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Bicycling and networking

6 February 2018

The article at a glance

Five graduates of the Cambridge Judge Executive MBA class reinforce their ties through challenging bicycle journeys through Switzerland. Five members of the …

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Five graduates of the Cambridge Judge Executive MBA class reinforce their ties through challenging bicycle journeys through Switzerland.

Executive MBA alumni cycling in Switzerland
Robert Relph and Tony Mullen cycling through Switzerland

Five members of the Cambridge Judge Executive MBA class of 2014 plan to take a bicycle ride around the Cambridge countryside when they reunite at the school in February as part of the electives week that all Executive MBA graduates can take part in.

This bike ride should be a breeze given that East Anglia, the area around Cambridge, is notoriously flat – to the point where people joke that cold winds from Siberia hit Cambridge directly.

The five graduates completed far more arduous rides through hills and mountains in Switzerland in the summer of 2015 and then again last summer, climbing several 2,000 metre peaks before enjoying a 19 kilometre downhill section that made the four-hour climbs worthwhile.

“Our motivation for these rides is to reinforce the bond we have as Executive MBA graduates and reconnect,” says Tony Mullen, one of the former students, who lives in Queensland, Australia. “The isolation of the forests is a great opportunity to spend quality time together and forge relationships. With over 30 hours cycling in four days we could talk business and careers, reflect on ideas for new start-ups and discuss the latest in world affairs.”

While their cycling has brought them back together, the careers of the five Executive MBA graduates have taken them in various directions.

Five EMBA alumni with bicycles in Swiss mountains
Alumni bikers in Switzerland.

Tony Mullen is Chief Operating Officer for Events Management Queensland, which organises sporting competitions and other events on Australia’s Gold Coast, and during his Executive MBA commuted 20,000 miles round trip to Cambridge once a month.

Javier Mantilla Florez, who hails from Colombia, is now Group Head of Feasibility Studies at engineering company ABB in Switzerland.

Robert Relph was recently promoted to Managing Director of UK aviation and engineering company Rolls Royce, based at one of the company’s main offices in Derby, UK.

Robert Amey is CEO of Cecil Amey, a chain of independent optometrists in East Anglia, which has been gaining market share. The company dates back to 1924, and now employs more than 55 people in eight practices.

Piers Shingleton is Transformation Programme Director for Corporate Banking and the bank Santander, building on his pre-Executive MBA expertise at Deutsche Bank.

Food has become a key element in the five Executive MBA graduates’ biking tradition, and they have developed some expertise in fondue and Swiss wines. The 2017 reunion began at a CJBS Celebrates dinner in the famous Kronenhalle restaurant in Zurich, where, says Tony, “we fuelled up in the company of twenty Cambridge Judge alumni from Zurich surrounded by artwork from Miro, Chagall and Matisse.”

“We set out early the next morning catching a ride up to the western Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds,” he says. “That day we joined the Jura trail and had a challenging eight hours in the saddle traversing mountains in the Neuchatel Jura ending in the historic village of Couvet. The following days we trekked over mountains and through valleys in wonderment of the picturesque Swiss country. The journey followed the Jura national mountain biking trial through the French speaking western Switzerland, through an area that’s home to the world’s premier watchmakers.”

According to Robert, the bicycling reunions are a natural outgrowth of the bonds the five developed during their Executive MBA programme – which includes many networking opportunities including a mandatory week-long team consulting project in which small teams work together to advise an organisation.

“Studying at Cambridge was a fantastic experience but it’s the friendships that really stay with you,” he says. “Our annual cycle tour, as well as other events the class and the School organise, mean our Cambridge journey will continue for years to come, in Cambridge and beyond.”