The Modern MBA

Maxine Fish: Public Health Consultant and British Army Reservist, a collaboration with

January 26, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4
The Modern MBA
Maxine Fish: Public Health Consultant and British Army Reservist, a collaboration with
Show Notes Transcript

On today's Modern MBA podcast, a sponsored collaboration with, we speak to Maxine Fish.  A current MBA student at Hult Business School in London, Maxine is an all-rounder.  She shares with us her life as a global citizen, her experience in project management and consulting in public health, studying at Hult, working as a British Army Reservist, and tips for settling into a new city.


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Many students come to an MBA from banking, consulting, or MNC backgrounds, but what about those that don’t? The Modern MBA podcast with Marie Kirwan and Kristen Rossi shares the stories of those transitioning from or using their MBAs in unorthodox MBA sectors including the arts, healthcare, not-for-profit, academia, and more.

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The Modern MBA
Welcome to the Modern MBA podcast with Marie Kirwan and Kristen Rossi. Our mission is to help MBAs coming from going into or merely considering more unorthodox career paths, where community to find inspiration and share stories. Today's modern MBA podcast is a special collaboration with MBA grad We're speaking with Maxine Fish, a British Canadian studying at Hult Business School in London. She shares with us her global experience working in public health, what it's like as a British Army Reservist and tips for starting an MBA programme.

The Modern MBA 0:50 
Can I ask you to share your name, where you're from and where you're doing your MBA.

Maxine  0:56 
So my name is Maxine Fish, although I go Max, and I'm from Toronto, Canada. And I'm currently doing my MBA at Hult International Business School at their London campus

The Modern MBA1:06 
You studied anthropology, you're from Canada and you've also lived and worked in London, South Africa and  Indonesia as well. Can I ask you just to walk us through your career path today?

Maxine 1:19
I did a BA in social anthropology at McGill University in Montreal. And I then moved to London to do my Master's of Science in medical anthropology, which is a division of public health. And in the summer, between the first and second year of my master's degree, I took on a research internship position at a hospital in Cape Town. And I was collecting data for a cardiothoracic surgeon. It was an amazing summer, and it solidified my interest in public health. But then it also confirmed I didn't want to pursue a career in medicine, which I think is just as important a lesson to learn what you definitely don't want to do. And then when I graduated, I went to work for a small consulting agency and was sent to do a finance project in Jakarta, which is the capital of Indonesia. And I then did a second project for them healthcare, which is kind of more what I was interested in. And at the time, Indonesia had just switched from a private health care system to two tier, all the private health care agencies in the country, were trying to figure out how to make their services more appealing to communities who could finally afford to see a doctor oftentimes for the first time. And it was a brilliant project and amazing opportunity, really. So then when I returned to the UK. And this was in 2018, I took on a role in educational tech as an account manager, which was a great stepping stone kind of getting my previous role at a medical tech startup called med share. And that was the company that I just left to start my MBA. And I did both account management and operational roles and strategy.

The Modern MBA  2:58 
Excellent. Okay. That's really interesting I am. So I spent the last few years prior to my MBA in Singapore. And I didn't know that Indonesia hadn't had switched their healthcare system like that, that must have been a really interesting time to be in the country and working on these kind of projects.

Maxine 3:14 
You know, it's amazing that the government said, Look, okay, we need to change our strategy here. And not enough people are, are getting access to adequate health care, which is an amazing step. But also, nothing really, in terms of public infrastructure was changed. So no new hospitals were built, for example, and no, no GP clinics were set up. So all of a sudden, you had hospitals that we're seeing, you know, two or three times as many patients but just didn't have the capacity. And that's when a lot of these private health care companies and labs, for example, saw that there was an opportunity, but they didn't quite know how to advertise, and how to reach people who may have missed trust in doctors and health care practitioners, or just simply didn't know where to go to get seen.

The Modern MBA  3:58 
Obviously, and Jakarta, South Africa, both quite sort of different working environments. I'm just curious to know how you how you found these experiences of working overseas.

