Mehdi El Azhari

Mehdi El Azhari

Nationality: French / Moroccan
Programme: Full-time MBA, 2017
Pre-MBA: Consultant, SQLI, Paris, France
Post-MBA: Founder and CEO, HYPER CRUNCH, London, UK
Current industry: Digital marketing services
Transitions made: Country, function, industry

Why did you decide to do an Full-time MBA?

Prior to studying the Full-time MBA at Cass Business School, I had worked in consulting for five years. I was a manager in the consultancy firm SQLI in Paris working on multimillion-euro projects to help large companies launch digital initiatives. My clients ranged from companies in oil and gas, to banking and insurance.

When deciding to pursue an MBA, I was looking for a career booster and a change. I had progressed well and was happy with the work I was doing, but I felt like I was in my comfort zone. It’s in my nature to need change and to learn; I don’t like to stand still.

Cass got my attention because of its curriculum. The programme had all the elements I was looking for: a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, an excellent range of events to network at throughout the year and a fantastic location in the heart of London.

What are the benefits of the programme?

When you come back to school after years of working, you need to learn and relearn skills that will be crucial for your career. For me, that was learning more about the digital landscape today. I studied the concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in my MBA.

I learned many new ways of thinking or doing things. I particularly enjoyed the Organisational Behaviour module. The theory was quite new for me and Professor Laura Empson is an excellent lecturer.

The Strategy module gave me some great insights; I was incredibly inspired by Federico Minolli, the former CEO of Ducatti, who drove the transformation of the company from a motorbike manufacturer to an entertainment company using an ambitious ‘human touch’ management approach.

In my role as CEO today, I always keep in mind the HR lectures of Professor Nick Bacon. He taught us how high commitment management outperforms any other management technique.

The international elective in San Francisco was absolutely out of this world— the vibe there is unbelievable. We met the COO of Imperfect Produce and listened to a keynote from the incubator/accelerator Vault, an early investor in Oculus which was acquired by Facebook. I made some great career contacts through these modules and I’ve kept in touch with all of them.

What impact has the programme had on your career development?

The Full-time programme taught me where my priorities and strengths lie. During our professional development week at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, our leadership was relentlessly tested. On another module, our professional coach Nadia Marchant reinforced the concept that you will perform best when you are doing what energises you. This was a clear “aha!” moment for me. I was doing well in consulting, but it was not energising me. I have always had a pointed interest in digital. I love how fast everything moves in this field. We no longer talk about digital disruption because digital is so integral to our day-to-day environment.

It was a funny moment to look back at what I wrote in my application for Cass. I had a clear idea of what I wanted, which was to launch my own firm. Instead of launching a consulting firm as I had planned, I launched HYPER CRUNCH, which is a next-gen marketing platform that combines social media, online reviews & email marketing to help businesses build meaningful digital presences.

I used the Business Mastery Project to write a business plan for HYPER CRUNCH. Doing so helped me think outside the box, plan my next steps and figure out whether my platform idea was scalable or not. On paper, it’s much easier to see what’s lacking and to refine your product.

As someone who comes from consulting, I was quite risk averse. While launching, scaling up and getting new clients, I was also applying for jobs as a back-up plan. Throughout this process, the Careers and Professional Development team was expertly coaching me and teaching me to tailor my applications. I was offered the role of Head of Digital for a French consulting firm reporting to the CEO in September after handing in my Business Mastery Project but decided to go ahead and launch my venture instead. The bet was a winning one because almost a year after, we serve clients in seven countries, 20+ industries and are looking to scale to seven more countries this upcoming year.

Cass was a fantastic experience. Studying an MBA in a thriving environment opened my eyes and my mind to so many things. Studying the Full-time MBA at Cass is one of the best decisions of my career and my life.