We meet some of our most recent graduates and hear about their career pivots as they jump from small startups to corporate giants or discover the startup journey for themselves – all firmly in the tech sector.
The tech entrepreneur
Hawi Abbajobir (MBA 2020), from Germany, spent five years before her MBA working for fintech startups in the USA. Initially she started out in an operations role and then progressed into project management and auditing, but she felt she needed to move on and do something a little bit different. “I always found myself in the background, supporting the company and the operations, and I wanted to be more customer focused,” she explains.
She felt that the MBA was a way to pivot from a supporting role to a more customer facing role and at the same time she was interested in moving back to Europe.
For her the Cambridge Judge focus on technology and entrepreneurship, as well as the proximity to Silicon Fen and the startup ecosystem in Cambridge, was key in her choice.
“Down the road, in maybe five years’ time, I do want to start my own company, so I thought that doing my MBA in Cambridge – a setting where entrepreneurship is encouraged – would be an environment in which I could thrive,” she continues.
Hawi was focused right from the start of her MBA year and was successful in securing a position at Amazon in Munich, Germany, during her first term, on the MBA Launch Program, as a Senior Vendor Manager for Europe.
Hawi wanted to get experience at a big tech company, to build on her past experience at smaller startups. Always the entrepreneur, Hawi carries a little book with her everywhere to jot down ideas as they arise.
She was an active member of the Entrepreneurship Special Interest Group (SIG) during her MBA, and she found that she could connect with guest speakers to bounce ideas around and learn about their career paths.
Hawi, recipient of the Cambridge MBA Scholarship for Technology and Innovation in 2020, explains, “I think when you’re in that environment where everyone is entrepreneurial and thinking about what the next big thing could be, it helps you get better. I think the community aspect is really important.”
She concludes, “I want to take what I’ve learned, and the network of people I now have to put questions to or reach out to for advice, and go forward with confidence, knowing that I have support to fall back on.”
So before the MBA, I spent five years working for fintech startups in the US. It was a very exciting space, but I needed to move on and do something a little bit different. So, I always found myself kind of in the background, supporting the company and the operations and I wanted to be more customer focused and the MBA was a way to pivot from a supporting role to a more customer-facing role and at the same time, I was making a geographical move as well from the US back to Europe.
I’ve wanted to do a one-year MBA because I didn’t want to be out of the workforce for too long and the fact that it’s like embedded in a great university so you have like the rich history of Cambridge as well, I thought that would be a really good fit. For me, it was actually the focus on technology and entrepreneurship because down the road, maybe in five years, I do want to start my own company and I felt having that setting, that environment where entrepreneurship is encouraged, and I thought it was a really good environment to thrive and think of ideas for the future as well. I also really liked the practical aspect of the Cambridge MBA, so doing the CVP and the GCP, I thought it was a really good way to figure out whether consulting is for you and also just learn by doing.
For my GCP, I worked with Airbnb and we’re kind of figuring out what the future of customer service could be and there’s something about learning something in the classroom and especially all the frameworks we’ve learned and being able to apply it in real life and see how that works, it’s just kind of nice to connect theory with practise and see it play out in real life. Having had experience at small startups, I really wanted to get the experience at a big tech company as well, see what it’s like to have like a five-year, ten-year strategy. I was lucky enough to secure a product-related role and then I’m wanting to take that experience maybe in like five years and start my own company. I think when you’re in that environment where everyone is entrepreneurial and thinking about what the next thing could be, it helps you also get better at it and also just having someone to bounce ideas off of, I think that community aspect is really important.
So the entrepreneurship SIG, for example, had lots of great events where entrepreneurs would come and speak to us and you can connect with them, bounce ideas off of them and learn about their path and so I want to take what I’ve learned and the network that I have now of people that I can always ask questions to or reach out to for advice and kind of take that going forward and just knowing that you have like people to fall back on when things don’t work out.
Having so many people from such different backgrounds together and talking about these issues really forces you to think better and think more deeper, because I think that’s what I will take away from the MBA the most.
The tech leader
Before his MBA, Oliver Tromp (MBA 2020) spent seven years in public accounting, followed by one year at a digital advertising start up in the USA as Chief Operations Officer.
He was looking for more validity to pivot out of public accounting and move more into an operational role, alongside his desire for international business experience and the opportunity to live abroad.
Like Hawi, he was attracted to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the tech hub that flourishes in Cambridge.
“Entrepreneurship was a big pull for me. I’ve never started a business. I have worked at a startup, but I have never actually started anything myself,” he explains. “I saw this as an opportunity to experiment a little bit. We don’t have that many chances in our lives to just experiment. My goal in the next five years is to be in a leadership position at a fast-growing tech company.”
After graduating Ollie is now working as UK Regional Director for Actionstep, a London based legal practice management software company.
“My MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School consolidated my understanding of business in a global context and confirmed my passion for working at the intersection of entrepreneurship, finance and technology, where I’m looking to build my future.”
He concludes, “Just being connected with so many high performing, driven, engaging, interested people, opens up more doors than you could imagine.”
