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BEI Prizewinners 2021: Advice and Best Moments

Students receiving an award today from the School of Business, Economics and Informatics share the highlights from their time at Birkbeck and their top tips for success.

Today, postgraduate students in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics will attend their virtual graduation ceremonies alongside the friends, staff and supporters who have been cheering them on throughout their studies.

Today is all about celebrating their success, and from cutting-edge research projects to outstanding module results, our Class of 2021 are an inspiring bunch. We caught up with some of our Spring graduation prizewinners to reminisce over their time at Birkbeck and gain some words of wisdom for our next cohort.

Jay Lee – Best Module Result (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

One memorable moment is definitely meeting new friends from different countries along the way and hanging out with them throughout the year! An unforgettable experience.

What advice would you give to current students?

My advice would be remember not to leave things to the last minute, relax and enjoy your time here!

Katherine Stedman – Best CIPD Accredited Programme Student (Organizational Psychology)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck?

In the early days of my MSc we had to randomly form groups for one of our first group projects. I didn’t know many people on my course at the time but I’m happy to say that I met some of my greatest course friends through that first project. I wouldn’t have been able to do my MSc without them and I’m looking forward to celebrating with them today!

Thomas Obitz – Best Dissertation (Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

I was startled when I walked through the department for the first time and saw Hélyette Geman’s name on the door. I knew her books from my daily work, and I could not believe that the most admired name in commodities pricing and trading was teaching at the department where I was going to study. Her derivatives pricing and her commodities lectures were the most insightful I ever attended – she was one of the people who developed the theory, so she could explain the thinking behind it like nobody else. And she is an incredibly nice, open and helpful person.

Lucy Martin – Best Dissertation (Organizational Psychology)

What advice would you give to current students?

Do not underestimate the time it takes to complete a research project and dissertation. The earlier you can come up with a research question and start your literature review the easier it will be to complete.  At the point of write up, I set myself a daily word target to get through, this helped me keep on track in the last busy month before submission alongside my work commitments.

Richard Harrison – Honourable Mention for Best PhD Thesis (Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

Presenting my work at a seminar for fellow PhD students and staff. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and even challenging questions were asked in a supportive way. Midway through the seminar I had a “Eureka moment” when I was asked a question that I had never considered before. It led me to a new and productive line of enquiry for my thesis.

Anja Pries – Best Overall Student: Corporate Governance/Responsibility (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

The process of writing a dissertation can be challenging. You might find yourself struggling to find a topic or getting stuck with your research. I would definitely recommend talking to your fellow students about this. You could set up a group chat or meet at the library to work on your dissertations. Knowing that others were in the same position as me helped me to stay motivated.


Ibrahim Alsaggaf – Best Overall International Student (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What advice would you give to current students?

On a Master’s level, My advice is not to study hard as this is a must, but rather about a thing that most students find insignificant, that is module’s prerequisites. In order to make the most of a module, a student needs to be well prepared by assuring that they gain the required prerequisites knowledge at the start of a module. This will boost their learning curve instead of struggling to digest a theory that is based on prior knowledge. To conclude, my advice is to select modules based on their prerequisites and which of them a student has the required knowledge of.

Ero Papadima – Best Management Consultancy and Organizational Change Student (Organizational Psychology)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

My best memories at Birkbeck are with the people I met there, usually in one of the many study groups, sharing notes, anxieties and –importantly – snacks! My favourite moment was probably when seven of us were studying around a large table in the group study area of the library; all in different laptops and each working on our own assignment, yet somehow in complete sync, jumping from complete silence to suddenly bouncing off ideas and debating arguments for our essays – all seven of them. There was a lovely sense of belonging in that moment and great comfort in simply not going it alone.

Irina Sidorenko – Best Overall Student: Marketing (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

I would encourage future Birkbeck students to stay curious and alert during the learning process. During lectures, I used to note even the smallest details that ignited my curiosity and dedicate some extra time to doing some further research around these elements. This is how I have discovered an absolute gem: Professor Olivier Sibai once mentioned in passing that he had attended a talk at the Museum of Brands and that if we had some free time he would recommend us to visit one of the talks at the Museum. I paid attention to his words and up until the Covid pandemic began I tried to never miss a talk at the Museum of Brands, as I hugely enjoy it. So, even the smallest thing, just one small detail mentioned at the Birkbeck lecture can show you a way of upgrading your knowledge and open up new horizons in your professional development.

It is also important to stay calm and not get overwhelmed with emotional pressure when juggling studies, often a full-time job and a long commute, social life and family commitments. It helps to keep in mind that you are in it for a marathon, not a sprint. Break up big tasks into smaller ones and remember: Viam supervadet vadens! (in English: The path will be overcome by the person who walks it). If you can dream it, you can achieve it; always!

Robert Superty – Best Dissertation and Best Overall Student (Computer Science and Information Systems)

What is your favourite memory of your time at Birkbeck? 

Celebrating with the other MSc Computer Science students after the last final in the first year. It was a tough set of exams and it felt like such an accomplishment to get through. Everyone was in such a good mood and it was a great opportunity to get to know people better outside of class.


Kieran Jones – Best Dissertation Mark and Best Overall Student: Management/Business (Management)

What advice would you give to current students?

Embrace what you’re passionate about and identify and tackle what you’re bad at. Like a lot of students, I enjoy learning new things which in my studies caused an undisciplined, unstructured approach. To tackle that I spent a lot of time planning. I organised everything from what I was going to learn that week, how I was going to learn, when and how I was going to write my essays and so on. By tackling those things, eventually you get better at what you’re bad at and you can do the things you’re passionate about even better than before.

