Chiara’s MBA learning journey
Cambridge Venture Project client | Cambridge Business Improvement District (BID)
Global Consulting Project client | World Health Organization
Concentration | Social Innovation
Extra-curricular activities | Co-Chair of CABN Business in Africa Conference, Africa SIG Head of Communications, Social Innovation SIG
Why the Cambridge MBA?
Prior to the MBA, I transitioned to the social impact sector from an investment banking background. I wanted to undertake an MBA to develop a deeper understanding of social innovation and entrepreneurship, and to learn how business could be used as a force for good. The Cambridge MBA offered an experience unlike any other business school: the opportunity to study in the heart of the Silicon Fen, pushing personal and professional boundaries within the historical setting of an 810-year-old university. I was particularly focussed on social innovation in Africa, and the Cambridge MBA allowed me to tailor the programme in a way that suited my interests through electives, concentrations, student groups and career networking events.
The Cambridge Venture Project (CVP), Global Consulting Project (GCP) and the opportunity to undertake an internship collectively provided the practical means through which I could apply learnings gained throughout the year. I also chose the Cambridge MBA to cultivate more of an entrepreneurial mindset – the city is one of the largest tech hubs in Europe, home to 900+ high-tech companies – and so being exposed to this hotbed of research and innovation quickly ignited an entrepreneurial spark. Simply put, there are many reasons why I chose the Cambridge MBA, but the programme far exceeded my expectations. The experience was more than just a year of studying abroad – it was transformational.
How was your GCP experience?
My GCP experience was a dream come true. We worked with the Be He@lthy, Be Mobile (BHBM) team at the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop recommendations for sustainable funding models. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time at the WHO headquarters in Geneva and to work with a fellow Cambridge Judge Business School alumnus in the BHBM team.
The GCP expanded on our CVP experience and allowed us to practically apply knowledge gained in class on a broader scale. Personally, it allowed me to get a feel for one of the largest social impact-driven organisations in the world and to make connections with whom I am still in contact. Following the GCP, we were pleased to hear that the BHBM team was moving forward with our recommendations.
What inspired your career direction?
Following the MBA, I took on a more senior role at Praekelt.org, my previous employer. The choice was inspired in part by the Cambridge MBA, which provided me with more clarity around various career choices. Through coffee chats, internships, and consulting projects I was able to explore and trial different opportunities during the programme and determine what direction would suit me best. This new role at Praekelt.org combined strategy with funding and partnerships, and leveraged technology for social impact – exactly the role I was looking for post-MBA.
The Cambridge MBA was particularly instrumental in sharpening my toolkit for the future, in respect of strategy, critical thinking and leadership. Going into a more senior role, I have leveraged new perspectives alongside strategic thinking skills that were shaped throughout the programme. The MBA also helped me to dream big: when you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips and you’re learning from and with collaborative classmates, anything seems possible! The programme encouraged creativity and innovation and provided me with a platform to develop and refine future business plans. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the Cambridge MBA inspired me to step out of my comfort zone. From co-organising the CABN Business in Africa Conference – to singing in front of a crowd at MBAT – I discovered my own unrealised potential. I now approach every career step with a new sense of confidence.
Your plans for the next five years?
Africa is an exciting playground for innovation and contains a vast range of untapped resources and potential. In five years I hope to contribute in a meaningful way to fostering startups on the continent, particularly those focussed on leveraging technology to uplift communities from a health or education perspective. Using lessons learned through the programme and by leaning on connections made in the field and through the MBA, I also aim to launch my own social entrepreneurship venture aimed at aspiring students in Africa.
The Cambridge MBA in three words…
Global, enriching, life-changing.
Any advice to incoming students?
It is true that the most magical experiences are ones where you push yourself outside your comfort zone! Say yes more than you say no.
Make the most of the resources available within the wider University. There are numerous seminars and events spurred by the latest in research and innovation – let your brain feast on the knowledge within arm’s reach!
Throw yourself into the areas that you are most passionate about. The Cambridge MBA is your chance to explore ideas, experiment with leadership techniques, and learn about yourself – make the most of it! One year will fly by before you know it.
University of Cape Town, South Africa
Business Development, Praekelt.org
Business Development Manager, Praekelt.org