How My Cranfield MBA Got Me A Management Strategy Job At A Leading UK Family Business

Mariela Kovacheva's reinvented herself professionally after an MBA from the UK’s Cranfield School of management

Mariela Kovacheva reinvented herself professionally after an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, taking on a new role and a new level of responsibility.

Having previously worked in market and data analyst roles, she transitioned into a leadership position, becoming head of strategy development at Arco—a fourth generation family-owned business and the UK’s leading supplier of safety clothing and equipment.

The Cranfield MBA offers a host of elective modules—including ‘Leading and Managing a Family Enterprise’—global business assignments, and company-based projects allowing students to tailor their MBA experience to match their career goals.

During her MBA, Mariela competed in a global venture capital investment competition in North Carolina, USA; spoke to the HR director of Panasonic in the company’s headquarters in Japan; won silver at the annual MBA Regatta; and presented on the same stage as the HM Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire as part of the Cranfield Women in Leadership conference.

The multitude of experiences on the Cranfield MBA helped Mariela change her career perspective. Through her MBA, she realized that the dynamic of a family business resonated strongly with what drives her.

Keen to explore a career switch, she used Cranfield’s careers service—which helps 91% of MBAs find employment within three months of graduation—and was put in touch with Arco’s recruitment manager.

BusinessBecause caught up with Mariela to find out more.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Cranfield School of Management?

Choosing the right university was a big challenge. I received offers from three renowned UK schools but in the end, I chose Cranfield.

The full-time MBA program was focused on the practical side of developing my leadership skills, the class size was smaller in comparison—around 50-to-60 students—which allowed me to get to know everyone and build lasting relationships, and the average age of the class was relatively high. For a candidate like myself, at the early stage of my career, to learn from the experience of others was a great opportunity.

What was the highlight of your MBA experience?

Listening to the story of the founder and CEO of Rasmala, Zak Hydari—a Cranfield alumnus who flew from the other side of the world to meet with the MBA class—had the greatest impact on my personal development and future aspirations early on in my MBA journey. 

How does your MBA help you in your current role?

One of the key messages from my MBA was that, as a leader, you don’t always have all the answers; the ability to ask the right questions is what’s important.

I often use the academic knowledge and frameworks I learned during my MBA, but it is the confidence I built during my year at Cranfield to express my viewpoint to people at all levels, which has made the biggest difference in my approach.

Cranfield School of Management’s extensive alumni network has also proven to be a great asset, particularly when working with customers or business partners who have completed their degree in the same university.

What advice do you have for anyone considering an MBA?

Pursuing an MBA will push you outside your comfort zone and even make you question your decisions at times. It is important to keep an open mind and be sure that the rewards at the end of the journey are worth the price.

When searching for a business school, don’t forget that you’ll also acquire the extensive alumni network of your chosen university, and this could be a great asset in your career.

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