Thursday, December 08, 2016 at 10am

How an MBA Helped Fuel Startup Success

MIP alumnus and startup founder, Nikita Lukianets, on his MBA experience

Starting a company is a difficult task for anyone, and when I started my own at 19 years old, I had no idea that I’d re-enter formal education – much less commit to an MBA while maintaining control of my business.

I had always been passionate about design and technology; how they both operate independently, but together can drastically change and improve our lives. The idea and drive for starting my own digital branding consultancy, LimeJam, came from this passion, backed up by some experience of working in the technology industry. Yet, as time went on, I began to feel as though my own development had slowed and that my team needed more from me. I concluded that this growth would have to come from undertaking further studies and some different experiences, and I was particularly drawn to Italy because of its vast design community. It was at this moment that I decided to begin researching MBAs.

Diving into the MIP Politecnico di Milano MBA

I decided to attend  the QS World MBA Tour to find out as much information as I could about what was on offer and was attracted to MIP Politecnico di Milano’s environment, culture and focus on engineering and design, as well as its people-oriented management – everything I had been looking for. I applied and was delighted when I made the cut.

I’m originally a scientist and transitioning from a physics qualification to an MBA was a challenging prospect, but I was hungry for the experience and eager to learn. I tried to apply everything that I was exposed to at Politecninco di Milano to my small startup team. I tried new HR practices, experimented with lessons from our strategic design modules and reframed LimeJam’s own strategy using my new insights into how global economic markets work. As well as this, I implemented new team processes internally, such as reforming our method of approaching clients, by taking inspiration from MIP’s organizational design practices.

New horizons: Helping startups

Soon after graduating, I took up a role in the developer experience division at Microsoft Ukraine where I worked closely on their growing technology ecosystem. Not long into this job, I was approached to lead BizSpark, a Microsoft startup support program, which would involve mentoring startups to enhance their technology and business processes. This was a unique coaching role, and required knowledge of both specialized tech and a broader understanding of the business world. I drew on the knowledge I had gained from my MBA and, keeping in mind that every startup and team is unique and must be mentored differently, I got to work in my new role.

During my time at Microsoft, I came into contact with roughly five to 10 new teams each month. Their fields and projects ranged from gaming analytics and digital gloves that speak sign language out loud, to interactive pet cameras. Despite this huge diversity, in the startup world, risk runs so high that only roughly 0.5% of ventures survive and achieve success within five years – many others just disappear. It is always a huge fight to make it, but the rewards and joy you get from growing a company that you find meaningful are exponential. My knowledge of tech and a heavy reliance on the management lessons of my MBA helped me to guide each of these small businesses. Although many of the teams I collaborated with were successful, I don’t count myself as being part of the triumphs of others. However, I'm always keen to hear about individual companies’ news, and happy to provide feedback as they continue to grow.

“The reach of the lessons I have learned from my MBA is always growing”

Currently, I am involved with an ongoing artificial intelligence project, PocketConfidant AI, a chatbot designed to learn from individual users and coach them through personal, professional and academic transitions – I like to think this is a further extension of my background in bridging management and tech, and that the reach of the lessons I have learned from my MBA is always growing.

For those who find themselves in the same position as me – with a growing business and a thirst for new challenges – I would suggest asking yourself two questions before deciding to do an MBA. Firstly, ‘why do I need this knowledge?’ and secondly, ‘if I had graduated today, what would be next?’ These insights are crucial to understanding and evaluating your motivations. However, this is not where the journey to an MBA ends. Choosing a business school is like choosing your future, at least for the next five to 10 years. If you are ready for changes in your life – and have the courage and tenacity to strive to make them happen – universities such as Politecnico di Milano will provide the supportive and interactive environment you need to succeed. For me, MIP Politecnico di Milano was the right place to grow and internalize new approaches in creating and driving innovative businesses, as well as creating and driving my own self.

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Nikita Lukianets is CTO and cofounder of PocketConfidant AI, and CEO and cofounder of LimeJam.

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