From Warwick to Helsinki: reflections of the Full-time MBA International Elective Module

04 October 2023

Full-time MBA participant Michael Doty reflects on his experience on the programme as well as the invaluable lessons learned from the International Elective Module in Helsinki.

My name is Michael Paul Doty and I’m from Minneapolis, MN in the United States. I grew up in a military family and spent most of my childhood travelling. That experience made me curious about the world around me and is something that still influences me today. Prior to starting the Full-time MBA programme, I honed my skills in the retail sector, which taught me the importance of customer-centricity and how a business-savvy approach yields the best results. My decision to pursue an MBA was driven by a desire to expand my knowledge and skillset, with the goal of transitioning into a different industry.

I chose Warwick Business School (WBS) because of its Change Maker philosophy – a global mindset, asking the big questions, and inspiring others. Furthermore, the business school is nestled amidst lush greenery, with convenient access to various amenities, and only a short train ride from London, which all contributed to making WBS my top choice.

The Full-time MBA programme at WBS introduced me to an impressive assortment of talented and experienced classmates. These individuals, with their wealth of experience, have not only earned my respect but have also become friends whose relationships I cherish and anticipate will endure long after the programme concludes. The curriculum itself was a blend of challenging and thought-provoking modules. It equipped me with a fresh perspective and a toolbox of business models and strategies to tackle complex problems.  

Among the eight core modules, the LeadershipPlus module especially stood out for me. The engaging teaching style of various instructors and the diverse range of interactive team challenges made this module particularly enriching and fulfilling.

For the international elective module, we were provided an opportunity to choose from three intriguing options: Design Thinking and Service Design in Helsinki, Sustainability in Lisbon, or Luxury Brand Management in Milan. My inclination towards design thinking, rooted in my undergraduate education in multimedia design, led me to opt for the Helsinki module. Having previously visited Lisbon and Milan, the prospect of exploring Helsinki was especially appealing.

The module lived up to my expectations in every way. The teaching team at Aalto University was both genuine and welcoming. The subject matter was taught in tandem by Professor Floris van der Marel and Professor Tua Björklund employing a combination of lectures and interactive group projects. This approach made the class dynamic and thought-provoking.

Accommodation arranged by the school boasted contemporary furnishings and offered picturesque views of the harbour and the city. The daily meals comprised of locally inspired, delectable dishes added to the experience. The teaching venue was architecturally stunning, and the hallways were adorned with striking pieces of art, creating an inspirational learning environment. By the end of the week, I had not only immersed myself in a globally renowned city but had also expanded my network by connecting with faculty from Aalto University. Moreover, I gained invaluable insights into applying design thinking in a business context.

One of the most invaluable lessons from the module revolved around the ideation process within design thinking. We read and discussed a case study from the Harvard Business Review that emphasised the importance of patience and collaboration in discovering creative solutions to problems. It underlined the notion that the best ideas often emerge as the final, refined products of collective brainstorming efforts.