Reflecting on the Cass London Symposium
“Trying to split?” If you ever meet any of my good friends from the Cass Full-time MBA or back home in Washington, DC they will tell you that I persistently ask this question every time we go out to eat at a restaurant. My counter argument to this is of course how can you blame someone for wanting to try all the different delicious choices on the menu?
Wondering how my maddening indecisiveness has anything to do with the 5th Annual Cass MBA London Symposium? Well let me provide you with a bit of my own personal background as well as the exciting week that transpired at the London Symposium.
Before I accepted my place in the Cass cohort I worked in the retail banking sector. While the work was challenging and the knowledge obtained was valuable, my inspiration for obtaining an MBA was to transition to an industry that would suit my skill sets better. I had a general idea of a few industries to transition into, but I was still hoping to learn and explore others where I had absolutely no bearings.
Upon seeing the London Symposium being offered as an elective, I knew I had to partake as this elective would allow me to gain insights from leading London organisations in many different sectors without having to narrow it to just one.
Exciting week ahead
The week consisted of four days with speakers for everyone in the morning and a choice for three different site visits in the afternoon. Many of the speakers were alumni of Cass Business School and on top of sharing their insights and experience with the students, also graciously hosted us in the afternoons at their offices.
During the mornings we heard from many impressive speakers, with highlights from the late Lord Mayor Sir Andrew Parmley, commissioner for Transport for London Mike Brown and Deputy Mayor of London for business Rajesh Agrawal, among others.
The three site visits I chose were in vastly different sectors: retail with John Lewis Partnership (JLP), media with Sky News and financial technology with Starling Bank. The speaker that had a profound impact on me was Andrew McInnes who is currently Head of IT Operations and a proud Cass alumnus at John Lewis. While John Lewis is known to be a highly respected and trusted UK company, it was refreshing to hear about the unique challenges that JLP was facing both online and in their brick and mortar stores.
In a fast moving climate where vast amounts of consumers are changing their behaviours of shopping, Andrew was able to share with us the necessity to quickly adapt or be left behind. After listening to the talk and getting a tour of one of JLP’s flagship stores, I was pleasantly surprised reflecting on how different areas of strategic decision-making were all intertwined in operating such a large and successful corporation.
Being provided with back stage access to so many unique and important speakers from such different fields of business was instrumental to our views in how business is run in the global hub that is London.
Ending the week with some fun
A wise person once told me the phrase “work hard, play even harder” and after four exciting but rigorous days of business, the closing celebration party at The Ivy Soho was a perfect opportunity to mingle with newly formed connections and have some fun. What we didn’t expect was a faculty flash mob executed to perfection but this is just a perfect example of how Cass Business School upholds the motto.
Looking to the future
In reflection, my personal conundrum of trying to experience too many items while dining out is still a challenge with no tangible solution. On the other hand, participating in the London Symposium opened my eyes on how businesses from different sectors across this fine city operate and attack challenges.
As I transition to my next career upon completing the MBA, I know that it will take a combination of different skill sets and frameworks to conquer unique business challenges that lie ahead. Thinking with an open mind and exploring every opportunity is something that myself and every student can take into the future.