How LUMS changed my life – Guest Blog by Gor Stepanyan

I started my journey in the world of business in 2010 when I joined MSc Management program at Lancaster University Management School (LUMS). The education process at LUMS was a great combination of theory and practice during which we focused a lot on real world business cases. Moreover, as a part of my education at LUMS, I participated in an international MBA exchange program and spent one term at St. Gallen University in Switzerland where we focused on strategic management, leadership and entrepreneurship.

  • Top 5 takeaways for me from the business education at LUMS and St. Gallen are the following:
  • In the business world, we need to take risk!
  • The difference between great ideas and great change is execution!
  • Focus on what is important but not urgent!
  • Business is a team sport!
  • Your teams can make or break you!

After graduation from LUMS, I moved to Russia and joined KPMG in Moscow as a 1st year consultant. In 2013 after 4 months of recruitment process, I joined UFLP program at Unilever Russia as a management trainee. During 2 years as a trainee, I worked in sales operations, marketing and sales departments. I was the first management trainee from sales department at Unilever Russia who was nominated for an international rotation and I spent 8 months at Unilever Turkey in Istanbul as a junior manager at sales operations department.

In 2016 I returned to Unilever Russia and was promoted to the position of Route to Market manager and was responsible for short term and long term strategy of sales department in Ice cream category. At that time I was managing a team of 9 people located all over Russia.

After spending 5 years at Unilever, in March 2018 I received an offer from Confectionary factory Torero and joined the company as a Commercial Director. Currently I am a board member of the company and I am responsible for Sales, Marketing and Logistics departments and I am managing a team of 47 people.

The knowledge, which I gained during my education at LUMS and St. Gallen till today helps me to manage the business both on daily basis and from strategic point of view.

MSc Management student secures graduate role

One of the key elements that attracted me to MSc Management at Lancaster was the inclusion of a dedicated Professional and Career Development module that aims to offer students guidance and opportunities to get ahead in the competitive graduate job market.

As the UK graduate job market for the 2019 intake was fast approaching, I felt apprehensive as I was unsure of what exactly I was looking for and how to effectively communicate my strengths to potential employers. However, within the first few weeks of beginning my MSc Management course, I was given incredible support with a one-to-one career advice session, online resources to help strengthen my CV and LinkedIn profile and an abundance of opportunities to interact with employers at graduate careers events.

One particular careers event, that was provided exclusively for MSc Management students, was a presentation by The Hut Group, a fast-growing global e-commerce company based in Manchester. This event provided a great chance to learn some application tips from a large graduate employer and also the opportunity to introduce myself to the employer and learn about their potential job opportunities.

I was particularly interested in the graduate marketing roles offered by The Hut Group and was able to secure a telephone interview off the back of this presentation. Following on from this I was fortunate enough to be invited to an interview assessment day where after I was offered a position within The Hut Group’s Ingenuity division.

I am delighted to have secured a graduate role so early into the recruitment cycle and the support and resources that are available through the MSc Management programme are invaluable in providing these kinds of opportunities to students.

Matt Hill, current MSc Management student

5 Reasons why I chose Lancaster University

My journey of making the decision to pursue Management from Lancaster University has been very unique. It was a bright sunny day early in February when I decided to attend the college fair organised by a counselling agency in Delhi. I chose it because, with a full-time job, I knew I would not be able to do thorough research on my own. It was a good decision because they gave me an opportunity to meet 100s of Universities under one roof. On the day of the fair, I was given a list of all the participating Universities and Colleges and was asked to approach the ones I was interested in. Seeing all the Universities and students being so specific in their approach, I got scared for a moment. It was finally happening. I had a few universities in mind that I definitely wanted to speak to, and so it all began. I went round and round in circles, crossing out the names of the ones I’d spoken to and making notes of whether or not I wanted to consider them and finally I came to the desk by Lancaster University. The programme appealed to me right away. I went home and started my research. I shortlisted 10 colleges from the long list and decided to further shortlist just 5 colleges where I wanted to apply.

