The international flavour of the Cambridge MBA

Exactly twelve months ago my Cambridge MBA journey started when 202 excited MBAs from 41 countries gathered at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) for Day 1. We were mostly clean shaven, with fresh haircuts and dressed to the “T” in our number ones for our group photo, administration processes and CV workshop.

Now, 365 days later, I can reflect back on this rollercoaster of a ride and confidently say that the Cambridge MBA has been a life-changing experience. It has been a challenging year in many regards, given that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the rules of society’s game. These Cambridge MBAs, however, are a resilient bunch and true to the CJBS spirit of collaboration, we found ways to get the most of our limited time at Cambridge.

On Day 365 of my Cambridge MBA journey, I was fortunate enough to represent the University of Cambridge in cricket’s annual Varsity Match against the University of Oxford. This first-class fixture is considered to be the pinnacle of student sport, with a rich history of 200 years of cricket between these two prestigious and well-respected institutions.

I was lucky enough to wear Baggy Light Blue Cap number 782, being the 782nd Cambridge player to represent Cambridge in the Varsity Match, the oldest version of sporting rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford, dating back to 1827 (two years before the first Boat Race).

The 2020 version of the Varsity Match, originally scheduled to be played during July, did not disappoint. The University of Cambridge beat the University of Oxford convincingly by 249 runs. The Light Blues produced an all-round team performance that Oxford could simply not match, by dominating with the bat, ball and in the field. Cambridge’s James Vitali took 10 wickets in the match, Niel Botha took 5 wickets and I scored a total of 147 runs and took 4 catches, 3 of which were blinders. My match winning century (125) in the second innings will be going down in the record books as the last First Class ton in the Varsity Match and at Fenner’s Cricket Ground. Full details and match reports can be found here.

The victorious University of Cambridge Blues cricket team
Pieter Daneel, James Vitali and Niel Botha

Reflecting back on this experience, I can draw parallels between the Varsity Match and my Cambridge MBA. The anticipation, the nerves, the discipline and commitment between the two occasions were similar in intensity. The COVID-19 pandemic did it’s best to disrupt both, but in true Cambridge fashion, we found a way to ensure that despite some challenges, the events not only took place, but we ended up knocking the ball out of the proverbial park. Friends were made and life-long memories will remain with all of the students involved.

To illustrate the international flavour of the Cambridge MBA, I have had the privilege to work on consulting projects with an Austrian, an Indian, a Canadian, a Japanese, a Brazilian, a German, and a Chinese. Not only have I learnt valuable soft and technical skills, but I have made connections and friends for life. The Cambridge MBA has been a life-changing experience, over way too fast, but without a doubt a continuous 365 days with global impact through continuous collaboration and diversity.

The victorious Light Blues

One of my Cambridge professors once told me, always take the astronaut’s view and keep perspective and the bigger picture in mind. This is advice that will stick with me for life. My Cambridge MBA has come full circle via the consulting projects with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and a Cambridge-based biotech startup, the group work case studies with Airbnb, Alibaba, Jesus College and the Cambridge University Endowment Fund and my last dance, scoring a century as a Full Blue and being victorious in the Varsity Match.

A sincere thank you to everyone at CJBS who believed in me and supported me throughout, to Professor Jochen Runde for his mentorship and the scholarship that empowered me to learn and grow.

What a year, onwards and upwards!

Cambridge MBA students with NASA astronaut, Michael Foale