Why did you choose to study at LSE and how did you choose which programme to study?
I chose LSE because it is a globally reputed university in a city I wanted to live in. A few friends who had studied at LSE had praised the academic focus and diversity of the student body. After my heavily quantitative undergraduate degree in computer science engineering, I wanted to immerse myself in a more social sciences based environment – LSE provided the perfect opportunity to do this. I chose my course - the CEMS Masters in Management (please link to the course page here) - because it fulfilled three criteria:
• Masters degree in management
• Course duration of two years
• Opportunity to go on an exchange to France (through CEMS)
I felt that I did not have enough work experience then (only 2 years and that too as a Radio Jockey) to go for a full-time MBA. However, I was sure I wanted to study management in a two year programme. I felt that one year was too short a time for a master’s degree and a two year programme would give me the opportunity to do an internship as well, which may help me secure a full-time opportunity after graduation. I also wanted to experience continental Europe and practice my fledgling French! My programme allowed me to accomplish all these goals and hence was the perfect fit!
How did you find the student experience at LSE?
The LSE pedagogy is based on self-learning and self-reflection. There was constructive and balanced debate of concepts and most lectures were open ended with no clear right or wrong answers – this was quite frustrating in the beginning. The focus was not so much on the solution but on the process of analysis – structures and frameworks, externalities and tail risks, probabilities and choices. There were very few problem sets but so many readings which were verbose and complex – no convenient bullet points! However, it is a tribute to our professors that multiple readings that during the weekend seemed put together randomly, suddenly seemed to come together in class – like the various instruments coming together in an orchestra. At first I was shocked and later learnt to enjoy and even look forward to the symphony!
Weekly readings apart, the coursework was intellectually heavy but light on labour (in terms of surprise tests, weekly assignments etc.) which allowed ample time for socialising. A huge part of my LSE student life were my LSE halls – Rosebery Hall and Lillian Knowles. The Rosebery post-dinner foosball and table tennis matches were great opportunities to bond with hall mates and something I miss even today. The hall also organised great parties – particularly remember Halloween, the boat party and the trip to Thorpe park!
London was a great contrast to Dubai where I had lived previously. It was my first time in a modern western city and just the opportunity to be in London and visit those museums (for free!), walk over those nursery-rhyme bridges and sit in those iconic double-decker buses was exhilarating!
The only criticism I have is that LSE does not have on-campus residential facilities, which makes it hard to bond with classmates unless one has the money to go out drinking fairly regularly. I do feel that takes away from the learning environment a bit.
Please describe your career path to date:
I joined the Barclays Corporate Graduate programme after completing my degree in 2013, rolled off the (then 2 year) graduate programme early to become an Associate in the Corporate Product Team (Transaction Banking) and currently work in the Debt Finance team.
I was in a credit risk analysis team during my graduate programme, where I used Porter’s five forces for industry analysis extensively. This was a framework we spent a lot of time on at LSE and it was great to reduce the learning curve at the desk. Concepts I learnt in Finance I and II and Management Accounting were also helpful in analysing financial statements.
But I think the biggest advantage that LSE gave me was through the volunteering programme – LSE Widening Participation - where I taught English and mathematics to primary school students at a school right next to Rosebery Hall. I discovered a passion for teaching/training that I carried through into Barclays, organising a two day careers focussed workshop for students from economically underprivileged backgrounds. I went on to mentor sixth form students in Tower Hamlets, where I stay, and a couple of A-level students through Teach First. This is a non-work related part of life that is very fulfilling and has come about solely due to the opportunities I had at LSE.
I think that the LSE brand definitely gives students an edge in terms of being shortlisted for interviews.
Tell us about your current job:
I work in the debt finance team for Barclays Corporate Banking in London. Our team provides debt facilities mainly to large corporates, but we do have a small fund aimed at early stage, high growth companies. Previously, I was part of the transaction banking team liaising exclusively with the UK Government to provide non-debt banking services to the UK government.
Key skills needed in my role are: resilience to persuade people with facts in the face of opposition, negotiation to work together with multiple stakeholders and arrive at a solution that works for all parties and finally communication skills – clear and precise communication over email and the phone, especially on conference calls with multiple people.
Why did you choose it?
I chose my current role because after two years in transaction banking, I wanted to move into debt finance and learn that part of the business. It is a part of core corporate banking and something I was interested in. I also felt I would be able to leverage the skills I learnt working in the risk teams earlier in a much broader way in this team, which has turned out to be true.
What advice do you have for LSE students who are looking to enter a similar profession to you?
Two bits of advice:
Attend the LSE career fairs. These will give you an opportunity to meet people in your target firms and provide a non-public point of reference and information about the firm. You can understand more about the culture of the firm from talking to two employees for ten minutes than you could from reading the firm’s website for two days.
Join the student clubs/societies related to your chosen profession. If you want to get into Investment Management, join the LSE Investment Club, for consulting, join the consulting club etc. These clubs have great contacts with firms in their industry and can help you make connections, learn more about the recruitment process, help you understand how these industries work and gain the key skills required to successfully complete the hiring process.