My criteria of shortlisting those 5 colleges were the programme structure and modules, rankings of the University, FT ranking of the programme, fees and other living expenses and career support.

These were also the 5 reasons I chose Lancaster University:

  • Programme Structure and Modules: The programme had very interesting modules and a few modules that drew my attention were Digital Innovation in Businesses and Entrepreneurship. Most of the other universities were not offering these modules and I really wanted to learn them. Also, I was unaware of the block-taught structure of the programme while applying, but the structure closely resembles the industry environment and it prepares you for the future challenges. The 9-5 classes and different modules in different weeks made me a better manager of my time.
  • Rankings of the University: I made it a point to thoroughly check the rankings of all the universities and their programmes as well. Lancaster University is very highly recognised by institutes such as Quacquarelli Symonds World University rankings, Financial Times rankings, etc. 
  • FT ranking of the Programme: It is extremely difficult to find out the world rankings of the particular Programme, however, it was important to me. So, I took the challenge and researched and found that the programme was amongst the top 100 programmes in the world.
  • Fees and other Living Expenses: I would not say that fees and living expenses were my top priority but I understood the reality and I was definitely influenced by the amount of money I would be spending.
  • Career Support: It was an important criterion for me. I wanted to choose a University that not only provided the career support during the year of education but also after it. The careers support at Lancaster University has been exceptional. The team is amazing and I go to them with everything. If I have to prepare my CV or for an interview, they have the solution to all my problems. Also, it is just nice to have a chat with Martine whenever I am disheartened by the result of my job application, which has been the case so far. She seems to always know the right words to boost my morale!

I would just say that I applied to 5 universities and got offers from them all. I spoke to my counsellor, my friends as well as my family but in the end, I decided to go with my gut instinct and I could not be prouder. It was the right decision. I have grown more as a person and professional in this one year. It has been a difficult year, for people who say that it will be a cakewalk are probably being dishonest. But, at the same time, you are successful only when you challenge yourself. So trust your instinct and take the road not taken!

 

Privacy in the world of Big Data

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my Business Ethics class for a guest lecture, wondering about what I had just heard. The slide was titled, “ I am an Advertiser, you can trust me!” It got me thinking about the ways in which consumers are being manipulated. But then it got me thinking if the advertisers or companies who collect data on their consumers are to be blamed or are the consumers who blindly agree to share their data without understanding the consequences are to be blamed? I decided to further explore this topic and do my assignment on it. I decided to explore Big Data and Privacy.

 

Big Data is a buzzword these days and there is no denying that the technology has helped industries cater to the basic needs of their consumers through customisation. I came across the word Big Data years ago in some news article. But I did not completely understand it until my Digital Transformation of Businesses class. It was only then, did I actually understand what Big Data is. The size or type of data collected is not the only distinguishable feature, it is the insight that this data provides that makes it special. These insights can be used for any commercial purpose, for example, the business model of Uber is based on Big Data, Uber does not own the cars that are rented but it owns the network of those car owners and drivers and thousands of customers who are willing to rent those cars. Big Data became a buzzword because it gave businesses the power to make valuable strategic decisions based on it. It has introduced new horizons for businesses, some organisations choose to be data users, some become data facilitators and yet others choose to be data suppliers.

 

But going back to the initial question, what about the consumers’ privacy? Is that the priority of organisations? There are laws and then there are ethics. Following laws does not imply that organisations are being ethical. Facebook complies with all the regulations yet Cambridge Analytica happened but it is not just Facebook’s fault, it is also the responsibility of consumers to be equally vigilant, to read the consent forms before blindly agreeing to the terms, to have different passwords for different accounts and to have strong passwords. I know it is difficult to have different passwords but there are so many applications these days which remember those passwords for their users. There is always a solution if we are willing to find it. It is also the fault of the lawmakers to not have kept up with the fast-paced technological advancements. The privacy laws and regulations are still archaic in most non-EU countries. Finally, I would just like to say that no regulation can prevent invasion of privacy in this hyper-connected world unless we are careful. So be vigilant and protect your privacy, because no one else can!

Guest Post: Job offers by November!

