During our MBA briefing session at the start of the second semester, we were told about the Student Treks taking place in London and Iceland. These visits are organised by the Business School to create business engagement between our cohort and industry professionals. We had the opportunity to apply for one or both locations: I applied for the London Trek because the theme was the Future of Work and Diversity & Inclusion, both of which are topics that resonate with me.
Thankfully, my application was successful and I booked a train to London for the two-day event at Mary Ward House, London, on the 18 and 19 of May, 2023.
The weather was a perfect blend of warm and relaxed as the train stopped to let out early travellers at the bustling Kings Cross Station in Central London. It was an easy five minute walk to the venue and we shared light refreshments of coffee and snacks before Aditi Agarwal, an Edinburgh MBA alum and current CTO at Blue Light Card, gave the opening keynote speech.
Listening to Aditi speak about her career and the work she currently does at Blue Light showed me that a post-MBA career can be both purpose-led and commercially rewarding. You do not have to trade one for the other.
Next was a panel discussion on Technology and the Future of Work. The panel was made up of Christian Howieson and Chriss Koshy, both Edinburgh MBA alums, as well as Mohamed ZamZam, a current Edinburgh Executive MBA candidate. The panel was moderated by Copil Yanez, our indefatigable MBA development manager.
This was an eye-opening panel that discussed the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on work and the skill sets required to thrive in today's (and the future) workplaces. It was reassuring to learn from tech industry practitioners that despite the rapid adoption of AI and machine learning, soft skills like storytelling, communication, and team building are still high in demand - and that won’t change.
The last session of the day was on Cathedral Building by Christine Armstrong. She compared the future of work to a Cathedral and noted that the future of work is increasingly becoming about how you choose to move forward in your career. Research has shown that the more autonomy people have in their jobs, the higher their tendency to work hard. In the end, we have a choice on what stories we want to tell through our careers.
The second day was my favourite of the two. We started with a panel discussion on Diversity and Inclusion and its impact on the future of work. The panel comprised Geraldine Gallacher, Claire Sarafilovic, Ed Bernardino and was moderated by our prolific deputy MBA Programme Director, Amanda Singleton.
If you aren’t aware of Geraldine Gallacher, I would recommend you start by getting her book, ‘Coaching Women: Changing the System not the Person’. She is a powerhouse and I was privileged to hear her speak on how to intentionally build an equitable and diverse workplace. But I was particularly inspired by Ed’s story. He moved to the UK from Brazil over a decade ago without understanding a word of English and is now the Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity and Inclusion at Billion Dollar Boy Creative Agency. He highlighted the difference between diversity and inclusion in the workplace: diversity involves bringing people from various backgrounds together while inclusion is ensuring that those people are involved in the processes, decisions and outputs within the company. He also presented data to show that highly diverse and inclusive workplaces are more financially successful (for those concerned about the bottom line impact).
The next session on Courageous Leadership by Roxanne Hobbs was highly thought-provoking. Looking at the rapid pace of change in the world, it is apparent that courageous leadership has become an essential part of the toolkit we need to navigate the modern workplace. She took us through the value-mining process and noted that often times when we are finding things hard, it's because we are not staying true to our values.
The closing keynote was by Yvonne Smyth from Hays Recruitment, who is also the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead for the UK and Ireland at Hays. Her session was a reminder of the popular quote by W. Edwards Deming, “In God we trust; all others bring data.” It’s no surprise that she has been recognised as one of the Global Power 150 Women in Staffing, for four years in a row (and counting!).
Yvonne brought a lot of insights that are invaluable for anyone looking to build a career in the UK market, especially for non-UK nationals. A key learning from the session was that one can use value-based job search filters on LinkedIn, with keywords like DE&I, purpose, and sustainability. In addition, she explained that the fastest-growing roles are driven by technology, digitalisation, and sustainability.
Overall, joining the London Trek was the perfect start to my job searching journey. Sometimes the preparation to get back into the workplace can appear daunting and makes one question if you have the right skill sets required. However, meeting other Edinburgh MBA alumni who have experienced the programme and are now thriving in their chosen fields reminded me that I have all I need to succeed. Lastly (and most importantly), I took the opportunity to expand my network and learn about rapidly growing sectors where I can build a career after my MBA programme.
Precious Nwachukwu is an MBA student, 2022-2023.