Career pivots and personal growth – for our recent Cambridge MBA graduates
As the latest MBA Employment Report from Cambridge Judge Business School is published, showing how students re-entered the workplace after their MBA (and during a global pandemic!), we meet a few and find out how their MBA year has led them into new industry sectors and roles, from finance and consultancy to product management and startups.
The digital marketeer
Clement Quek (MBA 2019) was working in digital marketing in Singapore before taking his MBA. He felt that after several years in Marketing he needed to take a step back and reflect on his career. So why did Clement decide an MBA would help him? What was he hoping to achieve, and how did he make the career transition he wanted?
Clement’s journey to the MBA
My name is Clement and I’m from Singapore. Before the Cambridge MBA, I was a digital marketer and I’ve run campaigns across the world from the US to Germany to markets across Asia Pacific. So after doing marketing for seven years, I felt I needed to step back from my career to reflect and more importantly, I wanted to broaden my commercial experiences beyond marketing. I was looking into areas such as consulting, strategy, account management and sales, and I felt that the MBA, in terms of the skills and knowledge I could potentially pick up what would be useful to this regard.
Many of my peers took the MBA and I think what they learned from it I have seen the transformation in the process as well. And it’s why I think the MBA as a professional degree was attractive to me. The Cambridge MBA attracted me as well in terms of the strong focus on practical learning. I really enjoyed the student consulting opportunities that was given because it let me put into practice the skills as well as the theories I learned in the classroom whether it was about leading teams or negotiation.
Last term, I had the opportunity to consult for a biotech firm in Silicon Fen. That was exciting. And this term I will be consulting for a media and entertainment giant in London. Another reason I chose the Cambridge MBA it’s the connection to Silicon Fen. I am highly interested in the health care as well as a startup scene and the university has very strong connections to both ecosystems.
Another reason I chose the Cambridge MBA is really because of the people and the lifestyle here. You get to meet so many bright and generous people in and outside of Cambridge Judge Business School and I think Cambridge has the right mix of energy and tradition. I’m not sure where my MBA will take me in the next year or five years, but because I think the MBA programme has opened several career paths for me, I really appreciate the fact that Cambridge Judge Business School has a strong and highly engaged careers team as well as a panel of very experienced career coaches to advise me on my direction.
There are three big learnings or skills that I’ve taken away from the programme. The first is the quantitative skills. I come from a journalism background. So quant wasn’t a focus during my undergrad. Here with corporate finance and accounting, I’ve learned the core essentials, enough to function as a business person.
The second sort of skills that I really learned is really about team dynamics and negotiation. These are really useful skills, how you influence people.
And the third is really the exposure to new industries that really excites me. So in the course of the programme, I’ve got exposed to biotech companies, to media entertainment companies and now potentially to a software company as well. So the exposure is really immensely meaningful.
So what does Cambridge mean to me? I think what I love about Cambridge is really the people, my classmates especially, the class size of 200 something is just the right size.
There are so many bright and generous people with interesting life and career experiences to share. I like the fact that we are very supportive of one another. We help each other through to prepare for interviews, for exams and more importantly, we celebrate one another’s successes.
We caught up with Clement to see how his MBA learnings had made an impact on his career transition since graduating.
“During the MBA Summer Term, I interned at Adobe as an MBA associate with the Digital Strategy Group (DSG) in London, which is part of Adobe’s Digital Experience business segment. DSG works with C-level leadership of Adobe’s enterprise customers to advise on strategies for customer experience transformation and digital innovation. The work placement was an opportunity for me to broaden my commercial experience beyond B2B marketing as DSG sits in the intersection between pre-sales and consulting, thus giving me exposure to two new functions. In addition, as a B2B digital marketer before the Cambridge MBA, Adobe’s products such as Marketo, Analytics and Experience Manager are familiar to me, allowing me to ramp up quickly on product knowledge so that I could focus on other developmental areas.
“The broad-based business concepts I picked up in the MBA classes such as Strategy, Corporate Finance, and Financial Reporting & Analysis were helpful whenever I took on a new engagement and had to read the enterprise customers’ annual reports.
“I also had the opportunity to work on internal corporate strategy projects such as market sizing and prioritisation, post-merger integration and go-to-market planning for Adobe’s international markets outside of the Americas. These involved analysing huge amounts of business data and managing senior internal stakeholders. The techniques and frameworks I picked up from MBA courses such as Decision Science and Managing Big Data Analysis, as well as the client management experience from the Cambridge Venture Project and Global Consulting Project gave me the foundation skills to take on these exciting engagements.”
Clement’s internship lasted beyond his MBA year, and he has now pivoted again into B2B Marketing at TikTok, still based in Singapore.
Sophia Faroudastan (MBA 2019) had been working in the advertising industry in the USA for a number of years. She enjoyed the role but wanted to feel like she had more control over the work. She was also looking for a broader understanding of business.
Aiming to work in a product management role or tech innovation role after her MBA, instead during the MBA year itself she developed a number of business ideas and stepped into entrepreneurship.
