- Programme: MBA
- Nationality: New Zealand
- Job Pre-programme: Flight Lieutenant and Aeronautical Engineering Officer, Royal New Zealand Air Force
- Job Post-programme: Business Development Manager, averda
Richard’s military career highlights include serving as a Deputy Maintenance Flight Commander, which saw him lead a team of 65 maintenance personnel that worked on Super Seasprite naval helicopters. He also spent one year in Lebanon as a United Nations Military Observer for the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, while also serving as a patrol team leader within Observer Group Lebanon.
As a senior Flight Lieutenant, I’d reached an inflection point and realised I either had to commit to serving in the military for the rest of my career, or make a break and try my luck elsewhere. I decided to do an MBA, because it would give me the necessary skills for life in the business world – such as accounting, finance and organisational behaviour – and open doors to new career opportunities.
I’d applied for five of the top 10 MBA programmes around the globe, but London Business School was my top pick due to its location, brand and reputation for having a great faculty and alumni. When arriving at LBS, I had little idea about the roles I wanted to pursue once I’d completed the MBA. I used the first six months to hone in on potential careers, discarding those that weren’t a good fit after being exposed to them or discussing them with friends and peers.
I interned in the oil and gas industry after the first year of the MBA, exposing me to a real business environment in which the methods and practices I’d learned at LBS were being applied. I was in the tendering team and saw how the organisation’s business development division worked, which helped me get a job after finishing my studies. After leaving LBS, I joined waste management company, averda, to work in a full-time business development and tendering role.
Lessons in business
While the business courses such as finance and accounting were great, I also really enjoyed the economics and organisational behaviour modules – they changed the way I look at both the economy and my own behaviour and actions. The way I read newspapers and websites for example is different; I now focus more on business and economic stories. I also have a greater understanding of finance, which gives me more confidence with general lifestyle choices such as finding the right mortgage when buying a house.
I particularly enjoyed the negotiation and bargaining course, which provided an amazing opportunity to learn about and apply negotiation theory. Before the programme, I saw negotiation as an exercise where one party wins and the other loses. I’d always go in with my best offer and negotiate from there, but the MBA taught me to wait until the other person has made their position clear and then adapt my offer accordingly. It’s about getting a better outcome for both parties, where possible, by communicating to reach a mutual agreement.
The shift from serving in the military to studying at LBS was a big adjustment. Life in the military can be relatively sheltered, especially for someone from an island nation in the South Pacific with no experience of working in the private sector.
My biggest challenge was coming to terms with the differences in outlook and behaviours that are considered the norm outside of the military. In the armed forces, the objective is to get the job done, often in an environment with few resources and little time. While there are similar constraints in the business world, my internship and experience at LBS taught me the value of extended scenario analysis and taking more time to develop the right approach.
What I enjoyed most about life at LBS was being exposed to new ideas and careers, and having the opportunity to interact with truly brilliant people. The School has an extremely diverse student body and faculty, which is reflected in an MBA programme that attracts people from around the world.
I also relished the opportunity to get involved in student clubs and communities at LBS. I was fortunate enough to serve as Co-President for both the Military in Business and Industry clubs, and undertake committee roles with the Automotive Society and the Global Energy Summit.
The social highlight of my time at LBS (apart from making some amazing lifelong friends) was opening the batting for the School’s cricket team at the MBA Tournament (MBAT) in Paris. We lost in the final, but the good-natured interschool rivalry at MBAT engenders an amazing level of school spirit and really brought the students in attendance together. That sense of camaraderie we felt when taking part in fun activities and events was one of the things I enjoyed most about being at LBS.