—the country’s first private equity and venture capital fund—Morten is putting his SIM knowledge into practice.

“The whole business part of the curriculum is very much in play,” he explains, “but also, learning to be aware of the cultural context you’re in.”

The SIM program at St Gallen brings together around 30 nationalities, giving students the opportunity to network with people from very different backgrounds.

For Morten, this diverse classroom experience has been useful. He has learned to work alongside people with different preconceptions, he says.

Equally important has been the SIM program’s emphasis on social impact. 

“During the SIM course, students participate in the ‘SIMagination challenge' course, planning and executing a social impact project. Morten feels that he can draw from this experience today.

In Zambia, his firm hopes to impact the national economy by creating jobs and fostering economic inclusion.

“It’s a very interesting place to be,” he reflects, “It’s fun to see how the private sector and the development sector are working together here.”

When his time in Zambia is over, Morten, Like Elsa, plans to begin his career by applying for consulting positions. 

“Who knows about the future,” he says, “I’ll take it as it comes.”



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Home to over 19 million people, seven UNESCO world heritage sites, and the world’s second busiest airport, Beijing is often dubbed the ‘gateway to China’. 

It’s also an important hub for global business. Beijing accounts for 71.3% of China’s total GDP. 

With this incredible level of economic activity, Beijing makes a fascinating and relevant city for graduate management students the world over to explore. LSE’s Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program allows students to do just that, taking them around the world to learn about different markets.


Laura Cramer (Class of 2019) - Thinking outside the box


For Laura Cramer, the opportunity to study in uncharted territories drew her to the EGMiM.

Laura has worked with the Alaskan state government for over a decade, advising on public policy. When a drop in oil prices triggered an economic downturn in 2017, she decided it was time to broaden her knowledge with a master’s degree, and bring this new-found insight to her role.

“For myself, and others who are in a policy type role, there’s a lot to gain from looking at a global market, and how that influences a state or country and their politics.” she observes.

LSE’s reputation as a social science leader—ranked number two in the world for social science by QS in 2019—added to the program’s appeal.

“I thought because my career has been so government-focused, the social sciences program at LSE would really broaden my knowledge,” Laura explains.

For Laura, the week-long module in Beijing was the program’s highlight.  

“China is fascinating,” she reports, “it was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I think the rest of the world could learn a lot from China.”

During the trip, Laura had the chance to visit Tianjin, an eco-city South-East of Beijing. 

The city is a collaboration between the governments of China and Singapore; a model of sustainable development in the midst of rapid urbanization. Good air quality, ‘green’ buildings, and renewable energy are all planned into Tianjin’s design.

Creating a city from scratch is an enormous challenge, but progress has been incredibly fast. Just five years after its inception, the city’s first residents moved in. By 2015, the area housed 30,000 residents and 2,300 companies.

Seeing the scope and speed of this development, Laura was inspired to alter her own problem-solving methods.

“In Beijing, if there’s a failure they will very quickly turn on a dime and change it. In my job now, if there are bumps in the road, rather than just set them aside, or take a pause, I try to say: ‘We know we made a mistake, so let’s move on now; let’s learn from it now, let’s make a difference now.’

“The program helped with that—it helped me think outside the box.”


Mischa Kaplan (Class of 2019) - A different perspective

Mischa Kaplan spent several years as an intelligence officer in the Canadian army before moving onto an entrepreneurial career.

Today, he juggles his latest venture, a boutique research, training, and advisory firm, with his duties as director of HR at Ottawa Tourism, and a part-time lecturing position at Algonquin College Business School in Ontario, Canada.

In 2017, Mischa considered an Executive MBA, but was soon drawn to the EGMiM program at LSE.

Like Laura, he was intrigued by the program’s social science slant. “It’s kind of like the geek or nerd version of the MBA.” he quips, “It struck me as being intellectually rigorous.

“Then you get all that extra stuff: being able to spend two modules abroad. I think for myself, and for most of the cohort, those were definitely the highlight of the whole program.”

