How have LBS students turned lockdown to their advantage?

Online, the London Business School community is more vibrant than ever, with an impressive array of figures from the world of business and politics taking part in student events virtually. Here, students share some of their highlights and explain how they’ve turned lockdown to their advantage.

Taking the initiative and drawing on staff and faculty support, the School’s clubs and Student Association have expanded the number and frequency of events in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if guests were flying into London. And in recent months, LBS has attracted some incredible speakers, including Andrea Guerra, CEO of LVMH hospitality, and José Manuel Barroso, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and former President of the European Commission and Prime Minister of Portugal. 

The strong and positive reaction of the Club community in the face of such an upheaval has been one of Duarte Cunha Rosa’s (MBA2021) LBS highlights.  

The Italian and Spanish Clubs were a great source of inspiration in making the most of this ‘virtual reality’ by bringing unique speakers to chat with our peers,” says Duarte, a Portugal Club officer (pictured, left, with José Manuel Barroso). “So many other clubs have shown incredible creativity and drive: from organising a music festival at home (LATAM) to pulling off a dance competition online (Out in Business). 

“Our community valued hearing the political, professional and personal perspectives of such a respected leader as Mr Barroso. He gave insightful answers on topics like the COVID-19 crisis, the future of the EU, career transitions and mental health.” 

Textbook stuff 

Last month, Ed Boyanoski MBA2021 and his peers had the chance to speak with easyJet Chairman John Barton. He took time out from tense discussions with easyJet’s founder to talk candidly about the state of the airline industry and how the low-cost airline is strategically refocusing its efforts. 

“In the hour-long virtual discussion, John was honest about the difficult reality of leading an airline through this pandemic,” explains Ed. “He was generous with sharing his insights into what he feels are the ingredients for success, as well as what he believes it takes to lead through times like these. 

“What was particularly inspiring about John’s discussion was the clear enthusiasm for his work, even in times where easyJet is facing many challenges. As MBA students we often read about how companies managed a crisis, but it was very engaging to see his plan regarding the company’s future in real-time. I think we all took something away from the event that you can’t get from a textbook.”  

Life in the fast lane with Lamborghini 

Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Lamborghini and a former head of Ferrari F1 team, is the most recent leader to appear at an Italian Club event. He has spent his whole career in the world of supercars, having joined Lamborghini from Ferrari where he was head of their F1 team. 

Event co-organiser and club co-president Alberto Fiorencis MBA2020 was initially worried that campus activities would end with the start of the lockdown. Instead, he says, his classmates have embraced the ‘Zoom environment’ as an opportunity to change the approach to club life. 

“It turns out it’s easier to get a speaker for a one-hour Zoom than to get them to attend a conference, and a Zoom event can hold up to 500 people, with students and alumni connecting from everywhere in the world.”  

In just one month, the Italian Club has hosted four events involving a COO and two CEOs and a former Italian Prime Minister.  

“Very quickly, all the other clubs have realised how to benefit from this new situation and have secured similarly high-profile speakers with hundreds tuning in from across the world.” 

More time with faculty 

One aspect of campus life the students have missed is the opportunity to talk to faculty after class. In response, Stephanie Webster EMBALJ2021 has led the organisation of the FaculTEA event series. The idea of these events is to give eminent LBS faculty another avenue to share their wisdom while campus remains closed. 

“The LBS faculty are a huge source of inspiration to us and we wanted to create an opportunity to say thank you and explore their wider work outside the classroom more deeply,” explains Stephanie. 

“With classes taking place online, we missed the opportunity to approach  faculty on campus It’s fascinating to hear these experts speak on wider subjects and FaculTEA has become a forum for exploring all of those extra questions you might have.” 

Stephanie and her Student Association co-organisers Mohammad Albanna EMBA2021 and Suresh Ghalsasi EMBALJ2021 used a focus group of fellow students to decide on the FaculTEA series topics. The first was ‘The Confidence talk’ and the second will be on ‘How to make your first million’, where entrepreneurial and start-up faculty will share their insights. 

“Confidence seemed like a great place to start because it’s easy to be intimidated in class or to become overconfident,” says Stephanie. “It’s important to remember that we’re all finding our place in the world at LBS and you need confidence to try new things and the humility to learn from them.” 

Students and alumni can explore club life and book their place at these and other events here

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