International MBA perspective on Cranfield

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Gulnaz Ibragimova - September 30, 2013

Meet Gulnaz Ibragimova from Mtscheta Georgia who shared her international MBA experience at Cranfield School of Management.

Ready to read? Check out these posts from Gulnaz:

Welcome to Cranfield Making the most of the pre-orientation opportunities and meeting the first few classmates.

This is your MBA Navigating team-based learning and getting an early start to the post-MBA career.

Drama of the future Leadership sessions, making new friends and preparing for the future.

Introducing Gulnaz

Where did you work before you started your MBA?

I was the HR Director at a leading Tatar and Russian IT company for 9 years,.I was responsible for the full range of HR activities, from recruitment to corporate culture development; and ultimately, for creating a positive and happy working environment built around excellent customer service. In 2012 as Deputy Director, I launched start-up to provide training courses on information security and promoted new business by leading pricing, sales, and website design.

What made you want to get an MBA, and attend Cranfield in particular?

I have a very clear vision of what I would like to dedicate myself to professionally in the next 3-5 years.

My passion for customer service is driving me to change my HR career and become a professional customer service manager in one of the international IT companies in the UK. It is obvious that my passion on its own is not enough to change both functions and country.

The holistic management knowledge and skills, high performance leadership competences, strong contact network, increased self-awareness and courage, degree from a well recognized and culturally diverse UK business school are all those things that make my MBA at Cranfield vital to me to succeed in reaching my goals.

Why Cranfield?

For many many reasons. For example, Cranfield School of Management declares itself for its focus on “transforming learning into action” and that is essential to me as a career switcher: this means to know exactly what to do, what particular steps to take whatever new role/job you would get.

What are you most excited about, and most nervous about for your MBA?

Certainly, I am most excited about people I am going to meet during my study: brilliant teachers, supportive university staff, successful executives and entrepreneurs and, undoubtedly my diverse classmates who I am going to make lifelong friends with, I hope. What gets me most nervous about is my awareness of how little I actually know about the business world and its trends and how much I have to learn to move into a more global scale business.

What would you like to do following your MBA? Do you think you'll return to your home country?

As I have already said I would like to refocus my career on customer-service management after my MBA. But, I have a back up option nevertheless, and do not rule out the possibility of continuing my professional growth in HR field on a more strategic level. Actually, I do not intend to return to my home country after my MBA if everything goes according to my plan.

What kind of funding obstacles did you face, and how did Prodigy Finance help?

In Russia there are no suitable educational loan programmes for students who study abroad. So, the availability of Prodigy Finance loan scheme launched for Cranfield MBA students in 2012 was one of the many reasons I applied to Cranfield. That is true; otherwise I would face real funding obstacles towards my study.

My personal savings were not enough considering that I needed extra money to cover living costs of my daughter's study in Moscow. The MBA Consult Scholarship for Russian citizens I had been awarded covered only the part of my tuition fee.

So Prodigy Finance was some way of my salvation. The services provided by Prodigy Finance Team met all my expectations and were of a high quality: a set of clear procedures and standards, quick replies, easy-to-use on-line platform, responsiveness to any inquiries and finally, treatment with honesty and respect. Through the whole application process I had felt emotionally perceptible support from alumni, Cranfield and its friends, from all those who believed and invested in me giving me a fantastic chance to achieve my goals.

What will you miss most about leaving your current country when you go to Cranfield?

My family, especially my daughter Alina, who is seventeen and this year has become a student at Lomonosov Moscow State University. On the other hand, we are both entering into a new chapter in our lives full of new endeavors, obstacles, opportunities and achievements. So there is no reason to get upset, I think.

If you could bring one food from your home country to England, what would it be?

As I represent Tatar nationality I would bring the most essential food in Tatar culture “Ochpochmaq”, a triangular pastry, filled with minced beef, onion and potatoes.

Welcome to Cranfield!

September 30, 2013

My feelings of joy were overwhelming when I arrived on campus on September 17 to start my Pre-MBA programme for international students. I could hardly believe that after a long period of hard work, preparing for the GMAT, working on the applications and the documents required for getting my loan and Visa, that here we all were and that the dream had become reality.