Studying in Beijing, Mischa felt encouraged to consider organizational problems from a different perspective, particularly during the trip to Tianjin. 

“It was really fascinating to see how China was addressing these massive problems: urban sprawl, and all the environmental problems that come with feeding and housing a gigantic population. They’re dealing with these problems in a very unique way.”

Mischa also recalls a memorable visit to Daimler’s Beijing headquarters. When the German car manufacturer first arrived in Beijing, they had to adapt quickly to meet the needs of a different consumer base. After 25 years in the Chinese market, Daimler remains a strong player.

“When you go to a place like China, you’re thrown into this entirely different way of addressing management problems.” Mishca observes, “It’s a whole different kind of economic environment.”

“Succeeding isn’t just about tools and models and spreadsheets. It’s about understanding, from a very different mindset, that all management problems exist within the context of social frameworks.”

Today, Mischa applies this philosophy to the challenges he encounters at work.

“The experience has made me more of a holistic manager, and a holistic thinker.” he says.

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With the emergence of technology like big datafintech, and AI, our business landscape is shifting. For today’s recent graduates, technical knowledge is increasingly important.

Top business schools are responding to this challenge by developing more tailored master’s programs, helping their students to navigate our increasingly tech-driven and globalized world. 

Enter: the specialized masters. These business masters qualifications include a technical slant, equipping students with the expertise they need to succeed in their chosen field. 

Many top business schools offer one or more of these courses, including HKUST Business School in Hong Kong (HKUST). The school offers a range of business master’s programs, to help recent graduates kick-start a career in their chosen field.

Considering graduate study? Here are five benefits of doing a specialized business master’s degree:


1. They’re attractive to employers

In a highly competitive job market, specialized industry knowledge can really help graduates to stand out in a crowd. 

The collection of business MScs at HKUST aim to do just that. The programs covers niche skills such as programming and big data analytics, alongside the managerial insights you would expect from a traditional business degree. 

It seems to be working: a GMAC survey found that over half of employers planned to hire graduates from these specialized programs in 2018.

The thriving career service at HKUST Business School also improves job prospects for students, whatever their area of study. On average, 95% of business school MSc students at HKUST secure a job offer within six months of graduating. 

Hong Kong’s expanding job market also plays a role in graduate hiring rates. With a GDP of $341.4 billion, and significant investment in tech, new jobs are constantly being created. 


2. There are plenty to choose from

Through a specialized master’s in business, students can zero in on the topics that matter to them, whether it’s a passion for fintech, a fascination with supply chains, or an enthusiasm for marketing.

This variety is exemplified by HKUST,  where five business MSc programs take precedence. These are the MSc in FinanceMSc in Global OperationsMSc in Information Systems ManagementMSc in International Management, and the MSc in Finance Technology

Although program diversity helps students to find their niche, it does mean that choosing the right program can be challenging. Knowing the role or industry that interests you can be a good place to start. Try taking a look at the educational backgrounds of employees in roles and organizations that appeal to you.


3. You can apply without work experience

Because admission to these programs isn’t contingent on years of work experience, they can act as a spring-board for recent bachelor’s graduates, and early career professionals.

Not only do business master’s students gain industry-specific knowledge, they can also carve out a niche within their selected field, and begin to plan a career trajectory.


4. They help you build a network 

Today, you can barely read 10 words of career advice without finding a reference to networking—and for good reason. Developing a strong network of like-minded professionals is important in any field and a master’s in business can provide an early-career boost.

This is certainly true for master’s students at HKUST. With a diverse, international cohort, students can make connections from around the globe. 


5. They help you access a specialized profession

Most business master’s programs are open to anyone with drive and a good bachelor’s degree. This makes them a useful way to break into a role or industry where technical knowledge is a must-have. 

Whatever the career ambition, choosing the right specialized master’s program can help you transition from a more generalized background to a specialized subject area, and make valuable professional connections. At HKUST, to take one example, students are connected with over 380 recruiters in a range of industries. 

