Conquer the MBA Capstone with these 5 tips

The MBA Capstone is the final and crucial project undertaken during The Edinburgh MBA, the outcome of which dictates the award that students will get on their degree. It brings together all the knowledge and experiences gained during the year and is considered to be one of the most invaluable experiences of the MBA. Here’s how I tackled the Capstone and my tips for completing the project successfully.

Objectives of the Capstone

The overall objective of the MBA Capstone is to give students the chance to contribute knowledge through their project. This can be done through an in-depth study of topics in which they are particularly interested, and of which they would like to develop their experience, in order to add value to their career.

In addition to attaining a specialisation (Strategy, Entrepreneurship or Finance), MBA Candidates can choose the format they want to adopt for their capstones. The Capstone can be a classical research dissertation, a company-sponsored consultancy project, a business plan for a business they aspire to start after the MBA, or an early stage feasibility study for a company or entrepreneurial startup.

My approach to the capstone was linked to my professional aspirations. After the completion of my MBA I want to take on a strategy or management consultant role, and I planned to use the Capstone to pave the way.

My first step was to choose a specialisation. I opted for the strategy specialisation during the MBA, which aimed to introduce us to various topics, discussions and thought leadership resources to enhance our knowledge and skills.

The strategy specialisation exposes students to real-life issues and provides the opportunity to work on various local and international projects. My second step was to get involved with as many projects as possible. For example, during semester 2a, Simon Harris took us to Colombia to work with a local transportation company as part of the International Business in Context course. In Dr Susan Murphy’s Consultancy Project we worked with a major international consultancy firm to analyse the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the banking sector. And we even worked with an international bank to identify how they could overcome digital disruption impacted by recent legislation passed by the British Parliament, in Julian Rawel’s Strategic Leadership course.

Finally, my third step was to find a client who needed a strategy for their business. Therefore, my Capstone project, combined with the knowledge, experience and skills I gained during the Edinburgh MBA, helped me to conceive a strategy an Edinburgh-based start-up could implement to expand their business into other cities across the UK, to achieve profitable and sustainable growth.

Tips for Capstone

1. Create a rapport with your adviser

A Capstone Advisers role is to advise you from proposal through to completion. They will help you to formalise your goals and shape the direction the Capstone is taking. Your adviser will go through and advise on at least one chapter, and will be the driving force on how to conduct your qualitative or quantitative research. My Capstone Adviser was Dr Susan MurphyI chose her due to her extensive knowledge in strategy, and my experience with her during the core and elective strategy courses.

2. What excites you?

Anyone working on their Capstone should ask themselves this question from the get-go. If you get up in the morning and are not looking forward to your day ahead, then maybe you need to reconsider your topic, or at least make it more interesting for yourself. Always speak to your adviser and see what they have to say about the relevance of the topic and where it is headed. Consider a topic that will make an impact, help you in your future career, and grow your skills.

3. Step out of your comfort zone

Joining a top-tier MBA programme at a top business school is an investment that goes a long way. It also indicates to your network that you are willing to take on challenges and step out of your comfort zone. My move from Deloitte Middle East in Dubai to Edinburgh is something of which I am very proud.

At Deloitte, I was already comfortable dealing with clients, their last minute changes to deadlines, and the other challenges that came with the role. But I was not comfortable with the theoretical aspect of the Capstone – extensive qualitative analysis, running online questionnaires for the quantitative research and examining the comprehensive data collected from nearly 300 people across the country. But the MBA had geared me up to overcome these challenges and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, roll up my sleeves and do my best. In the end, I was proud of the final product, the feedback, and the impact it has had on my clients business – they have already started their expansion.

4. Have a break

It goes without saying that how you manage your time is crucial. Things can get complicated and stressful at any time. Keeping your mental health in check is essential. You can do this by rewarding yourself with a well-deserved break, unwinding in the evening with friends, go to some Fringe shows, or even starting your day by going to the gym (my go-to stress relief). This will help realign your thoughts, generate better ideas, and help you write well.

And please, save your work on the University One Drive.

5. Pay it forward

Last, but not the least, pay it forward. Your positive and motivational actions will help your friends and colleagues to do their best. It sounds like a cliché, but it isn’t. The idea is simple: if someone helped you by sharing or participating in your survey, editing a section you were struggling with, or even arranging your page numbering, then you can pay it forward by helping others. Not only will this will create a positive environment during the Capstone period and promote positive mental health, but it will also solidify your relationships. Don’t forget to mention them in your acknowledgements!

So there you have it, my top five tips for the unavoidable Capstone period. Good luck!

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Saad Fayyaz

Saad Fayyaz is a former MBA student at the University of Edinburgh Business School, and the recipient of the MBA Diversity Award scholarship 2017/18. With professional experience working for Deloitte and Mashreq Bank in Dubai and London, Saad gained a wide range of cross-functional experience in project management, risk management, and specialised consultancy, before joining the MBA programme in 2017. Today, supported by his new MBA acquired skills, Saad finds himself looking to further his professional career in management and strategy consulting. From Karachi to Dubai, London, and now Edinburgh, Saad is always ready to take on new challenges, wherever they may be. As an avid traveler, he is on board to go and experience something new and exciting.