Reflections from my first year on the MBA programme

By Azmeen Merchant (MBA2024)

Somehow, as I write this, I find it extremely hard to believe that I’m already one year into my MBA.

It feels like yesterday that we were at orientation, looking around the room with nervous excitement and great anticipation for what was (unbeknownst to us at the time) going to be one of our most transformational years. What a journey it has been! From learning both inside and outside the classroom, experiencing tremendous professional growth, overcoming obstacles to achieve personal development, and building lifelong friendships. The first year of my LBS MBA has been nothing short of incredible.

It would be impossible for me to highlight everything I have learnt and experienced across the first year. But some standout moments are as follows:

  1. Organising a pre-MBA trip to Brighton: Before the MBA started, I led a group of 260 just-landed-in-London MBAs to Brighton. I still have people come up to me and tell me that they made some of their best friends in the MBA on this trip, so this remains one of the highlights of my MBA!

  2. Leading an Impact Consulting project: During the first term, I led a team of LBS students across different programmes, to undertake an Impact Consulting project for a startup in Kenya, which early on helped me solidify my interest in the impact space.

  3. Learning how to ski at the LBS Snow Trek: During an incredible week in Val Thorens, France, I learned how to ski. And I will be going back!!

  4. Taking The Science of People in Organisations: Quite possibly my absolute favourite class at LBS so far, taught by the brilliant Ena Inesi.

  5. Getting my dream internship: One of my greatest career aspirations has been to drive investment into emerging markets. LBS offered me the opportunity to turn this into a reality, and I’m super excited to be interning this summer with the UK’s Development Finance Institution, British International Investment.

  6. All the travels: I can’t pick just one, but as a Foodie Club ExCo member, I can’t help but commend the incredible culinary journey the MBA promises. From eating pintxos in San Sebastian to arancini in Sicily, from smoked salmon in Norway to incredible spreads with all the mezze in Jordan and Lebanon, not to mention the culinary scene in London…I’ve been truly blessed.

  7. Building incredible friendships with people from all over the world: This is truly priceless, and if you ask me, the best part about the MBA.

Before I started the MBA, my interviewer shared with me her 10 tips for an MBA, which was hugely invaluable to me. While many of the learnings in an MBA need to be experienced, as I reflect on my first year, I’d like to share my 5 (+1) tips for a great first year:

  1. Follow your own path: You will be told that you should apply to consulting and banking; that you should be case prepping in July; that you should have 10,000 coffee chats; that you should be in at least 3 ExCos. The FOMO gets real. While all of that may be exactly what YOU want to do, don’t do it because everyone else is doing it. Take the time and space early on in your MBA to understand what you want to achieve from the MBA and what you want your career to look like, and it will help you tremendously. No one else will do this for you.

  2. Say yes and get involved, but mindfully, and prioritise and re-prioritise ruthlessly: Being involved and leaning in the MBA does pay back, but there is a true opportunity cost of your time. There are endless opportunities at LBS – on any given night, there will be multiple social, professional, sports, or other events to attend, and unfortunately, you just can’t do all of them! Be extremely mindful about how your chosen activities contribute to your overall personal or professional goals.

  3. Try new things without fear: The MBA is a unique and special opportunity to try and test new things in a safe space. And with all the student clubs on campus, you will have your pick! From stand-up comedy and improv classes, to salsa dancing, to cycling from London to Paris, to touch rugby and football, to sailing trips, to song and dance performances at Tattoo – there is something for everyone.

4. If you are looking to pivot, build your brand and network by participating in a related activity or class. And then do it again: LBS offers you the opportunity to rebrand yourself in any way you choose, and offers unlimited resources to do so. If you’re interested in CleanTech, participate in the CleanTech challenge, go on the Sustainability or Impact Investing treks, and get involved with the Energy and Environment or Social Impact clubs. If you’re looking to switch to Tech, join the Tech and Media Club ExCo, participate in Product Games, and get involved in the rich entrepreneurial community at LBS. Focusing on related activities will help you learn, build your resume, and provide a signal to employers, which will ultimately help you get that dream internship or job.

5. Travel, travel, travel: When you apply to LBS, you are told that LBS is extremely international. What you are not told is how many potential local tour guides and hosts you might have access to in the form of your classmates, and how their local perspective will benefit your international aspirations. Go on the big treks and on the small group trips – these will not just be some of the best memories you will take from the MBA, but also some of the best learning experiences.

6. Most importantly, HAVE FUN: I cannot stress enough how quickly time will fly, and how stressful some parts of the MBA can be (read: recruiting). If you’re having fun, the most stressful parts won’t seem that bad, and the highlights will offer you some unforgettable experiences.

The MBA at LBS offers an incredible personal and professional journey. Make it your own, and make it everything you want.

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