When selecting your program, it’s a good idea to speak to students or alumni of the institutions you are considering. They’ll be able to give you some valuable insight into the learning experience that you just won’t get from a prospectus.

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Gone are the days when startup thinking was a radical practice only used by young disruptors in industry. Now, even long-standing corporations are implementing a startup mindset to make them more agile and maximize their success.

Take Unilever, the consumer goods giant that pulled in over $56 billion in revenues last year. When it comes to launching new brands, the company choose to adopt a startup mindset to get the job done, emulating the agility of companies a fraction of its size.

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For Rebecca Harper, a performance digital data lead at the company, her Master’s in Management and Entrepreneurship at Cranfield School of Management helped prepare her for this environment.


“The master’s provides you with the knowledge to thrive in a fast-paced environment”

Rebecca joined the course at Cranfield hoping to launch her own startup, but she soon realized that the idea she had in mind would not be viable as a business.

However, the program’s introduction to thinking like an entrepreneur has proven invaluable in a corporate environment.

“Here at Unilever, we deploy a lean and agile startup mentality, and that’s to make sure we execute an advantage over our competitors,” Rebecca says.

“This mindset was truly learned on the MSc in Management and Entrepreneurship [at Cranfield], which is why I believe it’s such a unique course.”

Key to this startup mindset is the creation of a never-ending loop of feedback on a new offering: producing the minimum viable product and refining its core features so that the most effective outcome is reached by the most effective process.

This is necessary for startups to get themselves off the ground, but it is also of use at large companies like Unilever when it comes to managing new products on tight budgets.

According to Rebecca, the program at Cranfield School of Management equips students to apply this mentality from day one.  

“The master’s will always provide you with the knowledge to thrive in a fast-paced environment with integrity and confidence, whether that’s in a corporate or a startup,” she confirms.

“If you’re ambitious and want to develop creative thinking, the quality of teaching and the diversity of the culture gives you the foundation to succeed.”


“When I started, I had the skillset of a manager—now, I have the skillset of a leader”

An entrepreneurial mindset alone cannot reproduce all of the conditions of a startup. It would be easy for an early-career professional joining a large corporation to feel anonymous, maybe even reluctant to take ownership of their team and their projects.

However, Rebecca says that the personal journey she underwent at Cranfield means that this has not been a problem for her at Unilever.

“I could say that when I started my course, I had the skillset of a manager—but when I left, I had the skillset of a leader,” she says.

“From a personal perspective, I learned about what I was capable of, how resilient I was and how I could use my inner drive to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Ultimately, it is the ability of the program at Cranfield School of Management to foster this proactive attitude in its students that Rebecca believes has set her, and her peers, up for success.

Whether they are turning their talents to small startups or, like Rebecca, to FTSE 100-listed companies, this proactivity is a huge asset.

“What I remember most is the camaraderie and support [within the cohort], and I made friends for life,” she explains. “Now that we’ve graduated and gone our separate ways, I get to watch them grow and excel in what they’ve chosen to do—it’s very gratifying.”

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Today’s business leaders need to be able to understand and use big data like never before.

Whether it’s helping to streamline your resources, save vital cash, or gain insights to your customer market, being able to prepare and visualize data is increasingly important when it comes to pushing a business forward.

Big data analytics is also one of the hardest skills to recruit for employers, so much so that 13% of companies rated the skill as ‘impossible’ to hire in 2018’s Financial Times Skills Gap Survey .

Frankfurt School of Finance and Management’s Master in Applied Data Science was developed in response to that demand.

In the two-year program, students cover both business fundamentals and explore hot topics like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Students get to solve real-world data science problems, working on company projects with the school’s big-name corporate partners, including Commerzbank and PwC.

The program follows a unique 3-day model, with students attending class three days a week—on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays—leaving time for part-time work and study.


