MBA success stories: Kamales Lardi, Durham Business School

Kamales Lardi is an alumna of Durham University Business School’s Full-Time MBA programme. Since graduating she’s become a student mentor, a Teaching Fellow and Chair of the School’s MBA Advisory Board

Explain your current role.

Professionally, I am a digital business transformation expert, combining deep experience of more than 21 years in the digital space with a dynamic and current approach to technology application. Since establishing my company, Lardi & Partner Consulting GmbH in 2012, I have advised many multinational companies across various industries in Europe, Asia and Mauritius. Recently my company was the recipient of the Business Worldwide Magazine 2020 Global Corporate Excellence Award for ‘Digital Business Transformation Firm of the Year’.

In addition to this I have been  recognised as one of the Top 10 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers in Digital Transformation by Thinkers360, and recently was invited to join the Forbes Business Council, and to be Chair of the Forbes Women Executives group.

I am a strong advocate for diversity in the tech-scape. I believe that diversity of knowledge, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and experience plays a critical role in developing technology solutions that have a transformative impact in business and society. I’ve shared my perspectives at industry events around the world – speaking as an expert on digital transformation, disruption in business, and diversity in tech.

Where and when did you achieve your MBA?

I completed the MBA programme at Durham University Business School in 2004.

Why did you want to study for an MBA in the first instance? And why did you choose to do an MBA at this particular School?

I started my career at Accenture (Andersen Consulting at the time) after completing a Bachelor of Science in Computing & Information Systems in 1999. During the first few years of my consulting career, I had a rather narrow technical scope, focusing on coding and technology solution implementation. Realising that I would need to broaden my capabilities to progress into leadership roles, I decided to  enrol on an MBA programme.

Not only did Durham University Business School have a strong reputation, it was also was one of the few institutions that offered a one-year MBA programme, allowing me to complete my studies and get back on the career track as quickly as possible. The programme was also one of the most diverse I had encountered, bringing students from multiple regions, industry backgrounds and ages together in one classroom. For me being able to benefit from this diversity of knowledge, culture and experience was key.

What is the most interesting thing you learnt from your MBA?

Personally, I felt that the MBA programme gave me a ‘fail-safe’ environment to broaden my experiences, explore new capabilities and gain a deeper awareness of my leadership style and collaboration approach. Not only did I build my business knowledge, the programme gave me a potential to grow into the professional business leader I aspired to be, surrounded by my peers in an environment where failures are not judged so harshly, and can be learned from. I think this experience is  incredibly powerful for personal development.

What were some of the challenges you faced when studying for an MBA?

A major challenge was reconciling the real-world experiences I had already gained with the theoretical basis of the MBA modules. Back then, the MBA programme was mostly built around text-book teachings, methodologies, and classical management theories. Through consulting, I had gained a broad range of corporate experiences and functional knowledge within a short time span. In some instances, I found the theoretical approaches contradictory to real-world practices that were more practical. However, this set the scene for lively and provocative discussions and I grew to appreciate the value of the theories and methodologies in relation to real-world application. Over the past two decades, the MBA programme has incorporated more practical activities, such as board room exercises and projects with companies, that has brought the theoretical teaching much closer to practice.

How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?

By taking the decision to enrol on the MBA programme at Durham I was given an opportunity to learn a broad range of topics outside of my existing skillset, the space to better consider and understand my strengths, and a safe haven to build new capabilities. Also, opportunities for group collaboration with my classmates gave me the chance to sharpen my leadership style and team collaboration skills.

For me, a big part of the learning came after the MBA programme ended, when I had to apply the learnings and capabilities in the real world, moving out of my tech-focused consulting roles and into the leadership positioned I’d aspired to.

In what interesting ways have you taken what you have learnt in your MBA into the organisation for which you work?

After completing my MBA, rather than moving back home I instead chose to move permanently to Europe, where I secured for a role with Zurich Insurance Group , before joining Deloitte Consulting in Switzerland and working my way up to becoming I had become the Head of Deloitte Digital Switzerland. As my previous work experience was mainly in Asia, the MBA programme opened a new world of opportunities for me in the European market. It gave me the confidence to step into a brand new role and embrace a brand  new cultural experience, as I was able to draw on what I’d learned from both the classes I’d participated in and the relationships I’d developed with my fellow students.

In addition, I gained clarity on the career path that I wanted to take. It was clear for me that I needed to gain more work experience following the programme, particularly across industries and regions. However, I realised that in the long-term, I would aim to build up a more independent professional presence.

It was becoming a mother which provided the final piece of encouragement for me to step out on my own and launch my own venture – giving me both the independence and career progression I desired in one swift move. The MBA gave me the courage to take this leap at such a crucial stage in my life, and the ability to learn from any failings. Fortunately, my leap of faith paid off!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?

I believe that the MBA programme offers a great opportunity to recalibrate your career path or enhance capabilities in preparation for the next phase of career development. I would advise potential MBA candidates to take the time to define what they would like to gain from the MBA experience, as well as consider how it would impact their professional journey before they apply, so that they can select a programme that will best support them in reaching those goals. Also, I’d tell them to enjoy the experience thoroughly! Their MBA will  be life changing, and offer the opportunity to meet amazing people.

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