How MBA Networking Brought Together a Business School Student, Shared Taxis, and Robot Lifeguards

How MBA Networking Brought Together a Business School Student, Shared Taxis, and Robot Lifeguards main image

Meet EMILY. She’s a young red-head who loves the beach and makes a living lifeguarding. Unfortunately, she is not actually human, which takes her off the market for most guys out there. But, she is capable of moving at more than 28 mph in hurricane conditions and contains Navy-derived technology capable of recognizing a flailing swimmer and moving towards them without human controls. That makes her pretty cool in my book.

How I Became Involved with EMILY and Hydronalix

I became involved with EMILY through one of my final MBA electives at London Business School (LBS), a class titled “Managing & Marketing Innovation.” During the class, the professor mentioned that Hydronalix, the company that makes EMILY, was looking for some MBA students to help write a plan to introduce EMILY to the European market (one of the senior executives at Hydronalix was an LBS alumni and ex-military who had reached out to this professor for assistance).

Flash forward a few months, and hopefully, by next summer, if you happen to be swimming in the UK, there is a good chance EMILY will be standing guard over you, ready to “swim” out to you at a moment’s notice. EMILY just made her first save in Oregon and when it happens in the UK, I’ll take pride knowing I played a small part.

How My MBA Coursework Helped Me Land My Job at Carbon Voyage

Now meet James. James actually is human, and runs a startup called Carbon Voyage, which is kind of like meets AirBnB for taxis and courier services. I previously wrote about this in another article, but the short story is that I became involved with Carbon Voyage while doing a school project for an LBS class titled “Managing the Growing Business.” James attended the classroom presentation I made about his business, and thus received an invite from the professor to chat more about what he does. This professor spent two hours advising James and I about Carbon Voyage. James later invited him to lunch at a famous British site and, as I write this, James is meeting the professor again for further advice. This kind of consultation would normally cost thousands of dollars, but will be invaluable for our little startup.

The connection between EMILY and James? Just that – connections. The connections you make through MBA networking can have a huge impact on your post-MBA life.

The Impact of MBA Networking

Most people think about networking in the context of job hunting, and that is really important. I certainly reached out to plenty of alumni when I was interested in consulting, in order to find out more about the profession and that I was not interested in consulting after all. The unwritten rule among LBS alumni and friends is that they will take the time to have coffee or a phone conversation with any LBS student that asks, which often leads to further networking or contacts.

A quick note on etiquette here: do not contact your school’s alumni simply to ask for a job -- it's a bit “cheeky” as they say here in London. You should be genuinely interested about learning about what they do… If you meet them and it makes sense for them to recommend you or put your resume in the “right hands”, then, great.

Besides job hunting though, there are a lot of really cool opportunities for those with an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit. Small projects, like what I did for EMILY, are actually fairly common. Two of my fellow students recently returned from an aluminum factory in the Dominican Republic for a paid consulting assignment that came through business school connections. Investment houses will sometimes hire MBA students for one-off research projects. What’s really cool is that a background in specific industries is not required – I certainly had no experience in the UK lifeguarding industry. But applying what you learn in school can be done in almost any industry, and is quite rewarding.

The result of one-off projects are unpaid (or low-paid) internships. These can often help you break into an industry that you have no experience in. Through LBS connections, I briefly worked a few hours a week for a company called Sustainable Ventures Development Partners to help them launch a business around home energy efficiency assessments, as I wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship and the “green economy” in the UK. I realized that I needed some civilian experience to bolster my military background.

So, if I can offer any advice, it's to consider the impact of your school’s network as you choose B-schools. And don’t just think in terms of who has the most prestigious alumni. The geography and sector focus of your network will largely (not completely) reflect that of the school. Consider the backgrounds of some of the professors of subjects you are interested in, or the recent activity of the various clubs you might join. Finally, make sure you really take the time away from your studies (I would go so far to say “sacrifice” time from your studies) to use that network for something other than just job hunting – you only do your MBA once, so take the time to explore and have fun while you can.


About Chris O'Brien

Chris O’Brien is/was a U.S. Army officer and a 2012 graduate of London Business School’s Executive MBA Program.



Written by QS Blogger
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