Tony Cook

Alumni profile - Tony Cook, One Planet MBA

Why did you choose to study here?

The One Planet MBA at Exeter Business School is a highly differentiated MBA with a focus on developing business leaders with a full appreciation of the opportunities created by a rapidly changing business environment. It was clear that the OPMBA was a pro-business programme with a clear focus on embedding sustainability thinking into the heart of business strategy, marketing, accounting, finance.

I'd reached a point in my career where it was important to consolidate my professional experience and formalise my knowledge through an internationally recognised advanced management qualification. This was important for two reasons; first, in order to round out my skills to be more fully prepared for executive leadership roles and second, to develop new insights that could lead to business opportunities.

The One Planet MBA has delivered on both in spades.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I loved the international diversity of the student cohort; over 20 nationalities from 6 continents amongst 39 full-time students. That and the diverse mix of professions, ages and experience which brought a range of perspectives and insights that was totally unexpected coming onto the programme. It sounds cliched to say that 50% of the value of the programme is in the interaction with your fellow students, but in our case it was totally true.

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After 20 years of working at the interface of business, government and civil society as a senior executive and social entrepreneur, I came onto the MBA intending to develop a portfolio career on graduating.

I already had my own consulting business, which I continued to run whilst studying full-time, but I did not expect to meet new business partners on the programme. I am now in the process of launching two new ventures in the immediate aftermath of the MBA; one an 'accelerator engine' for collaborative business innovation and the other the world's first digital governance platform for water stewardship.

The other big surprise to me was the degree to which I became absorbed in the academic study, which awoke me to just how much I could enjoy conducting original research. As a result, I have begun a PhD in Management Studies at Exeter Business School, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship. It is my goal for this to complement my various business ventures over time.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I breathe to have positive impact. It is the blood that courses through my veins. I am a passionate, driven, fiercely ambitious person and every day I get up excited about my day ahead - for the people I will meet and work with, for the change I will help to create.

I love my work so much I never really think of it as work - more a privilege.

How have your University of Exeter studies helped in your career?

The One Planet MBA has been more instrumental than I could have ever imagined in restructuring my mind into so much more of a performance machine than it ever was before.

The University also has a fantastic network - it can really open doors for you, once you're clear exactly what it is you want to work on or explore.

Do you have any advice for current students wishing to pursue your career?

Milk every drop from your studies. Build as wide a network as you can across the University and beyond it whilst you're here. Pay it forward with everyone you encounter and you will see more return on investment than you could hope for - you'd be surprised how much little acts of kindess get reciprocated with interest.

Never forget that your network and your reputation are your most valuable assets going into the outside world.

Be bold and follow your passion and your beliefs. Actively seek out negative criticism on your ideas from people who know what they're talking about, then act on their advice.

Be resilient, expect and accept failure and learn from it. Success rarely comes easily.

Above all, do what you love and it will never feel like work.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue till my dying day with setting myself ambitious goals and then smashing them.

Do you have any tips or advice on being employable?

Be authentic and honest. Remember you're choosing them as much as they're choosing you. Employers hate nothing more than nasty surprises down the line and nothing will make you more unhappy at work than trying to be someone you're not.

Alumni profile - Tony Cook, One Planet MBA

Why did you choose to study here?

The One Planet MBA at Exeter Business School is a highly differentiated MBA with a focus on developing business leaders with a full appreciation of the opportunities created by a rapidly changing business environment. It was clear that the OPMBA was a pro-business programme with a clear focus on embedding sustainability thinking into the heart of business strategy, marketing, accounting, finance.

I'd reached a point in my career where it was important to consolidate my professional experience and formalise my knowledge through an internationally recognised advanced management qualification. This was important for two reasons; first, in order to round out my skills to be more fully prepared for executive leadership roles and second, to develop new insights that could lead to business opportunities.

The One Planet MBA has delivered on both in spades.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I loved the international diversity of the student cohort; over 20 nationalities from 6 continents amongst 39 full-time students. That and the diverse mix of professions, ages and experience which brought a range of perspectives and insights that was totally unexpected coming onto the programme. It sounds cliched to say that 50% of the value of the programme is in the interaction with your fellow students, but in our case it was totally true.

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After 20 years of working at the interface of business, government and civil society as a senior executive and social entrepreneur, I came onto the MBA intending to develop a portfolio career on graduating.

I already had my own consulting business, which I continued to run whilst studying full-time, but I did not expect to meet new business partners on the programme. I am now in the process of launching two new ventures in the immediate aftermath of the MBA; one an 'accelerator engine' for collaborative business innovation and the other the world's first digital governance platform for water stewardship.

The other big surprise to me was the degree to which I became absorbed in the academic study, which awoke me to just how much I could enjoy conducting original research. As a result, I have begun a PhD in Management Studies at Exeter Business School, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship. It is my goal for this to complement my various business ventures over time.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I breathe to have positive impact. It is the blood that courses through my veins. I am a passionate, driven, fiercely ambitious person and every day I get up excited about my day ahead - for the people I will meet and work with, for the change I will help to create.

I love my work so much I never really think of it as work - more a privilege.

How have your University of Exeter studies helped in your career?

The One Planet MBA has been more instrumental than I could have ever imagined in restructuring my mind into so much more of a performance machine than it ever was before.

The University also has a fantastic network - it can really open doors for you, once you're clear exactly what it is you want to work on or explore.

Do you have any advice for current students wishing to pursue your career?

Milk every drop from your studies. Build as wide a network as you can across the University and beyond it whilst you're here. Pay it forward with everyone you encounter and you will see more return on investment than you could hope for - you'd be surprised how much little acts of kindess get reciprocated with interest.

Never forget that your network and your reputation are your most valuable assets going into the outside world.

Be bold and follow your passion and your beliefs. Actively seek out negative criticism on your ideas from people who know what they're talking about, then act on their advice.

Be resilient, expect and accept failure and learn from it. Success rarely comes easily.

Above all, do what you love and it will never feel like work.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue till my dying day with setting myself ambitious goals and then smashing them.

Do you have any tips or advice on being employable?

Be authentic and honest. Remember you're choosing them as much as they're choosing you. Employers hate nothing more than nasty surprises down the line and nothing will make you more unhappy at work than trying to be someone you're not.