Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

EMBABE of the Month Archive

Our first EMBABE of 2014 is Shefali Modi, a low-carbon solutions expert whose LBS EMBA experience (JEMBA2012, for those in the know) gave her just the impetus she needed to launch into entrepreneurship. Some great advice from Shefali below, so read on.

Shefali Modi

Position before EMBA: Principal Sustainability Consultant, Helix International Group

Current position: Founder, EncycloKidia (http://www.encyclokidia.com/), a website that helps parents to make informed purchases

Why did you decide to do an EMBA? I had wanted to start my own business for a while, but had little experience outside of carbon and energy consulting and wasn’t sure how to start. I hoped the EMBA would help with this. Also I had recently moved to London from the US and wanted to build a local network.

Application process / GMAT tip: The school has some flexibility with application deadlines. If you make a late decision to apply, just speak with the programme office. I decided to apply the day after the deadline for the third round. The school allowed me two grace weeks to get everything ready. The essays are important. Showing how you will contribute to the school/your class is as important as displaying what you hope to gain from the program. I had a high GMAT score. The trick is to do as many practise tests as you can.

What was your greatest concern before starting the programme and how did you overcome it? I don’t remember being concerned. It was a new adventure and I was just very excited.

Best / toughest EMBA moment:

Best: There were so many good moments, it’s hard to pick one. Often on the first day of a new class, I got a high when I realised how fantastic the teacher is and how interesting the subject matter is. Those moments made it worth all the sweat and sleeplessness.

Toughest: Somewhere in the third semester I began to feel the accumulated exhaustion. My husband was also feeling my constant absence. It was emotionally and physically difficult. Fortunately, after a few weeks the fixed courses were over and the electives provided more breathing room.

Of the things you learned while at LBS, what do you use most often? In my new venture I’m more responsible for marketing and finance. So lessons from the relevant electives have been very useful. Oddly the most useful skill came from the EMBA itself and not a class. The EMBA has forced me to become a better time manager – a skill I really value now that I’m a mother and an entrepreneur.

Favourite course: Financing the Entrepreneurial Business. The professors are amazing! The course work is fascinating.

Advice for keeping personal life afloat while on the EMBA: It’s tough. It helps a bit if your partner bonds with your classmates and joins in on social events. The really old friends will get it, and just wait until you are able to resurface.

Necessary luxury: A cook. I saved seven hours a week and got to eat healthy.

 

April 2014

April’s EMBABE of the Month is Heather Baker, an LBS EMBA alumna and a thriving entrepreneur in the digital marketing space.

Heather Baker
Heather Baker

Position before EMBA:

Founder and Managing Director of a digital marketing agency.

Current position:

Founder and Managing Director of a digital marketing agency.

Why did you decide to do an EMBA?

I was running a business with very little business training and it was tough. I knew I could benefit from the opportunity to improve my financial, strategic and management skills. Furthermore, as an immigrant to this country from South Africa, I was keen to build a local network.

Application process / GMAT tip:

GMAT is not as hard as people make it out to be. Sure, you need to build your competence in Maths and English. But the secret to a high GMAT score lies in exam technique. If you can master that, then you’re pretty much ready to ace the exam.

What was your greatest concern before starting the programme and how did you overcome it?

I was anxious about the time required for the EMBA, especially about spending every second Friday out of the office. It was tough, and I wish I could say I learned to let go. But I didn’t. Instead, I learned to multitask. And by multitasking I mean I sat at the back of the lecture hall and worked through most lectures, keeping one eye on the projector screen and one eye on my laptop screen.

Best / toughest EMBA moment:

My best EMBA experience was when a major opportunity came up for my business and I was able to talk it through with one of the world’s top experts in this specialist business area – as he was one of my lecturers.

My worst EMBA moment was being exhausted and overwhelmed (in the second semester of my first year) and feeling trapped: knowing I still had over a year to go!

Of the things you learned while at LBS, what do you use most often?

The concept of the opportunity cost of capital. It informs every decision I make within the business – and helps me to delegate (I can’t do everything myself, and if I try to, I’m giving up valuable time that could be better used elsewhere).