MSc Management student, Keira, started receiving job offers in November 2017, and has already secured a management position in a fast-expanding UK-based company, with months to go before graduation. She tells us her job-hunting story here…

First things first, start early. There is no such thing as ‘starting too early’ for career seeking. My first job application was submitted on 4th September 2017, the same day my course commenced, for a job that starts in September 2018. Nonetheless, I started my research on the FTSE100 companies (about their openings, recruitment processes, their values and desired competencies) in early June 2017. Because I acted early, I was able to attract the attention of HRs from top companies and proceed to the next stages, before their inboxes got absolutely flooded with applications. 

Secondly, take advantage of the support from LUMS Careers Team. In the first two months of my course, I met with Martine (Career Advancement & Internships Officer) and Peter (Postgraduate Careers Advisor) at least once a week to perfect my CV, get advice on tailoring my cover letters, discuss interview technique and connect with alumni through their networks. The career coaches are very well trained and experienced. They are there to help you kick off your career at your dream company. I can not possibly express how much help I received from them for my job-hunting. 

Last but not least, practice, practice, practice. LUMS organises many career related workshops, such as mock interviews, assessment centre practice, online tests mentoring and industry networking events. Make sure you participate in these events as much as possible because, as much as I hate to say it, you rarely fail the application process due to being incompetent, but because you are too nervous to perform the best under significant pressure. Once you join Lancaster University, you will be given access to Targetconnect, where you can book your place for such workshops. You learn the techniques to stand out from the crowd in highly stressful and competitive environments, and that’s how you get job offers. 

I handed out over 50 applications by the end of 2017 and another 20 in 2018. I received my first job offer in November 2017, when most of my colleagues have yet to start their first application. Start early, use the career help and practice your techniques. I am confident that you will find a brilliant job to kick off your career. 

MSc Management- Block Taught Structure

When I was deciding to join MSc Management at Lancaster University, I had absolutely no idea that the course was block taught. Most of you will not even know what it is.. I’ve been there.

Block taught quite literally means being taught in blocks, where each block was a week’s period and each module was taught in that time period. It is a very interesting concept. Throughout the week just one module was taught from 9am-5pm. We did case studies and group work and everything else related to that module in just that week. However, the final assessments are usually scheduled two weeks after finishing the module, be it exams or individual essays. To summarise, my month, on the whole, looked something like the first two weeks of intense classes and group work and then the next two weeks chasing deadlines for the modules that I had just finished.

I had never experienced such structure before and thus for the first few months, I struggled to cope with the deadlines and to keep up with whatever was being taught in the class, but as the year progressed I noticed that my ability to understand things and to manage my time improved exponentially. I no longer needed to go through the slides as I understood almost everything in class and also made concise notes while being taught. Also, in order to keep up with the deadlines, I followed strict schedules and began working on the assignments or preparing for the exams while the lectures were going on, rather than leaving things to the last moment.

I prefer this structure over being taught multiple modules at the same time because I could focus on just one module and, moreover, it helps reduce stress. It’s far less stressful to have exams and assessments spread over the entire year than to have all the exams at the end of the term or year for that matter. The month of May is dreaded by everyone as this is usually the month when everyone has exams. However, it’s not the same for me. Having finished all my exams, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather. Summer in the UK is a rare occurrence and I am enjoying every bit of sunshine.

TWO + TWO

The perks of doing a general Masters course is that you get to participate in the events organised for other specialised courses as well and that you still have the time to decide what you want to do in the future. I developed a knack for Marketing modules and I wanted to test my understanding. So as soon as I came across the opportunity to participate in the event organised by Creative Resources where I could put all the theories into practice, I seized it.

The event was held in Manchester on 16th February. It was a platform for students of various institutes and courses to come together and tackle youth-loneliness. We were provided with a brief explaining the issue at length and were then put into teams of 5-6 members. Each group was assigned a mentor who was an industry professional. There were other mentors who we could approach at any time with questions. The aim of the event was to come up with unique solutions which could be undertaken by organisations to tackle the issue at hand. The solutions could be anything ranging from mobile applications to websites or even campaigns.

