I am one month into the Cambridge MBA and our study group has just been given our first project. I’m working with a UBS trader from New Zealand, a French doctor and an Indonesian ex-McKinsey consultant. The class is made up of over 200 students, 50 plus nationalities, and the talent that I’m surrounded with terrifies and excites me in equal measure. The project we’ve been given is a stretch; sizing the market and delivering a pricing strategy for a new Ag-Tech product that is going to significantly improve the effectiveness of crop trials. Although we’re taking an agile approach that should deliver value to the client well before the final presentation in six weeks’ time, fitting it in between our 9-5 lecture schedule and career evenings is part of a balancing act in the first term where prioritisation is taking on a new meaning.
My wife has joined me in Cambridge, with a strong desire to make the most of the year ahead; immersing ourselves in the history and culture of this hallowed city. When spare time allows we explore the beautiful colleges, investigate the museums and cycle out to Grantchester and other surrounding villages that nestle on the river Cam like a scene from Wind in the Willows. The fact that during any MBA gatherings, Conrad, our Executive Director has spoken to my wife more times than he has to me proves not only is she much more interesting (naturally), but also that the MBA team know so much of a student’s success is based on their partner’s support.
As a Cambridge student we are also part of college life. In my case Sidney Sussex College. The Cambridge collegiate system has given me an opportunity to connect with the wider university and I have already made multiple acquaintances of PHD students studying everything from astronomy to infectious diseases. At one of the formal dinners that regularly punctuate the week I found myself learning about the circularity of a cube during the starter, followed by discussing the future of the automotive industry with the Director of a UK car company who is on the Executive MBA.
What have I done most in the last month? Well, apart from fretting about the volume of work, I’ve listened. Of course, I’ve learnt a lot; regression models, financial reporting, the Nash equilibrium – much of which you could find online (if you had the time and inclination). But what has already made the Cambridge MBA special for me is the people, and listening to their stories, their research, and their experiences. Being a part of it, if only for a year, is a luxury that I know will stay with me for a lifetime.