Laura Gonzalez Betancourt

Country of origin: Mexico

Project Manager, EDF Energy

Lancaster’s 2010-2011 MBA Student of the Year reckons the Lancaster MBA helped enhance her soft skills in the art and craft of management and developed her capacity to learn and 'unlearn' from experience.

As an aspiring business leader, I believed an MBA would position me to find better solutions to the economic downturn and continue to seek an optimal balance between caution and growth. In my experience within the supply chain I found that, though there was a common goal, departments’ individual strategies failed to overlap. I saw the MBA as an opportunity to learn to identify the gaps in the system, leading to reduced inefficiency and increased customer satisfaction. The tools of a reputable MBA programme would be a good complement to my industrial engineering degree and professional experience as I stepped up the ladder in supply chain management.

However, the Lancaster MBA proved to have more in store for me than I had imagined. During the programme I was introduced to the Mindful Manager module, the signature course of the Lancaster MBA. All other things being equal, hard skills can stand on their own. But in a VUCA world – Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy, Astounding, as Kevin Roberts CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi terms it – soft skills help managers select the correct “set of tools” to tackle the awesome tasks ahead. The Mindful Manager introduced me to the use of reflection as a means to achieve continuous personal development. The module fosters in MBAs the ability to learn from experience, a practice I will continue to pursue on my journey to become an effective leader. It also taught me that there is more than one correct solution to a given problem.

This became evident when my team won the MBA Sustainability Challenge at Newcastle University by presenting to Procter & Gamble’s Director of Global Sustainability a concept to influence worldwide consumers to adopt sustainable practices in product usage. Instead of approaching the task only by answering the questions on the competition brief, we took it a step further creating an applicable and convincing holistic concept. The Mindful Manager module helped reshape our thinking, encouraging us to break away from predefined models, thus enabling fresh, innovative solutions.

A managerial role requires aptness in leading people – which demands a command in interpreting their emotions and meeting their needs – to effectively bring about execution. Being recognised with the Student of the Year award by the MBA class of 2010-2011 made me aware of my capacity for connecting with others, and its potential application in business settings. Being acknowledged personally and professionally by others requires that you respect and acknowledge them first.

The MBA granted me the opportunity to further experience cross-cultural and cross-functional teamwork, being part of an extremely diverse group of 23 nationalities. The International Business in Context module at S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai, India, added to my international business acumen. However, as a graduate of the school of mindfulness, I do not deem myself a cultural expert; rather I seek to engage with each new person and situation with the willingness of learning to unlearn.

The Lancaster MBA has gifted me lessons that go beyond the lecture theatre. The Mindful Manager approach to business separates the Lancaster MBA from other programmes, providing its graduates with a real competitive edge.

I have recently joined EDF Energy’s Organisational Readiness & Business Change team as a change consultant. Changing geography, industry and role was not an easy feat. However, the Career Advancement Programme at Lancaster provided me with the resources to meet this challenge. Through the Career Advancement Programme I was introduced to several members of Lancaster’s alumni network. I found that alumni who are active members in this community were eager to help recent graduates understand the job market and provide interview coaching. Two of the interviews I went on after completing the MBA were through an MBA alumni referral. My current role at EDF was a result of one such interview. It’s great to know that I am part of this community of business leaders.