“LBS gives you the opportunity to develop your leadership skills in a safe environment, work in diverse teams, reflect on the feedback you receive and put what you learn into practice”
In 15 months, Brierley Penn ran two marathons, visited 20 countries across Europe, Asia and North America, interned at travel booking website Expedia and completed London Business School’s (LBS) MBA programme. The New Zealander was also deputy president and treasurer of the LBS Foodie Club and she worked on the TEDxLBS leadership committee.
It’s an exhausting schedule for most people, but Penn – who was sponsored by her employer BCG, the global management consulting firm, to study at LBS – says she likes to keep busy. “I’ve always loved exercise and training for two marathons (Paris and Milton Keynes) with my boyfriend was a nice release from studying. We covered many miles and saw a lot of London.
“I love travelling, too. When living in Australia or New Zealand, it takes eight hours to fly anywhere and you don’t get much chance to visit other places. Being in London is incredible because you can jump on a flight and do a long weekend in Europe.”
With the LBS Foodie Club, Penn wined and dined at restaurants in London and Lyon. Unsurprisingly, she made many friends through this and other student clubs, or when studying for her MBA. “It’s amazing how quickly you make friends,” Penn says. “The student body is 90% international and everyone’s moved to London for the same reason, so we’re all going through the same experience. There are so many events to connect or socialise with new people.”
Since joining BCG in Sydney in 2015, Penn has worked across several industries such as energy, media, private equity and the public sector. Studying at LBS would, she felt, give her the knowledge and expertise to make the transition from team member to team leader. “LBS gives you the opportunity to develop your leadership skills in a safe environment, work in diverse teams, take time out from your career so you can reflect on the feedback you receive and put what you learn into practice,” Penn says.
Studying abroad was another reason for Penn to take the MBA. “It was a great opportunity to live and work in another country with a diverse student body, exposing me to different learning and working styles.”
The study group format where students work on a range of programme-related projects with the same classmates for a year is one of the MBA’s best features, according to Penn. “Everyone has the opportunity to lead a particular project. Because you’re working with the same people continuously, you develop a real trust; everyone feels comfortable about giving feedback on each other’s leadership style.”
Exploring organisational behaviour, how and why people make decisions and the factors that influence their response to instruction or direction were other highlights. “Learning about psychology and how people work was really enlightening. It allowed me to reflect on work-related experiences I’d had before taking the MBA and understand why someone responded in a particular way. For me, the programme connected classroom theory to the workplace.”