Earlier this year, Maria Parpou, Full-time MBA alumna from the class of 1995 visited Alliance Manchester Business School to speak to our current MBA class as part of the MBA guest speaker series. We caught up with Maria before the lecture to find out more about life post-MBA.
Maria is managing director at Barclaycard Commercial Payments. She is responsible for all goods offered to corporate clients, including the product development and commercial strategies. Maria's day job consists of managing a team who are responsible for ensuring that products are fit for purpose. She looks at trends, thinking about what customers would like in the future and the product road map. “I usually have a 3 year road map of ideas we want to develop. I am currently collaborating with fintech companies to produce the right products for our customers in this new age.”
Before studying the MBA Maria worked in a German bank in corporate banking. She wasn’t enjoying her career at this point so decided it was time to make a shift and progress her career outside of the traditional career path by studying an MBA. The MBA was a spring board into landing a job in management consulting. The MBA gave her the leverage to go into consulting and work internationally. Maria spent 10 years in management consultancy before returning to banking where she has now worked for the last 15 years. Maria said, “The MBA and my job in management consulting helped me to come back into banking and spend more time doing something more innovative. I am finding the work now more interesting than when I worked in corporate banking. Overall I can honestly say that the MBA really delivered on my dreams.” She continued, “The MBA sets you up for life.”
Maria told us about how the MBA impacted her career and what she took away from her time on the programme. “When I reflect on the MBA what really stands out to me is the project based work. The Manchester MBA was not just about studying a subject, it was practical application.” She continued, “I remember like it was yesterday the intensity of the project work and how applicable it was even later on in life, it resonated with me for years. I went back into the business world and I was ready to go from day one, knowing what was relevant and what was not.” Maria also reflected on the international student body, “to be able to work with different cultures and backgrounds, is something in a globalised world that you need to have and the MBA forces you into this, which I am so thankful for.”
With every industry comes its trials and tribulations and banking is no different. Maria touched upon some of the issues facing her job. She says, “Banking is going through some transformational changes which are fuelled by changes in technology and the framework in which banks operate.” She continued, “The biggest task for us at the moment is staying relevant in this technology age. We have to think about collaborating with fintech to offer better choices to our customers. Universal banks are set up to serve customers in a uniformed way; something that in our digital age is no longer relevant. We need to think about new ways of interacting and enabling the consumption of financial products for the millennial generation.”
When asked how Manchester has changed since she was studying here, Maria said it has a more sophisticated air than in the 90s. Maria still feels a warmth when she visits the city and it reminds her of the late nights working on the International Business Project, consuming lots of pizza with her classmates who she still has a great bond with 25 years later. We asked her the question, what advice would she give to someone looking to study an MBA? She said, “If there is even just one part of you that is thinking of studying an MBA then you should do it. In the long run you get great exposure from studying an MBA and the lessons you learn from it you just can’t put a price tag on.”
Maria’s favourite memory from the MBA was the International Business Project. The project meant she got to travel to Europe, collect findings for her client and present them back and Maria found it very exciting to put the academics into practice. “I was so immersed with work in my first year that it went like a flash. I never took a breather to absorb the fact that I was living in Manchester and studying my MBA.” Another tip Maria gave when she was reflecting was having a clear mind when researching the internship for the summer. “You need to be clear about which companies you want to approach. I would recommend considering your options before the intensity of the programme kicks in.” Fortunately for Maria she did an internship with a consulting company and they offered her a job. She accepted the role at the end of her MBA and worked with them for 10 years. “I had a fantastic career with them and I am thankful to the MBA as without being part of the programme I would never have had this opportunity.”