'LBS helped me overcome imposter syndrome'

Busie Dhlodhlo MFA2022 relates the “unbelievable” journey that culminated in a full scholarship


In 30 Seconds

  • Gifted student from a small town in Zimbabwe had always been a high academic achiever
  • But she felt that her “survivor background” disqualified her from a place at a prestigious institution
  • Help of alumni and Black in Business Scholarship enabled her to complete her Masters in Financial Analysis
  • She is now looking to build a career in development finance or impact investing in a role that has direct impact

Imposter syndrome can take many forms. For Masters in Financial Analysis graduate Sibusisiwe (Busie) Dhlodhlo, it was the feeling that she couldn’t possibly make it to London Business School; that coming from a “survivor background” disqualified her from a place at a prestigious institution. “I was ambitious,” she recalls. “But was I LBS-ambitious?”

A native of Plumtree, a small town in Zimbabwe, Busie holds a first-class honours degree in Finance with Accounting from Solusi University, where she was also named best student by the Faculty of Business. A determined learner, academic prizes have come her way since early childhood – one shaped by parents who believed utterly in their daughter’s potential. 

“My parents pushed me to pursue excellence,” says Busie. “They both credited education as the primary driver of positive change in their lives. In a town where my childhood friends dreamt of being gardeners, maids for elite households or waiters and waitresses, my parents believed that I had ‘a special place in the grand scheme of things’ and in making a positive impact in the world. Their faith in me motivated me to excel academically.” 

Busie was nonetheless conscious of a disconnect between her background and the prestige of a school like LBS. She had to work to finance her studies in Zimbabwe and took on a slew of jobs, from teaching in rural Plumtree to packaging food in a warehouse; jobs that were made more necessary in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when her family had lost much of its income. 

She came to London driven by ambition and an intellectual curiosity to see how the finance principles she’d explored as an undergraduate would play out in the transparent regulatory context of the UK. But it wasn’t easy at first. Recruiters failed to call back. As time went on, she understood that she needed an international master’s programme to enhance her employability. 

First choice

LBS was her first choice based on reputation and ranking – if she could make the grade. Then the real work begun – figuring out how to raise funds to cover her tuition and living costs. “Applying to LBS, I threw my hat in for the Black in Business Scholarship. Even so, if I were lucky enough to have my fees covered, I still had to find the means to live in one of the world’s most expensive cities.” 

Busie got to work fast, setting up a GoFundMe campaign to muster support after a series of unsuccessful student-loan applications and steadfastly researching different sources of funding. She also reached out for advice to LBS alumni, who provided indispensable support in helping her shape her personal narrative and craft compelling messages – application “essays”– to the School. 

In spite of qualms about her suitability, such was her commitment to getting a place at LBS that she left “no stone unturned.” Her scholarship was eventually increased to cover full tuition fees.

“The School called me directly to tell me they had found an external donor to part-fund my tuition. The Rayner Miller Scholarship meant that I no longer had to pay the deposit after having requested a deadline extension. This was exactly what I had hoped for, but way more that I had expected. It was almost unbelievable.”

New hope

Being admitted to LBS and securing the tuition funding gave Busie new hope. She still had to find her living expenses, but the burden felt much lighter.

As the term start date approached, and with no new luck on funding, Busie made one last request. She was astounded by the response. Not only had she been awarded a full scholarship covering tuition; the School assured her it would find a way to support her living costs throughout the programme. She was overwhelmed with gratitude. 

“One week before the deadline for issuance of the CAS statement for the visa application, I made one final call – I sent a carefully curated email to break ground. I knew LBS had gone over and beyond already, but at this point I had also exhausted all other options. I was exhausted from trying to find ways to raise funds. So, when the School confirmed my living costs would be covered and issued the rest of the documents to support my visa application, the relief and the gratitude were visceral.”

Real-world exposure 

Busie completed the MFA in June 2022. Her 10-month learning experience played out on campus in London and in overseas modules. She has deepened her knowledge exponentially and built an understanding of the international dimensions of finance that will underpin her future career. 

During her time at LBS, she also benefited from exposure to real-world ventures and organisations – entrepreneurs, experts, researchers and visionaries – whose work has challenged her to re-evaluate what is important in life, and demonstrates the potential of businesses to accelerate meaningful and critical change. 

Along the way, she has built a network that provides support and the kind of intellectual sparring that only comes with diversity – people from every walk of life, whom she would not otherwise have encountered. The experience has been transformational. “No doubt, being at LBS has impacted me academically,” says Busie. “But there’s also a finer dimension to the experience that lives on with you after the programme ends. Just being part of this diverse cohort, and being exposed to so many different people and organisations, it really opens your eyes to the universal nature of human dynamics and the gaps that stand ready to be closed as we shape the way in which the world does business.”

The experience has also expanded her horizons in terms of her own capabilities.

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Aiming for impact

That may mean looking for a career in development finance or impact investing; perhaps at the World Bank or the UN Development Programme. Busie would like to have direct impact, leveraging equities or funds to accelerate development in communities that are still lagging the world over. “I want to eventually see a world that works better, inhabited by people that live better,” she says.

Meanwhile, she is working with another Zimbabwean, an LSE graduate, on a project to give young people an opportunity to look at new options for themselves. These are youngsters from British communities where crime may be rife and options few. Next, they will devise a strategy to serve the African community before expanding into Asia. “Then I may eventually publish a book,” she says.

Underpinning all her efforts is a sense of humility tempered with confidence. And, above all, perseverance. “Life can be messy, and you’re not always going to get everything right. But, more often than not, there will be room to recover. It’s about taking steps towards what you envision and doing whatever your hands find to do with all your might,” she says.