After hearing one of the Cambridge MBA treks would take place in my hometown, Johannesburg, I eagerly looked forward to attending, as this would be my first event as an official MBA student. The event was wonderfully thought out; starting off with an alumni and partner dinner at the popular African themed Moyo restaurant, followed by a packed day visiting four companies. This included two of South Africa’s most successful names; SABMiller and Investec, as well as two, high profile MBA employers in the consulting industry – Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company. The Careers team’s wonderful Cecile Gani was our host for the trek, and she cared for every detail and guaranteed that we gained the most from the visits throughout the day.
Boston Consulting Group
For the business part of the trek we kicked off at Boston Consulting Group’s Johannesburg offices, which up until the recent launch of their Lagos, Nigeria Office, was the base for their African operations. We were treated to some (much needed) coffee and a tour of their modern, open-plan office, which they plan to double in size by 2017. This led to discussions in their impressive boardroom with representatives from their recruitment and consultant teams on what to expect and how to excel in the fast-paced environment at BCG. A branded bottle and pen made for a nice touch upon heading out for the rest of our day’s arrangements.
Just a hop and a skip across Grayston Drive, situated within Africa’s most valuable real estate block, we then visited Investec, South Africa’s largest private wealth management firm and private bank. Here we gained insight into the banking sector through Ursula Nobrega, Head of Investor Relations, and the unique entrepreneurial culture fostered at the company. Interestingly, her sound advice on how to ‘make it’ within Investec sounded echoed advice that I’ve received on how to excel to in the Cambridge MBA programme – you have to take the initiative and network to make the best of the experience and your goals; you get out what you put in.
Bain and Company
The highlight of the trek was an informal lunch date with the Bain & Co. team in the trendy Melrose Arch business park, where we had the opportunity to share our stories and in turn gain insight into the various members of the team (including a number of Cambridge MBA graduates!) and how they had launched their careers in consulting. At 170 strong, and a well-established office in Lagos (see a trend yet?), Bain boasts the record as one of the fastest growing consulting companies in Africa. We were also given a generous gift pack brimming with Bain-branded goodies. My personal favourite was the black and red moleskin, which will no doubt be put to good use during my first few months at Cambridge.
With the end of the day approaching, we made our last stop at South Africa’s arguably best known and well-loved company: SABMiller (South African Breweries). After interviewing with SAB and nearly joining the team in 2009, it was great to be back in one of their hub offices with its signature branding and on-site bar. The members from the marketing team were joined by senior recruitment managers who took us through a fascinating presentation covering the alcoholic beverage industry and discussed the challenges of reacting to global and local beverage trends. The animated discussion worked up quite a thirst where subsequently we were lucky enough to accompany the team to sample their newly launched range of beverages, from a chocolate stout (!) to a lemon-flavoured beer and everything in between. This not only gave us a taste for the exciting career opportunities and excellent product quality, but of the fantastic company culture as well.
Looking back, the Johannesburg trek presented the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet with meeting new employers. Entering the programme with an interest in shifting my career path to consulting, and in finding a placement back home in Johannesburg upon graduation, this event not only connected me directly with two targeted employers, but also gave me a chance to start off feeling more empowered and experienced when it comes to career events. Lastly, but certainly not least, I was able to grab the opportunity to get to know my fellow MBA candidates, and connect with South African alumni. I would like to extend my whole-hearted thanks to the companies who hosted us, the Careers team and the Cambridge Judge Business School for organising the event – I look forward to participating in many more!