Diverse Experience

German student Loa Marx joined the course after completing a bachelor’s in business informatics, where she discovered a love for stats and data. She subsequently decided to move towards data science in her master’s. Loa

For Loa, the master’s provided the perfect opportunity to build up her knowledge in statistical methods despite her not coming from a purely data background. Instead, the program attracts people from a range of academic and global backgrounds.  

“It is incredibly enhancing, there is a lot to learn from different types of people” she explains.

Students studying applied data science at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management have experience in a range of subjects such as linguistics, marketing and engineering. Over half of the students on Loa’s course are international.

Students get diverse experiences too: with many of their classes being held in Frankfurt School’s new artificial intelligence lab, lectures on the ethical considerations around Industry 4.0, hackathons, and business games. While the program is taught entirely in English, German classes are provided for all non-German speakers.

Following her degree, Loa hopes to go in to the business analytics field, using her knowledge in data, technology and business to eventually move on to a management position.

“You learn to make data-based decisions and that’s a great starting point to pursue a management career,” Loa explains. “Frankfurt is ahead of other business schools in this field.”

 


Big data revolution!

Fellow student, Felix Schmid, agrees. Felix, who studied engineering and management at undergrad, wanted to study data science to stay at the cutting-edge of business.

The big data industry in Germany is growing rapidly, with sales of hardware, software and services in big data growing to approximately €6.8 billion in 2018, up by 10% on the previous year. Such statistics are echoed across the world as big data becomes increasingly vital.

‘‘I felt that the technical side and those big data insights will really drive the economy in the future and that’s why I decided to go for data science master,” Felix explains.

As well as the training in big data analytics, Felix has been inspired by the community and professional network he’s developed at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. Students at Frankfurt learn from experienced innovators who have previous business experience, meaning they are able to provide industry insights as well as academic.

“We are a small class and you can always talk to the lecturers so you get a lot of knowledge about their experiences,” he says.

Vahe Andronians, a professor on the course, explains that the MSc in Applied Data Science was created as a response to the demand for business savvy data scientists, with the artificial intelligence labs forming a key part of that. 

"It provides a space where new learning concepts can be developed, tested and immediately implemented in to the teaching programme," he explains. The labs subsequently provide space for experimentation and creativity when working. 

"Students will learn the foundations of Artificial Intelligence which will allow them to stay on top of an increasingly faster evolving industry."

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Never has there been a more competitive time to be a new business owner in the UK. In 2018, over 660,000 new companies were registered in the UK, a record number and a 5.7% increase on the previous year.

Despite impending threats to business caused by the Brexit negotiations, the UK continues to fly the flag for entrepreneurship and startups.

For Kaz Kirollos, the course director of Aston Business School’s MSc in Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is now a legitimate career route.

Kaz’s path began in Cambridge before Geneva, where he was as a consultant and researcher for the UN. He also received a PhD in 2014 from Henley Business School. “During that time, as a hobby really, I started working with friends on different startups,” he recalls.

Kaz helped a number of startups out across areas like business development and marketing, he led a nine-month project as CEO of an internet startup, and even advised a China-UK consulting firm.

Now, he’s teaching students that the key to startup success is to think like Silicon Valley.


The shocking reality

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A high rate of start-ups fail in their first year. Kaz acknowledges this is a shocking truth that most entrepreneurs will have to stomach. “The most difficult part of entrepreneurship is that starting process,” he warns. For him, this is down to a fairly simple problem—a fear of failure.

California’s Silicon Valley, for Kaz, remains the hallmark story of success for entrepreneurship. The tech industry near San Francisco has produced a consistent rate of high-achieving start-up ‘unicorns’—privately owned start-ups valued over $1 billion—including Uber, AirBnB, and Pinterest.

“Look at the areas that have the highest output of entrepreneurs—the reason why Silicon Valley produces entrepreneurs is that they have a culture where fear of failing is not a problem.”

It is this mentality, that Kaz tries to instill in his students. Integral to this process of building confidence in young entrepreneurs is changing the culture, or “ecosystem” as Kaz puts it, giving students access to institutions and other entrepreneurs which can help new businesses thrive.


