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Lidia Chmel

  • Programme: Executive MBA London
  • Nationality: Russian
  • Job Pre-programme: Director in Risk Management & Compliance PwC
  • Job Post-programme: CEO & Founder at Mama's Dream

Professional background

Lidia was a Director in Risk Management and Compliance at PricewaterhouseCoopers and subsequently became Finance Director at a subsidiary of Russia's leading petrochemicals company. After completing the Executive MBA programme in 2012, Lidia founded Mama’s Dream Club, a community-based resource for children and parents.

Practical career support

To some extent, I knew what I wanted to get out of the Executive MBA programme before I even started. After 13 years in finance roles it was time for a change of company, function and industry. It’s easy to get pigeonholed in the finance sector, and I wanted a broader cross-section of knowledge and skills that would help me explore new options. In the end, I experienced a complete career transition, moving on to found my own company, Mama’s Dream Club.

To make such a definitive shift, I needed a confidence boost. London Business School’s EMBA certainly provided this. I expanded my business toolkit, but where I had expected the programme to offer me a solely academic experience, I also found that a lot of time was devoted to practical support of my personal and career development. Different discussions and assignments made me think deeply about my goals, values and future life, encouraging me to focus on the impact that my work has. I believe I’m now a better person, someone who has more to offer both to my family, and to the wider world.

Altered perceptions

I would never have had the courage to start my own company without the EMBA programme. Exploring case studies and hearing from guest speakers who had founded their own companies showed me that it was eminently possible to change direction and still be successful. Understanding General Management was also an eye-opening experience for me. At one point I had to describe my dream job and write my eulogy, which uncovered a mismatch between the corporate role I anticipated and how I wanted to be remembered by my family. This period of self-reflection was one of the main reasons I dedicated myself to starting a small business.

In my start-up I deal with a lot of third parties. With limited resources available to me, I find myself referring back to my EMBA Negotiation and Bargaining course almost every day. The practical tools and strategies I learned regularly help me negotiate better conditions, better prices and better deals for all parties concerned. My skills have already saved me a lot of money, and I keep them in mind whether I’m involved in a small deal or a major transaction.

Experience of a lifetime

It was definitely a juggling act, but studying at London Business School was the experience of a lifetime. I’m married with three boys, so doing a full-time programme was out of the question. Timetabled on Fridays and Saturdays, the executive format fitted well with my lifestyle, allowing me to combine family, work and other commitments.

There is no question that I expected a lot from the EMBA, but the programme delivered it all, and more. Every two weeks I found myself looking forward to new modules and engaging with the School community. One year on, I am still regularly turning to classmates for advice on marketing strategy, investor relationships or one of the many other daily challenges involved in leading my start-up. The global network and friendships I made in London means I can be 100% sure that whatever the question, someone, somewhere in my network will help me solve it.