I am glad that I chose to come on the Pre-MBA, for it has given me the opportunity to acclimatise and settle my life at Cranfield long before the course starts. I had enough time to do almost whatever is necessary to get my life in order, from applying for a bank account to exploring the area.

The Pre-MBA course was very useful and enjoyable with very friendly atmosphere. We were a small group (the programme is optional) but I have already made friends and can see that we have talented people who will be excellent to work with. As a small group we really enjoyed being the centre of attention of the school staff and lecturers :)

“We are learning!” was the motto of the course, and we learned not to be afraid of making mistakes and identifying weaknesses and problems as new opportunities to move forward and improve ourselves. As for me, I have not had to use English in my everyday life in Russia, so having the opportunity to practice my English in group discussions, personal written assignments and presentations really helps give me the confidence to participate effectively. We came here to learn and everybody in the school understands this. So now I am trying to grasp any chance to improve my skills; even my post writing experience with Prodigy Finance is a way to do this.

The course was quite intensive but very exciting with many lectures and introductions. On the first day of the course we did our first business simulation. We handled the task very well and got a box of candies as a prize.

We also had our first “Written Analysis of a Case (WAC)” assignment (tough indeed to prepare a 1,500 word business report within 24 hours!), made our first presentation, did our outdoor Teambuilding exercise and built a bridge from pieces of LEGO complete with limited time and budget. This last activity was the most exciting, for we consistently failed to achieve our goal :). You can imagine how happy we were when we finally built the bridge although we did go bankrupt in the process! Have a look how frustrated our engineer and PM manager are, and how happy the observer and the financier look :) Love this picture!

Now I look forward to meeting the whole cohort when the course starts with the Orientation week. The cohort is said to be around 60 students which is undoubtedly an advantage for us to create very close personal and professional relationships in the future!

This is your MBA!

October 21, 2013

Orientation week

The previous year's alumni organized an unforgettable Orientation week to lead us into life at Cranfield. The entire week was full of events, from learning sessions to different social events, such as: Pub quiz; Treasure Hunt; Stream Olympics and finally Cabaret Night (where I performed a Bollywood dance) displaying the unlimited talents of our diverse cohort.

This fantastic bunch of orienteers showed a strong commitment to the school and willingness to inspire and support us. Special thanks go to the Russian orienteers and my friends Alina and Sergey who were such an encouragement in a very tough week of orientation.

“This is your MBA, and it is all up to you what you are going to make of it". This was the message during the first week of our MBA. We received many invaluable tips from the alumni and the academic staff on how to make our year unforgettable. Some of these tips were: 'keep work-life balance', 'be attentive to your family/partners, for while you know exactly why you are here, they may feel left out', 'keep yourself healthy', 'push your boundaries and try things you have never done before', 'work smarter, not harder', 'do not be the best lawyer, be the one who will lead the top 10 law companies', 'be curious', 'what is the reason you are here?', 'people from your learning team will be the most honest people in all your entire life - listen to them and make friends', 'build a strong network', 'have fun', and the list goes on…

Push your boundaries has become one of the cohorts’ favorite mottos. 'Jogging early in the morning after heavy drinking?' Why not - push you boundaries! 'Never done sports before? Go and play cricket with professionals'. 'Speak only four languages? Learn the fifth one'. Push your boundaries :)

One of the most impressive events during the O`week was the International Night and Dinner where my classmates represented their nationalities wearing traditional dresses and singing the songs in their native languages.

Our Russian speaking cohort is rather big, five of us, so the song 'Katyusha' went well, loudly and with the passion that is so typical for Russians :)

Team-based learning

From the beginning we all were divided into two streams, Red and Blue, and then further broken down into 5- or 6- member learning teams within the streams. Team-based learning is one of the characteristics of Cranfield School of Management that makes it different from the other schools.

This learning style is aimed at developing the leadership and personal abilities of students, and to help them go through the intensive course supporting and learning from each other. I have 6 people in my learning team from the United Kingdom, Nigeria, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Russia. The group is diverse from all perspectives, from nationality and professional background, to values and ways of working. So our challenge as a team is to learn to use individual strengths to produce effective synergy while working together under pressure. We are doing well so far for we won our first (and hopefully not last) competition making our first group presentation on the Shutdown in the US.

