When you decide to add an extra year to your studies and make your BSc and MSci it must be a sign that you are enjoying it. That’s what fourth-year MSci Management Science student Nikola Mikolaskova found when she approached the end of her BSc at UCL School of Management. She shares why she chose to study Management Science, her biggest achievements to date and her top tips for prospective students.
why did you decide to join UCL SoM and study Management Science?
I’m originally from Slovakia, and before coming to UCL, I have never lived or studied anywhere else. In high school, I was a high achiever but I never particularly focused on one thing. I really enjoyed science subjects such as Math and Computer Science, both of which I chose to study at A-level, but I was also really interested in English, literature and creative writing. Outside of academia I also played the piano and was a competitive ballroom dancer, so you could say I did a bit of everything. I think that’s the reason why I was interested in Management Science (ManSci) as the program included “a bit of everything”. It’s a blend of math, data science, economics, but also some psychology, design thinking, strategic thinking and so many more things. I think it’s a very interdisciplinary degree, which is why it felt perfect for me.
You are in your 4th year now, how have you found your experience at UCL SoM?
I originally started Management Science as a 3-year course, and I only decided to transfer to the 4-year MSci version of the degree last year, so I think from that decision it is quite clear that my experience with ManSci has been very positive. The first three years have definitely flown by, probably also because I spent almost two of them fully online, which is not something I ever would’ve expected. It is also for that reason that I am so thankful to have one extra year so that I can take advantage of one more “normal” year at UCL. Despite all the challenges I really enjoyed my time at UCL SoM. There are many amazing and impressive people in the school and I’ve learnt so much from them.
Can you tell us about the project you worked on with Volume?
As a part of the fourth year of ManSci, all students do a Group Consultancy Project, where we get to work on a project with a real-life client. I was fortunate to work with Volume, a very exciting FinTech start-up in its early stages of development, which provides 1-click checkout for online payments. I found it really exciting to be working with Volume especially as it is such a new start-up, even though it’s in the early stages it’s already growing at a great pace, so everything we worked on felt quite intense – it’s a very different feeling from just doing you normal university coursework when you know that everything you’re working on has real and often very high stakes.
What were your main responsibilities?
I worked at Volume alongside two other ManSci students and together we were mainly responsible for market research. We also all had our own individual tasks – I worked with the user experience team, collecting real feedback from people and translating it into specific design changes that Volume could then implement to improve its product. I think the biggest responsibility was to ensure the I was obtaining valuable customer insights and using it effectively – it is one thing to simply record what users are saying, and another thing altogether to observe how users are interacting with the product and then deciphering what steps can be made to improve their experience.
What were the biggest challenges and achievements during the project?
As much as I consider early-stage start-up a very exciting place to work, I think it was also the most challenging part of the project. Everything happens so fast and we were operating under very high levels of uncertainty, so we needed to be extremely flexible to account for all of that. On the other hand, the fast pace of the project was also very rewarding – I really enjoyed that everything I worked on has a clear purpose and is implemented quickly, one day I make a suggestion and within just a few days you can see how the product improved. It gave me a real sense of achievement.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I think it’s hard to pick just one, as I’ve been fortunate enough to have had many amazing opportunities in my life. A few notable ones are when I got onto the Management Science programme despite the acceptance rate being around 6%. Another notable achievement was being selected by the Ministry of Education in Slovakia as one of only five students in the entire country to represent Slovakia during a student delegation to South Korea. More recently, I was invited to the McKinsey Prague office as a member of one of the top four teams of the Solve It 2021 Challenge. Outside of my academic life, I was very happy to place 5th at the 2020 UK National Championship IVDC in Intermediate Ballroom Dancing.
What are your plans for the future?
I think that working with Volume, as well as my previous internship experience, has shown me that I really do enjoy working with start-ups. I think that in an ideal world, I would love to work for a start-up that excites and challenges me every day and that creates a positive impact on the world.
What would be your advice for anyone starting the Management Science programme?
I think I’d like them to know that it’s not going to be easy, it’s definitely a very challenging degree, but it’s also so worth it. I know first-hand that it’s easy to get caught up in your work, trying to make sure you do everything perfectly. But I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that Management Science is more than just the lectures and the assignments, you are surrounded by many amazing people from all over the world, with expertise in different fields. I believe that the value of university is not just about what you learn, but who you’re with. There is a huge benefit from being exposed to different people and learning from them to become a more open-minded and well-rounded person overall.