Congratulations to all our spring 2021 graduates. We wish you all the best in your future careers.

Further Information


Keeping students competitive

This post was contributed by Charles Shaw, founder of the Birkbeck Economics & Finance Society

Students at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (CM 2016. All rights reserved)

Students at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (Venture Capital Movement or VCM 2016, All Rights Reserved)

The best thing about studying in London, apart from the outstanding education options, is the sheer number of opportunities to expand one’s professional network. This is particularly important for those students seeking careers in finance or professional services, where tens or even hundreds of applicants are often chasing the same job.

As many students are no doubt discovering, an excellent academic record is necessary but not sufficient as employers often want relevant work experience and excellence in an extra-curricular activity. Internships are also rare, making it at times particularly challenging to obtain practical experience and to gain relevant insight in one’s chosen future industry.

With this in mind, Birkbeck’s Economics & Finance Society enters student teams into select competitions, with the hope that preparation for and participation in such contests augments their understanding of financial concepts, and sharpens their technical skills in preparation for the challenges of the job market.

Last month, the Society entered a team in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC). This event, supported by the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, is designed to simulate the analysis, preparation, and delivery that private equity and investment professionals engage in when evaluating risk-return trade-offs and executing exit options. Taking place over the course of one day, students from multiple disciplines have the opportunity to test their understanding of the praxis of corporate finance against top teams from other universities.

About the competition

Although this marked the first time that the competition took place in London, VCIC enjoys a strong tradition of participation in United States. The original Venture Capital Investment Competition began at UNC Kenan-Flagler in 1998 as an educational event for MBAs to learn about venture funding.

The format has largely remained unchanged. Experienced investors act as judges and students have the opportunity to interact with actual entrepreneurs to analyse capital structure of young firms and decide potential investment opportunities; students work in teams to conduct due diligence, look through topical, complex business problems and present valuation, investment analysis, and relevant proposals concerning syndication, option pools, and anti-dilution measures.

VCIC in London

The event had a strong London flavour to it as a number of the capital’s institutions were represented. Eight teams were participating in total, with students from LBS, LSE, Queen Mary’s, UCL, King’s, Cambridge and Birkbeck. The event received wide coverage in diverse international media, including outlets in United States and Singapore’s The Straits Times reflecting the London’s international workforce and diverse student population. In addition, all of the participating start-ups were London-based technology companies, reflecting the capital’s vibrant network of tech hubs.

The competition was organised under the aegis of UCL School of Management, and served as a both a training ground and a marketplace. On the one hand, future finance professionals were able to learn a great deal about technology commercialization and investment due diligence by working with owners of actual start-up companies. On the other hand, students were able to engage with the full spectrum of entrepreneurial activity, from a company’s planning and execution strategy, to the due diligence process for potential investments. In turn, firms’ owners benefit from students’ management insight and strategic recommendations they otherwise might not obtain.

Although the competition is new to London, it enjoys a strong tradition of participation in United States. Indeed, the event, which originated in North Carolina in the midst of the technology bubble as an opportunity for graduate students to learn about venture funding, is now in its 18th year. As a result of this tradition, the winning team, LSE, was invited to take part in the VCIC International Finals at UNC Kenan-Flagler in North Carolina, United States.

Deepening understanding of financial processes

2 VCM 2016. All rights reservedDuring the competition, students were able to deepen their understanding of the links between potential investors and business owners. Such links include, for example, both the explicit contractual arrangements between entrepreneurs and venture capital providers, and the implicit contract which gives a successful entrepreneur the option to reacquire control from the venture capitalist by using a floatation as a means by which the venture capitalist exits from an investment. Students were also able to gauge the viability of alternative forms of investment such as acquisitions, alliances, and licensing.

The company evaluation case-studies provided up-to-date and real-life corporate finance challenges that offered participants practical experiences in the field of financial services. Overall, the competition was an opportunity to interact with students from other top academic institutions, to immerse in a global business context where competitors are potential partners, and to become familiar with the challenges of managing a company.

The importance of gaining field-based knowledge

Was it a valuable experience for participants? Without a doubt, yes. Students of investment have long been interested in how firms can achieve growth. In this vein, a long tradition of scholarship exists on the various tools that firms can employ to pursue financial growth and corporate development. While there are extensive opportunities available for learning about various means for business development and corporate growth, both at undergraduate and graduate level, there are relatively few opportunities for students to augment the entrepreneurial concepts learned in lectures and seminars with practical field-based knowledge. There are even fewer opportunities to solve realistic business problems with a corporate finance focus under the direct guidance of senior M&A practitioners, industry experts and company directors.

It is hoped, through the continued engagement of London’s business and investment leaders, as well as through our academic network, that we can help prepare our society members for job market success. This competition, and others like it, can help understand how business strategy would flow down to operations and to financial performance of a business. It highlights how competition, contracts and external factors dictate business in terms of pricing and quality. It was also an opportunity to integrate appreciation of demand, pricing, legal factors, finance and accounting, and strategy, towards a common goal of financial performance.

The Birkbeck team consisted of: Dimitrios Bissias (MSc Economics), Ahmed Razzaq (LLM), Hannah Duck (BSc Statistics and Economics), and Ved Vyass Boojihawon (BSc Financial Economics with Accounting).

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