Shane Xiahou (MBA 2020), from China, started his career at Dell Technologies in the USA, as a Corporate Strategy Analyst, before moving into consulting at Inverto, a BCG company, based in Shanghai.
One of the main reasons he wanted to study for an MBA was to look beyond consulting and to look at doing something bigger. “I wasn’t sure what and how so I decided to take one step forward and by studying for an MBA I could discover the what and the how.”
Cambridge was the only business school that Shane applied to, he was fortunate to make a very personal connection to a Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) alumnus during an MBA information session, and together with the faculty connections he made after he reached out during the admissions process. Shane said, “This is a really unique place to me. It was a very easy decision to make because of the people I met and connected to.”
After five years’ experience he felt more confident looking at his career overall to see where he might change direction, “I feel like the skills that I learned, the problem-solving skills, leadership, and interpersonal skills that I learned can help me to create a bigger impact. Because, in a consulting job you create an impact for your client, right? You support a client, but I didn’t own this.”
During the MBA year Shane explored entrepreneurship and developed connections across the wider Cambridge eco-system as well as the CJBS alumni network, “I connected with a cereal and oat milk producer who was also an alumnus, and we developed a strategy to launch the product into the Chinese market.
“I think that is what I discovered in Cambridge, the entrepreneurial spirit. This is the part I was missing before coming to Cambridge. So many of my peers and classmates were very entrepreneurial, and some had started ventures before the MBA, and some were developing a venture alongside the MBA.
“This had a really big impact on me and helped me develop a growth mindset during my time on the MBA.”
Shane is now working for GE Healthcare in Shanghai, as part of a five-year leadership programme for management. Healthcare is an industry that Shane saw a lot of growth in and had a lot of interest in.
“One of the main purposes of my MBA was to transition from consultancy to healthcare.”
I started my career at Dell as a corporate strategy analyst, and then when I moved back to China, I started working in consulting. I felt I always wanted to do something bigger, but my problem was I wasn’t quite sure what and how, so I decided to take one step forward, going for an MBA to find out what and how. I kind of feel the three terms are very, very different. I think in Michaelmas, I was still kind of trying to understand what is MBA about, right? In the CVP, the Cambridge Venture Project, which was a project with four different students with completely different backgrounds and I think that’s one of the projects that I learned a lot because I have… I come from a consulting background where everybody uses a similar approach to solve problems. I try to bring that to the CVP, but it didn’t work quite well because I didn’t, I wasn’t aware that people are solving problems in different ways. I think that’s very eye-opening for me. I think in CVP, what my biggest takeaway was, it’s really important to keep the team on the same horizon, keep everyone on the same page. So in GCP, I focus a lot on internal communications within my team, really trying to design the entire project with my team together to make sure that everybody can develop the area that they wish to develop. But I think in CVP and GCP, I really started to collaborate really just to focus on developing ideas and also content, combining a perspective from a lot different, many different perspectives. So in the UK, I did explore some things that I feel personally very proud of. I found some really interesting brands and one of the brands was a cereal and oat milk producer. The founder was also a Judge alumni and we connected together and he is really interested in entering Chinese market. So I have been helping him entering the market and also that kind of matches with my goal of MBA to really make impact to the businesses and also to the society. I think that entrepreneurial spirit is what I found out as in what I discovered in Cambridge. I think, you know, before I come to Cambridge, I didn’t really think from starting something and also make something happen standpoint. This is like the part that I have been missing, but coming to Cambridge, I see so many of my peers, my classmates, they are very entrepreneurial. So that really have a big influence on me. I also looked at myself, I reflect to explore some of those options that I might have on the table. I think the entrepreneurial spirit also matches with the growth mindset that I learned from Cambridge. They go both hand-in-hand. One of the purposes for my MBA was to transition from consulting to healthcare. Healthcare is an industry that I found out I have personally have a lot of passion and also I see a lot of growth in the future. So after MBA, I will be joining GE Healthcare in Shanghai. I think I do want to focus on the idea of diversity. I think this is key at Cambridge. We are in an environment that everybody’s allowed and also definitely encouraged to express his or her opinion regardless of topics and I especially like in many of the lectures, all the professors are very welcoming for questions and also discussions. I feel I personally grow a lot, especially from the perspective that I haven’t seen in past. So I think that’s like a big plus for my Cambridge experience. Cambridge is old, but it is still growing. Not only growing its scale, its student body, but I think most importantly it grows people’s mindset, and we have been talking a lot about how much I learned from this year in terms of professional skills and also my personal experience. Cambridge makes me to be a better person.
