Keep updated on Built Environment industry insights and thoughts from UCEM Principal: Ashley Wheaton.
My life and journey into teaching: Guest blog by our MBA Construction and Real Estate programme leader, Marios Konstantinidis
Posted on: 2 July, 2020
I was born in 1968 and lived in Greece until I was 16. I moved to Kuwait in 1984 and graduated from the American School of Kuwait in 1987. That same year, I moved to Baltimore in the United States to pursue my university studies.
Whilst in America, I gained a BSc in Economics from Towson University and an MSc in Finance from the University of Baltimore.
I then went back to Greece and served in the military for 18 months before working for 20 years in the finance sector, specialising in emerging market economies. I started out as an equities trader and then moved to a fund manager position. In 2005, I moved into commercial banking, specialising in balance sheet, project, and real estate financing.
I completed my MBA from Imperial College in 2014 and started teaching full-time in 2015. I joined UCEM in 2017, and I have also taught at the Latvia School of Law, Queen’s University – Canada, Loughborough University, and Richmond International University. I also work as a professional consultant in emerging markets specialising in project finance-related deals.
My expertise related to the built environment is in financing construction projects and firm-specific entrepreneurial strategy.
Career in finance
Originally, I was accepted to study International Relations, as I wanted to become a career diplomat. I then had a brilliant teacher – my favourite teacher – who taught economics and he had a big influence on me. Halfway through my International Relations programme, I switched to Economics and Finance. I found the combination of numbers and associated justifications, and what they tell you, a better way of explaining and solving problems, than words alone. The combination of numbers and words produced a better answer.
There was also an academic and professional revolution in the 1990s, as far as the discipline of finance is concerned, which captured my academic attention. I consider myself lucky because I not only had the opportunity to study the themes associated with these changes, but to also observe them in real life, and to eventually practise them. This process enabled me to understand new frameworks and academic thinking which I observed from an academic and professional perspective. When I decided to teach later on in my career, I realised how lucky I was being exposed to that period of time, and being able to deliver value to the students by incorporating theory and practice in my course delivery.
I had reached a point in my career where finance practice did not challenge me as it did before. In addition, the finance sector was changing in a way that it did not meet my professional aspirations. Hence, I decided it was about time to pursue my academic aspirations and to share my knowledge and expertise first on a smaller scale before moving into a larger full-time role. I felt the need to share what I have known and to help young professionals – to give answers which I didn’t receive when I started early in my professional career.
You can learn anything you want from the books, but experience should be shared. We shouldn’t keep experience to ourselves. It should be shared for the advancement of the industry, professionals and the world.
I have two favorite quotes. The first is ‘comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable’. Always strive to help and give solutions but also question the givens. Never settle for existing knowledge but question it and strive to learn more.
The second quote is from Aristotle: ‘the roots of education are bitter, but the fruits are sweet’. It’s a nice way of explaining why it’s so hard to learn things but, at the same time, it’s always for the best. You will always use in the future something you have learned in the past.
An MBA is multi-faceted. You look at various theme-specific frameworks theories and how to apply them in the professional setting, how leadership and management interacts with culture, and how all these lead to better decision-making in challenging competitive environments.
An MBA also gives you a sense of belonging in an international MBA community. You talk the same language. You have the specific and practice-based approach which meets higher academic standards so you can apply the theory in your place of work.
Studying my own MBA opened up a lot of avenues for me. I challenged myself academically and professionally by learning and applying new frameworks, and it enabled me to interact with classmates sharing and learning industry specific practices. It also gave me the opportunity to improve and advance my research practice, thus enabling me to understand, appreciate and be part of the knowledge-creation process.
The way we structure our modules enables you to question certain givens. There’s a critical enquiry element within the programme and the modules themselves. You analyse why and how today’s business environment operates in a certain way which enables you to better understand it and position yourself in it.
Studying our MBA offers you an opportunity to break through your own routine. You get an opportunity to think and critically evaluate management and leadership theory and practice in the built environment in a different way and gain new knowledge with the aid of multi-layered views from your colleagues, course mates and module leaders on a technologically advanced platform.
You get all the tools to break free from thinking in a way which might be obsolete. You get the opportunity to think in real terms through up-to-date frameworks. You are also equipped with all the necessary knowledge to meet the requirements for senior leadership roles within the industry.
After graduating, you have not only gained an accredited academic qualification, but you have made alliances and connections with your course mates and module leaders. You are equipped to practise your decision-making by utilizing the latest theoretical frameworks and coming back as an alumni to review and update your knowledge.
International aspect of our MBA programme
I’ve always enjoyed being exposed to different cultures and being open to what other cultures give to you to augment your knowledge and understand your strengths and limitations. It’s also interesting to observe how different cultures operate within a given professional environment.
One of the most important elements within this discussion is the approach to ethical practice and how different cultures define it. Hence, within this programme, we look at these various cultural approaches and what they mean for managing yourself and your teams.
For the past 20 years, globalization has changed the rules of the game, providing a way of operating in competitive environments with a global borderless, almost unified perspective. We’ve had 20 years of experiencing the advantages and disadvantages of globalization and how it relates to professional practice. Now, we must reflect on these realities. Globalization has moved from adolescence to maturity and the rules are changing as well. Therefore, we need to re-examine how this relates to efficient and effective management-leadership, ethical, social and economic practices.
It’s important to have hobbies away from your professional life. Mine include football, taking walks in the British countryside and speaking to the locals about its history, tennis and skydiving.
Skydiving, in particular, enabled me to view the world from a different perspective, literally and metaphorically. When I fly, I feel free. When you feel free, your mind is free and you can view reality as it is, and life as it ‘comes’ to you. You have to open up your mind, and this is something I apply to my academic and professional practice.
My favourite footballer of all time is George Best because he combined art with athleticism and redefined the striker’s position in modern football.