By Tobi Ogunsanya, MBA2022
“Tobi – how do you fancy starting your MBA during one of the worst global pandemics in 100 years meaning that you won’t be able to meet all your classmates in person, will have to take (some) lectures over zoom and…ahem…you aren’t allowed to travel abroad for a year?”
If you had asked me this question a few years ago, it is quite obvious what my answer would likely have been. Now, having lived through the experiences I’ve had as an MBA2022, I would respond with challenge accepted!
To introduce myself briefly – I’m a British Nigerian who was born and raised in the UK and spent my pre-MBA life as a Strategy Consultant helping Clients leverage technology to transform their business. My motivations for pursuing an MBA were driven by my passion for technology and entrepreneurship exploring opportunities in either tech-focussed PE or VC funds, Big Tech, and start-ups with platform business models.
Now 10 months into my journey at LBS – I want to share 10 things with you that I believe reflect the hidden benefits of the MBA that enable me to reflect back on why I would have gladly accepted the challenge of being part of the MBA “COVID generation”. In shaping this top 10 list, I’ve consulted 10 classmates who embody the rich diversity we have at LBS to ensure this list is as representative as possible of the wider student body.
1 – Different experience, same social interactions
Clearly we haven’t been able to take advantage of gallivanting around Europe and beyond in the typical MBA fashion but arguably our cohort has been able to form strong bonds quicker than the norm, due to the intimacy of the countless dinner parties and trips around the UK we have done as government restrictions eased.
2 – Zoom interviews are less stressful!
We all prefer networking in person but having been forced to do this over zoom has yielded some hidden benefits that could not have been anticipated – firstly, the ability to network with more people in a productive way through targeted 30-minute calls without the need to commute. Secondly, interviewing over zoom means you have greater control of your external environment which actually made the whole process feel less stressful being sat in your own home than in an impersonal office – I genuinely believe that all of this played a small part in the internship offers I received from Bain & Company, Amazon and Google.
3 – Global community, shared purpose
Prior to the starting the MBA, it was hard to imagine how the wider LBS community would react to the evolving macro landscape. However, it has been incredible to witness how Students across programmes and the faculty body have really come together to strive as best we can to restore some normality in a world of chaos – the hybrid learning model was a great example of this with our professors adapting to this new mode of working in innovative ways – one professor even utilised a green screen set-up in his home whilst lecturing so he could present in a way that was not distracting over zoom with his “bobbing” head in the foreground of the slides.
4 – There is no such thing as the typical MBA Experience
One thing to focus on when you join the MBA is to run your own race and not that of others. Arguably, one of the greatest experiences about the MBA is the personal transformation that everyone goes through unique to their story – I have had friends start a family becoming fathers and mothers in order to be there for their babies in those important early days whilst also assessing what to do next in their careers. One lesson the last year has taught us is that time is not a luxury anyone has, so really see the MBA as an opportunity to achieve as much as you can from participating in clubs, going for a walk with a classmate in the parks of London and networking with companies to land your dream job.
5 – Plans are nothing, but planning is everything
The more introspective you can be in the early months of starting the MBA, the better. These months are crucial in shaping your overall experience for the next 15, 18 or 21 months. The unanimous advice provided by those I consulted was – have a direction you are aiming for (even if not fully formed), focus on this and execute aligned to your goals. Many of us came into the MBA with a lot of indecision and uncertainty about what career paths we wanted to pivot into but taking the time to explore this by attending the different events organised by the Student clubs and the Career Centre has been invaluable. Invest the time upfront, be curious and you will see the benefits later in the year.
6 – You learn as much (maybe more) outside the classroom as you do inside it
The MBA gives you the resources, flexibility and confidence to explore your interests outside of the classroom to discover if and how they can fit into your career moving forward. You can dive into everything from entrepreneurship to learning about investing and make this experience completely your own! The breadth of experiences is truly impressive; and it translates to the diverse perspectives that everyone brings into life at LBS. For many of us, we have been pleasantly surprised at how much we have learnt from the out-of-class activities. From learning about how to be an effective ally supporting our LGBTQ+ classmates to raising a record amount of money for charity during Movember, to being inspired by classmates who had never ever run a mile before yet completed a self-organised marathon for the first time under the tutelage of another classmate who spent 8 years in the Israel military to coffee chats with students who have started, scaled and sold successful businesses…the MBA empowers you to know that the world is full of possibilities and options that you never thought possible.
7 – Partners are just as part of the MBA experience as students themselves
One of the differentiators of LBS compared to other schools is the way in which Partners are very much part of the wider community. In our experience this can really help elevate your MBA experience – one of the most common myths we all heard before the MBA was the horror stories of people separating (which does unfortunately happen) but conversely there are many more stories you hear and see of partners who are very involved and integrated into the MBA and form their own deep and lasting relationships which makes the MBA experience so much richer. Some Partners even hold leadership positions in major clubs such as the Women in Business club so LBS really does cater to your other halves too!
8 – Diversity is a way of life
A lot of MBA programmes talk about diversity but very few in our opinion live and breathe it. The LBS MBA is one of the most diverse in the world in terms of culture, gender and the past lives people led prior to the programme. The diversity of our class and the differences amongst us allow us to learn from each other and grow as individuals. It has been amazing at how quickly we have been able to bond with individuals from all types of backgrounds and walks of life, and form friendships that will last a lifetime. Despite this diversity and differences, there is an underlying understanding which connects us all to one another and allows us to learn from each other. In the words of one of my classmates – talking to people across the MBA programme is a low-cost way of exploring the world learning about the different cultures, politics, beliefs, and cuisines in the 60 countries represented on the MBA.
9 – The UK has some amazing locations
Despite living in the UK for over 25 years, I hadn’t quite appreciated some of the amazing locations that existed in the UK and within London itself. It has been a great experience creating memories and exploring places like Edinburgh, Brighton, the Lake District, to name a few, and also finding out about hidden corners of London such as rooftop bars in Tobacco Docks or watching the sunset over London in Primrose Hill with the MBA cohort.
10 – Do not fear failure but be fearful of regret
We round off this list with probably the most important advice based on those I spoke to, and that is to take risks and try new things. There is no time like the present and as world economies recover from the pandemic, the MBA has been an amazing outlet to engage in student clubs cultivating familiar and new interests, learn new things over coffee chats with people from unconventional backgrounds, such as former Doctors & Lawyers, and just being open-minded to what the future may hold in the crazy journey that is the MBA.
A big thanks to my classmates who helped contribute to this article – Dami, Sarthak, Marileni, Kasia, Hector, Anson, Peggy, Byron, JP and Luli.
Please do reach out if you want to discuss anything and everything.
If you are interested in learning more about our MBA programme, please visit our website.