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Brett Tolman

  • Programme: Sloan Msc
  • Nationality: American
  • Job Post-programme: Managing Partner, Tolman Consulting LLC

Education and experience:

Brett is an entrepreneur with financial and technology expertise. During his career he has founded four companies, including a proprietary trading operation, two real time data management software companies and a risk management consultancy. Brett holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University.

Targeting knowledge gaps

At the end of 2012, I decided to take some time out and figure out my next career move. I have a very specific area of expertise – I’m an entrepreneur with experience in trading options and software – and there were gaps in my knowledge that I needed to fill. I had recently wound up my businesses, and it seemed the right time to think about an executive study programme.

I was initially drawn to Sloan because of its focus on leadership and strategy. I was also very keen to expose my family to a new culture. I always envisioned myself working internationally, but after graduating from college my businesses kept me firmly tied to the US. Sloan is as much a cultural experience as an educational one – London offered me the opportunity to study as a Sloan Fellow and to live with my family in one of the world’s great multicultural cities.

Time to reflect

Sloan has helped me solidify what I’ve always done instinctively in the past. Strategy classes are particularly useful, firming up the way I look at businesses, the way I believe they should be run, and the way I think about future opportunities. I’ve filled some of my knowledge gaps in marketing, and financial courses have provided technical expertise in new areas. Sloan also puts emphasis on self-reflection and I’ve used this time to think about my career to date and my future direction.

At this critical juncture, I’m focusing on what’s possible, and what’s right for me in a professional context.

When you start a company and begin to hire people, you think about your potential employee’s qualifications, but not your own. Sloan is my opportunity to improve my own qualifications. I’ve learned how to be a leader, how to think strategically, and when to make changes.

I’ve also had time to recognise, reflect on and learn from previous mistakes. Knowing why they’ve happened in the past is an invaluable step towards avoiding them in the future. I’m looking at opportunities where I’ll be actively involved in building and growing the business, developing a global brand and ensuring any new venture is a great place to work.

Experiencing new cultures

My cohort has a wealth of different perspectives to share – it’s fascinating to discuss business issues, but equally interesting to hear people’s personal stories.

Despite bringing together 60 participants from 29 different countries, I’m struck more by the similarities than the differences. In the business world, and in the Sloan classroom, we are all ultimately speaking the same language.

It was a big decision to bring my family to London with me, but six months in, my daughters are settled into a local school and flourishing. We’ve attended all sorts of cultural events hosted by my fellow Sloans, including Indian Holi night, Japan Night and Maslenitsa. Thanks to the very international nature of the Sloan programme, my kids have seen just a little bit of what these different cultures represent. London is also a great travel hub.

We’ve already been to Paris and Barcelona, and have other trips planned to Luxembourg and Scotland. It’s been an invaluable experience for us, and something we’ll always remember.