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Real Humans of the London Business School MBA Class of 2022

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Sean Keough, LBS MBA Class of 2022

Age: 33
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Miami University, Finance, and Accounting
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 10+ years, Finance

Why business school? Why now? 
I have had an incredibly fun and interesting career thus far and am going to business school to prepare for the next 20 to 30 years of my career. While many people go to business school to explore different career options, I’m a little different. I know exactly what I want to do post-graduation and chose to go to LBS now to give myself the best chance to make a successful transition into the alternative investment industry.

Prior to joining LBS, I worked as an investment banker in the US, managed an investment fund in Ethiopia, and have most recently been helping one of the world’s leading communications infrastructure firms expand its footprint across Africa. Having 10+ years of career experience, I am mostly aware of my strengths and weaknesses, career likes, and dislikes, and am using my LBS experience to build technical skills and build my network both in London and in my target industry.

Why LBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
There were four primary factors that went into my decision of where to attend. First, the London location speaks for itself. My wife and I have both spent a lot of time in London and we would prefer to be based there after graduation. Second, LBS has a strong footprint in my target industry. I want to work for a private equity firm or investment management firm that invests in emerging markets. London is the premier city in the world for this and LBS has a placement track record at many of the top firms. I spoke with a lot of potential employers before choosing where to apply and in each conversation, I asked them where they go for MBA talent. LBS was at the top of the list in nearly every conversation. Finally, I have been working on an independent research project that I wanted to improve in the context of a premier research-based institution. I have been familiar with a few of the world-class economics professors at LBS and wanted to have a chance to work more closely with them.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
My time spent running businesses in Ethiopia and investing in businesses across the continent; I have spent many hours thinking about how finance and economics work in Emerging and Developing countries. I also love coaching and, after writing a book about financial modeling in 2018, I am looking forward to helping my classmates from non-financial backgrounds get up-to-speed on this!

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I was going to say that I broke my hand in 2018 while skateboarding to work in Addis Ababa, but I think that’s less interesting than the fact that my wife and I had a daughter born yesterday morning. She is our first and we are blown away by how much our life has changed in the first 24 hours of being parents. Highly recommended!

Post-MBA career interests? 
I plan to work in private equity or asset management, either in emerging markets or by looking at the macro trends that present investment opportunities in countries with non-reserve currencies around the world.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
If you can visit campus or meet any students prior to making your application, do it. No matter where you are in the world, what industry you are in, or how you’d like to customize your LBS experience, chances are there is someone in the current class that was in that same boat a few months ago. I was able to speak to a few current students during my application process, and they were incredibly generous with their time and their advice. I am always happy to pay that kindness forward and most people in the class would be as well!

–One thing you would change or do differently?             
Be very clear about what you want to get out of your MBA experience and be brutal when it comes to narrowing down your list of target schools. If you do not have a clear desire to go to a specific school, this will probably come through in your application, and Adcoms around the world who do this for a living will be able to sniff that out. You are going to spend two years here and you will be connected to the institution for the rest of your life so make sure that the program you choose is the right one!

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
It can always be a struggle to finish the admissions essays, so I used the strategy that I use when writing short stories or chapter drafts for books. For two weeks, I would start every day with a completely fresh page of paper and give myself 15 minutes to write as much as I could write in response to the essay prompt. It was a mess at first, but at the end of the 2 weeks, I had a good idea of what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. The final draft only took an hour or two to finalize. This approach may not work for everyone, but it has always been an effective one for me.

What is your initial impression of LBS’s students/culture/community?
Everyone that I have met has been open, ambitious, and empathetic. No matter where you come from, if you care about making an impact, you will be able to find a home at LBS. Each year the class of ~500 students is broken down into streams (~80 students each) and study groups (~6 students each). My study group, for example, includes people from Georgia, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and the USA. This has created enormous learning opportunities for me, especially in the context of group case studies and assignments, where communication and coordination across cultures are key.

One thing you have learned about LBS that has surprised you? 
No one can be easily described in just one sentence because everyone in the class has used a technical baseline in one area to do something challenging in another area. In my class, we have a Private Equity expert from India who also runs an organic granola business on the side. We have a CFA finance professional who built and sold a network of preschools in Australia. In my study group, we have someone who worked for a Spanish aviation start-up and is now looking to work with Venture Capital firms to identify other high-potential start-ups across Europe. We also have someone who worked in the US and French tech industries and is using LBS to build her own tech-enabled sustainable fashion start-up. Our class features military commanders, medical doctors, and real estate investors who are not defined by their past accomplishments but are instead trying to use this unique two-year LBS experience to do something even more incredible.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
I was worried about making the most of the two-year experience while much of the world was shut down due to COVID-19. There have been hiccups for sure, but most of my fears were completely put to rest after the first week of classes. The school has done a terrific job of deploying a hybrid model (in-person and in zoom) that makes it easy to contribute to class from home. I was also anxious about networking with the limits on in-person gatherings, but it has been incredibly easy to schedule virtual “coffee chats”. Although you miss a bit of the quality of in-person interaction, it is now possible to make use of a free afternoon by scheduling 3-4 chats with people all around the world.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Taking advantage of the remote world, I am hoping to work with one or two of the professional clubs to create theme-based virtual treks that allow us to visit firms throughout the world virtually. This year my thought is that these treks can be theme aligned, whereas, in the past, they have been purely location-based. Just in general, I get excited when I think about different ways that we can work with the challenges introduced by COVID-19 to build a unique experience for our class.

I am currently building an index that looks at different macro factors to suggest industries and countries likely to overperform over the next 3 to 5 years. I have really enjoyed using my class experiences and conversations with LBS professors to build on my work and am looking forward to having something final in the next few months.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.