Maxine  4:08 
I loved it, and I come from quite a multinational family. I'm a bit of a third culture kid, my mother's from France, and my father's African. So growing up, we moved quite often. So I like to think that that gave me a little bit of an advantage and kind of just learning to go with the flow a little bit more relaxing, and being more open to different cultures, but it was also exhausting. in Jakarta, it would take me sometimes three hours in traffic to get to and from the office each way which is, you know, not really a great way to to start and finish your day when you're tired and you just want to go to bed and the red tape not being able to speak a local language looking looking and feeling different from locals can be difficult especially in terms of in a business setting, trying to connect with people. I was 24 years old. I'm trying to convince, especially in the on the finance project I took on, I was 24 years old trying to explain to grownups really what they felt like to me that they should take me seriously and take my work seriously. And they've been working in finance for 30 years longer than I've been on the planet. So I think whilst it was amazing to kind of immerse myself in different cultures, it was also incredibly difficult and tiring to place myself in a position that allowed people to feel like I was on their side, and that I could be trusted and that what I was doing was serious, and that I was taking pride in my work, and I was not there to mess about really, what about the NBA itself?

The Modern MBA 5:39 
What was it that made you decide to join an MBA programme? And why did you choose Hult international business school?

Maxine 5:47 
So I chose to pursue an MBA because I realised that whilst I had the healthcare expertise in my previous role at a medical tech startup, on some projects, I lacked the business acumen and tools to oversee projects. So I decided to complete a project management certification at the University of Westminster which definitely helped, but I still felt that some my accounting and excel skills were really lacking. So I ended up having a conversation with my boss at the time, he had also completed MBA at Cambridge. And then I also spoke to some friends who chosen to do the same degree and it really seemed like a great way to kind of set myself apart from other public health peers, and also make a stronger case for my own career.

The Modern MBA 6:57 
Okay. So it was very much kind of a skills driven piece.

Maxine  7:02 
Yes, absolutely. I felt like I had the public health knowledge. I knew what I wanted to get done. And I just wasn't sure what the steps were that I needed to take in order to get there.

The Modern MBA  7:14 
Okay, and what about, like the school that you're at, say Hult International Business School? What was it that made you choose that programme specifically?

Maxine  7:22 
So I chose Hult for a few reasons. The first is that they have accreditation in both the US and the UK, which is quite appealing. As a Canadian citizen, I have a few ideas about potentially working in the US in the future. So being able to say that I went to an American University, at their London campus is quite strong. In addition, the option to travel to other campuses for summer electives is really appealing. So you do your first two semesters at your home campus. And then you can pick and choose different electives in the summer. And you can go to the other campuses, which are around the world. So there's San Francisco, Boston, New York, London, Shanghai, and Dubai. So it offers amazing opportunities to travel and see other cities, and also work with other MBA peers that you haven't necessarily had the opportunity to meet in person on your home campus. We're also going to Dubai in May for a Case Competition style week with all of the other MBA students from across all other campuses. So the flexibility and the diversity of the student body was something that I thought I could really benefit from.

The Modern MBA 8:28 
Yeah, that's awesome, particularly the international opportunities. And like, I know that most schools will generally offer something, but it's great that it's such a really big part of the programme, and you get to build that late international network as well.

Maxine  8:41 
Absolutely. And from day one at home, they really drive home this idea of applying a growth mindset. And which is basically accepting that there are some things that are going to be difficult, but the best way to get through them is to kind of take it on say, Okay, look, this is going to be difficult, this might be a bit painful at first. But if I just accept that this thing is going to happen, and I could potentially learn from it, and I could take away things from it, it's going to make it a hell of a lot easier. So it has been quite difficult, but at the same time, the fact that there's so many other students that are experiencing living in London for the first time, they obviously have a much tougher go of it than I do, as I've been living in London for the last five years. So there are certain things that I definitely have an advantage of, but there are other things that, you know, I can certainly learn from them and go to their home countries and had the opportunity to kind of network at such a global level super appealing for me.

The Modern MBA 9:36 
And so what not like the actual programme itself, kind of how's your experience been? And are there any particular challenges that you faced?

