Emma Kent with her children on graduation day.

Opening doors: our EMBA scholars share their experiences

14 April 2023

The article at a glance

From charity and healthcare to women in leadership, Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) awards a number of scholarships to candidates on its Executive MBA programme. We spoke to current and past recipients to find out more about how the support has helped them pursue their goals and advance their careers.

From charity and healthcare to women in leadership, Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) awards a number of scholarships to candidates on its Executive MBA programme. We spoke to current and past recipients to find out more about how the support has helped them pursue their goals and advance their careers.

Diversity is at the heart of Cambridge Judge; the latest cohort on the Cambridge Executive MBA represents students from more than 30 countries, with experience across a broad range of sectors – from agriculture to the arts, energy to aerospace.

To help foster that diversity, the Business School offers a number of scholarships, providing candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and industries the opportunity to advance their skills, grow their networks and progress their careers. Scholarships contribute up to 30% of tuition fees, and give recipients the chance to act as ambassadors for their chosen field.

To find out more about what the support means, how the programme has bolstered their careers and how prospective candidates can stand out from the crowd, we caught up with some of Cambridge Judge’s past and present recipients.

Empowering women

Emma Kent.
Emma Kent (EMBA 2019)

Emma Kent, now Director of Construction for the Metropolitan Police, was awarded the Women’s Scholarship in 2019. With a background in construction, she says she was drawn to the Cambridge Executive MBA programme with the aim of deepening her understanding of business and broadening her network.

“My training was in civil engineering, and I’ve worked in various engineering roles in the construction sector,” she says. “I applied for the EMBA because I had technical experience, but I wanted to be able to understand the bigger picture, from finances and economics to strategy, marketing and governance.”

But joining the programme while on maternity leave with her first child meant financial concerns were a barrier. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford theMBA without the scholarship,” she says. “It really made it possible for me.”

She says alongside the financial support, the scholarship also helped boost her profile, providing an opportunity to act as an ambassador for women at Cambridge Judge. “I got the chance to speak at a number of CJBS events and appeared in various publicity materials,” she says. “I also organised an event for International Women in Engineering Day 2020, where a number of female engineers spoke about their experiences to our cohort.

“It was an amazing opportunity, and the EMBA programme itself was invaluable; we touched on so many different subjects, developing an awareness that has empowered me as a leader. The networking opportunities were also excellent; from founding a business together to job opportunities to someone to just go for a coffee with when you’re on a business trip, the EMBA alumni network has it.”

Leadership skills

Yannick Kala Konga.
Yannick Kala Konga (EMBA 2020)

Yannick Kala Konga was meanwhile working as an Engineering Senior Manager at PepsiCo in South Africa when he was awarded the Director’s Scholarship in 2020. He says he was drawn to the EMBA to broaden his general management skills, but that supporting the programme financially was likewise a challenge.

“I’m from the Congo and live in South Africa, and I think an education in the UK can often be very expensive for those growing up in an emerging market,” he says. “So the financial support for me was extremely valuable. It opened up opportunities that otherwise would not have been attainable.”

He says the programme was transformative in developing his skillset. “Over the course of the 20 months, it really changed my perspective and transformed my way of thinking about business,” he says.

“I learnt invaluable hard skills like corporate finance and accounting, as well as softer skills around leadership. The programme really forces you to look deeply and to reflect on the management practices you bring to your corporation, and then to practice them in real world situations via the team consulting project.”

Those skills have since proven invaluable, according to Yannick. “Today I work as an Engineering Director for PepsiCo in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, managing roughly $500 million a year in capital expenditure,” he says. “So I’m very grateful for the finance and accounting skills I picked up on the programme, and the scholarship that got me there in the first place.”

Pharma focus

Athar Tajik.
Athar Tajik (EMBA 2019)

Norwegian-born Athar Tajik, now Associate Director of Medical Affairs at MSD, was awarded the Healthcare Scholarship in 2019. “At the time I joined the EMBA, I was serving as the Medical Director of the Norwegian Healthcare Investigation Board,” he says.

“Given my background in healthcare, technology, and innovation, I was naturally drawn to Cambridge,” he continues. “It was a combination of the global recognition of the university, the medieval beauty of the city and its deep ties to science, technology and the pharma industry.

“I wanted to develop my leadership skills, build an international network and improve my understanding of management practice – and the scholarship helped me do that,” he says.

“So my advice for others considering applying for the healthcare scholarship would be to go for it, but try to identify your specific motivation for furthering healthcare. Whether your background is in medicine, tech, pharma, biotech or finance, think carefully about how you will help to promote fair and equal access to healthcare services across the world. Remember that healthcare isn’t just another industry – it touches on the physical and mental health of all of us. I feel privileged to have been able to represent that as a Healthcare Scholar.”

A mark of honour

Linas Kojala, a current student on the Cambridge EMBA, was meanwhile working in political science when he applied for the Charity Scholarship. “My educational background was in political science, and I was working for a think-tank in Vilnius,” he says. “My previous academic was focused on international affairs, but I wanted to get a better sense of the business world. I understood how much I still needed to learn, so seeing financial reporting, leadership, negotiation and marketing among the subjects of the EMBA programme really caught my attention.”

He says being awarded the scholarship helped motivate him in his studies. “As well as the financial support, I think getting a scholarship shows that the University trusts you as a strong candidate who will be able to succeed in the study process,” he says. “It also entails an additional sense of responsibility; I think I found extra energy to study for some of my first EMBA exams to demonstrate I gained the trust for a reason.”

His advice for candidates considering applying? “Be bold,” he says. “Trust your instincts, but prepare. Watch the pre-recorded test videos before attempting it yourself, and think about how you could provide for the programme – not only about the financial benefits it offers for you.  “Ultimately, have faith that it will pay off. The scholarship I received opened the door for me to study at Cambridge; my studies here will open many more doors in the future.”