Theory + Practice

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Aston’s MSc in Entrepreneurship currently has 26 students in its class from a diverse international intake and professional background.

The course runs entrepreneurs through the lifespan of running a business, including a personal development module which is tailored to each entrepreneur. Whether a student is in the initial ideas and feasibility stage, or if they have already set up the business, the program offers case-specific advice to each participant.

Aston Business School’s incubator program, BSEEN, is further example of this. The program is run jointly with Birmingham City University, Newman University, and University College Birmingham. BSEEN mentors students with new businesses, providing access to their network of entrepreneurs and investors.

Kaz says that it was the balance between academic rigor and practical application of knowledge that drew him to the program.


Passion is everything

Aston’s growing reputation worldwide has increased its influx of international students, from China and India in particular.

This necessitates an awareness of the considerations of business owners from different parts of the world. Aston’s MSc in Entrepreneurship students focus on the challenges of businesses in the developing world, and how they differ from Europe and the US

Yet Kaz says the biggest contributing factor to success remains the same everywhere.

“When students come and pitch business ideas, I often ask them, ‘Is this something you are passionate about?’” he says.

“As in any career, enjoying what you are doing is so important, and entrepreneurs all too often neglect this.”


 

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While the MBA is still king in the world of graduate business education, students are increasingly becoming interested in master's programs as an alternative to the traditional MBA.

According to research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), almost half (46%) of all applicants to business programs are considering both an MBA and a business-related master's degree, with students exploring more specialized master’s degrees in areas such as finance and data analytics.

At The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business, their top-ranked specialized master's programs offer action-based curriculums and impressive career outcomes. Many of Fisher's master's programs have also earned STEM-designation—a crucial differentiator that can offer more job opportunities for students, especially international students.

Thanks to government changes, international students in the US on an F-1 visa who are enrolled in a STEM-designated program can now apply for 36 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) post-graduation, allowing them to gain practical experience in the US in a job related to their master's degree. A business master's is also a cost-effective way for international students to boost their career prospects—while many MBA degrees can total upwards of $100,000, a business master's degree can often be obtained for less than $50,000. 

Fisher's diverse portfolio of graduate programs provides students with a host of alternatives to an MBA degree, such as a Specialized Master in Finance, Master of Human Resource Management, and a Master of Business Logistics Engineering.

BusinessBecause spoke to two master's students at Fisher about why they decided to do a specialized master’s over an MBA, and why Fisher’s master's programs stood out.


Exploring new opportunities in supply chain

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“I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering—three-to-four years back I had no idea what supply chain or even logistics was,” explains Visakh Venkitaramanan (pictured).

After his undergraduate degree, Visakh worked as a systems engineer for IT consulting firm Infosys in his native India and found a natural interest for the world of supply chain management. After working for a year as a logistics analyst for a freight company, he decided it was time to get more in-depth knowledge of the industry. “I realized that in order to progress in my career I needed to have a Master degree,” he explains.

While Visakh did consider MBA programs, ultimately, he decided the specialist knowledge acquired on an intensive master's degree would be more helpful for his future career.

“I was kind of clear about what I wanted to do—I wanted to get into a niche area of supply chain consulting and network design,” Visakh explains, and in the end he opted for the Master of Business Logistics Engineering (MBLE) program at Fisher College of Business, taught in conjunction with the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering.

As well as the crucial link to The Ohio State University College of Engineering—“coming from an engineering background, it was the perfect transition for me,” Visakh explains—it was Fisher’s unique location in Columbus, Ohio, that influenced the decision. Columbus is within a 10-hour drive of 48% of companies in America, making it an obvious logistics hub.

After an intensive year on the program, Visakh is certain that he’s gained the skills necessary to go into his desired industry—supply chain network design and consulting. “With this kind of rigorous training, I think I’m ready to face any challenge or any stressful environment,” he says.

