For Warwick Business School (WBS), non-traditional business backgrounds are far from unusual. In the 2020 cohort, students arrived from sectors like hospitality, media, and non-profit.
We speak to three Full-time MBA grads from non-business backgrounds, asking how they leveraged their unique experiences, and how their MBA is helping them carve out new careers.
Antonia Koop—from war journalist to CEO
Before her MBA, Antonia Koop (pictured below) worked as a war journalist in the Middle East and Asia and led an organization to improve conflict crisis media coverage in war-torn areas.
But leading a rapidly growing organization without business credentials proved tough. “I had no experience or understanding of management—we made everything up as we went along,” admits Antonia.
Motivated to expand on her senior leadership experience, she applied for the WBS MBA to understand how businesses function.
“What convinced me to join WBS was the way the admissions team approached my background with curiosity and interest—it wasn’t about where you fit into their criteria.”
Learning quantitative and technical skills in modules like operations management and modelling and analytics for management supplemented the analytical and research skills she’d acquired through journalism.
“These modules, which I initially thought weren’t relevant for me, turned out to be crucial in my later role,” she laughs.
After graduating, Antonia founded multiple businesses, providing innovation-driven training and development services to companies using games technology.
She credits WBS’ CareersPlus service with helping her to thrive in her role. Not only did she benefit from one-on-one coaching, but she’s also learned from the service’s organizational elements.
“In my role, we work on improving companies’ assessment strategies. Experiencing the CareersPlus team’s approach to selection, and how they prepare students for careers, informs my approach to enhancing companies’ assessment schemes.”
Antonia worked as a war journalist in the Philippines
Leen Issa—from social impact to MBA
Leen Issa (pictured below) managed educational projects for Syrian refugees in Jordan before deciding to gain more management experience in the banking sector.
Driven by her desire to learn more about leadership, Leen chose to pursue an MBA. At WBS, Leen was in the right place to pursue social impact—in 2019, WBS MBA ranked first as the best program for sustainability.
“I felt that if I want to pursue a career in project management, then I needed something educational and more professional to provide the skills and background I needed,” Leen explains.
She leveraged her achievements in the non-profit sector in her WBS application, ensuring she stood out from the crowd. After receiving the WBS Scholarship, she was excited to embark on her MBA.
“Through the MBA, particularly the LeadershipPlus module, I’ve become more flexible and open. WBS taught us how to become leaders, accepting differences, and communicating with others. We also learned how to control emotions and navigate difficult situations.”
Through the LeadershipPlus module, students even get the chance to hone their leadership skills within small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-profit, or corporate companies.
Leen completed a project internship with Microsoft on her MBA, improving their data literacy. Armed with the data analysis skills she strengthened at Microsoft, and enriched knowledge in marketing, finance, strategy, leadership, and entrepreneurship from the MBA, she now knows where she wants her career to go.
“The MBA widened my perspective of social impact. I learned that we could change our mindsets and create profitable models that change communities at the same time,” reflects Leen.
Warwick MBA 2020 | Pre-MBA Industry Experience
Michael Todd—from hospitality to investment
Michael Todd (pictured below) managed a South African ski resort where a large part of his role involved strategically planning its long-term viability. At the same time, he was thinking about his long-term goals.
“Working in hospitality entails long hours and weekend work. I knew that I wanted to transition to something different,” he says.
Having already completed a business bachelor’s degree, Michael decided to study the Full-Time MBA at WBS, intending to develop his managerial experience and enhance his career prospects.
“I had plenty of operational experience from the hospitality industry, but I wanted to go into consulting within the financial or management sector, so I needed to improve my knowledge in these areas too,” explains Michael.
He filled these technical gaps through WBS MBA modules like financial analysis and corporate finance. But it was the CareersPlus service which helped Michael finetune his career plans.
“Careers coaching helped me transition from this hospitality-heavy background into something more strategic and consulting orientated, helping to pinpoint my transferable skills,” notes Michael.
Now an associate at JLL, Michael works on hospitality mergers and acquisitions throughout the UK—utilizing his resource management skills from his hospitality experience to propel his career forwards. It was actually his WBS project dissertation that helped him to determine his career plans.
