Being at one with London – The MBA summer London residential

My name is Kevin O. Lumumba a current full-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) international student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) hailing from Nairobi, Kenya. My professional background is working as a risk consultant in the internal audit, risk and compliance services advisory function at KPMG Advisory Services Ltd in East Africa, a professional services firm offering a range of services to mutli-sector clients. My experience has spanned clients in different sectors in adding value to their risk and controls environment to enhance achievement of their objectives. Further, it enabled me to grow professionally and personally through the priceless exposure and growth opportunities. Through my experience I have always been intrigued of how different business units integrate to realise a common strategic objective. This led me to pursue the MBA to enhance my breath of knowledge and expertise whilst gaining a wholesome perspective on business value and inter-dependencies in decisions with a focus on the common goal.

I chose the UEA MBA because I wanted a highly ranked school, with a program that was accredited by the  Association of MBA’s (AMBA)  that links theory and practice evident in the live consultancy projects we are undertaking with companies. The UEA MBA also has an internationally diverse cohort where I can learn from colleagues, with modules relevant to the corporate world accompanied by experienced academic and practice staff. Below, I talk about one of the experiences this MBA program has designed to assist us in linking theory and practice.

The UEA MBA is not shy of integrating the program with the reality of the global business world. One such way is through the London residential program, a three-day trip organised to provide us front row seats to the realities in global business through visiting of organisations within London a top 3 global financial hub as per the Global Financial Centres Index. For me, personally, London, and the UK was a place I had aspired to travel to ever since I was young. From watching films such as the popular James Bond and Kingsman – The Secret Circle, to watching my favourite football team I knew I wanted to visit. But most of all i wanted to experience the richness of the British history and Victorian culture that has been a fabric of England.

The residential thus formed one of my highlights for the program especially as London packs a hefty weight to its name. A great city and one of the top financial hubs in the world was a great compliment to the overall experience, especially for us international students. As we got into London, we passed Canary Wharf where big company names announced their presence as their buildings towered the sky. Notably for me, was seeing KPMG LLP, the brand and company where I had gained experience back in Kenya.

Westminster

Westminster.jpg
The home of the British Parliament, The Palace of Westminster

The curtains were raised at the Parliament houses at Westminster (also referred to as the Palace of Westminster) where a visit was organised for us by the Norwich North MP, Chloe Smith. The building, in its Victorian façade, quickly underpins its position in the history books, with the renowned ‘Big Ben’ clock making a big impression though under repair. It was exciting because all the history that I learnt and brief references to law referred to the British Parliaments as one of the earliest. Even more interesting was to recognise some artifacts I had heard of before, such as the ‘black rod’, a symbol of the independence of the House of Commons from Her Majesty the Queen. We were given a tour of the Houses of Parliament and went through the House of Lords, where the debates of the Lords usually takes place. Notably, the heart of the ongoing Brexit debates  and the likely effects on the UK and European economy formed interesting debates in most of the modules we were learning about in class. It all maintained its Victorian theme and one could only but picture the debates, even as we were given the opportunity to ask questions. We then completed the tour and already it was apparent of the vital role this practical experience provided.

We then headed out for lunch where we enjoyed chicken katsu curry, a Japanese delicacy, together with my classmates who also enjoyed it despite being from various parts of the world.

Hub of all things

In the afternoon, we had a wonderful talk from Xiao Ma, the co-founder of Hub of All Things (HAT). This was organised by our module organiser for Customer Focus and Digital marketing, Dr Nick Yip and the session covered the role and future of emerging technologies in changing the consumer space with consumers leveraging their personal data. This was especially topical in light of the stringent General Data Protection Rights regulations that had come into play in the wake of data privacy issues that had befallen huge corporations such as Facebook.

Queen Elizabeth London Olympic Park

The next day we visited the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the monumental address of the London 2012 Olympics. The Business School had organised Oyster Cards for us, which was the key to the London commute. This meant that we had to embed ourselves and adapt to the vast and well-integrated London Transport System (Transport for London). For us international students, this was a wonderful opportunity to experience London and step into the shoes of workers and commuters who rushed to catch the tube carrying huge briefcases and bags with a newspaper on one hand and a cup of aromatic coffee in the other. They were all in their element as was characterised by their expressions. It was fascinating for me to see that the station escalators had express lanes for those intending to maximise every second of their day. All this was part of the London experience and one that I pictured myself in as I hoped to one day work in the great city.

