‘It’s about people’

Charlotte Soverall MFA2021 reveals how leaving South Africa broadened her horizons


I’m originally from London and I grew up as an expat in South Africa. We moved there for my dad’s job when I was 20 months old. I went to an all-girls’ boarding school. It was over 120 years old and very traditional, but it was an incredible experience and I made friends for life there.

As a child, I didn’t really have an understanding of finance. Originally, I wanted to be a ballet dancer or a writer. In high school I realised whatever I do in life, I want to understand how business works, in all its various aspects.

University in South Africa was challenging and rewarding. I graduated from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and read a four-year business science degree with a double major in accounting and finance. I attended lectures or tutorials for up to five hours a day and realised I much preferred the finance elements of my degree. The more I learnt about it, the more I enjoyed its relevance and applicability to commerce and everyday life.

I always knew I wanted to return to the UK when I finished my degree. Most of my family live here and I knew the opportunities for personal and professional development would be attractive. LBS was my first choice for a masters as I wanted to be part of an international community. It makes me feel motivated and energised.

The LBS learning environment is very interactive. We attend lectures using the hybrid ‘roomies and zoomies’ approach at the moment – lecturers address a huge screen of Zoom students alongside those joining in person.

For me, it always comes down to people. I was told that LBS is the most collaborative place to study, and it is. I also enjoy the diversity of cultures and nationalities and the new friendships I’ve been able to develop.

"At LBS, we’ve helped each other emotionally and technically – it’s really been a village effort to ensure everyone achieved what they wanted"

I love volunteering. I did a UCT programme in which final-year undergraduates provided pro bono consulting services to local townships. The idea was to facilitate a two-way transfer of knowledge: academic business theory and entrepreneurial drive. Last semester, I worked on a pro bono consulting project with the Impact Consulting Club, sponsored by Bain Consulting, to develop a financial model for a social enterprise that provides solar-panelled water pumps in sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainability in business is something I’m very passionate about.

I’m an active member of the LBS Black in Business Club. It’s a great initiative which promotes the representation and advancement of Black professionals in business. It also realises that, to create social change, you also need allies and support.

I’m a student ambassador. It’s a good thing to do because I really appreciated the ambassadors when I applied to attend LBS. I speak to prospective students and share my insights and experience of LBS.

Being part of the School’s Foodie Club has been a lot of fun. Even in the lockdown, we’ve had masterclasses where recipe cards and packages of food and drinks are delivered to our homes.

In June I’m going to Zurich to start a two-month private equity internship with Partners Group. Then, in September, I start with Estée Lauder as a senior associate on their CEO Global Presidential Programme.

Summer’s here, lockdown’s easing! I’m really looking forward to this semester because, now that most of us have found positions, some of the pressure has been alleviated and we can concentrate on the remaining modules of the course and meeting in-person again. Job searching was challenging but we’ve helped each other emotionally and technically – it’s really been a village effort to ensure everyone achieved what they wanted. I’m so excited about what’s ahead.