Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) supports an active and engaged female community of future business leaders. Here we meet and talk to two leading women, both from the finance sector and both recipients of the Cambridge MBA Forté Foundation scholarship.
The journey to an MBA education
Julia Goldfeld (MBA 2019) came from a successful career in Sales and Trading at HSBC in New York.
“I loved sales and trading, but I felt that my skill set was somewhat limited outside the world of foreign exchange sales. I wanted to gain a broader knowledge and network, and for a few years now, I have wanted to be an entrepreneur. I felt like this was the perfect time to shift gears, change my career and to come to business school.”
Sarah Lester (MBA 2019) was an Equity Research Analyst at Morgan Stanley in Melbourne for a number of years and had also enjoyed a six-year period as a professional triathlete for Australia.
“I had travelled the world, and then I started to miss finance and investment banking, so I saw an MBA as the perfect launchpad to take me back into the investment banking world.”
For Sarah it was very straightforward, “I knew I had got into Cambridge, which I was so excited about, having been here for the interview weekend. I just completely fell in love with the place. I was very fortunate that I knew about the Forté scholarship well in advance, so I was able to plan ten months beforehand and know exactly where I stood.”
Both women narrowed their global choices down to Cambridge based on a few key factors.
Julia wanted a short one-year programme only, and preferably outside of the USA, where she was based, and had originated; “For me it was the entrepreneurship aspect of Cambridge that appealed to me the most.”
“From everything I had read and when I came to campus, it was clear that entrepreneurship was in the very fabric and foundation of the School. There is so much innovation happening around Cambridge, and so many resources across the Business School and the wider Cambridge eco-system, such as Silicon Fen. When I visited, I instantly knew that Cambridge was the right school for me.”
Sarah: “I particularly wanted a practical and experiential programme that was only one-year in duration. I had already had time out as a professional triathlete, so I really wanted to engage in real world projects with impact – so I could get my hands ‘dirty’ again. The practical nature of the Cambridge MBA would help me prepare for my return into employment.”
The Cambridge MBA experience
“I have had this amazingly rare situation where I had very high expectations coming to here, because I absolutely fell in love with everything about Cambridge at the interview weekend. So far, my expectations have even been exceeded – every single day I am genuinely excited to go to class,” Sarah shares with us.
Julia expands; “Even though the days are packed I feel that I am accomplishing so much. My work schedule was certainly busy, but at Cambridge I feel that I am achieving even more. Everyone is just such a pleasure to work with. I enjoy the classes and for me, the activities beyond the classroom are also very meaningful.”
Sarah continues: “It sounds intense, but it has genuinely been a huge pleasure to work with such amazing people. I am learning new things, as well as seeing things from a totally different perspective. The wide diversity of my classmates, their varied professional experiences and backgrounds, as well as their diverse cultures and nationalities; they are all bringing something new to class discussions.”
Sarah goes on to explain, “All my classmates were so lovely from the start and having come from the world of sport I knew first-hand how incredibly valuable that is. To be in a classroom where you feel safe to put your hand up, to take risks, to potentially have the wrong answer but to learn from that is priceless.”
Both women have embraced the wider Cambridge community through the University of Cambridge, as well as their own Cambridge Colleges. Julia has recently been elected as the Woman’s Officer for the Graduate Union.
Julia: “I am involved in the Retail E-Commerce Luxury Marketing Special Interest Group (SIG) as well as the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital SIGs. Sarah and I also lead the joint mentorship scheme between CJBS and the Cambridge University Women in Business Society.”
Sarah has returned to sport at Cambridge. “There is a huge benefit coming to Cambridge – you are not just in the Business School; you have access to the broader University community and all the resources that brings.”
Julia: “I have met so many incredible women, and men, from so many countries and walks of life, and have been able to learn a great deal from them in a short period of time. I look forward to the next six months and continuing to learn and grow both in and outside the classroom.”
Sarah continues: “For me with my background which is very male dominated, the balance in the cohort feels refreshing. When you are sitting in the classroom it feels very equal and everyone is supportive of each other.”
A future career after the MBA
Sarah: “I’m very keen to get back into investment banking but having said that we have just had the Entrepreneurship core course and I loved it. It really broadened my horizons, and I learnt how to look at companies from a completely different perspective. I know I will find this new knowledge incredibly useful in my career going forward.”
For Julia she is keen to explore other sectors; “I want to do something completely different when I finish my Cambridge MBA. My ultimate goal is to become an entrepreneur, and to start my own women’s workwear brand.”
She continues; “There are so many resources available to students regardless of whether or not they want to be entrepreneurs. For me the topic of VC funding is of particular interest, as female co-founder teams are significantly less likely to get funding than male only teams.”
Their advice to those still considering applying to business school, for those whose career is in transition and are looking for ways to improve their career prospects and place themselves firmly at the negotiation table.
Sarah: “I would say 100 per cent do it, it will be the best year of your life. There will always be hesitations about the time and cost commitments, but all my expectations have been completely surpassed.”
Julia: “It has been a surprise to me how much I am developing as a person; I’m learning so much about people and about myself and what’s important to me. I am really growing as a person in ways I didn’t expect.”
This interview is a result of a webinar held in Michaelmas Term 2019 on the experiences of women at CJBS and specifically on the Cambridge MBA programme, where the Cambridge MBA Admissions team and our current Forté scholars Julia Goldfeld and Sarah Lester discussed their professional backgrounds and what the Cambridge MBA can offer for female candidates.