I happened to participate in an LSE student panel representing my program – MSc in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The event was for prospective students and offer holders to clarify their questions. I’ve been getting numerous questions and personal messages about my SIE experience as well. So thought I’ll pen down some of my responses below. I hope this helps you!
Tell us about yourself
I’m Arya from Kerala in India. I’m a current MSc in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SIE) student at LSE and I’m also a Chevening scholar. Prior to LSE, I had 5 years of work experience across non-profits, startups and social enterprises in a variety of roles including community building, business development and strategy and operations. On a personal front, I enjoy reading non-fiction a lot. I like writing and I write a lot in my journal or on my personal blog. One skill I’m picking up now is digital painting and one thing I’m enjoying these days is walks in London’s parks.
Why did you choose LSE and the particular programme you are studying on?
I did Electronics and communication engineering in my undergrad. But during my college days, I noticed how women in tech had very little confidence and space to build their tech skills. So I started building a community of women in tech called Women Techmakers along with Google India. This experience helped me realise that I actually want to work in social impact and not engineering. I went on to building learning and mentorship programs for students in tech with a non profit for about 2 years. I then moved into a sales role with an edtech startup. I was not directly working with impact there and I noticed how I was trying to do hobby projects that would create social impact. This was when I build a small micro scholarship program for girls to build their own website. That experience taught me that I’m looking to actually integrate both social impact and business together. So then I moved on to working with a U.S based social enterprise called WITI where I expanded their business to India. We built a new portfolio of services for WITI and started building their presence in India.
Until my experience at WITI, I wanted to pursue an MBA. But after I realised how integral social impact is for me, I knew that I wanted to pursue something at the intersection of social impact and business/management. That is how I ended up choosing the SIE program instead of a traditional MBA.
How do you feel the programme will benefit your future career?
I think the program really gave me a theoretical understanding of this field. It gave me diverse perspectives on the various issues and challenges specific to our area. The ability to engage in understanding social problems through multiple lenses – management, psychological, sociological and so on and to be able to understand diverse perspectives and form my own perspective is going to very useful in my career path.
I think SIE also gave me validation and a sense of belonging for me. My career is by no means linear or traditional. So often times I have felt lost and I have felt like it is extremely uncertain. If you take most other paths like say consulting or product management, you have a fixed set of skills, job roles and pay scales. But in the past, I wouldn’t even know what kind of job titles to search for when looking for roles. Or people wouldn’t usually understand the dilemma of professionals in this field where we want to make an impact but also earn a fair living. Or we try so hard but see very little impact happen on the ground or maybe we start a project and it delivers impact in the long run after we have left that project.
So through engaging with the course and my classmates I’ve learned that everything that I’ve been feeling is valid. Social entrepreneurship is a very field and it is maybe 15-20 years old. We’re still discussing the definitions of social entrepreneurship and as professionals, we are entering this very new field and confusion is bound to be, But knowing that there are people like me, with problems and concerns and interests like me across the globe, who still try to optimistically make change happen was a big big takeaway.
What is the highlight of the programme for you?
I think its all the engaging discussions we’d have in class that I enjoyed the most. Personally, I liked the course material and the cases we’d read which gave diverse perspectives. I was never exposed to such content and hence it came across a wonderful learning experience.
Our cohort is also very diverse with an age range of 23 – 50+. Everyone is amazing in their own right and come with interesting experience – some with more development experience, some more in tech, and some more in management. It has been wonderful brainstorming ideas and thoughts with smart folks from such varied experiences.
Another highlight was the electives which helped me tialor my course to my interests. I studied public management (MG402) and decisions, biases and nudges (MG456), both of which pushed my intellectual envelope.
What is a piece of advice that you would give to prospective students?
- This is not an MBA. It is a course in management science. So it is going to be theoretical. If you want to engage in topics on social innovation, entrepreneurship/management and the intersection of these and develop your own perspectives, then SIE is a great place. It will help to come in with clear expectations of what this course is and isn’t.
- It is okay to not know what you exactly want to do after the program. I think I joined the program with a certain expectation and that soon went out the window! Rest of my SIE experience was something I never expected or prepared for. So in that sense, staying open-minded and trusting that no matter what, you’ll end up figuring it out is a helpful mindset to have.
- Take help! You do not have to do anything alone and by yourself. I had a very difficult personal year at LSE with multiple issues – I dealt with covid, chickenpox, the loss of my grandfather and depression during this one year. I struggled to manage everything, but help was always available. I greatly benefitted from LSE Life where you can speak to study advisors or access resources to get used to the academic setting in the UK. The extensions on assignments helped me complete my assignments through these personal challenges and my superstar academic advisor ever-so-compassionately supported me through all these hardships.
How big was your cohort? And how diverse?
We are about 42. There are people with 2-3 years of work ex and people with multiple decades of work ex. We represent at least 10+ nationalities and come from varied backgrounds – some with more development, some with more management experience.
Did you have opportunities to network?
Our cohort self-organised weekly coffee chats to get to know each other. We also had several local trips and meetups to bond. In that sense, we created a lot of opportunities to network amongst ourselves.
When do you choose electives and how many?
You get to choose 2 electives in the second term (Lent Term). I personally recommend that you take your time after the first term to think about what you want to choose. The electives are some of the best courses at LSE! So feel free to explore a bit and have fun. Apart from exploring your own interest, it might also be wise to speak to your academic mentor as well as look at the course requirements and marking schemes before you join.
Should I prepare something before the course begins?
I personally didn’t prepare anything before the course. Economics can be one of the trickier subjects in the first term. So if you happen to have time, might be good to do a basics of economics course on any free online platform – khan academy, udemy etc.
I’ve heard there is an international field trip as a part of the programme? Is this true?
There is. Usually this field trip happens in person. But this year we did it virtually because of covid.
Could you confirm the approx number of hours of study required in this course (class study + self study) approximately?
This is a very personal question. Usually, you have a reading list which you are expected to cover on a weekly basis. Some of the readings are mandatory and without reading them, you cannot participate in class. But oftentimes, students are not able to cover all the readings on a weekly basis. So we catch up on the readings either during reading week (one week just for reading in each term), or we do them after the term or during the weekends / holidays. How much time you take to cover the material will depend on you – how quickly you read and grasp it and also for what purpose you are reading.
For instance, you’d skim through some papers to get a rough idea. But you will dive deeper into some cases or papers, often reading them multiple times.
What I’d suggest here is that you go through the program page and try to read 2-3 papers to get a sense of the type of material. See how easily you’re able to get through the material and plan your studies accordingly.
In terms of classes, each course in first term has a lecture and a seminar. So that’s 2-3 hours per course. So that’s roughly 6-9 hours of classes alone. On top of this, you may spend time covering weekly group work and submissions if any.
Can I work part-time during the course?
Technically, you can. I didn’t. But I do know many others who did. The course is demanding. But if you’re up for it, you can do both. I’d encourage you to contact some folks who actually did this to understand what their superpower was!