Maxine 9:43 
I would say any MBA student that says it's a walk in the park is absolutely lying to you. There's definitely classes that are more enjoyable than others. But that's just because it allows you to play on your strengths. So project management for me was amazing because I had already Being a consultant and done project management as my job. So that was amazing. And I was able to impart more knowledge on my teammates and kind of be the leader in the group. But then there are other classes, like we just finished accounting. And that's where I really struggle. And I struggled with math I always have. And it's something that I never thought I would do after high school, I really did think I would never have to look at a balance sheet ever. And obviously, I was wrong. It was gruelling work, but definitely worth it in the long run. And in the end, I actually didn't do as bad on my midterm as I thought I would. I got to be on the midterm and it felt so good. You have to realise that you have to celebrate the little things. So I popped a bottle of champagne for that be on that midterm, which I've never done, because I've always liked to think I was a straight A student, but it really was worth celebrating. I was borderline in tears. I was so happy about it.

The Modern MBA  11:12 
You studied in both Canada and the UK.  How would you say the learning experience is different in the UK compared to Canada?

Maxine  11:20 
So I would have to say right off the bat that if there's a student that looks for more of a traditional quote, unquote, you know, collegiate varsity experience, Canada is definitely better suited. So I found that there was more of a sense of school spirit team camaraderie at McGill, which is the Canadian university I did my undergrad at, and but you know, going to university in a city like London is amazing. It's a gorgeous city, you're so close to the rest of Europe. And then in terms of the teaching style, my classes at McGill were a lot larger, and you're definitely a little bit more of a number. Whereas in London, I've been able to foster more personal relationships with my professors and my teaching assistants.

The Modern MBA  12:05 
Marie, are there any universities in the UK that are quite collegiate and very much passionate about their sports teams?

The Modern MBA 12:22 
Why it's just not a thing you get if you go to a university that has like a college system, so Oxford or Durham, where they divide people into colleges, then you'll sometimes get like a bit of kind of rivalry between the college colleges themselves. But it's just yeah, I always like when I grew up, like watching us TV shows and stuff. I was like, what why do they care so much ? It's just  very different.

Maxine 12:53 
Definitely, yeah, I am. I was on the cheerleading team at UCL where I did my Masters of Science. And I thought, right, this is going to be just like being a varsity athlete back in Canada. You know, people will respect me, people will fear me as a cheerleader. And most UCL students that I met didn't even know that we had a competitive cheerleading team. And I was like, Yes, we perform at varsity we perform. At the Saracens rugby Stadium, we travel all over the country to compete against other universities, we have a fund, what are you talking about? We're sponsored by Deliveroo.  So definitely feels like there's a bigger divide between the students that are there to study. And the students that are there to also, you know, kick a ball about have a little bit more fun. Whereas in Canada, I think the two are slightly closer together.

The Modern MBA 13:40 
And going back to your career, I saw on your profile, you're a British Army Reservist, what made you join? What's the experience like?

Maxine 13:50 
Yes, so I'm currently serving as a combat medic in training with the London Scottish and they are an infantry regiment based here in London. And I joined predominantly because of my heritage. So my father's African, and he served in the Army in his 20s. And listening to his stories growing up, I really wanted to have those similar experiences, you know, those, those tales of adventure and meeting new people and travelling and, and all those things that you know, dad's kind of like to talk about, let relive the glory days. And, and then I, I came back from Jakarta and I started working a slightly more stable schedule, you know, the consultants. lifestyle is you work all weekend, you work late nights, and it really is true when I got back to London and I was working a little bit more of a nine to five. And I've always been on a competitive sports team or done something active. And I thought, you know, there's got to be more to life than this. I cannot go to work nine to five and then go to soulcycle on Saturday and have brunch with the girls. I just I need something a little bit more. And so I did a print To qualification that wasn't enough. And then I thought, well, maybe I'll become, you know, a personal trainer. But then I didn't want to do that. And I thought, okay, there's what else can I do? And kind of from public health, I've always been fascinated with health care. And I really wanted to learn more practical skills to go alongside my public health knowledge. And so I thought, maybe I'll become a medic through St. John's ambulance, but you had to pay to do that. And it was late nights in the evenings. And it wasn't going to work with my work schedule. And then I was talking to another friend who said, Well, why don't you join the army? They, they pay you. And it's a great way to keep fit and learn new skills. And so I thought, great, and I walked into a recruiting office one day, and I explained my situation, what I was looking for. And there was a sergeant there who said, well, would you like to look into becoming a combat medic? And I said, Yeah, that sounds great. And so I've been doing that a little over a year now. And it's been fantastic. It's been difficult. You go on these, these camps, these trips out to barracks, and you don't sleep very much over two weeks, and you get shouted out a little bit, and a lot of crawling around the dirt. But it's been fantastic. And so as a reservist, you can be deployed if you choose to. But you also have the opportunity to learn new skills that a civilian career would never provide. So for example, weapons handling, or other technical skills that you might want to dip your toe into, but I've never had the opportunity. So I usually train one evening, a week, and one weekend, a month. And so for me, it's a great way to keep learning, but also take a break from my day job, it really allows me to shut my brain off a little bit. And I've ended up meeting people, I'd never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, who have so many experiences and life stories. And it's been fantastic. You know, being in the army, regardless of your rank. So I am private, which is the lowest level soldier that you can be, it really requires you to display a certain set of skills and leadership abilities that I found that our employers are often looking for, without actually saying, We want somebody that's diligent and scheduled and understands how to organise a team and can inspire other people to, to be willing to roll up their sleeves, and you know, put in the hard work. And it's definitely helped my decision making skills in the office. And I think I like to think at least, that my manager has noticed that kind of development in me as an employee.

