Transformative is a word often used to describe the experience of a world-class MBA. The changes to the way you think are subtle. It is impossible to pin the shifts in your thinking to a particular moment; rather I found the MBA was a series of small nudges. The cumulative effect of these nudges creating a more evolved version of myself.
As you’re preparing to start your own MBA journey, I want to tell you what an amazing life-changing experience you will have, how the dreams you have will change and how this investment in yourself will be one of the single greatest things you will ever have done. But, when the changes are so fundamental to whom you are, it is only through shaping your own understanding and not through one-dimensional words of others that you can really grasp what is in store for you.
Every top-tier school will ground you in the core fundamentals of business, but each school has its own unique ethos and culture. Some of the relationships students have with their business school are purely transactional. At Cambridge, however, your experience will absolutely be defined by you. I embraced Cambridge for everything that it is, and in turn Cambridge embraced me back. And so, rather than re-write a Disney-esque application-style essay, I will briefly highlight some of the stand-out adventures of this year for me. Hopefully from this you can get a sense of the opportunities in front of you, and how arbitrary measures of time or money seem when given these chances:
Term 1: Michaelmas
Signing the register – Cambridge University has a college system, and each College has a matriculation ceremony at which you will sign in to 800 years of history. If you think about the incredible minds before you that have signed that register (enhanced by the use of a fountain pen they’ll give you to use), the experience is pretty profound and moving. Welcome to a legacy of excellence.
Formal Hall – Harry Potter parallels are impossible not to draw. I sat in academic gown, inside an ancient and beautiful formal hall adorned with portraits of previous college heads, with multiple-course meals served under candlelight, and conversations for you and your guests with post-graduate students from all over the globe. The cheese is usually pretty delicious too.
i-teams – an opportunity through the Institute of Manufacturing at the Engineering School, I had the chance to work with a Professor on commercialising his world-leading technology for the athletics industry. I did this in a team of athletically minded Cambridge PhD students drawn from right across the university. It was exciting to be discussing world leading technology and even more exciting to be leveraging my business skills to help make his ideas a commercial success.
Emmaus (MBA Cambridge Venture Project) – Cambridge offers first and foremost a ‘practical MBA’. This means consulting projects through the year working with real businesses on solving real business issues. This project gave my team and I the chance to develop the digital strategy for a charity dedicated to re-integrating the homeless into society with both employment and accommodation. About as noble a cause as you can hope for, married with thinking through up-to-the minute trends in digital technology and business trend to make a real difference.
Leadership dinner – I have a new pen-pal, and he is one of the world’s top executives from one of the largest and most successful global companies. How did this happen?… Cambridge hosts top executives to come speak to the MBA class on various business topics as part of the flagship Cambridge Leadership Seminars series and there I then had the chance to sit next to him at dinner. Next thing I know I am swapping my thoughts on the French vs New Zealand rugby team via email with a global leader. The MBA could have stopped then and I would have been dazzled.
Varsity Rugby – On the topic of rugby – about 30 of the MBA class made the pilgrimage down to Twickenham to watch our Cambridge MFin hero and friend Andrew play for the varsity blues team against “the other place”. Inter-university rivalry with Oxford is not only a long-tradition, but also a good amount of fun. Amazing to watch him run out in front of a crowd of 20,000 on one of the greatest rugby-fields in the world.
Polo – Horses have always been a passion of mine, but it took a big leap of courage to join up to to the polo club, and eventually debut in the beginner class for Cambridge at the University Nationals. Polo is essentially bumper-cars on horses – don’t let the privileged associations make you believe it is a sport for softies. I don’t think I have had more bruises or near-bone breaking experiences in my life.
Paris Christmas – with a class full of adventurous spirits and the Continent on our back door, a bunch of us took the train to Paris for the holiday season and enjoyed a week-long adventure walking along the Seine, visiting the Eiffel tower and drinking champagne in Versailles. I have never been so happy, it was so exciting to be there and the group was so fun. A real treat.
The MBA journey continues in part 2 of my year-in-review…