“I had come from one career, progressed quite far, and it seemed like it could be quite hard to change without starting again. LBS enabled me to make a leap sideways.”
On the first day of Portia Walker’s MBA, a member of faculty, Richard Jolly, addressed all of the new starters. He told them that careers are resilient, and that if you’ve done well in one thing, you’re very likely to do well in another. Little did he know just how useful those words would be to Portia Walker MBA2016, a BBC journalist that had decided to switch track and enhance her career by pursuing an MBA at London Business School (LBS).
“I found that incredibly helpful,” she says, “because I had come from one career, progressed quite far, and it seemed like it could be quite hard to change without starting again. LBS enabled me to make a leap sideways.” A Celia Atkin Avent Scholarship from the School also helped Portia get a step closer to her dreams. But what does a successful journalist – an expert on Middle Eastern politics – whose career has taken them all over the Middle East and North Africa, do next? “I loved being a journalist, and I’d love to work for a media organisation again, but on the management as well as the content side, as someone making strategic decisions. So I wanted to learn more about business.”
Currently a consultant at McKinsey, Portia has acquired a whole new set of tools and skills which she uses every day. She says that the MBA made her think about her career in a very different way, making her aware of possibilities which she had never considered before. “When you meet people who come from so many different professional backgrounds you realise that there are so many industries and roles that you never knew existed. It’s easy to become siloed in your thinking, but the MBA allows you to step back and get a much broader perspective on the world of work.”
She describes her fellow students as “thrillingly diverse”, and says that her programme has given her friends from all over the world. “It’s extraordinary how many new friends I made so quickly on the programme. And I’ve met new people from LBS in cities all over the world who have welcomed me, as a fellow member of the alumni community.”
One thing that stood out for Portia about LBS was “the rate of employment three months out is amazing. That’s very important when you’re doing a degree like this.” In addition, Portia was hugely impressed by the faculty: “The calibre of the professors and the research is outstanding.” She recalls another comment from Richard Jolly on her first day, when he talked about what a career actually was. “He said that when you’re draining the swamp, don’t spend your time fighting the alligators. What he meant was that it’s very easy to get distracted by immediate but ultimately inconsequential problems and in doing so lose sight of the bigger picture. I’ll remember that forever.”