Loneliness is becoming a major problem amongst youths. This event was an opportunity to not only talk about it openly but also to tackle the issue head-on. All the groups came up with unique ideas. For example, one team suggested that people who feel lonely should wear yellow colour t-shirts on a particular day of the week. They also wanted to spread awareness about this day and encourage everyone to communicate with people who were feeling lonely (wearing yellow). It was a very simple idea and yet it could be put into effect.

Having stayed back for the Christmas vacation, I understood that it can be particularly difficult for people from other cultures, who may feel a little alienated at times, feeling a little left out and most importantly missing what you have left behind. Amidst all this, we often tend to forget the opportunity we get to explore new things and to embrace new cultures. All we need is a little positive nudge. I shared my experience with my team and they all understood my perspective and we decided to focus specifically on the loneliness issues faced by the international students. However, our target audience comprised of all University students. After a lot of discussion and guidance from many mentors, we came up with an App, which would allow the international students to connect with the local students according to their hobbies. We wanted to create value for all the students utilising our services by creating cultural exchanges.

It was a very well-organised event and I learned a lot about the real world. Coming up with ideas under pressure and working better in teams were my biggest learnings from the day. In just a day, I had met total strangers, discussed the issues, and most importantly understood their perspective. It was the first time that I was working directly with the creative side of Marketing.  Coming up with taglines and logos was a thrilling experience in itself. Overall, it was a unique experience and I look forward to utilising the skills I acquired that day.

Where are they now?

From the very beginning of the course, I have always enjoyed Employability weeks. These are special events designed by the Careers team in order to prepare us for life ahead. Over the two terms, there have been many events, such as Networking day, Team Building away days, and one-on-one sessions with Martine and Peter (Career Mentors). In such a demanding course as ours, these weeks have been a source of relief, when we don’t have to think about the theories of HRM or the concepts and mathematics of Economics.

One event that stood out to me the most was “Where are they now?” It was basically an event where MSc Management alumni came and told us about their experience while pursuing the course and journey after they had finished and had gone on to pursue jobs. Some of them had over 10 years of experience now, and some of them had graduated just last year. They all had the different opinions and yet in many ways, they were all the same. One alumna, who had graduated in 2002 and had a work experience of over 10 years under her belt, told us to persevere while applying for jobs. She suggested websites which she found relevant when she was applying for placements. Listening to her story rejuvenated us and filled us with hope. After all, failure is not the end and success is not all. She was an international student and I could relate to her story as in many ways, I am going through a similar phase, the confusion of whether to go back to India to work or to keep applying to get a job here in the UK. She chose to go back to China and returned after a few years of experience.

Another alum from the 2012-13 batch, who is currently working in Rapid7, described his learning from the course as a stepping stone to the future. He mentioned that the course taught him the essentials but working life had much more in store. He mentioned that he did not have a technical background, but the knack for learning. He also mentioned that it is essential for us to figure out our strengths and be honest while applying for jobs.

Another alum from the same batch, who is currently working in DHL, mentioned his struggles while applying for jobs. He mentioned that he applied for 27 jobs and got rejected at some stage or the other before landing the job in DHL as a consultant. His will to not take no for an answer made me wonder. I am going through the rejection phase myself, where most of the companies do not provide VISA sponsorship. When they do, they don’t like my application form. If I clear that round, I get rejected in the situational judgment test and if all goes well, there is absolutely no way I’m clearing the video interview round. So far, zero success rate. But what is life without struggle? To have a good story, we need failures and the will to fight back. (Luckily, I am not scared of failure so bring it on, Life!!!)

The session was not just inspirational but informative too. All the alumni gave us insights, not just into the struggles they faced, but how we can apply to the companies they are currently working in. I connected with most of them on Linkedin and asked for their advice on my CV and on whether their companies provide VISA sponsorships. I feel that this event was a good opportunity for people like me who felt they were lost. Getting rejections is not easy but knowing that others have faced the exact same thing and have still made it work somehow, makes it a lot easier.

