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Cranfield Creative Architect Flies in The Face of the 'Traditional' MBA

Creative Cranfield MBA Anjit Chhatwal flies in the face of the 'traditional' b-school background. She is an award-winning, school-building architect. Find out how an MBA can boost a creative career!

Fri Oct 18 2013

There is a myth that only quantitative degrees lead to b-schools and business careers. Many MBAs come from finance and consulting backgrounds, and non-traditional career paths are not always considered the norm.

But if you subscribe to that view, Cranfield grad Anjit Reeba Chhatwal will make you think twice. She is a passionate designer and architect, one whom studied a Masters of Architecture at University College London before an MBA.

Anjit has built a career in building-design and scooped up a raft of prestigious awards along the way. Her designs have won Project Innovation, Best Private Funding Initiative (PFI), Excellence in Education, Project of the Year awards, and many more.

Anjit has been responsible for crafting school buildings in the UK with budgets in excess of £300 million. She has worked in England, Ireland and India with some of the most respected architecture firms in the world. But Anjit isn’t stopping there.

She broke into b-school with a scholarship from Cranfield School of Management and finished the full-time MBA last month. She dispels the idea that creative degrees aren’t the best route to an MBA. For Anjit, combining design and mathematics is the perfect combination. "I know it’s a weird combination but growing up, I was really passionate about either design or maths,” she said.

“Architecture is probably the only field that gives you both. You get a taster of maths, as you do quantitative things, but also you’re being very creative and thinking towards the future all the time. That’s really inspirational.”

Anjit was indeed inspired to launch an architecture career, and is able to combine her creative flair with business acumen. She is kept motivated by seeing the physical fruits of her labour. “It’s a great feeling to see a building stand on the ground, something you’ve scribbled on paper and then three or four years later you actually see this massive product,” she said.

“It gives you that unbelievable feeling of accomplishment, and you almost say: ‘This is my building, I own it’. It’s quite a completing experience and you feel quite strongly about.”

Before cracking on at Cranfield, Anjit helped to build Failsworth School & The Radclyffe School in the North of England, was a Lead Designer in BSF initiative school constructions totalling almost £800 million and was an Architectural Designer at Gensler, the global architecture firm with almost 4,000 employees operating in 90 countries.

Anjit describes herself as a West London girl but worked for a year in India as Head of Design & Implementation with an energy corporation. Running the bottom-up design, she also handled the business side of the operations and managed a budget of $45 million.

It was in India that Anjit was inspired to go to b-school. “Although I love west London, I’ve always wanted to a global career,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to start in an Indian office with this very young organization, to get some variety in my portfolio.

“At that point, I was mentally prepared to take an MBA program - and an MBA doesn’t just happen when you get up one morning, you have to go through a long process. I thought a different industry experience would be really helpful.”

Delivering a project was never a problem for the creative MBA, but Anjit wanted to improve her appraisal (valuation) skills. Her architecture career took her to Cranfield, considered a top-ten UK b-school in some MBA Rankings. “That was the tipping point where I decided the MBA had to happen,” she said. “I thought that the appraisal wasn’t there as yet and a practical degree like an MBA would reinforce that aspect.”

It was a great decision to study at Cranfield, on what Anjit describes as a “different” MBA program. “It redefines you a little bit and helps you explore yourself,” she said. “It introduces you to yourself, in a very tactile fashion.

"It helps you in any field of work and at the end, you feel there’s so much you can do, and there’s so much in the market, that as a person you can contribute to.”

After studying at Cranfield, Anjit is keen to pursue public-private partnerships (PPP); designing public infrastructure for private clients. She still wants to be part of infrastructure projects and to help design buildings.

After an MBA, Anjit feels like a new person and is ready for new adventures and opportunities. “I still want to be part of the building environment, but I’m open to look at other paths; it could be energy, railroads, or education,” she added.

Creative backgrounds fly in the face of traditionalism and are incredibly valuable. In the MBA world, where the brightest business minds are brought together from all reaches of the globe, diverse backgrounds can only enhance a team environment.

For Anjit, Cranfield was a route to enhance her architectural career. Already an award-winning designer, an MBA will only make her stronger.