“To go into supply chain network design—that requires the quantitative stuff which is definitely not there on an MBA program. But if I had taken industrial engineering I wouldn’t have the business side of things. It was really the best of both worlds.”


From MBA to Master's

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Jayaprabha Dhavale (pictured) is in a unique position in that she already has an MBA from a school in India, but decided to pursue the Specialized Master in Finance at Fisher College of Business in order to get a more in-depth view of the financial side of business.

 

Jayaprabha started her career as a clinical assistant, and she holds an undergraduate degree in Ayurvedic medicine and surgery from a medical college in India. However, after a year and a half in healthcare, she decided to explore her options in management.

“I was always interested in investment and stocks,” she explains, “and at that time doing a management degree was kind of a ‘cool’ option, so I pursued an MBA.”

Against advice from her friends, who told her that human resources or marketing would match her previous experience better, Jayaprabha chose to specialize in finance, and after graduating worked as an equity analyst in India.

However, it was her husband’s move to the US in 2016 that offered her the chance to delve back into the world of finance in the form of another graduate degree.

“I already had knowledge of finance but I wanted to deepen my knowledge,” Jayaprabha explains. “I didn’t have any background in finance per se, and my bachelors was totally different.”

Ultimately, the Specialized Master of Finance at Fisher offered a way to pursue finance in a deeper manner without doing another MBA. “I wasn’t really committed to investing another two years into an MBA,” she says. “This program is kind of a mini-MBA!”

Currently at the midway part of her master's program, how does Jayaprabha think the degree will help her in the future?

“It’s a vigorous program and really diverse, too—10 different countries are represented in the program,” she explains. “I haven’t ever learned in an environment where there’s so much diversity.”

Apart from that, the Specialized Master in Finance program offers students the opportunity to learn technical skills in financial software, such as Bloomberg and Excel, as well as developing the all-important soft skills that employers value so highly.

“The program requires a lot of commitment, it’s a really vigorous 10-month program,” Jayaprabha says. “During those 10 months you will be stressed out, but it will be really worth it!”

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When I call Alana, she’s busy packing for the Thanksgiving break—she’ll be heading back to the US for the holiday. Despite the stress of travelling, she’s eager to talk about what she deems her “scattered” career journey that took her to the MSc in Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School.

“My original plan was to go to a PhD in clinical neuropsychology,” she explains. Alana worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for almost three years doing neuropsychological assessments and research and afterwards cemented her interest in the field with a Masters in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It was also during this time that Alana attended her first hackathon, an event where entrepreneurs and coders work to solve problems in a short time frame, usually overnight. From then on, her career changed.

“I had an inkling neuroscience wasn’t really for me,” Alana admits. “I think the one thing I really enjoyed about my job was interacting with people.” 

From the hackathon, Alana’s career took her back to her native Puerto Rico, where she helped build a technology startup looking at how AI and machine learning can be used to educate working professions until Hurricane Maria changed her career journey once again—“it was a big pivotal moment,” Alana recalls.

“I was living there when that happened so there was kind of a personal shift,” she says. “I was seeing all those people that didn’t have water or electricity, so I didn’t see a lot of meaning in what I was working on.

“I became really interested in this idea of what can entrepreneurship do for second cities, so not London, not New York, not places with a lot of resources and money, places where you really only have people and a purpose.”

It was then that Alana decided to take her skills in product design and entrepreneurship to triple-accredited Aston Business School in Birmingham, UK—even turning down a job offer in London in the process.

“I had already applied and gotten into Aston, and I had already been on campus and met with the dean,” she explains. “The job in London would have just been a job, but I felt like this had more purpose.”


A close-knit community

Aston University itself is on the smaller side, with only 12,000 students enrolled, and Aston Business School prides itself on its community atmosphere.

“Personally, I like smaller institutions,” says Alana, “which makes sense, cause I like startups!

“I feel like at a smaller school you can do more, and there’s more personalized attention if you look for it.”