Before my MBA, I did seven years in public accounting, and then I did one year at a digital advertising startup as the COO. I knew I wanted to pivot out of public accounting and go more into an operational type role, but I also thought I needed an MBA to kind of give more validity to that move. I’ve always loved travelling. I’ve always wanted to be more in an international business role, and so the MBA abroad was sort of my first step in, getting a job abroad and living abroad, and having that experience.
When I was thinking about an MBA, I didn’t want to just get a business degree. So what I was really after was a community and a place where I could also grow in areas outside of business. I was really interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and kind of the tech hub that we have here in Cambridge. Then you have this amazing town that you live in, with all these incredible historical traditions and brilliant people from every different subject matter. So all of those things in one was the appeal of Cambridge for me.
So there’s a lot of resources, like through the entrepreneurship SIG, or the VC Significant Interest Group, there’s a lot of resources that were kind of thrown on me day one. I got connected to the other classmates of mine that were interested in entrepreneurship. Each team has definitely been different. In every team, I’ve had people from completely different countries. Honestly, that’s part of the reason I came to Cambridge, is I wanted to work with people from all over the world, all different professional backgrounds, all different cultural backgrounds, social backgrounds. I think I knew I was going to make friends on the MBA, but I didn’t realise how deep of relationships I’d make in just one year. So much happens in such a short amount of time that you really bond with people.
Coming into the programme, competitions were on my radar. I also was interested in entrepreneurship. That was a big pull for me. I’ve never started a business. I have worked at a startup, but I’ve never actually started anything myself. We came up with this idea for a fintech venture and that idea developed, and we continued refining it, continued working on it, and entered into the McKinsey Venture Academy Competition and made it all the way to the finals and ended up winning that one. So it was pretty amazing.
I think, coming to the MBA, I saw this as an opportunity to experiment a little bit. We don’t have that many chances in our lives to just experiment. Most of the things that I’ve done on the MBA that have been the most valuable have been things that were outside of my comfort zone. I knew I just wanted to experiment and spread the net really wide, and then figure out what I like and what I don’t like.
My goal within the next five years is to be in a leadership position at a tech company that’s fast growing, but just being connected with so many high-performing, driven, engaging, interested people opens up more doors than you could imagine. Cambridge has so much appeal because of everything that it offers. It’s a very strong MBA. It’s a beautiful city. It’s an amazing institution and people from all over the world. So yeah, I think to me, Cambridge is, it’s kind of the one place that offers everything.
The tech changemaker
Travis Tran (MBA 2020) started out as a tech engineer before his MBA, doing a mix of engineering, design and product management at Puget Sound Energy, based out of Seattle, USA. Embarking on his MBA, Travis was looking to expand on his technical problem-solving skills and develop more people-based problem-solving experience and skills.
He says, “The MBA allowed me to develop foundational business skills, as well as thinking more broadly and strategically to make a bigger impact for a company.”
Being based wholly in the USA before his MBA, Travis was also looking to broaden his horizons and get out of his comfort zone. The diverse cohort at Cambridge, with over 40 nationalities and a class size of 200, was exactly what he was looking for.
“The Cambridge MBA is a smaller cohort, and I was able to get to know everybody before I even got there. I came here already feeling like I had 200 friends in Cambridge.”
Travis secured a position during his MBA year with a London-based tech company, AlphaSights, as their Product Manager, using data to implement customer-focused solutions.
“I made the triple jump in my career, that Cambridge said I was capable of doing through the MBA programme.”
The US has a very, I guess, strong MBA system. But what I was looking for is more of a very tight-knit, close, collaborative cohort, as well as getting that global experience. And so this Cambridge MBA is a smaller MBA cohort, and I was able to get to know everybody before I even got there. I came here already feeling like I had 200 friends at Cambridge.
I was a mechanical engineer, doing a mix of engineering, design, and project management. I really enjoy that technical problem solving, but as I progressed through my career, I really enjoyed that people-to-people problem solving. The MBA allowed me to develop foundational business skills, and as well as thinking more broadly and strategically to make a bigger impact for a company.
I came to the MBA, the Judge MBA day and just speaking to all the other classmates and the professors really emphasised that collaborative atmosphere that I was really looking for in a programme, and also had a very strong emphasis on like, I guess, global experience, having a lot of diverse perspectives from a lot of different nationalities. And so being born and raised in Seattle, I was also really looking to broaden my horizon and get out of my comfort zone in that aspect as well.
I really appreciated the one-year programme because it was compact and really was streamlined, as far as the amount of information that you could digest in that one year, but still making it a fun programme. It’s been fantastic. It’s bittersweet. I don’t know where the year has gone already. All the relationships that we have built over the time and they’re, to me, going to be long-lasting relationships that I look forward to visiting people all over the world. My GCP was with Airbnb, and I was working with a fantastic team in Cambridge. Again, it was very diverse, and it was interesting to hear different people’s perspectives. You’re in an echo chamber, kind of sometimes if you stay in your local area your entire life, so seeing other people’s perspectives is, in a way that I never thought about it, was really eye-opening for me.
In a year, I see myself in London as a product manager, ideally within a tech company, which I actually just got an offer earlier this week. So, I’ll be making the triple jump that Cambridge said I was capable of doing and through this programme it came true. Within five years, ideally, a more senior leadership role, kind of making a more broader, strategic impact within a company.