“I started brainstorming a new venture idea with my classmate, MJ Figg. We walked away from their MBA Entrepreneurship Concentration course with a Pitch Deck and a Business Plan for Silver Street and applied to Accelerate Cambridge run by the Business School.”
Silver Street is reimagining the starter home for Generation Rent. With a novel financial product and full-service digital home-buying platform, Silver Street aims to help millennials get onto the property ladder and grow their wealth.
So why did Sophia decide an MBA would help her? What was she hoping to achieve, and how did she make the career transition she wanted?
Sophia’s journey to the MBA
I have been working in advertising for the past seven years. I got my start doing brand strategy and then transitioned into digital because I wanted to be more aligned with the actual customer experience with the brand. I really liked what I did, but I kept on wanting to feel like I had more control over something, and I wanted to create a brand or a product versus just learning how to best market it and position it. I knew I had a strong understanding of marketing and brand but I wanted to have a broad understanding of business as well, and I thought that an MBA programme would gave me that foundation. And I really wanted to have a year where it was just about me and I was focusing on myself and so I thought if I did a programme it would be sort of like a personal accelerator for Sophia. And I really wanted to kind of carve away that time.
I feel like as I speak to more and more people in my cohort especially the fellow women in my class, I see that they’re also kind of experienced this thing too where they want some time where we can focus on ourselves and doing what’s best for our career and our personal development and growth. My journey I think was maybe a little bit unique because I didn’t want to go into any of the traditional sectors. I knew that I had a passion for entrepreneurship. So, I specifically looked for programmes that were in tech and innovation hubs and had strong relationships with startups in their area. Also, I learn by doing, and so I looked at the curriculums of each programme and I really liked Judge because every term we were doing some sort of project and putting experience in the field. And that’s the only way I learn.
I have a lot of opportunities to work with people from different nationalities or different sectors and they have different ways of working. And so, I’m actually learning a lot from my classmates when we work on these projects. Coming into the programme I thought that after my MBA I would try to get a job in product management at a like maybe a purpose driven company or a really innovative tech company and continue learning and then eventually when I’m ready I will start my own business, but I feel very fortunate to have been here because I’ve made friends and partnerships with people in my class and I’m actually pursuing two different business ideas right now.
I think that’s what’s really great about being here is if you have an idea, you’re not just surrounded by people that are business people, but also scientists and inventors and people that are discovering things. This is the place where things begin, but we’re also a part of a greater Cambridge network. And so if we have an idea that needs groundbreaking science we can do that. Instead of reading about something online, I can go and talk to the person that is having the ideas.
I think for me Cambridge is a place of discovery and creation. There’s always someone thinking of something or doing something that’s just like a radical change. And I feel inspired. I think walking the same streets that these great inventors and creators did you feel like we’re all a part of one big community and it’s really nice. Being here I do feel like I belong and I feel actually that this is such a nurturing environment where I’m able to sort of put my guard down and relax and just be myself. And I think as a result, I’m able to be more creative here than I was working in a creative field. I think that this is actually the perfect environment for what I was looking for to sort of grow as a person and to pivot my career. And I’m really glad that I sort of took this leap. I feel like my grit and tenacity has been building up since being here because there’s constant opportunities.
I feel like, in Cambridge, you can’t help but grow as a person. And in turn you grow whatever ideas or projects you’re working on too.
Sophia is one of 18 students who are pursuing entrepreneurial initiatives from the surveyed class, from industries ranging from real estate to digital business and food-tech startups. For more information, visit the report and follow us on social to hear their stories as their initiatives evolve.
Sheena Saraf (MBA 2019) started her career in the financial sector working for Barclays in Mumbai, India. She then transitioned into real estate private equity still in Mumbai, before moving into corporate finance for real estate developer based in Dubai. It was at that point that she wished to step back and work on developing herself and take the next step towards leadership in her career.
Why did Sheena decide an MBA would help her? What was she hoping to achieve, and how did she make the career transition she wanted?
Sheena’s journey to the MBA
I started my career with the financial services with a really large bank in Mumbai. Then I moved to the real estate investment side of things in Mumbai and then a real estate developer in Dubai. So, I transitioned from finance to real estate finance. At that point of time, I wanted to take one year out and just to work on myself and develop myself in terms of a management perspective, a leadership role, because I have been an associate and an analyst in my company so far. And I wanted to move to that next step in my career. Also, I wanted to expand my network, meet more people and I thought that this was the most natural step to my career.
MBA has been the goal of my life I think since undergrad, and any career decision I’ve made, I’ve kept a masters degree or a business degree in mind, as my long-term goal. And created my path accordingly. I wanted to be in the UK – London specifically – because of the financial industry here. And, since I’ve worked in a developing market and a developed market, I wanted to come here and explore that further.
Cambridge, what really stood out for me, was the university experience. I did not want to go to a standalone B school and just interact with people with similar backgrounds.
The university experience I thought would really broaden my perspective.