Despite its small size, Alana says she’s had the chance to meet a variety of people since starting the program.

“My favourite part so far is actually the people,” she says. “There’s 17 of us in total but they’re from all over the world.”

She’s also formed a bond with her dissertation supervisor, another Harvard alum. For Alana, it’s the community that makes Aston Business School different to other schools in the UK.

“At Aston, if you have an idea and you do the work of reaching out to people, there will be people to help you,” she says. “I haven’t necessarily seen that at other institutions.”


Career prospects

With such a varied background, where does Alana see her entrepreneurship degree taking her?

“Maybe I’m not the most traditional candidate for an entrepreneurship degree because I have started a company already!” Alana says. “The degree is definitely a hybrid of different things—the real crux of it is finding that personal connection.”

On the Master in Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, students have a wide range of modules to choose from, such as international business, innovation, and finance, as well as consulting.

Despite the new career path, and an assertion that she “definitely made the right choice!” going into entrepreneurship, Alana hasn’t quite escaped her background in psychology.

“At the moment I’m head of marketing for TEDx at Aston University,” she explains. “That’s all psychology and consumer behaviour so I’ve just learned a new way to use all the things I’ve learned in undergrad in a more relevant way.”

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Birmingham Business School’s 100% Online MSc International Business has been awarded accreditation by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), marking another world first for the school.

Following in the footsteps of the school’s 100% Online MBA program—which became the first of its kind in the world to receive accreditation from AMBA—the program is also the first of its kind to be recognized as such.

Roshan Boojihawon, program director for the Online MSc, explains that a similar level of care, rigor, and scrutiny applied when assessing MBA programs was applied to the Online MSc International Business.

“It concluded that the program is effective in delivering a wholly-online experience that combines both quality and flexibility, to enhance a student’s ability to perform at the highest level in global business,” he adds.

“To me, this makes the University of Birmingham a leading provider and institution of choice when it comes to study business at postgraduate level.”

That was exactly what Helena Feibert (pictured below, right), a graduate from the program who hails from Denmark, was after when pursuing postgraduate management education.

“I was looking around at different universities providing distance learning or providing learning in the vicinity of where I live,” she explains. “It had to have some accreditations, [and] it had to be a ranked university.

helena-birmingham-msc

“Once I had decided on an online MSc, I had a look at some universities in Denmark, Sweden, and in the UK, and I thought the match for Birmingham was great. It was exactly what I wanted to study and the parameters around it fit my work schedule really well.”

Helena recalls group work pushed her into an environment where she learned from an array of people from a multitude of cultures.

“You have to be able to embrace those differences,” she asserts. “But also embrace differences among personalities. How many people plan, and how many want to meet last minute?”

Her advice for future candidates on the program is to know what you’re getting into; you must remain dedicated.

There will be surprises, she says. There are going to be long nights, and tough study sessions, but if you know that before you walk through the door you’re sure to thrive.


'Tis the season to be jolly

Birmingham Business School was celebrating festive cheer all round, as the school’s suite of MBA programs was also awarded a further five-year accreditation—the maximum accreditation period that can be awarded by AMBA, a leading authoritative body in business education.  

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AMBA accreditation is awarded to the best international programs and is acknowledged as one of the highest achievement in postgraduate business education. The latest accreditation for Birmingham Business School consolidates its place among the group of business schools globally who hold ‘triple-crown’ accreditation—recognition from AMBA, AACSB, and the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).

Professor Catherine Cassell (pictured), dean of the business school, says that it highlights Birmingham Business School as a standout candidate in an increasingly competitive MBA market. 

“This reflects our ongoing investment in all areas of the program in recent years, and our continued approach to improving and tailoring our programs to meet the needs of the ever-changing global business environment,” she adds.

 
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Where is it better to study: Europe or Asia? It can be difficult—even impossible—to get a clear answer to this question, and it’s one that many business school applicants are now asking.