We arrived at the London Olympic Park and rendezvoused at Westfield Shopping Centre, one of the infrastructures that was set up to reclaim the Stratford locale for the Olympics. Here we met a very professional, passionate, knowledgeable and interesting tour guide courtesy of the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Olympic Park
The Full Time UEA MBA 2018 Cohort at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

He took us around the park and for me it was quite a moment as this was one of the stages that my country Kenya shone through in athletics. As we went around we saw the indoor aquatics centre, the main stadium, indoor cycling at the velodrome among others and it was clear that the park’s construction was not just randomly erected but rather a carefully planned and integrated project with a sense of strategy and vision. 6 years later the beauty is still maintained as it stands tall in its magnificence even as the main stadium temporarily hosts West Ham United, one of the Premier League football teams.

Bloomberg

After the morning tour, it was time to catch yet another underground tube. It was exciting, as this time I decided to try the express lane on the escalators and I came to understand that the seconds saved got you on an earlier train as the tube trains barely stopped for more than 30 seconds! Nonetheless, it was more about the experience of stepping into the shoes of the everyday Londoner. We caught the tube back to central London and the next stop was one of the most fascinating ones for me given my passion for finance, numbers, economic news and what makes markets tick; and at the centre of it was Bloomberg. I normally listen to Bloomberg live streaming and being at the actual place was quite the experience.  Walking into Bloomberg HQ  hit us with an interior that depicted that it had personality. I quickly reflected on some of my strategy and organisational behaviour learnings regarding artefacts as a tenet of the cultural web and its role in the workplace. From the crisp walls and wooded sound proof walls we were ushered in and given a tour by one of the Equity and Fixed Income securities analysts. Every room we walked into was a ‘wow’ moment as the company had created a splendid working environment for staff. The relaxing lounge upstairs was particularly picturesque overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral.

Bloomberg St Pauls
The view from Bloomberg, overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral

Notably, we got insight into how the infamous Bloomberg terminals work which was a great learning and practical experience. My prior experience having been in professional consultancy, I had an appreciation of this experience because of the importance of data and information in decision making.

Bloomberg Kevin
Kevin, inside Bloomberg
Bloomberg stocks
Market information screens at Bloomberg

The day was done, and we were back at the accommodation in time for the much-anticipated England vs Croatia World Cup semi-final that was quite a dramatic one, even as the English fans displayed a rather concerted solidarity.

The view from the Shard

Shard
Plan of The Shard from inside

The next day began with a walk across the bridge, through Borough Market with President of the USA, Donald Trump, flying overhead in what we presumed to be him making his way to talks with Theresa May as part of his UK visit. We were headed to The Shard the tallest building in Western Europe towering 1,016 feet and 95 storeys tall. Rightly so, this was a highlight of our trip even as it signified the end of our excursion. At the entrance, we were greeted by luxury automobiles such as Lamborghinis, Rolls Royce and Bentley continental parked outside. An indication of the opulence the Shard commanded. We were met by a cordial and passionate tour guide and were taken to the top through a series of elevators carefully designed in such a way that we were on transit at one of the floors where we switched to another elevator. We could already envision the concepts that we had learnt in our operations module regarding service management in ensuring an efficient flow of visitors. From the top of the Shard, we were able to see varied buildings and architecture that rose to the London skyline as they lined up bowing to the flow of the River Thames. We were literally on top of London.

View from the shard
The view of London from the top of The Shard

We later got an opportunity to meet the management team who gave us a detailed presentation of the view from the Shard giving us an opportunity to ask questions that related to some of the modules we had learnt. these included strategy, operations, marketing and indeed the practice matched aspects of theory.

As a risk professional and an MBA candidate, during this London residential, It was intuitive for me to relate theory to practice, a great indication that the MBA was adding value to my professional skills, knowledge and expertise.

Special thanks go to Norwich North  MP Chloe Smith, Dr. Nick Yip, Xiao Ma, London Legacy Development Corporation, London Olympic Park, Bloomberg Inc and The Shard for hosting us. Also, the instrumental MBA course team: Andy Vassallo the hands-on Course Director, Elle Green and Katy Watkins the exceptional course facilitators. Also, to my classmates that made the experience worth it as we had a wonderful experience together. All in all, it was not only an academic tour to link class lessons with the practical world, but it was an experience as we were one with London.

Thanks to Kevin for contributing to the blog!

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