Arriving in Cambridge in the fall of 2023 was a thrilling experience. The atmosphere felt highly charged with possibilities and opportunities, and it’s a feeling that I haven’t experienced in a while.

I arrived here to do an MBA after 9 years of experience in the Marketing and Tech Startups space of Indonesia. While my career journey has been fulfilling, I have to be honest that I ended up at a state where I felt a sense of stagnation. I feel I have been locked to some specific path, with a pattern of activities that keeps repeating over and over again. I lost some of the excitement and passion I use to have at the start of my career. I was burnt out. That’s when I knew I actually need a career break, but ultimately I want a break that is meaningful for my life and my future.

This is how I ended up thinking about doing an MBA. Having worked with peers and leaders who are MBA graduates throughout my career, I have been aware of the value of the degree and what it meant for your career, and I am also aware that by its nature, the degree is somewhat a generalist programme that will expose you to different aspects of business instead of only focusing on a specific function. It seemed to fit perfectly to what I need.

As I started the MBA programme in Cambridge and the learning experience, I realised what is actually the greatest thing about being here: The classmates.

225 people with fascinatingly diverse backgrounds and achievements. Every conversation and interaction broadens my worldview, every collaboration helped me discover new approaches to solving problems.

The side-effect of being among these amazing people? The insecurity.

Do I really belong here?

It seems like everyone I meet in the programme has a very specific goal in their career that makes their path very focused. The finance people. The consulting people. The tech people. The arts people. The healthcare people. They seem to have very curated activities outside of class in terms of extracurriculars and networking, and choices of electives/concentration that are geared towards optimizing their profile to get ahead in that sector (and get ahead they will, I’m pretty sure for some of them, being CEO is just a matter of time).

At a certain point, my insecurity peaked and I asked myself:

Why am I not like that? Am I AIMLESS?

What was I doing during my time in the MBA while these amazing people are strategically building their career?

I took all the Healthcare Industry related classes because my first-hand experience of surviving a critical medical condition and dealing with the complexities of healthcare and insurance made me want to understand how the industry can work more effectively to help people.

At the same time, I also took part in all the Culture/Arts Industry electives and activities because of my life-long appreciation for film and theatre, and through the Industry coach nights, I ended up having an amazing conversation with Graham Broadbent, who is the producer of Academy Award winning films such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as one of my favourite film of the last year, All of Us Strangers.

During my Cambridge Venture Project, I met Collette Johnson who is an excellent Product/Tech career mentor. The experience of working under her guidance made me pursue further months of mentoring sessions where we tackled everything from case interviews to how to optimize my CV, in case I wanted to continue my career in Tech.

As the year moves forward and the time came to do the Global Consulting Project (GCP), I chose to apply to UNICEF for my project because I am fascinated to learn more about how Non-Profit organisations operate after working in agriculture had exposed me to a lot of social issues that may not be solved purely from a profit-oriented perspective. The learning from this project was so fascinating that I ended up exploring an internship to follow-up on our work in the GCP.

And finally, when the time came for me to pick a Concentration, I realised that I also have an eagerness to establish my expertise in Marketing, so I ended up choosing the Marketing concentration under the guidance of Prof. Jaideep Prabhu as the coach. Throughout the term, our team worked on a project to explore the future business of Financial Times as our real client.

Each and every one of these experiences has led to numerous personal discoveries about my curiosity and my passion. Discovery that I felt has been priceless and enriching.

But am I trying to be everything at once and will ended up becoming nothing?

The question bothers me until I remember why I even came here.

I didn’t start this journey because I wanted to go on a specific path. I started this journey because I needed a break that can expose me to new things and reignite my excitement. That has been my North Star for the past year: Exploration. How I did my MBA simply looks different to how some of my classmates are doing it, because we have different north star.

And I realised I have done really well in my exploration because I was here.

In the programme, I have the ability to explore different topics and industries through the framework of the electives in the curriculum as well as through extracurricular activities, and in this regard the Cambridge MBA provided a very wide variety of topics for me to choose. Aside from the ability to tailor the learning experience to fit my exploration, as a full time MBA student, I can focus my time on the exploration and learning, a luxury that is simply not available had I not taken the time off work to pursue an MBA.

Last, and probably the most important, how Cambridge exposes you to the people who will make your exploration meaningful. I already mentioned about the amazing classmates I have met in the programme, but beyond that you will not believe how common it is for me to get an opportunity to learn from CEOs, political leaders, cultural figures, through lectures and discussion. When, in less than a year, I had to opportunity to meet Sam Altman of OpenAI, as well as the producer of a favourite movie, surely it tells you something about how amazing my year has been.

As my time in this period of exploration comes to an end, the next chapter in my career is still a big question mark. But I fully believe the wide-ranging knowledge I have accumulated and the great people I met will undoubtedly give me valuable perspective and insight for whatever may lie in the next step of my career journey.

So, no, I know I am not aimless, I am on an exploration. And I was in the best place I could be for this exploration.