The sustainable investor
French born, Yanne Grandemange (MBA 2020) had seven years of experience in the finance industry based in London, working as an asset manager. His previous career had enabled him to touch upon ESG, with ESG investing and so on, he says, “On the personal side, this was something I was quite interested in.”
Looking to fully transition into a role focused on sustainability, Yann looked at MBA programmes that would offer him the opportunity to switch roles and industry sectors.
“I wanted to do an MBA in order to gain a lower, closer to the ground view of the operations of a company and to find a role, perhaps in consulting, that would be focused on improving the ESG and impact of a company.”
Yann was attracted to the practical experience available across the Cambridge MBA programme. His Global Consulting Project was with Nestlé, where the team were tasked with mapping the food loss and waste upstream and downstream of the operations. “To map this project and find solutions to the problem of food waste enabled us to make a lot of contacts both within Nestlé itself, but also with startups and those working on the ground to tackle the issue across the company supply chains and operations,” he explains.
Selecting a range of MBA Electives, such as those related to energy and environment, Yann chose the Entrepreneurship Concentration to allow him to build skills like building a business plan and offering an eye level view of finance that he had not had the opportunity to explore before.
“That was the most interesting for me. The Entrepreneurship Concentration also had plenty of modules that related to sustainability.”
Yann explains that Cambridge is fast becoming a global hotspot for those interested in conservation and the protection of nature. “Across the wider University of Cambridge network there is the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership, for example. I also made contact with the global headquarters for Birdlife International.”
Attracted to the Cambridge MBA because of the wider University eco-system, Yann says you have to, “be a bit curious to find the relevant organisations, as it can be quite a challenge at the beginning to know where to look.”
During the Cambridge Venture weekend on Food Security, run by the Cambridge Judge Entrepreneurship Centre, Yann met with both PhD and undergraduate students looking at plant sciences, for example.
“It is these relationships between the business school and the broader university that were very valuable for me.”
Taking the skills Yann developed during the Global Consulting Project (GCP) with Nestlé, he carried on building his consultancy experience by securing a summer placement with Flora and Fauna, also headquartered in Cambridge.
After graduating, Yann is now based in London, as a Senior Associate, for Finance Earth – enabling investment into conservation, climate, and communities.
He concludes, “I was interested in sustainability, and I wanted to explore entrepreneurship and working for startups, while still making the most of my background in finance.”
I am originally from France, but I lived and worked in the UK for quite a long time, actually. So I was a research analyst and working with a portfolio manager. I wanted to transition to a role fully focused on sustainability. So I figured out that I wanted to do an MBA in order to gain a lower, closer-to-the-ground view of the operations of a company and to find a role perhaps in consulting that would be focused on improving the sustainability credentials of a company. The core courses, some of them, especially the finance one. I already knew about them. It was interesting to talk to the people that had very different backgrounds, but what was the most helpful for me, I think, was the GCP, because it’s very practical and you work actually with the company and you get into their operations. So I was working for a month with Nestle and they were basically asking us to map the food loss and waste upstream and downstream of the operations. In terms of courses there were a lot of electives that were very interesting that I took. So I took the Entrepreneurship concentration and also, it was quite concrete, like building a business plan and touching on things that prompt the eye-level view of finance. I would not really have considered in my analysis. So that was the most interesting for me I think, I think sustainability is getting more prominent roles that MBA students are looking for within all industries. One of the reasons why I decided to go for Cambridge is that I wanted a business school that is within the broader organisation of a university. Like the broader university is producing a lot of big body of knowledge, I would say in topics that are very important for me. If you are curious and trying to expand your views beyond just to MBA course and talk to other people, whether it’s during the Cambridge Venture weekends, where you can start to develop a new company: there was one on food security and I met some people from the undergraduates in plant sciences or PhDs in plant sciences. These relationships between the business school and the broader university I think are very much present and they were very valuable for me. I’m very interested in conservation, protection of nature, investing in nature capital and so on and Cambridge is actually very much a hotspot for this. I knew that I was interested in sustainability and I wanted also to explore entrepreneurship and like working for startups and so on, while still making the most of my background in finance.