Favourite course:

Private Equity and Venture Capital. It was a real eye opener and incredibly valuable to me – we work with a number of PE/VC-backed companies and the course gave me excellent insight into how they operate!

Advice for keeping personal life afloat while on the EMBA:

Ask someone who did!

Necessary luxury:

London’s black cabs. When you’re doing an EMBA and running a business, every second spent waiting for a bus is a second wasted (that’s the opportunity cost concept again).

March

This month’s EMBABE is Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, who graduated from the LBS EMBA programme in 2011 (JEMBA2011 for the cognoscenti). Elizabeth was on the alumni panel during our orientation week and she was an instant inspiration to me. While at LBS, she wrote for the school student blog and her posts are true fountains of wisdom. My personal favourite is this one, called “Motherhood and the EMBA” – a must-read!

So, without further ado, here are Elizabeth’s responses to the EMBABE of the Month questionnaire. Enjoy!

Position before EMBA:

Before applying for the EMBA, I was in a bit of a career lull as I had left a senior position in a boutique consulting firm in the US to move to Paris for my husband’s job. While enjoying our new life in France and caring for first one and eventually two young daughters, I began to do freelance consulting work for former clients. I was also working on two ideas for startups, but I had not really sorted out my next move.

Current position:

I currently work for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the b2b branch of the Economist Group. I joined as Director, Industry Publishing, Analysis, and Data – a role that required I work on a growth and diversification strategy for the company. I am now working on integrating acquisitions that resulted from that strategy process.

Why did you decide to do an EMBA?

I had considered doing an MBA earlier in my career, but the timing had never seemed right. When considering how to recharge my career after taking a series of sideways steps for a few years to be available at home, I realized that I needed some additional skills in order to realize my ambitions.

Application process / GMAT tip:

I revised my essays many, many times before submitting the application. I found the process to be extremely time-consuming, but invaluable, as it required I get very clear on why I wanted to do the programme. I am certain I got more out of the EMBA because I had done so much reflection during the application process.

The GMATs are a pain that must be endured; start early so you can strengthen your weak spots and (hopefully) walk into the testing center feeling zen.

What was your greatest concern before starting the programme and how did you overcome it?

My greatest concern was how the additional demands on my time would impact my young children (who were 1.5 and 4.5 when I started the programme). I cannot say I truly ‘overcame’ this as much as I learned to cope with it.

Best / toughest EMBA moment:

It would be impossible to pick one single ‘best’ moment at LBS, so I’ll choose a very good memory instead. The night of our commencement ceremony my class held a dinner in a Greek restaurant for family and friends and I shall never forget the sight of my 6-year-old smashing plates on the dance floor. I believe that night stands out as a highlight of her young life too.

I do have a vivid memory of a particularly low moment during a finance elective when I had worked a long week and, due to the schedule of this particular elective, was required to attend class all day Saturday and Sunday. I really missed my kids and I was feeling pulled in all directions. For what it’s worth, I had relatively few of those moments.

Of the things you learned while at LBS, what do you use most often?

Since starting my job I’ve been focused on very strategic issues, so I am often referring to frameworks and concepts from my strategy coursework.

Favourite course:

Again it’s difficult to choose, but particular favorites included Strategic Management, Marketing, Going to Market, Managing Corporate Turnarounds, and Corporate Strategy. There was also something satisfying about finally feeling comfortable in accounting and finance, although the courses themselves weren’t really ‘fun’.

Advice for keeping family life afloat while on the EMBA:

Develop systems, communicate, and remember it will be over before you know it – your children are unlikely to be scarred forever!

Also, you will certainly be amongst very few mothers on the programme and your classmates will not be able to relate to the competing demands on your time (not even the dads); it shouldn’t interfere with your ability to make good friends, although at times you may be a social disappointment. What can I say? You already know having kids requires sacrifice.

Necessary luxury:

Well, in my life the definitions of ‘necessary’ and ‘luxury’ are a bit fluid. I will say that excellent childcare is an absolute necessity. Perhaps slightly less necessary are a housecleaner and a wash-and-fold laundry service. I have fewer examples of true ‘luxuries’ in my life than I might like, but I have been known to justify the occasional spa treatment.

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