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!”