Ziko Townsend spent a decade working in asset management in the Caribbean before he embarked on the MBA program at Cass Business School. Having reached a point in his career where he knew he needed another tier of education to achieve his ambitions—becoming a CEO or executive director—it was London calling.
“My mum’s from Crystal Palace,” he says, “so I wanted to come back to where she grew up. London is the place to be, and Cass is a great school.”
Ziko has just returned from the Cass International Consulting Week in Dublin, where he worked with Pharma-software company Longboat Clinical. Previous destinations have included Iceland and Poland.
On the trip, students spend a week working in diverse groups with a single company on a real-time business strategy project. Ziko explains that it is the culmination of everything he has learned at Cass. “The classes are geared towards the latest trends,” he explains, “digitalization, tech, and innovation.
“We study the impact of things like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on companies like Uber, Ryanair, and EY,” he adds, “things we can apply right now in real life in 2018.”
There are 29 nationalities that make up the 2017/18 full-time Cass MBA cohort of 73 students. By default, then, the teams within which the students work are diverse in both background and industry.
Ziko says that his team was made up of one student with extensive biomedical research experience, one who worked within sales for Toyota in China, another who worked in finance and investment in Ukraine, and one who had their own coffee startup in Rwanda.
“It makes life a lot easier,” he explains. “Instead of having to look at everything by yourself, you work with individuals who are experts in one thing or another.
“It all comes together, which made for a really hot, standout presentation at the end of the week.”
Each team is also appointed a member of faculty with whom they work with throughout the week. Ziko’s team’s mentor was associate professor of strategy at Cass, Dr Santi Furnari. They reported to him daily, and although he didn’t give direct instructions to Ziko and his team, he explains that he was an invaluable part of the guidance process.
Tapping into a plethora of perspectives, and being given a holistic overview of all the well-oiled cogs that keep a business running, was a breath of fresh air for Ziko.
“I’ve worked for ten years in asset management, which is pretty straightforward,” he says. Without the MBA at Cass Business School, though, Ziko adds that “the opportunity to look at so many companies and get a grasp of what a company does and how it all works, is a chance I wouldn’t have had in my life.”
Has it changed his career plan?
“I still want to work with investment banking and finance, but now I want to get into strategy and how a company really works,” Ziko explains. “I’ve got the strategy mind-set and I’m not letting that go.”
Dr Elena Novelli, associate professor in strategy at Cass, has led the International Consulting Week for the past four years. “Students learn to appreciate how their MBA knowledge can really make a difference for a company,” she says.
Elena says Cass tries to work with companies from a variety of industries, to accommodate the diversity of the MBA cohort. This year, industry options included healthcare, software, fashion, banking, and real estate.
“What is fascinating about these challenges is that the companies are in a position where they need advice because the issue is not just new to them, but also to the world,” Elena explains.
MBAs at Cass are tested on their ability to navigate these problems. “There are no ready-made solutions,” Elena adds.
In the past, students have reaped the rewards of the corporate relationship building offered on the consulting week.
“It has happened that some companies have ended up helping students by offering mentorship,” concludes Elena. “From a career perspective, the impact of the international consulting week at Cass Business School extends over the years.”