Co-written by José Mario Peña (FT MBA 2023) and Madisen Kovell (Eve MBA 2023).
What better way to experience London than while the city is decked out in Union Jack, every storefront and restaurant has a nod to the crown, and the front of Buckingham Palace is packed hundreds deep to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee? The 2022 MBA Study Tour to London offered us an opportunity to expand our knowledge of global business, gain an international perspective, experience a myriad of events, and strengthen our Foster community ties through lasting friendships. Our six-day trip was packed with company visits, such as our trip to the O2, one of the world’s most popular entertainment venues (Queen may have been doing a soundcheck), and our meeting with Schneider Electric, where we discussed their sustainability efforts and drive to create a gold standard for electric companies. These academic visits were complemented with social and cultural events like our visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to see Much Ado About Nothing and our dinner cruise down the Thames.
One of the many advantages that London enjoys as a world-class business hub is the concentration of great companies that are born so close to each other in its thriving startup ecosystem. These companies span a plethora of industries as varied as finance, healthcare, high-tech, intellectual property, and more. Softbank knows this well and has established an investment hub for its Venture Capital arm (Softbank Investment Advisers) in London. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit their office and were received in their main board room by a Foster Alumnus who works in their deal-making team. Through his presentation, we learned about high-velocity strategic dealmaking in mass across sectors from a venture capitalist perspective and got the inside scoop on the state of private markets. This was a great opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, venture capital, and private equity in a direct and engaging way.
Another highlight of our trip was our visit to Marsh and Lloyd’s of London. At Marsh we learned about the Maritime industry, insuring onboard cargo, and how to negotiate with pirates. Our speaker was a favorite among the class because of his long-standing history in the industry and sense of humor, as seen through his PowerPoint effects. Lloyd’s was the epitome of tradition meeting modernity, aligning well with the essence of London. The Inside-Out-Building, the home of Lloyd’s, is innovative and unique in having its core functions- stairwells, lifts (elevators in American English), ductwork, and pipes on the outside of the building, though the brokers still sit in the original booths that were used for insurance negotiations. On our tour, we learned about the most famous items covered by Lloyd’s, saw the Lutine bell that was struck to communicate the arrival of an overdue ship to the brokers, and read the large loss claims book that is featured in the center of the building. We all walked away a bit more interested in insurance.
Midway through our trip we got out of the city and took a field trip to Cambridge. While we managed to fit in a company visit to Arm and spoke with an engineer about their ever-evolving technology, the trip was mainly a great way to network and strengthen the connections within our own group. We started with a sit-down lunch where we enjoyed a curated menu and discussed our expectations for the trip. We then headed into the heart of Cambridge to experience a must-do punting tour down the River Cam. Our tour guide provided a history of the colleges that make up Cambridge, including some commentary on the famous or infamous people and goings-on from each respective college. We sipped on Pimm’s Cups and soaked up the sun before heading to a happy hour with students from the Cambridge Judge Business School. This was a chance to network with other MBA students and talk about the similarities and differences in our experiences. After trading some class stories and post-graduation plans, we headed back to London for dinner and a happy hour of our own.
All in all, the study tour to England was a great way to experience the greater London area in a very holistic way. We got to learn from industry experts about their field through a pragmatic lens, we saw the city’s main attractions in a fun environment with friends and had the chance to attend cultural events that were both interesting and representative of the city’s history. Therefore, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend an MBA Study Tour to anyone at Foster interested in learning about doing business abroad or with the desire to culturally enrich their professional and personal perspective. The experiences and relationships that you will forge during these programs will most likely prove to be life changing.
José Mario Peña graduated in Economics and Business in El Salvador, where he’s originally from, and also holds a Bachelor’s in International Business Management from Germany where he studied abroad. Since then, he has worked for AB-Inbev (NYSE:BUD) in Marketing and Sales Management positions and for Millicom International (NASDAQ:TIGO) in Product Management roles. He is now pursuing his MBA from the Foster School of Business at UW and is an incoming strategy consultant. Outside work and academics, he enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. A coffee aficionado, he’s always available for a chat over a nice cup of black coffee.