The MBA Allowed Me to Achieve My Goal

An Interview with Lilian Lee, University of Edinburgh Business School Graduate

Lilian Lee, a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh Business School’s MBA programme, also holds an MA(Hons) in Architectural Design and a Master’s of Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Lilian is now working for Grant Property Investments, a Scottish property investment company, and she is the founder of Fourth World Art, a social enterprise that seeks to help communities in crisis by supporting artisan crafts. She is an avid traveller, photographer and loves a good game of tennis.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
The experience of volunteering in Haiti nine months after the 2010 earthquake, motivated me to gain my MBA. I was keen to gain an all-round and holistic perspective on business; a useful transferable skill in its own right, but the key decider was that I wanted to set up a social enterprise which would sustainably support Haitian artisans. Whilst pursing this endeavour, ‘gaps’ in my business knowledge became apparent, which resulted in my ultimate decision to pursue an MBA.

What were the most important aspects you considered when choosing an MBA course?
Three key aspects were important – firstly the city. Having completed my undergraduate degree at the Universi ty of Edinburgh, I knew the city well. I love Edinburgh; it is truly an amazing city with so much to offer, culturally and socially. Secondly, scholarship opportunities - there are very few UK scholarships open to non-British/EU nationals and the University of Edinburgh Business School had such opportunities. Lastly, the course duration. Given the financial investment, I wanted a programme which would enable me to gain the MBA within a year.

What was the most difficult part of getting the MBA?
I found the first semester to be extremely tough. Having to learn over ten different new subjects spread over ten weeks was hard work, especially as my background was in architecture. Being more inclined to think creatively, all the foundation MBA subjects were like learning a new language. However, despite being difficult, they broadened and expanded my business knowledge.

What was your goal and how will the MBA help you achieve it?
My goal was to set up Fourth World Art, a social enterprise which imports artwork from Haiti to sell in the UK. Profits will then be reinvested back into Haiti, through educational development. The MBA allowed me to apply the knowledge I learned to build up the business model. With the acquisition of a new business language, increased confidence and advice from knowledgeable academics, the MBA actually allowed me to achieve my goal.

What was your most valuable experience during the programme?
Aside from the wealth of different subjects offered on the MBA programme, the most valuable experience came from the University of Edinburgh’s Business School’s network.
Through the University’s Entrepreneurship Club, not only did I meet a wealth of entrepreneurs and listen to their stories, but I also had the opportunity to enter into a number of pitching competitions. This was a great way to test my business idea and to gain valuable industry feedback from working professionals. Through this I found two entrepreneurs interested in supporting my social enterprise and secured a job after graduation, through an alumnus connection.

How would you describe the learning environment at the University of Edinburgh Business School?
Without a doubt, the new Business School building and its facilities added real value to the learning environment. Having a separate 24-hour-access MBA common room and meeting rooms meant that we had private study spaces away from the masses. The diversity of nationalities (over 27) allowed for mixed cultural perspectives and the small class sizes (55 students in the year) brought an intimacy to learning. The variety of subjects offered was an asset. In semester two, we had the option to pick courses that suited our interests which added to the MBA’s flexibility, enabling us to specialise in a focused subject area.

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