The Modern MBA  17:22 
So, where do you go from here?

Maxine 17:48 
It's a really good question. And I think the best part of my previous roles have always been the operational tasks. I've realised that I love breaking down problems, and then figuring out which employees and teams are best suited to effectively provide a solution. So I'm looking to stay in medical tech or public health, and gradually make a shift from account management and that kind of support role, slowly into operational management. And in the UK, as I'm sure you know, we're so lucky to have the NHS, our national health service. I would really love to play an integral role in supporting health care workers, and ensuring that they're fairly represented and supported in their careers, which is something I think I'd be very good at tackling.

The Modern MBA 18:32 
Any tips you have for prospective international MBAs looking to study in the UK?

Maxine  18:38 
Yes. So first of all, it's important for me to note that I was born here in the UK to immigrant parents. So I hold British citizenship. If I could offer a piece of advice to international students, and I think also locals or European citizens who don't have to worry as much about the visa process, it would be to do your research, and to work backwards. So you know that if you have to have something done by September 1, that you need to work backwards and figure out estimate that time that it'll take you to get all those steps in place that by the time you arrive on campus for September 15 your life is sorted and you don't have to worry about things. If you're moving from home and you know that class starts September 15, don't give yourself three days to settle into your flat and then you'll start on the Monday. It doesn't work like that, you need a month to furnish an unfurnished apartment, you need two weeks for the bank to verify that you live there, and you need another two weeks to get your Wi Fi and your cellphone plan set up. So my biggest piece of advice would be to do your research and work backwards, figure out what you need, and how long each step is going to take you and, and go backwards from there. Also speak to current MBA students in that programme. I always tell people be wary of social media, because a lot of universities, even amazing universities, a lot of their social media stuff is smoke and mirrors, they won't tell you about how long the visa process is, they won't tell you how difficult it can be to live in zone one and two in London, how expensive it can be. Go onto LinkedIn or onto other MBA platforms and send someone a message and say, Look, this is this is who I am, I see we have similar backgrounds, would you be able to give me 15 minutes of your time, most of us are more than happy to speak because we were also in that position. 

The Modern MBA  21:48  
Absolutely. I mean, I think definitely how you set up your environment will impact your learning will impact what you get out of the MBA experience they did they do go hand in hand.

Maxine  22:00  
Mm hmm. I couldn't agree more. I've there's a trend that I've seen on campus and I spoke to a peer of mine last week about it is that there are two kinds of students in the MBA programme that I've seen. And the first which I'm I'm trying my best to be a part of, are the students that treat their MBA, like a full time job, treat it like a nine to five, if you have that discipline, the rest of your day, the rest of your week, the rest of your semester really falls into place quite nicely, you have that time to then go to the gym to cook proper meals to do social activities to travel on weekends, if that's something that you're able to do in a post COVID world. Because what you don't want is to be one of those students that says okay, I've only got two hours of class today. So I'm only going to be on campus for those two hours. And then I'm going to go home and watch Netflix. And then I know that I can just write my paper that's due next week. On the weekend. You don't wanna be one of those students that writes a paper all weekend that's so miserable. treating it like a day job really affords you the time to then experience the rest of the city that you're living in and participate in other on campus activities. You know, join student politics, join internship programmes, like the one that I've joined the the global Ambassador programme. After, you know, after school clubs, there's so many on campus at Holt. So I think budgeting that time will really allow you to kind of get the most out of your degree.

