Managing Partner, Axios International
Roshel Jayasundera’s LinkedIn profile shows the very clear, direct and rapid rise through leadership roles that are the hallmarks of a very successful career. In her most recent company, Axios, she has progressed over the span of nearly eight years from Global Head of Consulting to Director of Global Consulting, then Senior Director Global Consulting to Managing Partner. She’s also a Teaching Assistant at Alliance Manchester Business School, focusing on Strategy and Competition on the Global Part-time MBA programme from which she graduated in 2018.
Roshel’s first contact with the University was in 2016, when she attended an alumni sharing experience event at the Capital Club Dubai. She had been contemplating an MBA since 2014 but hadn’t decided on a programme or institution, at the time. She had checked the usual options and Manchester came up in the search. The event was a turning point for her and she left the room knowing that she wanted to study at The University of Manchester.
Roshel considers her MBA experience and how it has influenced her career.
“My educational background was based on UK curricula and I wanted continuity so looked at the Manchester offering, which was academically attractive and great value for money. In 2016, I had just taken on a new role and wanted to join an MBA that would allow me time to study and work at the same time. So, the blended delivery and contact with visiting faculty from Manchester - and the possibility of travelling to other centres and the Manchester campus - were all strong points. Plus, the triple accreditation and entry criteria reassured on quality.
What made such a powerful impression at the alumni experience event?
“At the event, Randa Bessiso’s (Middle East Director) passion and personality - and the entire Centre student counselling team - all made a deep impression. One alumnus emphasised a personal experience of the student support and services offered by the Centre team through the learning journey.
My own MBA experience bore this out and the consistent support of the team was pivotal in making it a smooth journey. I started a new job in 2016 and in January 2017, I started the MBA. I attended the first day of induction and, the next morning, I was on a flight to Singapore. So, I wasn’t there when everyone else was in workshops and networking but everyone was supportive and helped me navigate these challenges. This was even more apparent when, in my second year, I had to push some modules back for family reasons but still managed to finish on time, thanks to the team’s support. I still graduated with distinction and can’t thank the University and the team enough.
What was the MBA motivation?
“Before the MBA, I was already in a senior management position. But I had followed a life sciences career route (and before this attended King’s College London) and had never formalised my general business and finance knowledge. Life had taken me towards management, which I enjoyed, but my approach was intuitive rather than theory backed. My career was still progressing but I had reached the point where I wondered whether there was a limit to what I was doing and how much further I could go, if I got the theory. This was a drive to push me into a decision on the MBA.
It took some time to find the right option with the right balance - I wasn’t ready to go back to the classroom full-time. I was also keen to apply the learning. The slogan - ‘Original Thinking Applied – reflects the reality I lived and I remember going to workshops and then the following week, trying to apply the concepts in business.
The flexibility and blended learning approach was very important and the flow was logical. It was about different bits of a puzzle coming together. I am a firm believer that no company should work in silos. I have always been on the strategy and commercial side in my career so understanding how other components such as HR and Finance impact the organisation was very important to me.
Back to the classroom.
This was extremely challenging. I had just started a new job building a global business so I was traveling a lot and was conscious of the risk of being left behind by my cohort and having to catch up after workshops. It was difficult to find the discipline needed to study every day and I had to take a more pragmatic approach that worked for me. However, when you learned something on the MBA, it was followed by lots of assignments reflecting on your current role and company, and this helped consolidate the learning.
Workshops were possibly the best part of the experience, interacting with the cohort and managing the dynamics, and the critical thinking aspect was very interesting. It was also a chance to meet the professors and we had time during breaks to chat. The pace and structure of workshops was very good but you had to come well prepared. Workshops made a strong impression and the Strategy and Negotiation courses left a big mark on me and how I think today.
I was able to tailor my programme through three electives – Negotiation, Entrepreneurial and Innovation Management (EIM), VC/PE (venture capital and private equity).
I was looking for theory but also practical applicable skills - Negotiation covered this. The EIM course supported my broad-ranging role as an intrapreneur with the freedom to develop strategy. I already had some experience of VC/PE in healthcare, and learning how to value companies was interesting for my current company role as I was trying to build the global brand. Together, the three electives covered all the angles, supporting my current role and any future plans to start up a new business.
An MBA tale of two cities
I went to Manchester twice and loved it. The most interesting part was the diverse cohort - in my current role, I oversee Latin America, Europe, Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, so I’m a huge fan of cultural diversity and how to get along in different environments. The Leading and Managing in Global Environments course helped me further in how to manage people in this context.
MBA experience made a difference almost immediately.
I was lucky to see the immediate impact as I studied for my MBA. I became a Director during the course, which I finished in 2018 and since then I have been promoted two more times. I’m now Managing Partner. So, this is the immediate impact that you can see and measure.
But there are also intangible benefits. The MBA really shaped me and how I think of strategy -
and implementation and how to bring the team along on the journey. I see business as a puzzle and how to put the pieces together – how to balance stakeholders and their different interests to reach a common objective. It all makes much more sense now, coming from a foundation of knowledge.
On top of all of this, I also made good friends and connections - and continue to be curious. I am still in touch with people and some are very good family friends. At the same time, I very much enjoy staying connected with the University. I was asked to do the Teaching Assistant module during Covid and agreed – and today, I teach on the Strategy and Competition module. It’s a really interesting role and adds depth and the opportunity to meet other students, stay connected and continue to grow. It’s still an ongoing journey even after graduation.
I stay in contact locally with the Middle East Centre and I am always happy to help out with events. I am a huge advocate for The University of Manchester. My learning experience was extremely positive and I still highly recommend it to anyone thinking about an MBA. The flexible blended learning approach and ability to travel for workshops all add up to great value and experience. I graduated in 2018 and I still talk about it with great passion.
My heartfelt thanks to the University – the MBA makes real impact on the lives of working professionals. It certainly made a big impact on me as a leader.