As China plays a more important role in global economy with growing tech hubs like Shenzhen on offer and super-fast transport making the region more connected, many students are looking East for their business education; in particular the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

The city is famously international, with almost 5% of its population being made up by ex-pats, while also offering connections into mainland China, advantages that have seen it dubbed the ‘Gateway to China’ for some years now. But what can Hong Kong offer that schools in Europe can’t, and what do European students have to gain by studying there?

We decided to find out from students who have studied in both, thanks to the Master’s programs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School.


A different approach to problem-solving

Perhaps the most obvious thing that a degree in Hong Kong offers for European students is an insight into something different, but for many students, it simply doesn’t occur to them.

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For Lorenzo Chiado’ Piat, a current MSc in Finance student, a degree in China wasn’t always on the cards.

Lorenzo grew up in Europe, and before studying for a semester in the United States in high school, he’d never considered anything else.

“Because I’ve always lived in Europe, I’d always considered Europe to be pretty much the only option,” he recalls. “Moving to the States, I realized there are so many different points of view to approaching anything in life.”

As a result of his experience away from home, Lorenzo looked to expand his worldview, and when ESCP Europe and CUHK Business School offered him the chance to pursue a dual-degree in both regions, he jumped at it: “With this Master’s, I really wanted to see and explore how the culture thinks and approaches problems,” he says.

The experience has certainly been eye-opening. Particularly as an early-career graduate, Lorenzo has been struck at the different approach to problem-solving he has witnessed in Asia, and hopes to take this knowledge with him into the next stage of his career.

“I’ve learnt that the way of thinking and approaching anything here is more systematic,” he explains. “They break down each process into different parts and solve them one by one.

“Sometimes it’s better to approach problems from a more distant point of view, like in Europe, and sometimes it’s better to do it step-by-step, like here—I can see the benefits of both, and I hope it will turn out to be an advantage.”

 

Access to a new network of business insight

Indeed, access to diverse perspectives has been abundant in Lorenzo’s experience at CUHK Business School, and he highlights the exposure this has given him for his future career.

For instance, the school holds a careers fair, with four days of industry-led talks representing every sector from accounting and finance to IT and consulting.

“The administration is very efficient here, and there are great links in the careers center for internships and jobs,” he says.

“There’s also a bunch of career talks and networking events where they invite CEOs to share experience and explain how business works—especially being in such a large school with different faculties, it’s easy to get insights to other markets that you wouldn’t get from other business schools.”


Insight from the cutting-edge

 

Louisa Zapf, a fellow student on the MSc in Business Analytics program, agrees.

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“The great thing about CUHK Business School is that it’s so up to date,” she says. “It really focuses on topics which are relevant today, or which are expected to become relevant in the future, so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time at university working on theories that are decades old.”

Like Lorenzo, Louisa studied previously in Europe—in her case, in Germany—but she seized the opportunity to complete her studies in Asia. Now, several months into her experience, she believes that it has put her ahead of the curve, particularly with the specificity of her degree.

“Asia is known to be ahead in IT and technological development, and to embrace digitization—all topics that are relevant to my study program,” she says.

“Plus, in Europe it’s hard to find a program that focuses on data analysis combined with business studies, so Asia is ahead of Europe in that department.”


Asian experience with a global appeal

In fact, Louisa believes that her Hong Kong education will be an advantage even if she decides to return to Germany.

“German companies are definitely looking for people with experience in Asia,” she says. “I think you can learn much more in terms of how to deal with the culture when you are actually living here than when you attend an intercultural seminar—it definitely puts me ahead of some of the competition.”

Indeed, McKinsey predicted a shortfall of 1.5 million managers with big data analysis expertise in 2018, though worldwide revenues in the area of big data analytics are only climbing. In this climate, the skills Louisa has gained at CUHK will be invaluable.

Overall, both Louisa and Lorenzo report that their time at CUHK Business School has surpassed their expectations.

“I would absolutely recommend it,” says Louisa.

“You really feel like you’re working on something that is currently very important, and that will prepare you well for your future career in a business environment.”

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