The Financial manager
Cynthia Zheng (MBA 2020), from Canada, was working as a digital auditor in the financial services sector for Deloitte in Toronto. “As I got my CPA qualifications, I began to ask where I wanted to take my career going forward.”
Cynthia was interested in the digital transformation sector, and she was intrigued by innovation.
“I wanted to do a really big deep dive there, but it’s such a broad category. Digital transformation is touching pretty much everything these days,” she explains.
So, she looked at an MBA as an opportunity to meet and talk to business leaders from around the world, to see what academics were thinking and what the leading insights were.
“How do we integrate these new emerging technologies and new ways of working into the business world and how do those two worlds collide?
“I specifically chose Cambridge because I knew that there was a lot of focus here on tech and innovation and on how that integrates.”
Cynthia also looked at programmes where diversity and collaboration was at the heart of its values, “because that was my main goal to meet and talk to as many people as possible.”
The MBA Electives Cynthia chose were ones specific to innovation, Managing Innovation Strategically, alongside the core courses of Negotiation and Management Praxis. “Building both the technical side and then diving into that innovation, and also honing those business leadership skills.”
Moving her practical experience through the Cambridge Venture Project (CVP) with a smaller start up through to the GCP and then during her Summer Research project, she was focused on using those marketing and strategy skills to see if she could build a business and try to release that into the market.
Learning from her peers and being alongside a cohort with so many ambitions of their own really helped Cynthia shape her career journey going forward, “I have learned so much and met so many incredible people and it has just accelerated my personal growth on so many different levels.”
Cynthia is currently based in Hong Kong, working as Senior Internal Auditor for luxury goods company, LVMH.
My name is Cynthia Zheng and I’m from Toronto, Canada. and I actually am born in Shanghai, China. What I was doing before was I was doing a lot of digital transformation inside of financial services. And then around the time I got, I guess my CPA, I was kinda thinking like, “Okay, where do I want to take my career?” and I’m realising that I was still most intrigued by innovation and digital transformation. So I really wanted to come do my MBA and really get to kind of talk with the other business leaders around the world and I specifically chose Cambridge because I knew that there was a lot of focus here on tech and on innovation and on how that integrates. I wanted a place where it was really, really collaborative because that was my main goal, is to meet and talk with as many people as possible and kind of really broaden my horizon. So I looked at, you know, the numbers of course, and it was very diverse. In the interview process, everybody was really diverse as well, but I think what really drew me in was, again, that aspect of collaboration. I think a lot of the electives, like the ones that I took, were like managing innovation strategically. So a lot of innovation type of courses. So I really enjoyed the M&A class that I took and also the management praxis, like the negotiation course, I thought that was so interesting. So building like both the technical side and then also diving into that innovation, but then also re-honing those business leader skills too. But also because we did like a lot of case studies and we had a lot of collaborative group projects, again, I definitely learned from how the rest of the cohort, how they work as well and I feel like that made me a lot stronger as kind of a leader going forward. I specifically chose to apply originally to schools that had like a university behind it, rather than just a standalone business school because I wanted to participate in that community. So I think the college experience was really cool, doing the formals and talking to people from different, like non-business related, walks of life. And so that was eye-opening and I felt like that made my whole experience more well-rounded. I think the CVP allowed me to work with a tech company and then with the GCP, I chose a smaller company and they were working a lot with sustainability ideas, which I think is so important now and I think a lot of people are realising that sustainability is a huge part of everything that we do. Let me try to use all the skills that I’ve learned this year in terms of marketing and strategy and try to release that out into the market and see if I can build a business with it. So I felt like it all really connected itself and each project was different enough that I felt like I was learning each time. I really liked that we had, you know, business leaders or, you know, just people from different countries and like different regions. And so I’ve gotten so many new ideas and I’m just really inspired by how ambitious everybody is in their different fields, in their different aspects and I think that’s made me more ambitious as well. So I definitely think that that part of the diversity has been really great. It’s my first time being this far away from home for this long. So it feels like a home away from home where I felt like I learned so much and I met so many incredible people that it kind of accelerated my life or accelerated my personal growth to so many different levels.