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Tiiram Sunderland

  • Programme: MBA
  • Nationality: Australian
  • Job Pre-programme: Policy Officer, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Job Post-programme: Consultant, Bain & Co.

He may have secured a coveted post-MBA position at Bain & Co., but when he joined London Business School, Tiiram Sunderland MBA2017 says a consulting role wasn’t on his radar. “I didn’t have a defined career goal before the programme, although I wasn’t keen on going straight back into government or an NGO. I felt I needed to get some private sector experience, something which would allow me to capitalise on what I learned at LBS.”


Tiiram was awarded the Australia/New Zealand Scholarship with his LBS offer, and says it was a game changer. “Being from a government/NGO background, I had to get my head around the fact that an MBA is an investment. Although I probably would have accepted anyway, the scholarship enabled me to focus more on my degree and worry less about money. It turned me from a maybe to a definite – and has given me the freedom to pursue my interests post-MBA.” But, says Tiiram, there was more to it than the money. “In my application I talked a lot about social and environmental issues and things I cared about. Receiving the scholarship was a strong message from LBS that those things were important to the school, too. It was a sign that the MBA was the right decision for me, even though I wasn’t from a traditional background.”


In fact, Tiiram found his class contained more professional and cultural diversity than he expected. “I thought everyone would be more knowledgeable than me and would come from finance or corporates, but my class was an incredibly diverse group, from all sorts of backgrounds, with a rich range of experience and perspectives. Being immersed in a place where you can spend a couple of years learning alongside people like that – both students and teachers - is the real advantage of the LBS MBA.”


Coming from the Australian public sector, Tiiram’s own experience centred on climate change and international development. “I knew there was a whole world of business out there, and that there was so much knowledge and good practice that could be applied within my industry. I was particularly interested in how business management approached problem solving, and how that could be applied to the issues I cared about.”


Tiiram received two summer internship offers from top consulting firms, and ended up working for a social enterprise incubator with Bain. “My summer work focused on helping social enterprises grow and become financially sustainable; since I started at Bain full time, I’ve been working on corporate sustainability, which has been a great way to apply all that I learned in the classroom. For instance, my first case was supporting a major agricultural company in improving its approach to social and environmental sustainability across its supply chain. This was an incredible opportunity to see how the strategy consulting model of business management improvement can be applied to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”


In addition to a major career transition, Tiiram’s other big MBA takeaway was the opportunity to experiment and develop confidence. “For someone who’s not from a business background, the MBA is a valuable way to gain key skills and understand the world of business. The leadership and communication skills the LBS MBA seeks to foster helped build my confidence to operate in a business environment - which for me was very foreign.”


And as for those still unsure as to whether the MBA is the right path for them, Tiiram says: “Go for it. The MBA is an opportunity to try new things and explore without getting overwhelmed. It can be hard to take the unusual path and there’s a lot of hype around finance and consulting, but it’s important to believe in yourself. My MBA was an immensely valuable experience – I think of it in terms of my career spanning over 40 years – and I know it’s going to serve me well over and over again.”


April 2018