Detecting advantages of an unconventional MBA skill set

Heading to the City of London’s Old Billingsgate Market on my first day as a London Business School MBA, many thoughts ran through my mind. What would the students there be like? Was I skilled and experienced enough to bring valuable insight? If so, how would I be able to adapt my unusual background to business situations? I went over my time in the military and tried to convince myself that all the soft skills I acquired would help me contribute to the LBS community.

I remembered going through the same sort of self-questioning the day I received command of my team five years ago. Since then, from the burning Sahara sands to the deep forests of Amazonia, many events have transpired. Although diverse by nature, they all had something in common: managing people 24/7 in abnormally difficult situations while getting things done no matter what. But was this skill set transferable?

In deep thought along my way, I almost missed 221b Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes’ Georgian residence, nestled among surrounding pubs and restaurants. Whether it was a coincidence or not, the similarities between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional private detective and myself were obvious. Holmes was reputed precisely for his unconventional manners. Could it be that this boxer, swordsman and violinist, who found inspiration in chemistry and botany to tackle criminal investigations, would have been a good MBA candidate? Even though he had no direct business experience, I think so.

Holmes was famous for his problem solving abilities and outstanding analytical skills. As for the team he formed with Dr Watson, their complementary skill sets were key to their success. Holmes brought the genius of the detective, whereas Watson brought the realism and pragmatism of the physician. Without doubt, they would have been a driving force in a study group at LBS.

Reflecting on this, I decided to take the tube from Baker Street and stop by Westminster. From there, I crossed Westminster Bridge and walked along the Southbank and past the London Eye. As it was such a nice August day, it would have been a shame to not have glimpsed central London and its amazing architecture, where contemporary stood alongside classical in a chaotic yet harmonious tangle.

Passing the Old Vic Theatre and heading to the Hayward Gallery, I recognised two MBA candidates I had met during the Admits Weekend back in May. One of them was a Siberian-born fashion designer in Canada, who designed his own collection and received an award for most promising designer in 2009. The other was an Australian music producer in London who collaborated on an opera with Vangelis, a composer, and had been learning to code for the past few months. After a hearty handshake, we made our way to Old Billingsgate Market.

Forgetting my concerns, I smiled. This unexpected trio had quite a collection of different skills and would give Holmes and Watson a run for their money in the MBA classroom.


This article was originally published as a guest blog post on
Photo courtesy of pixabay
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