My family

On the 17th of October my daughter turned 18. I am far away and I could hardly speak due to strong emotions overwhelming me when I saw her via Skype on this day. Happy birthday to the most wonderful girl on earth! Alina, I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart!


Many of my classmates, including myself, are already thinking about our future career. The months of September and October are very important months to apply for the Leadership Development Programme with the deadlines approaching. BP, Johnson&Johnson, BT Group, IBM, Jaguar Land Rover are among the companies which launched their 18- or 24-month accelerated programmes to attract the most talented MBA students, rotating them within the different functions in the companies to develop future strategic leaders.

The Career Development Service at Cranfield School of Management is considered the best in the world, and we are taking advantage of working with the supportive and professional staff in this department.

Different career workshops such as early deadlines workshop, one-to-one career sessions, CV Year Book release, career coaching sessions with external consultants, mock interviews and many other activities have been focussed to aid our career search and enable us clearly articulate our goals and strengths.

Drama of the future


So, two months of our studies have passed, and now that everything is going along as it should, I feel lonely like never before. I feel the natural need for close personal relationships with people that I can talk to about my concerns without worrying that they will judge me. I have made friends with very nice people from the cohort and now we do our best to help each other. This week I received a supportive and very timely letter from my closest friend who helped me re-evaluate my objective for being here, offered me invaluable advice on how to deal with the study load and the stress, and told me to never give up: 'If you Fail, Try Again and Fail Better!'

Festival of lights

Life at Cranfield is in full swing. There are so many events and opportunities that after two months of being here, I have finally learnt to set priorities so as to not burn out.

I could not miss the celebration of the famous Indian 'festival of lights', Diwali. We celebrated the triumph of good over evil with a lot of food, fireworks and fun. My сlassmate provided me with a traditional costume and gave me a great opportunity to experience being an Indian woman :)

Authentic Leadership

The Emerge Conference 2013 that was held at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, was another interesting event worth mentioning. There were many wonderful people, including successful social entrepreneurs who shared their experiences of how they addressed social, environmental and economic challenges. For example, one of the entrepreneurs told us how he helped people with alcohol problems recover their health and social standing.

There was also one moment that struck me a lot in the conference. There were fewer seats available in one of the sessions so people had to sit down on the floor. A seat not far from me was occupied by the bag of the woman who was sitting next to it. I was just wondering why she did not remove her bag and offer the seat to anybody in the room when she suddenly raised her hand in response to the question ‘Who here is a social entrepreneur?’. Could it really be true? – I thought to myself. This discrepancy between what some people say and how they behave in their everyday life pains me a lot. I think that authentic social entrepreneurs are those who have the ability to see the problems or concerns of people around them at every moment of time.

I am sure that this case was just an exception to the rule. There are many social entrepreneurs who are strongly committed to improve the lives of people and really make a difference in this world, but the issue of authenticity not being present in entrepreneurship is one of the biggest challenges of leadership today.

Drama of the future

He called it “Drama of the future” and said that we (the young generation) were lucky to be able to respond to challenges that the world was going to face in the next 30 years. He is Martin Walker, Senior Fellow of A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, a fantastic speaker that I was really lucky to have the chance to listen to at the ‘Evening with A.T. Kearney’. His speech about world trends that would shape the global business environment in the future made me understand how socio-economic trends could have an impact on industries. Here are some interesting facts that drive these trends:

  • Aging population will force us to shift from young consumers to the mature ones because in the majority of countries birth rate is only about 1.2 children per woman (in Russia it is 1.35) whereas stabilization birth rate is 2.1.
  • Due to gender imbalance in some Asian countries, some men will never ever have the chance to have responsibility-building life-experiences like marriage and parenthood.
  • Resource problems are no longer just about energy, but about water and food.
  • Automation will fast shift manufacturing-centralized worlds to design-focused worlds. We will not have to 'ship something by boat' when we can print bicycles with 3D printers.

The main message of his speech was that we would have to re-invent everything to address these challenges.

Before we went to this event, my classmates and I had a happy half-an-hour to look around Oxford Street in London which was already lit up in anticipation of Christmas :)

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