“The topic I formulated was all about the countervailing forces impacting hotel market values in the UK, which is exactly what I do in my current role,” remarks Michael.
Thanks to the MBA, Michael has been able to maximize on his unusual pre-MBA industry experience to land a role in a stimulating and challenging industry.
Warwick Business School
BSc Management with Marketing
I loved Warwick business school. The staff is supportive, my academic tutor was key in my development throughout the 3 years and you have to meet with her/him every term. Most professors are helpful and would happily offer support if needed. You also have office hours and can contact professors by email and through the forum. In general, WBS instills in you the willingness to learn and the resilience needed for you for whatever career you choose. Very international community which broadens your horizon and makes you more open minded and self aware. You will most certainly make friends and memories for life. I recommend that you get outside of your comfort zone and try new activities with your friends! WBS also has a great reputation and offers careers opportunities, and careers support throughout the degree. There is the opportunity to do a year abroad to further develop on a personal level. I wasn’t able to do this due to Covid but I would have loved to do it during normal circumstances! Would definitely recommend this. Although Warwick is not a city university, the campus vibe has a lot of advantages, especially at an undergraduate level. You are always around familiar faces, and in a student environment. Moreover, Birmingham is only 20 mins away from Leamington spa and London is only one hour away! Perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway!
Life at Warwick Business School
Pursuing my master's degree at WBS has been a game-changer in my life. With high-quality education, interaction with students from across the world, amazing campus life and much more. I was able to learn about business, finance, project management and strategy all in one course: MSc in Management at WBS. Besides the top-notch education from the best professors, I also enjoyed being a part of fun societies and participating in fun activities such as scavenger hunts and so much more. The school also organises many company visits and interactions which help students get a head start at finding a job. As my course came to an end, I also have a good full-time job placement in my hands. Overall, my experience at WBS was a great one.
The Warwick Business School was like a dream come to life for me. The University ranking speaks for itself, from top-tier facilities to some of the best professors I had to honour to study with I fell in love with my course. Interactions with people from all over the world gave me a newfound confidence in myself. Career prospects after graduating are endless due to the contacts of the universities and the success rate for previous students, it does open a lot of doors for students in various career fields. The campus life is quite good as well with a lot of student groups and clubs, and extra circular activities to engage students at all times. Loved my experience.
A good business school
It is a very cutting-edge, career-oriented business school, all courses are very practical, and the college does a very good job of career service. From the hardware and facilities to the staff, the student experience is at the core of the school and student satisfaction is taken very seriously. I understand that many universities in the UK are relatively traditional and can occasionally be rigid in terms of rules and regulations, and although WBS has a relatively short history, this makes it more innovative and dynamic, which is essential for a business school. The downside is that because it is on the outskirts of Coventry, it is a long bus ride to the city centre, not to mention the difference in experience from a big city like London.
The people, campus, staff. It’s a very enjoyable environment and it’s particularly good for learning and playing sports. The people there are extremely friendly and welcoming and it’s very easy to make friends
What I Like About Warwick
I’ve personally liked my experience at Warwick so far because of the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet and how many opportunities we students are provided with to learn and grow. Within Warwick, I’m part of the Business School, a learning haven comprised of well-structured modules and extremely helpful people All in all, a great place to be :)
One thing that stood out for me was the campus life, you felt like part of a community. The social aspects of the student union and on-campus accommodation meant you can easily get together and enjoy with friends. Additionally, I felt the course provided a variety of subjects allowing me to enhance my knowledge, from Marketing to Law and Finance. Overall I would most definitely recommend this university to friends and family.
Excellence self catered
The campus is very welcoming and Modern. There are many opportunities at Warwick but it is up to the student how do they want to make the most out of it and the staff at the school will definitely helo as much as possible. The location and the ranking have been amazing.
Warwick business school
Warwick business school is one of the best universities around the globe with a solid base of economic and business studies. Moreover, students get a chance to study in a diverse and warm environment with professional stuff which tries to provide the best opportunities for career development. One of the memorable features of the university are great events which sometimes take a place in one of the landmarks of the London city, the Shard building.