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MBA Digital Leaders Panel Responding to Covid-19: Managing Digital Business and Innovation

12 August 2021

The event, open to our MBA learners from the Business School, includes a Q&A session with a panel of business experts which they can use as a resource to understand what’s happening in various sectors of digital business. Our annual Digital Leaders Panel helps us delve deeper into the fast-paced digital revolution, with the Q&A session allowing our students to explore the types of decisions made by specialists in different fields, while supporting their learning and providing a practical networking opportunity.

Over the years, mobile phones and digital technology have changed the way we eat out, shop, travel and manage our finances. In the past 16 months, the pandemic has accelerated this innovation with swift decisions being made to keep businesses operational during an unprecedented time. We are however, now seeing push-back in certain areas from consumers, with a yearning to return to physical and face-to-face experiences, with human interaction. Going forward, some of these issues will need to be addressed if businesses are going to see value from their investments in digital.

For this year’s panel, MBA module leader, Rebecca Casey, was joined by a panel of leaders from a range of industries. All experienced in trying to navigate through complex, uncertain, yet exciting times, they shared their experiences and expertise with our MBA cohort. 

The panel included:

  • Richie Ramsden, Head of Digital Data Science at AkzoNobel’s Innovation Incubator
  • Halleh Koohestani, Lean-Agile Transformation Consultant, Coach and Trainer at Radtac
  • Johnson Fernandes, Founder and CEO of Equiwatt
  • Joanna Strong, Head of Digital Development within Retail at LBG

The 2021 Digital Leaders Panel focused on how organisations have been managing digital business and development during the pandemic and what it means for them in the future. Each panel member added significant value, answering the students’ questions from different digital business perspectives, to give learners a broader understanding of the landscape.

One of our MBA learners, Janine Anthony said: “The Digital Leaders panel was as illuminating as it was diverse. From the diversity of the speakers – we heard from women and men who have been responding to Covid-19, before Covid-19 hit – as well as the diversity of businesses, which ranged from SMEs to MNCs.

We heard from industry experts leading critical digital solutions using data science in the paint industry, about digital transformation in the customer and payment service industry, in addition to interactive technology powering sustainability from our homes. The variation of insights from these representatives remain extremely valuable. 

Janine continued: “Above all, my cohort got direction on what we can do in terms of training and advice and how we can leverage on our existing skills from the MBA and our career backgrounds, to become the impactful digital business leaders we yearn to be.”

While the students benefited from the interesting and compelling discussion, panellist Richie Ramsden commented on how stimulating the Q&A was for himself, hearing from the other leaders and how impressed he was with the MBA students.

Richie expressed: “It’s really interesting to see such a variety of backgrounds with similar problems to overcome, and to hear how articulate the students are about what they want to know.”

Over the past four years the Digital Leaders Panel has been an exciting and interactive part of the MBA, inviting students to challenge experts and understand the changes taking place in digital business each year. Module leader, Rebecca Casey, explains the success of this experience and how it has benefited our MBA learners over the years:

“The role of digital technologies in business and society continues to evolve. Our Digital Leaders Panel brings to life how we can identify opportunities whilst confronting and overcoming some of the challenges.  Each year our MBA cohort takes away valuable insights about new business models and new ways of working but perhaps most importantly, if we are going to solve the right problems, consultation, collaboration and learning from failure are key requirements for managers today.”

Achieve your future in digital business

At the end of the session, the students were left with some encouraging advice and closing remarks to help them achieve their goals and future journeys in digital business:

Our Digital Leaders Panel brings to life how we can identify opportunities whilst confronting and overcoming some of the challenges.

Rebecca Casey, MBA Module Leader

Halleh Koohestani

“Stop any self-limiting thoughts in your career…be brave and take yourself out of your comfort zone…find a good mentor, find someone you aspire to be.”

Richie Ramsden

“Your career is never finished, it’s a design problem that will constantly change…go with it. It's a work in progress.”

Joanna Strong

“Really make an effort to surround yourself with people who aren’t exactly the same as you – diversity of views is really important…nobody knows the answer, collaborate, learn, communicate, build relationships and listen to people.”

Johnson Fernandes

“When you choose your career path, try to find a passion within your role. That goes a long way and sometimes that strong belief stays with you and gives you that added motivation and belief to go that extra mile.”

Watch the full Q&A for 2021’s Digital Leaders Panel to get a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by digital business today.

Being part of our immersive MBA at Newcastle University Business School provides learners with real business experience, knowledge and understanding as well as helping them to become part of the next generation of leaders. If you’re interested in our MBA, you can read more about the modules we offer, entry requirements and how you can apply here.