Secondly, the entrepreneurial bent of mind in Cambridge really helped me make that decision to be here because I come from an entrepreneurial family. So, I think that could stimulate me further into a career path, probably with the potential of entrepreneurship.
There are a lot of opportunities around when it comes to giving a boost to your entrepreneurial motivations from electives to events that happen, the Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre. And just the cohort in general is so stimulating when you want to just run off a business idea, say with them.
I think MBA itself is a very entrepreneurial journey, because you are working on yourself. You can mould your career the way you can, you want to in this one year. So, I definitely see myself in a leadership role, managing a team and being involved with a lot of client facing function.
I think there’s so many specific targeted networking events and panels aimed at diversity at workplace, women in leadership. And I attended one of the dinners, which was the Women in Finance panel, which was so enlightening because I was sitting next to the Head of Wealth at City. And on my left side was the Strategy Head for one of the largest digital companies.
So just having that conversation with them being in that room was a privilege. And that’s possible because of this platform.
Sheena is now based in London, working as an Investment Banking Associate at the Bank of America.
In the recently published Employment Report, the finance sector recruited 30% of our 2020 job seekers. 28% of those who took jobs in finance are now working in investment banking.
Handy Lukito (MBA 2019) was working as a forensic consultant at Deloitte in Indonesia before his MBA.
To complement his technical knowledge, he was looking for a wider range of business skills. Now Senior Business Manager for telecommunications company, Emtek Group, based in Jakarta, we look back on Handy’s decision to take an MBA. Why did he decide an MBA would help him? What was he hoping to achieve, and how did he make the career transition he wanted?
Handy’s journey to the MBA
Before my MBA, I was working as a forensic consultant at Deloitte, Indonesia for the past six years, in which I have my clients to conduct forensic investigations and doing business analogies. I think in order to be successful, a person should have a combination of technical area and business area. So that’s why I was seeking MBA programmes because I thought that I would learn more about the business area and strategic area, both soft skills and hard skills, in order for me to do the transition for my next level of career.
MBA will help me to explore a new field of career of course. It will help me to open the new opportunities. Maybe, one year after the MBA or five years after the MBA, it will get me to many doors, to many opportunities out there. And I think, MBA is really essential for me to do that. I am looking for positions in technology companies. So I’m planning to go back to Southeast Asia, to look for any positions, which is related to technology and digital. The skills and knowledge that I get from the MBA programme will enhance my backgrounds to become a more valuable person for my next company. I think the entrepreneurship environment here in Cambridge is really strong. So as I mentioned earlier, Cambridge is a part of Silicon Fen, which is a really strong in tech startups.
So being here in Cambridge also you can get opportunities to connect with those startups, those people from startups. I think those are the most advantages that you can get here in Cambridge.
There are two reasons why I chose Cambridge in the first place for the MBA programme. So first is that because the class is relatively smaller, I think it creates a more and, better communications and interactions between the students and the faculty members. And also a second thing is that I think it is about the environment in Cambridge itself, which is embedded with the Silicon Fen. So having this environment, I think it create a possibility to connect with many brightest-minded people and various other people in this particular area. And lastly, I came to Cambridge because of the reputations of the University itself and the the opportunity to get many networks, to many people within Cambridge itself.
Through the Cambridge Venture Projects, we get paired into a real client. So basically we managed to solve very complex business problems in the real world. So we made a really positive impact to real clients. I went to Yale Healthcare Competition, it was about the healthcare related to gene therapy investment strategy. So we created teams of five people. So it was, attended by at least 25 business schools in the world. So our main aim is to get into the semifinals. Even though we didn’t make it to the final and become the winner it was a really amazing journey. And it really inspired me a lot to compete in other competitions as well.
That’s one of the main advantages of being here in Cambridge, because you will get many opportunities to connect, not just with the MBA students, but with the other non-MBA students as well through the college system.
To me, Cambridge means limitless possibility because Cambridge doesn’t only give you knowledge, but will give you thousands of possibilities to meet many kinds of people, to learn from them, to gain more knowledge.
We caught up with Handy to ask how his MBA learnings have enriched his career transition going forward.
“I am currently working for Emtek Group, one of the largest Media Groups in Indonesia, as Senior Business Manager. My main task is assisting the CEO to manage the company’s operations, including all its subsidiaries’ operations, including those related to strategic initiatives, investments, and programme management”.
Handy continues, “The business skills and knowledge that I have acquired from the Cambridge MBA programme are very helpful to me to manage all the tasks given, as my role is quite wide-ranging.”
“I find that the knowledge that I have learned from the MBA classes in Strategy, Corporate Finance and Digital Business have supported my growth the most during these months, and the Cambridge MBA has helped me to come prepared to tackle the business problems in this industry”.
Our top employers this year were McKinsey and BCG. 17% of job seekers moved into consulting roles, over 80% of whom came from a non-consulting background.
Whilst McKinsey and BCG were among our top employers, the consulting sector generally was in “wait and see” mode for most of the year.
“We are already seeing a bounce back in consulting recruitment in 2021”, Cambridge Judge Head of Careers, Margaret O’Neill says.