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Women In Tech: LSE Grad Lands Job At LinkedIn After 'Alternative MBA'

Leila Uslander snubbed traditional MBA programs for the the London School of Economics’ Executive Global Master's in Management

Mon Apr 24 2017

Leila Uslander landed a top job at LinkedIn after completing the Executive Global Master’s in Management (EGMiM) program at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Dubbed the alternative to the traditional MBA, the 17-month, part-time program covers the same core curriculum as a standard MBA program but takes a unique, more theoretical approach. Over seven one-to-two-week modules in London, as well as international weeks in China and India, EGMiM students don’t just learn how to apply current management tools, they question them.

Leila worked in tech in her native Chicago – for a gaming company and a social network – before moving into her family business; one of the first commercial producers of freshly-baked brownies set up by her mother 35 years ago.

Determined to get back into tech, she decided to combine study with full-time work and snubbed top-ranked MBA programs in the US for LSE’s more flexible EGMiM.

After graduating, Leila took the fabled career triple jump – changing industry, role, and location – to join LinkedIn as a strategic account director in London. Now, she works with global firms based in the UK, helping them grow their employer brands and plan their digital transformation strategy around talent.

She’s determined to play her part promoting women in tech – a field still largely dominated by men. And LinkedIn is leading the charge - 42% of LinkedIn’s global employees and 35% of its leadership are women (compared to Google at 31% and 24%). BusinessBecause caught up with Leila at LinkedIn’s offices in London to find out more.

What does LinkedIn look for in its job applicants?

Cultural fit is really important. We’ve just been acquired by Microsoft and I think that one of the drivers behind that acquisition was our culture.

We have a Venn diagram on the wall of our office with three bubbles on it. One of them is ‘have fun’, one of them is ‘get stuff done’, and the other one is about being good at what you do. The intersection of those is basically where our culture sits.

What is the future for women in tech? Will top-level CEO roles in tech companies soon be occupied by as many women as men?

There’s a drive for it, although a 50-50 balance at board level is not in my sights right now. There are plenty of studies that show how diversity helps companies be more productive and more successful.

It is a big focus for us. Talent is our number one operating priority. Every time we have a global meeting, we always talk about talent first.

Why did you decide to pursue the EGMiM at LSE?

I wanted to go back into tech. When I realized the EGMiM existed, the format seemed like the best fit for me. If I was to go to a local EMBA program at Chicago Booth or Kellogg, I would have had no life for two years! LSE’s EGMiM allowed me to still stay with the family business and work, but it also gave me the opportunity to travel and do a lot of things that I wanted out of life.

The name was also very important. LSE is universally recognized. On a resume – or a LinkedIn profile – name is important! But the biggest thing is the network. I knew I would be with like-minded individuals who I could network with in the future if I went to a school with a good name.

Why did you choose LSE’s EGMiM over a traditional MBA?

I had quite a few friends and colleagues that had done a few of the prestigious two-year US MBA programs. Most had done them three-to-five years earlier. Being in my mid-30s, and thinking about what I wanted out of life, it seemed like I had missed the boat a bit.

If someone’s going directly into consulting, or from one banking role to another, an MBA might make sense. For individuals that might want to look outside the traditional career path – who are interested in academia and a less case study-based approach – the EGMiM is the perfect balance.

What stands out from your EGMiM experience at LSE?

My class WhatsApp group is more active than my family one! Even though we didn’t spend a full two years together, by being able to travel together we became like a family. By travelling to countries – Leila’s class visited Istanbul and Singapore – you get to see the nuances of how business is actually done – things you wouldn’t get from a textbook or a lecture.

Would you be where you are today without it?

I don’t think so. The LSE EGMiM helped explain the career pivot that I was doing.

Without it, I think recruiters would have wondered what the whole jump from my family business and back into tech was all about. Tech is a high-competition marketplace and there would have been other candidates who would’ve seemed more like the right fit. I needed the experience to get my foot in the door.