By Serhat Kyuchuk-Pakyuz (MBA2017)
A decade on from when I first met London Business School (LBS) alumni and admissions teams at an MBA information session in Sydney, I reflect on some of the learnings that might be helpful to others considering a similar journey.
The LBS fabric
Born and raised in Wollongong, Australia, in hindsight I feel very lucky to have attended LBS. I was an average applicant in almost every way. I was a steel industry graduate with an average GMAT score. I was the average age for my cohort. And I had the average years of professional work experience. In my view, there was nothing outstanding about me as an applicant and it was by no means a “home run” that I would be admitted. Despite this, every person I met from LBS in the admissions process made me feel like I belonged there. They went to great lengths to get to know me as a person throughout my journey and made me feel as valued as the many amazing rockstar applicants I was fortunate enough to share the best two years of my life with. This, I would learn, was not just a pitch, but the very fabric of the LBS community: inclusive and approachable.
Some people experience a perfect conversion of their post-MBA career vision and outcomes. They arrive on campus with an impressively stubborn focus for achievement, they get exactly what they wanted, and ten years after they had first thought about an MBA they are exactly where they thought they would be. But this story is the exception, not the rule. For most of us, we realise at some point – this can be during the program or even some years post-MBA – that our career (and life!) is akin to a Rubik’s Cube. Sometimes all the squares line up, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you need to regress a little to go forward, or even abandon your strategy completely and try a different approach. When you are studying for an MBA, it can be hard to see this, and the pressures of social proof can influence your perspective. One of the benefits of studying at LBS is that the programs are flexible and allow you to test out and explore different pathways. For example, I did multiple internships (one in consulting and one at a start-up) and took on tutoring opportunities throughout my two years by condensing some of my classes into block weeks. I was keen to explore different ideas, and the program allowed me to do that so I could better inform my choices.
Adapting your identity
Post-MBA, I joined Amazon’s Consumer Program thanks to on-campus recruiting at LBS. I worked across large parts of Amazon’s supply chain and technology businesses over the subsequent six years. There was a point at which I could see myself staying there for my whole career. It was an amazing learning experience, and combined with my LBS MBA, has given me an excellent platform to now co-found (along with my wife, an MBA2018) a new venture, RideLogix. If you had asked me ten years ago what I would be doing today, I really doubt I would have said that I have just quit my job to start a technology company focused on de-carbonising last mile deliveries! Your view on what you want to do with your life will change over time, and the specific choices you make during an MBA are likely to lose their weight on your trajectory in the long-term as you shape your life view. But the learnings and the network will stick with you. Be focused on your goals but expect to be adaptable on your identity as you grow.
The 100-Year Life
Upon leaving LBS, our MBA2017 cohort was given quite a memorable lecture by faculty members Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. They had recently published their book, The 100-Year Life, which challenges the notion of the traditional three-phase life (education, employment, retirement). They argue that, given the longevity younger generations can expect, the three-phase mental model will be replaced by a non-linear portfolio of working patterns, additional education, consultancy, extended periods of leisure, and perhaps even entrepreneurship. I therefore wasn’t shocked when I started to see this play out practically, not only in my own life, but in the lives of my fellow LBS alum. Some have started their own businesses; others have moved to cabins in the remote wilderness! The message is: whatever your plans are, you will have far greater choice and a much longer lifetime runway to manage in experiencing it all. LBS prepares you for this phenomenon, culturally with exposure to a diverse student community, academically with world class faculty and breadth of topics, and professionally with a truly global alumni network.
Although I look back fondly at the role LBS has played in my life so far, our story is far from over. Whether it’s the regular London coffee catch-ups with my closest friends from the program, the MBA Open Day alumni panels, or the invaluable entrepreneurial networking opportunities, the LBS community connection is enduring and joining it was a crucial moment in my life.