Even now, almost two months into the programme, it is only just starting to hit home quite where I am and what I’m doing. The life I left behind in Canada just a few months ago seems years in the past, with working-life happily paused for the time being. As an engineer, and self-professed geek, I still can’t believe I’m at the same university as the greats of Darwin, Hawking, Newton –and Gandalf! In all honesty, the return to student life has been incredibly smooth and a welcome opportunity to reshape my future; but there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think how incredibly thrilled I am to be here at Cambridge Judge Business School.
Even from an early age, my interests always pushed me towards the fields of engineering and construction, choosing to focus my studies on maths and the sciences. Now after five years of practice as a structural engineer, working on projects around the world and spanning several different fields, I find myself drawn away from the technical aspects of the industry, and towards the challenges of managing and financing projects of increasing size and complexity.
This is where the MBA is so pivotal. Even with the business acumen I’ve accrued as a project manager, the programme is making me keenly aware of the void in my knowledge, of just how much there is to know about being an effective manager and using all the resources at hand to make critical decisions. This is why I feel the MBA forms such a good complement to an engineering background. It extracts the theoretical application and problem-solving skills honed in technical practice, and reapplies them in conjunction with the management and financial methods that can be used anywhere in the business world. More than anything, it allows you to take a step back from the minutiae of detailed work, and gives you the tools to appreciate and tackle the big issues of any project.
While I could go on about the incredible quality of the professors and staff at the Judge, what I feel needs to be reinforced most is the truly remarkable caliber of the students at both the business school and throughout the university. With the global array of backgrounds and broad range of expertise that make up the MBA class, there is always someone ready to offer their unique point of view to the group. While this is often advertised at many b-schools, the tangible diversity at Cambridge really does mean we learn just as much from each other as from the lecturers.
While applying to the university I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of three St Catharine’s Benavitch Scholarships, granting me a spot at one of the oldest colleges at the university. As is the theory behind the college system, St Catharine’s is proving to be just as valuable as the business school in fostering relationships with people from around the world and in areas of study ranging from anthropology to quantum physics. Whether it’s a heated debate at the dinner table or even a quick chat after rowing, it’s the constant interchange of ideas that makes the Cambridge environment so special.
In closing, I have to say that taking the time to write this post has made me reflect on just how much has already happened in the two months since I arrived. Such is the blessing and curse of a one year program; with just 12 months to take full advantage of what the school, colleges and university have to offer, you must seize the relevant opportunities – and they come hard, fast and from all directions. I seriously hope to fulfil the prediction made by one of my mentors before I left for Cambridge: that this would be one the best years of my life. Even now, not even a quarter of the way in, I can honestly say he was right.
Jordan is a structural engineer and project manager from Toronto, Canada. He is an avid musician, snowboarder, and since arriving in Cambridge, rower.
Find out more about the St Catharine’s Benavitch Scholarship.