My whole life, I have sought out great teams that have made me better; working with others towards something bigger than myself is the most intrinsically joyful experience.
My father was my champion; he encouraged me in all of my sporting events, helped me start and run a company, and taught me how to develop a curiosity for the world. He was a Wharton MBA, and the greatest friendships in his life developed there. He died in March of 2018.
Growing up, I wanted to be like my dad: an MBA. Upon graduating from the University of California in 2014 as an NCAA rowing champion, I looked into Cambridge as a potential place to pursue my rowing career while continuing my education. But that year, my father’s kidneys failed. I put my own journey on hold to join the fight for his life.
I pivoted to rugby as a less time intensive sport, where I could still compete at the highest level in the USA. I started a successful tutoring company, was the head coach of a master’s men’s rowing team, and spent time with my father, helping him navigate his lack of mobility as he led me through novel ways of problem solving and company building.
My dad was always a dominant, intelligent figure, but in his physical weakness, he became humble and loving. While bedridden, his power came from his curiosity and his empathetic listening. I had always admired and feared the CEO that ran his 9-person household like a Fortune 500 company, but I loved and fought for my dying dad.
After he passed away, I was lost. All I knew was failure and grief. But I continued to move through the pain as I had been trained to do. When the lactic acid eats away at your legs in rowing, when broad shoulders hit you in a rugby tackle, the only way out is to keep pushing forward.
My dad’s best friend from Wharton and my godfather, Jay Mancini, guided me through. He helped me find business opportunities where I could grow – where I could find my dad in a beautifully arrayed excel spreadsheet or the calm boldness of raising capital.
I knew I would never feel ready to leave my family, my businesses, my teammates, my clients, and my athletes. But growth only truly happens at the edge of discomfort.
I filled out one MBA application: Cambridge Judge.
My mom provided loving support as my siblings proofread my essays. My journey was a team effort, so my acceptance was a family victory.
I missed my dad holding my shoulder, looking me in the eye, and saying, ‘you did good, Mooey,’ but my godfather’s ecstatic whoops when I told him I was going to Cambridge filled my soul. My dad’s spirit was alive in his business school friends. Lady Anne Judge, another Wharton grad and friend of my father, became my mentor and connection to family in the UK, so I was less scared about moving to the other side of the world.
Then I met my Cambridge cohort and varsity rugby team. And I knew I was home.
My Cambridge MBA cohort has shown me the infinite potential for growth, love, and goodness: Nicole’s uncompromising care, Arjan’s creative attentions, Tommy J’s magical storytelling, Hanna’s sweet staunchness, Manideep’s tender courage, Mira’s gathering glow, and Aniket’s calm leadership. In the Cambridge community I found Arta’s fierce entrepreneurial passion, Anna’s cool intensity, and Jack’s quick wit. Every person I have met through Cambridge demonstrates layers of complexities representing a multitude of cultures and beliefs.
Together, we are emerging into the world shaped by the best in each other. I became the warrior my dad always believed me to be – not by stiff-arming girls and scoring tries – but by sharing my own gifts, giving love, and recognising the greatness in people around me.
Stepping into the Leicester Stadium for my Varsity Rugby match in June of this year, I heard the cheers from more than 50 of my MBA classmates that came to support me. As they chanted my name, I felt my dad’s love and strength pulse through me.
Even before the match ended, I knew I had already won.