MBA student smiling.

Choosing to do your MBA beyond North America

26 February 2024

The article at a glance

Explore the journeys of 3 graduates who ventured outside the USA and Canada to study for their MBA in the UK, embracing new experiences and expanding their global network.

Finding your passion beyond Washington 

Taylor Golden, MBA 2022, originally from Chicago, was working as a Senior Operations Manager in Washington, DC, before choosing to do an MBA.

While she had started in politics, running campaigns, she moved into the field of scheduling director, which she says is a job that doesn’t really exist outside of DC.

“When I left politics, it was hard to translate my skills and experience into the business world,” she says. Pivoting into tech and tech operations, Taylor looked at the Business School to step into the for-profit sector.

“What attracted me to an MBA, what really drove me to make this jump across the pond, was a need for the credentials, I needed the credibility.”  

She continues, “I had been running other people’s schedules for many years and I really wanted to be able to make my own decisions and to have my own impact on an organisation or company. I really wanted the experience to go back and learn and remember what it was like to have the joy of learning again.”

In the beginning, the breadth and diversity of the one-year MBA curriculum is a little overwhelming. But the idea of how you customise your journey is a very important thing.

“Tailoring the choices across the programme is really one of the keys to understanding what brings you joy. I used to be a consultant on Capitol Hill. And I would work with young people who are starting out in the US House of Representatives. And usually when I worked with schedulers, they’re excited about the job, but they’re looking towards what’s next and wondering how you pivot to something new. And the advice I would always give people is assess your day or week and think of the things that you were doing that actually brought you joy.”

“During my MBA year I really honed in on what I love, which is process and flow and operations. After my MBA, I now have a greater sense of what value that brings in the business world and the value these skills have to a future employer.  I am now working for Gobeyond, as a Senior Consultant, Taylor divides her time between Cambridge and London.”

“It turns out that what I am doing now – a new type of consulting – which is operational consulting, mostly in terms of customer journey, is exactly the right fit of what brings me joy, and where I feel I can provide the most value to a company in the future.” 

During my MBA year I really honed in on what I love, which is process and flow and operations. After my MBA, I now have a greater sense of what value that brings in the business world and the value these skills have to a future employer.

Taylor Golden, MBA 2022

The Energy transition space beyond Canada

Bryden Smallwood, MBA 2022, graduated from the University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering, following up his studies working for an infrastructure investment fund based out of Canada,  

“I was on the research team doing commercial due diligence forecasts in the energy and transport space.” 

At a turning point in his career, he began looking at different opportunities and where he wanted to go next.  

“I felt like an MBA was a good opportunity to build those business fundamentals that I didn’t get through engineering, and that I felt like I wasn’t fully learning on the job. To give myself the best platform to then figure out what I wanted to do next, and what would be the capabilities required to do that.” 

“Initially I was looking at programmes from a purely financial point of view, and what would have the most long-term value for me. I was looking at a short and inexpensive programme, based out of Toronto, where I was already living.”

“After several conversations with co-workers, friends and family, I revisited this idea.”

One colleague said, “You’ve done really well on your GMAT, why don’t you look at a top tier university for the global network and the opportunity it would offer you, beyond Canada.”

“I looked at the USA, but it was too expensive, and I didn’t want to relocate there. I focused instead on the UK, as the language was similar, and I could see myself living there afterwards. I then started thinking about what I wanted to do afterwards – I knew I wanted to be in the clean energy sustainability space, just because the kind of stage of the energy transition is a lot further along in Europe than it is in North America, at the moment.”

Bryden’s goal during his MBA year was to remain immersed in the energy sector.

“I wanted my MBA to give me a comprehensive understanding of the industry, market players, and the career opportunities available. Given my passion for sustainability and addressing climate change, I wanted to understand how I could best contribute to the transition toward a cleaner future.”

Early in the MBA year, Bryden discovered the Cambridge University Energy Network (CUEN) through its previous president, a fellow Canadian and Cambridge MBA alumnus, Evan Talbot. The CUEN annual conference aligned perfectly with his objectives for the MBA.

Co-leading the CUEN Annual Conference became a highlight of the year,

“I’ve always been passionate about the energy transition sector and learning from our amazing speakers during this prestigious annual conference was the perfect way to round off my MBA experience.”

I felt like an MBA was a good opportunity to build those business fundamentals that I didn't get through engineering, and that I felt like I wasn't fully learning on the job. To give myself the best platform to then figure out what I wanted to do next, and what would be the capabilities required to do that.

Bryden Smallwood, MBA 2022

The healthcare sector beyond North America

American born Sarah Hardwick, MBA 2022, had already been living and studying in the UK for several years before seeking out an MBA programme to expand her career pathway. After her studies in New Hampshire, US, Sarah studied at King’s College, London, and then Imperial College, London.

“Doing an MBA, it’s a North American thing, it’s part of our lifecycle and our career that at some point we undertake this kind of journey of re-investigating our skills, and asking ourselves how we can use them and how we can be more effective in the workplace.”

She continues, “It can apply to a lot of different careers. I think within medicine and surgery, it is particularly useful in understanding how leadership decisions get made in your organisation, and how they could be made better.”

Sarah was working for the National Health Service (NHS), at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, as a Core Surgical Trainee, before doing her MBA.  

“I think it is really important, especially when you are at the higher levels of leadership within medicine and surgery.

“I also think that in terms of impacting your profession, from a research standpoint, having the language and the knowledge around how companies can get started and how spinouts in the startup sector emerge, gives you a lot more power to bring research ideas to life. Understanding the language around that and understanding the fundamental finance around that, has been one of the most important aspects of doing an MBA.”

Sarah focused her MBA choice on Cambridge, due to its strong links with ‘Silicon Fen’ and with its technology and healthcare strengths and expertise.

“During the MBA Global Consulting Project, for example, I did a healthcare mergers and acquisitions project with Jeffries, an American investment bank in London, the focus was on digital therapeutics and digital health. It was interesting, because it showed me that when you go where you are scarce, you can bring this tremendous resource which people really value.”

The global diversity and the friends I have made at Cambridge Judge are from all over the world. I have also made so many American friends here but equally, you know, friends from Nigeria, from Thailand, from Ghana. I have had a real diversity of inputs in terms of my own thinking. And that is because the MBA cohort at Cambridge Judge is truly so global.

Once you drop into the University, you have so much access to people, you can talk to them any time, it is open and welcoming. Physicists, biologists, leaders in VC or finance, just people that you didn’t think you would encounter in real life are all kind of wandering around in the Cambridge snow globe in an incredibly open way and ready to talk to you.”

The global diversity and the friends I have made at Cambridge Judge are from all over the world. I have also made so many American friends here but equally, you know, friends from Nigeria, from Thailand, from Ghana. I have had a real diversity of inputs in terms of my own thinking. And that is because the MBA cohort at Cambridge Judge is truly so global.

Sarah Hardwick, MBA 2022

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