Sainsbury Management Fellows

Interview 4: Nic Renard

Nic Renard (CEng Meng Hons, Imperial College London), The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Prior to starting his MBA at Wharton, Nic worked in the Aerospace & Defence industry for over 8 years. In 2011 he joined the Rolls-Royce Engineering Leadership Graduate Programme and in 2015 became the Assistant Chief Design Engineer for combat engines. Nic worked closely with operators such as the Royal Air Force as well as partners across Europe to resolve all design-related safety, reliability and cost issues. He also led the development of new engine designs for future fighter aircrafts. In 2017 Nic moved his family to India to take a Capability Lead role in the growing Bangalore office. There, Nic was responsible for the development of a team of 35 engineers across the Lifecycle Engineering and Safety & Reliability teams.

When did you start thinking about doing an MBA?
For most people I’ve met at Wharton, doing an MBA has been on their career plan for a long time. This isn’t the case for me. I’ve always loved my job as an engineer. But after 7 years in the same company, I felt the need to move on and grow my ability to impact society. I believe that the solutions to today’s biggest challenges will come from the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, therefore, I want to join it.

I know however that I need to develop my entrepreneurial skills and a deeper understanding of digital technologies and find a way to kick-start this new chapter of my career. I considered several paths but ultimately realised that an MBA would enable me to develop the required skills and knowledge whilst giving me the time to learn about the industry and build a strong network. This realisation came about 12-14 months before I started my MBA and I therefore quickly had to get into gear to prepare for my applications!

What do you hope to achieve through your MBA experience?
I truly believe that the solutions to today’s biggest challenges will come from the Fourth Industrial Revolution – at the intersection of digital, tech and engineering. I want to be part of this revolution and help tackle the environmental crisis.

Through the Wharton MBA, I hope to 1) complement my technical and leadership skills with entrepreneurial experience and a deeper understanding of digital technologies, 2) gain a deep understanding of the tech industry and 3) develop a strong network that will enable me to find the right opportunities to enter this industry.

How will you use your MBA to further your career?
I plan to major in ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ and ‘Business, Energy, Environment and Sustainability’ to gain the required academic skills. Additionally, Wharton’s unique semester in San Francisco program, focused on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology, will help me build a strong network in the Silicon Valley.

Immediately after my MBA I hope to take a Product Manager role in a small cleantech startup in the United States and continue building my experience and network. After 3-5 years I plan on returning to the UK and use my newly acquired skills and experience to help develop the cleantech industry there.

What are your expectations of being part of the SMF network after business school?
Having developed my skills and network within Wharton and the US tech industry, I want to come back to the UK, where I’ve spent most of my life, to develop the cleantech industry there. The support of the SMF will be essential to ensure I have the necessary network back home to understand the UK’s tech industry and market so that I can transition back. In such a fast-paced and competitive industry, it will be invaluable to have the ability to talk to SMFs that have experience in this sector and in launching small ventures in the UK.

How do you hope to support SMF after you graduate from business school?
I’ve always been passionate about developing people through professional or extracurricular activities and promoting engineering through STEM Outreach events and organisations such as The Arkwright Scholarship Trust. The SMF will give me the opportunity to take this to the next level and promote business education for engineers through the various initiatives it spearheads as well as mentor students and young professionals to help them achieve their goals.

How was your experience of applying for the scholarship?
Applying to the scholarship was actually much easier than I expected. After several applications to top MBA programs I already had a clear idea of my strengths and where I wanted to go and the scholarship application was just a case of translating that into words.

Additionally, all the fellows I contacted were extremely open and accessible. They were keen to talk to me and help. Anyone thinking of applying should not hesitate to get in touch with me or any other fellow!

What difference has the scholarship made to you?
As my aim is to join the tech industry, I knew that an MBA in the United States would provide better academic, professional and networking opportunities. But as an international student, that can be frightening. It is very expensive and you have to ‘abandon’ your existing professional and personal network and move across the world.

The Sainsbury Management Fellowship has helped alleviate many of these worries. The financial support obviously plays a big part as it gives me extra freedom to maximise my MBA experience. But access to the SMF network will be invaluable when I decide to go back to the UK and join the tech industry there.

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