The Modern MBA  23:32  
Yeah, that's brilliant. That's great. And kind of speaking about London and campus live, and we're just studying and you mentioned about living in zone one and zone two, you've lived in London for five years. Are there any areas you'd recommend people to look at if they don't know London and they're looking to, and they can't get student accommodation, off site areas that you'd recommend. 

Maxine  23:53  
The first would be you know, if you want something that is completely hassle free and close to campus, then student accommodation is the first place to look. But realistically, that's not always afforded to you. Or if you're a maybe a more mature student, you don't want to be living in university halls with 23 year olds, I completely get that. I've been living in Camden for the last five years, which is the birthplace of punk rock music. And I absolutely love it. It's close to the canals. There's lots of green space, there's Primrose Hill and Regent's Park, and also Hampstead Heath. And, and so greenspace is actually surprisingly quite easy to come by in such a big city. And, and so living close to greenspaces I think so important for your mental health. And, you know, then there's no excuse you have to go for a walk, you have to go for a run. You can you know even go out for a walk in a coffee. And other than Camden I would say Angel and his LinkedIn. Those are great places as well. still super close to cities. Central, what people do make the mistake of doing is saying, I'll just live in zone one, that's where Soho is, you know, that's where all the nightclubs and the bars and the fun things are. Kudos to you if you can afford it. That, you know, I tip my hat to you definitely, but there's not a lot of green space. And it's very, very touristy because that's obviously where all the attractions are. So if you can live in zone two, where it close to a tube, station or bus station or overground, that would be my best advice. But try to live, I would say, the, you know, in a place trying if you do the commute. So if you can, if you see an apartment up for rent, and do a test, run, leave the apartment, after you've taken a look at it and take the tube or whatever mode of public transit you want to take and see how long it takes you to get to campus, if it's more than half an hour each way. And I would say potentially, you know, park it and maybe look elsewhere, what you don't want to do is be commuting an hour each way. That's awful. But definitely trial it do do your research. Once again, there's so many platforms in London and other big cities. Right move. There's TP there's there's another student accommodation, one, and flatshare there's so many. And there's always people online that are looking for other students that are looking for other roommates. So it's definitely it's easy to do.

The Modern MBA  26:32  
That's great, that's really helpful. We're always interested in finding out books that MBA students are reading they could be could be something you read just before the MBA during but any MBA related book that you found really interesting or useful that you'd recommend.

Maxine 26:47  
So I took a summer elective with hope just before school started in the fall. And I took psychology of pricing, which is marketing and absolutely fascinating. And then same names kept coming up. So you know, you do these case studies and you read these little economist and Harvard Business Review blurbs, but you don't actually get to dive in. So I decided, right, I'm going to actually, I'm going to buy a classic and I'm going to read Thinking Fast and Slow. And I know everyone reads it, but it actually comes up time and time again. But I'm actually currently reading tightrope, Americans reaching for hope, which is by a couple Nicholas Kristof and Cheryl woo done. And it's a bit of an autobiography, because it's partially based on Nicholas's upbringing in the southern US. And it's kind of it's an examination of the working class in the US and how the system quite often sets people up for failure. And it's fascinating, and I think when we start studying managerial economics next semester, it's going to come in handy.

The Modern MBA  27:53  
That's all from today's modern MBA podcast. I'm Kristen nd I'm Marie. If you like this episode, remember to hit the subscribe button on Apple podcasts. You can get access to articles and more great content by visiting our website,, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram at The Modern MBA and twitter at MBA modern. And aside from Apple podcasts, you can also listen to us on Spotify, Google podcasts, amazon music or anywhere you listen to podcast. Until next time, bye bye