Why I Left Goldman Sachs For An MBA In The UK
Finance is one of the most popular MBA Jobs. But Adiba Ali left her career with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs for an MBA at Aston Business School.
When Adiba Ali began an MBA in the UK earlier this year, her classmates all asked her the same question: Why did you leave Goldman Sachs?
“For the six years I worked at Goldman’s,” she says, “Every year has been a high point in my career. But when I took an Associate position in London, I wanted more opportunity. It was just time for something new.”
It is both a risk and a rarity for a financier to leave such a high-profile investment bank in search of more adventure. But is that not a quality akin to the modern business leader?
MBAs are as big on diversity and international exposure as they are on career opportunities. And Adiba’s transition to business school has pitched her with one of the widest MBA cohorts in the UK.
Her career, too, has been nothing if not international. The MBA student, currently enrolled at Aston Business School, has enjoyed a lengthy career with finance giant Goldman Sachs in India, China and England.
It is surprising to hear that, when she was first offered a position at a start-up team in Bangalore, she didn’t bite the recruiters hand off.
“I fell into the role by chance. Goldman Sachs wasn’t very famous at that point in India and not many people knew of its reputation,” says Adiba. “I had just finished my undergraduate studies and I wanted to study a masters in economics first.
“I went to the interview to get some experience of the recruitment process. I never thought I would be selected - and I wasn’t sure that I wanted a job.”
It is even more surprising that, after receiving a six-month employment offer from the leading investment bank, Adiba was discouraged from joining.
“When I told my dad I got the job, he had no idea what Goldman Sachs was,” she says. “I had to convince my parents it was the right decision for me.
“When I researched the firm I suddenly realised it was a great opportunity. I thought I’d give it six months and then, if I like it, I’ll stick with it.”
The truth is that Adiba fell in love with investment banking. After that six-month period, she would stay with the company for the best part of a decade.
Finance is one of the most popular functions in the MBA Jobs world and she was kick-starting a career in the industry a long before even considering business school.
Adiba worked as an analyst with the bank in Bangalore for over four years, working in regulatory operations with a start-up team of six. It gave her much more responsibility than a new recruit might expect.
In 2009 she got the chance to relocate to Hong Kong – something her colleagues were quick to advise against. China is fast becoming the financial centre of the world and the experience was a great benefit for Adiba.
“Going to Hong Kong was a risk in itself and everyone discouraged me,” she says. “But that’s the kind of person I am; I like to take risks. I don’t tend to follow trends and in the end, going to China was a great thing.
“We were doing a very critical report at the time, and senior managers from New York were constantly flying out to oversee our work. My juniors realised I got a lot of visibility, and suddenly everybody wanted to come to Hong Kong.”
Just as the financial tide picked up in China, she moved on to London, linking up with Goldman Sachs there as an Associate. UK b-schools have some of the highest MBA Rankings in the world and at the time, Adiba harboured thoughts of gaining an MBA in the region.
“I was in London for about two years, but I got a sense from my managers that I was going to continue in a similar role,” she continues. “I think for whatever reason, the career progression is slower than in Asia and I thought, why can’t I do something different?
“The MBA had been in the back of my mind for a few years and I thought this would be the perfect time to finally begin one.”
Adiba wanted to gain greater leadership and project management abilities, and learn in an environment that is relatively risk-free. She considered other b-schools, but Aston’s diverse cohort and 12-month program set the university apart from the rest.
“Some people would like to work with more British MBAs,” she says. “But I have learnt so much from our cohort. The different cultures are amazing and coming from finance, I haven’t always had the chance to mix with such a wide range of people.”
Banking regulation may have been Adiba’s passion, but an MBA opens doors to many new functions. She has been applying to various graduate programs and is happy to follow a completely new career path.
Three months into the full-time MBA at Aston, and the investment is already paying dividends. She understands what is needed to become a successful manager and has accelerated her career – something that, she agrees, would have taken years in a full-time job.
Finance remains a dominant function for MBA careers and many would love to work at a top investment bank. But while Adiba doesn’t rule out a return to banking, an MBA has given her the tools to work in any industry.
She has taken a risk leaving Goldman Sachs. But with Aston, it will surely pay off.