The first term of my Full-time MBA. Virtually perfect!

19 November 2020

"It has only been six weeks and yet I have learnt so much". Danya Hannah describes what it's like starting her Full-time MBA online, and talks about the various activities and sessions she has taken part in so far.

While not quite the whirlwind of ‘freshers’ (I started my Full-time MBA in quarantine) I still managed to have an incredibly crazy first week… online! I had the great fortune of being put in a syndicate group with a Nigerian lady called Boluwatife, a Chinese lady called Zoe and Thai gentleman called Deesamer. We unpicked our Insights report, reuniting our yellow, blue and red energy in a mix of Teams and Zoom, and bonded through our first assignment – a humorous video introducing ourselves. My late nights stemmed only from editing our video!

Upon seeing other syndicate groups’ videos - MBAs telling the audience why they had wanted to study at WBS - I thought we’d lost the memo. Ours was silly. We called ourselves ‘Massive Bank Account Crew’ posing as self-important business people à la The Apprentice and revealing our contrasting personas ‘by night’ (I joked I was an aspiring female bodybuilder). The WBS personnel are clearly very forgiving, for we were crowned winners! Our euphoria was boosted when we learnt that Zoe could join our WhatsApp group with her Chinese phone number. This was definitely equivalent to a tequila shot.

When I finally arrived on campus, the obligatory mask-wearing did not dampen my spirit. Pumped up by an array of frothy coffees and snacks from the illustrious MBA lounge, it was exhilarating to raise my non-virtual hand and get direct responses from the world-class professors. The first term core modules are Leadership+, Marketing, Operations Management and Strategy. Professor John Colley, Professor of Practice in Strategy, is somewhat of a darling amongst my peers. His ‘throwaway’ comments about his industry experience on various boards are the golden nuggets that make the class so fascinating. Our other Strategy professor, Hossam Zeitoun, cares deeply about our academic flourishing, checking our knowledge with weekly crossword puzzles resulting in motivational phrases like “keep it up.”

It has only been six weeks and yet I have learnt so much. I genuinely believe that PESTEL, Porter’s five forces, STP, the four V’s and BCG matrix (to name but a few) will serve me for the rest of my professional life. Tools and concepts are consolidated by information we glean from quality case studies, usually sourced from Harvard Business Publishing or INSEAD Publishing. They provide lots of details, which we must decipher, often discard, then deduce conclusions from. Interestingly, many case studies across our core modules centred on food and beverages companies. Being the serious, enterprising MBA students we are, we really immersed ourselves in the cases. It’s nice to have carte blanche to devour a tub of Ben & Jerry’s!

The Careers Team are equally dedicated, arranging a wide range of webinars and online workshops, designed to exemplify industry trends, show you the secrets of LinkedIn and make you ponder your personal brand. While great to attend in person, there is something to be said for being allocated digital breakout rooms with peers across cohorts, and of course, attending class in bed (shhh). My personal highlight was definitely ‘Piloting Your Career’ by Daniel Porot, about how to avoid HR robots by securing a first ‘informational’ interview. At 79 years, we all marvelled at Daniel’s quick wit and dynamic teaching style (he did illustrations in real-time). It was good to be reminded by this charismatic, clearly fulfilled Swiss man, of the significance of authenticity and good manners.

Outside of the classroom, there are many opportunities to get involved in whatever piques your interest. I am president and co-host of a podcast called Tête-à-Tech. We really tried to put theory in to practice, honing our value proposition to focus on fun and frank conversations with industry leaders about the hottest areas in tech right now. Aptly, our first episode will concentrate on EdTech. Hopefully in a light, ‘banterful’ tone, we will talk about the positive disruption of the field by tech, drawing out how our guests got to where they are – and how you could too (yes you).

Given the circumstances, I am surprised to have forged such amazing relationships with peers. Loitering in the MBA lounge has been instrumental, but I speak for everyone when I say that we are greatly looking forward to sitting down over pub grub, somewhere in The Shire.

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