At Monday’s Forte Forum many smart, ambitious female applicants in London said an MBA was a great way to move out of big corporates and start their own businesses.
The Forum, which takes place each year, is organised by the Forte Foundation, a non-profit which aims to launch women into successful careers through access to business education, opportunities and a network of successful women.
There were plenty of women who wanted an MBA to progress within their firm or industry, and the four incredibly successful women who spoke on the panel showed how valuable an MBA can be on that path. However it was noticeable that more women were interested in the entrepreneurial route than in previous years.
Natalia, from the Ukraine, has been living in London for five years and works for a big gas exploration company. She is seriously considering an MBA, although not immediately. An MBA, she said, is a good way to acquire skills that “take a lot of time and effort” to build up on your own.
She wants to leave the corporate world and eventually start her own business to “be in control” of her life. She is inspired after seeing how helpful an MBA was to a few of her friends who are now entrepreneurs. The skills and connections they gained on the programme helped them raise investment, get through a lot of start-up processes and problems more quickly, and also negotiate the sale of their businesses.
Natalia’s friends went to b-schools in the US, but she is interested in studying in Asia, to gain access to the growth markets there.
Emiliya, from Kazakhstan, is between jobs in the Oil and Gas industry. She also wants to start her own business and said she wanted an MBA in order to learn entrepreneurial skills, gain international exposure and also to “have fun somewhere warm”. Emiliya was looking at MBA programmes in Singapore.
MBA candidates Emiliya and Natalia
One management accountant within the leisure industry said she wanted an MBA in order to “change direction” and ultimately have her own company.
A graduate of Imperial College, she started thinking about an MBA in early 2012 and is currently preparing for her GMAT. Her goal is to start an MBA programme in 2014.
She was aiming for an MBA in the US, inspired by successful women such as Michelle Obama and friends at the likes of Harvard Business School who have had a great experience and encouraged her to go for it too!
Ayuk Ebai also wants to start an MBA programme in 2014. Originally from Cameroon, Ayuk is an ACCA-qualified accountant at a major accountancy firm, where she specialises in Forensics. Ayuk wants to stay in the UK, though she is willing to move to the US to go to a top name university such as Wharton or Columbia!
Rosie, a graduate in Financial Economics from St. Andrew’s University, works in Prime Brokerage at a major investment bank. She said she was open-minded about where to do her MBA and was at the initial searching stage. Aged 24, Rosie felt that women get “more bang for their buck” if they do an MBA a bit earlier, and have time to “recoup their investment” before starting a family.
The Forte Foundation had assembled an impressive panel of senior female executives with MBAs, who talked about how the degree had helped in their careers. Interestingly they were all American women now based in London!
Rosie Unite, Executive Director at WPP-owned digital agency Blast Radius graduated from Wharton in 2005. She started her career in the Peace Corps, but her MBA enabled her to switch to the corporate sector. She had five job offers when she graduated from Wharton!
INSEAD grad Archana Ramaswamy made the coveted “triple jump” after her MBA, switching industry, function and location. She trained as an accountant in the US, working first at KPMG and then as Group Assistant Controller at Natixis Global Asset Management.
The incredible network and transferable skills she gained at INSEAD helped her move into her dream industry – luxury fashion – in 2010. Archana is now Divisional Manager of Leather Goods and Accessories at Louis Vuitton.
Rebecca Manual, who heads sovereign wealth fund sales at UK bank RBS did her MBA part-time at the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. Her goal was to “understand how to run a company”, and she said the EMBA was a great (if demanding!) way to understand all the key aspects of business.
Christine Cronin, a divisional director at BskyB, said her EMBA from Columbia Business School gave her the confidence to look for a top notch job in London when she moved here with her husband.
Sarah Harper, Co-head of Global Campus Recruiting at Goldman Sachs, hosted the event at the bank’s Fleet Street office.
Goldman Sachs is “very focused on hiring, retaining and promoting women to senior levels,” she said. The bank also places a high value on MBA graduates from top European and US business schools. This year the Investment Banking and Private Wealth Management divisions would hire 20 to 30 MBAs in Europe, and many more in the US.
Read more about the business schools at the event and about London as a destination for MBA applicants here
Rebecca Manuel heads Sovereign Wealth Fund Coverage at RBS and graduated with an MBA from Kellogg
Christine Cronin is a Director at BSkyB, and earned an EMBA from Columbia
Sarah Harper, in charge of global campus recruiting for Goldman Sachs, chairs the MBA panel discussion
The MBA Panel in a Goldman Sachs lecture theater