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Telecoms Whizz On Lancaster MBA

Viktor Bale has a PhD in telecoms engineering and did an MBA to get a better understanding of business processes.

A telecommunications expert who has worked at PA Consulting and T-Mobile, why did Viktor Bale decide to make the switch from engineer to businessman via an MBA at Lancaster?

Viktor Bale, 33, grew up in Liverpool and Milton Keynes, UK. Having initially been enrolled on a physics course at Southampton University (Soton), Viktor decided he would rather study electronic engineering and could easily switch courses; “I was very lucky since it was only after I started I realised that Soton School of Electronics and Computer Science was rated the best in the UK (along with Cambridge.”

Viktor graduated with an MEng and instantly moved onto a PhD which he says was fate; he had toyed with the idea of further study but not seriously and got a job instead. But right at the moment Viktor found himself employed the dot-com bubble burst and took the whole telecoms industry down with it. “There wasn’t much going on at the company where I worked. I started to get very bored…so I decided to quit my job and return to academia.”

The PhD was exploring ‘MIMO’ (multiple-input multiple-output) systems, “it was a very hot topic at the time because it looked like it gave something for nothing, but few people outside of the research community had heard of it. Now it’s incorporated into all the new wireless standard by 3G/4G and the newest WiFi standards.”

Post-PhD Viktor worked at PA Consulting Group in an engineering role and his PhD was not directly relatable to his most recent job at T-Mobile where he had a role on the border between engineering and business relating to the telecoms “core network”. “Having a deep understand of the technology will always be very useful working in any role in a telecoms company - you'll always one of those people who really know what they're talking about!”

Tired of the rat race, and being half-Czech, Viktor decided to leave the UK and head for the Czech Republic where he got a job as “development architect” at T-Mobile. This role basically saw him act as a mediator between the technology and business domains. “It was often not an easy job, the two sides usually didn't see eye to eye - one side often accused the other of having whacky sillyideas, and in return the other side would accuse the former of being lazy and incompetent. Though not easy, it certainly made for interesting work!”

The notion of studying for an MBA had been “simmering in the back of my mind soon after I finished my PhD. I knew I didn’t want to be a tech guy all my life. I was (and still am!) ambitious and wanted to rise through management and understood that business knowledge would be needed to do this.” The MBA would hopefully be a fast track to learning what Viktor needed to know to rise up the ranks rather than staying in his semi-technical roles and “trying to acquire business knowledge through 'osmosis' in my role.”

Viktor wanted to stay in Europe and looked at “the usual suspects – INSEAD, IMD, IESE, LBS, Cranfield, Warwick, Judge, Said and Lancaster University Management School (LUMS). Basically I went down the FT ranking and looked at all the European schools, until I found one I liked and could afford. This was Lancaster and it was the only one i applied to."

The main attraction of Lancaster for Viktor was the reasonable cost. “Of course I looked at the programme and it ticked all the right boxes. It also had their USPs of action-based learning and the ‘mindful manager’ course.” Viktor saved up for his MBA for the five years that he had thought about studying for an MBA.

The main skills that Viktor wanted to pick up on the MBA were business theory and how to put theory into practice. “For me, learning about corporate finance, accounting, strategy and organizational behaviour was what I went there to learn. This was fulfilled well.”

The Lancaster MBA cohort is made up of 65 people “so you soon get to know everyone very well and get quite close… I was in a group of people that did a lot of things socially together, not only the usual going out to town at weekends, but also things like day trips and hill-walking in the Lake District.”

Viktor is now back in the Czech Republic taking a break as he and his wife are expecting a baby in a few weeks: “I have decided to stay at home until Christmas to help out and spend plenty of time with the baby but I'll soon start to look for work to start in January.”

He hopes to find work in Prague but the telecoms industry is not that large there so he may well have to look further afield and into Germany. “Ideally I would like to head up a technology department in a telecoms development company. Failing that, I find marketing and finance interesting, but again it would have to be in a telecoms company.”

If all goes to plan within ten years Viktor hopes to be running his own mid-sized telecoms development company based in Prague... “Who knows what fate will serve up for me!”

Comments.

Friday 14th October 2011, 10.00 (UTC)

By

Hi Viktor, I meant to ask you - where do you see the future of telecoms? whats the next big thing? Thanks!

Friday 14th October 2011, 10.13 (UTC)

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Hi Harriet, that very very much depends of what area of telecoms your interested in, and which layer of that technology too. Telecoms is a big area and new developments are constantly happening. But one of the most interested new things is the latest mobile network 4G standard, known as "LTE". It's like 3G, but faster - upto 1Gb/s to your mobile. With that, data (web, movies, music, whatever) to your mobile can easily be just as fast as on your ADSL connected PC. The interesting thing about LTE however is that is doesn't natively support voice or SMS - a pretty big problem for mobile operators obviously (not only since voice/SMS generates by far the biggest share of operator revenues but people actually want to talk to each over a mobile phone network!). LTE was conceived to work along with an "all-IP packet data network", meaning it only supports data, not voice or SMS. To get around this to support voice, operator/developers have had to think to cunning ways to use LTE as a normal telephone network as well. But hey, the future's supposed to be all-data (with VoIP handling telephony) anyway, isn't it?! ;-)

Friday 14th October 2011, 11.37 (UTC)

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What is Lancaster like as a city to study in?

Friday 14th October 2011, 12.47 (UTC)

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Hi Charlotte Personally I think it's very good enironvement to spend a year studying for an MBA. The campus is out of town so you spend a lot of time on campus, but there's plenty of things there, and since the cohort of so tight-knit, you invariable end up spending a lot of your time with your fellow students in the GradBar. However, town is only a 10min bus trip away, and although Lancaster is small (and pleasantly historic if you like that kind of thing) , there's plenty there to keep you entertained for a year. Another advatange of the campus is that most students live very close together so it's very easy to work together in the evenings/weekends, and since you don't have the distractions of town, you can get a lot done. But, if you're anything like the typical student on in my year's cohort, you will probably go to town in the evening at least two or three times a month. Finally, there's plenty around Lancaster is you're an outdoorsy-type - Morcambe bay 15 mins, Lake District 30mins away. The only kind of person I think wouldn't like spending a year there is a big-city type who prefers to view the country-side through a TV screen or car window at 80mph. Also, the weather is terrible, especially in the summer, meaning don't expect any summer weather in the summer months - I'd described is as autumn all year round.

Monday 17th October 2011, 04.07 (UTC)

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Hi Viktor, I would like to do an UK MBA from Singapore & would like to know which Univ to go for- Recently in SIngapore the UK MBA programs running are - Nottingham University Business School ( NUBS ), Strathclyde Business School, Birmingham Business School, Manchester Business School & Bradford school of mgmt. In between this my personal choice is Strathclyde and Nottingham & Manchester being too expensive is out of contention. So need your advice which one will I go for - Nottingham or Strathclyde?? Currently my role is more of operations and a bit of strategic planning . Regards, Suvadeep

Monday 17th October 2011, 10.28 (UTC)

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I'm afraid I don't have any experience or real knowledge of either of those schools. I've heard that Strathclyde is reasonably good, but I don't know anything about Nottingham.

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