My First Exam in the UK

As I entered the registration hall in the first week, my heart pounded heavily. I did not know what to do, where to go. Was it too late to go back? Of course, it was. I was not only in a different country but also in a different continent. At that point in time, I was just following everyone because they seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going. We ultimately reached the final destination of the day, the Management School: The place that LUMS postgraduates absolutely worship. The Hub, the Lecture Theatres, the meeting rooms – I had never seen a place like that. I was sitting with a few of my classmates and they all were talking about Lancaster and the University as if they had known it for ages. As it turned out…they did. They had all done their undergraduates at Lancaster University and I had no idea what was happening around me anymore. I felt overwhelmed and anxious and I kept quiet, taking it all in.

As days passed by, we got busier with lectures and assignments but at the same time, we grew closer to each other. The journey had begun, and we spent the days learning and the nights exploring the University. Soon, the first module was over and so was the second and before we realised, it was exam time. With just a week left for the exam, the late-night excursions had taken a halt and the late-night coffees had replaced them to ensure that we were burning the midnight oil. There was chaos and confusion everywhere. This was a big thing. It was the first module and we all wanted to leave a mark. Being from different educational backgrounds, we all were facing challenges. Most of us had never studied business modules before and jumping right into Marketing and thinking like a Marketing Manager was difficult. The exam was case based. We were provided with a case and had to scrutinise it well before the exam. In the exam, we were asked questions based on the case and had to answer them in an essay style. This was very new, especially for someone like me. My last essay-based exam was in primary school and being from CBSE board (Central Board for Secondary Education, India), I was cut out for point to point answers. Luckily my lecturer was a sweetheart. She gave us precise directions of what she needed and also made us practice with a mini case in the class. On top of that, we were also provided with past paper questions. All these resources ensured that we were fully equipped to face the exam.

On the final day of the examination, I prayed to all the Gods and reminded myself that I would be fine because of all the group studying sessions I had with my classmates and the resources that were provided by my professor. I went for the exam and “answered the questions”, precisely as mentioned by my lecturer and as it turned out, I managed to get a distinction!

 

 

Going Frugal- It’s not just about managing finances, it is about managing yourself…

Frugality- the quality of being economical with money.

For all those who are living on their own for the first time, this too shall pass and when it does, you will emerge as a different person. I came to Lancaster University with the dream of becoming a Manager and landing a good job. Little did I know that the first step of the process would be to be a manager of myself. From studying to cooking to managing a budget, you are on your own. The degree teaches you far more than just the modules. This was the first time I was in-charge of myself. I’ve lived on my own during my undergraduate but there things are different, pocket-money was just a phone call away and moreover, there weren’t any currency conversions to be kept in mind. I came to the UK with 500 Pounds, thinking that it’ll last at least 4 months, after all, they were 40,000 Indian Rupees and how much could I spend?

After the first month and an expense of almost half the money that I possessed it became very clear to me that I’d have two options, either I can cut down on my expenses (which was usually spent on buying food and, being a Punjabi, that’s something you cannot compromise on) or I could earn more money by doing part-time job. I wasn’t thinking too much and I chose to go with the first option as with classes from 9-5, I wanted some time to explore as well, so getting a  job was postponed till the next semester. It was time to strategise my frugality plan and more or less it was simple for me.  I had to focus on where I spent the money most (except food, of course) and cut down those expenses to a minimum. However, I wasn’t as simple as I  thought. The pattern wasn’t consistent. With a month of struggle and just 90 pounds left, the third month began and that’s when I came across the Master Plan as I like to call it. I still follow it and it is an amazing way where you don’t even realise you are saving money. All you need to do is save 10 pence on day one and keep adding 10 pence to it the next day. It follows the laws of Arithmetic Progression (flaunting Mathematics-my dad will be so proud of me!!! ). By the end of the first month, I had already saved 15.5 pounds. It isn’t a large sum of money but considering I had 90 when I started and I managed to save 15 pounds, I went straight to Greggs and ate a cookie. After all, I deserved it! Treat yourself and be frugal!