Meet The Cambridge MBA Class of 2016

Sally Stephenson

Sally Stephenson 

Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge 

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Undergraduate School and Major: Davidson College / BA, Spanish

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public (Arlington, VA) / Americas Liaison, Global Venture and Fellowship and Director, Executive Office and Executive Assistant to the CEO

The Carter Center (Atlanta, GA) / Research Associate, Americas Program

Acción Emprendedora (Santiago, Chile) / Intern

Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (Atlanta, GA) / Program Coordinator

Danville Regional Foundation (Danville, VA) / Research Associate

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? Take the test! After you have started to study, sign up for an actual test, even before you feel ready. It’s hard to simulate the test center conditions of a TSA-like screening, fluorescent lights, and archaic computers by only taking practice tests on your own. You can always withhold your scores, the cost of the test is still much less than a prep class, and you may even surprise yourself with the results (or scare yourself into more focused study)!

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? Talk to people. Set up Skype calls and coffee dates with current students and alumni, both people you know and those you find through friends of friends or admissions offices and student blogs. People share more than school stats.

Narrow the list before applying. You will be asking a lot of not only yourself but of your references for each application. Don’t waste time on applications to schools that you will not ultimately be interested in.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf?

  • Essays: Not for your eyes alone. Edit and share, then edit some more. Ask friends, mentors, and family for their honest feedback. Can your audience interpret what you are trying to say? Could you be more clear, concise, or give better examples? Are you speaking plain English or still using all that fancy work jargon?
  • Interviews: Test it out. There are those questions at every phase of life that play on repeat. So when people inevitably ask, “Why are you applying to business school?” You can practice your narrative without pressure — at bars with strangers and on the phone with friends.
  • Recommendations: Create a seamless user experience.  Identify and ask your recommenders as soon as possible if they would be willing to support you. Consider setting an early (false) deadline to make sure the school gets the recommendation on time. If you are applying to multiple schools, don’t ask the same person to do more than two recommendations. Prepare them with your CV, essay answers, and (if possible) a conversation about why you are seeking an MBA and why the particular school interests you. Offer to draft the letter for them. Follow up immediately with a thank you note and a maybe even a treat, and keep them posted on the admissions process.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA?

Deciding to pursue an MBA was not an obvious step for me, and there were several things about US programs, in particular, that gave me pause. I found Cambridge Judge Business School to be different than US programs, by the numbers and through gut-feelings, in the ways that were right for me.

  • Seasoned classmates (average age of 29 with 6 years work experience versus 27-28 years-old with 4-5 years work experience at top US schools).
  • Small and international cohort (160 students from over 40 countries versus about 35% international students at top US schools).
  • Integration with the broader university and city versus a partitioned business school.
  • Focus on experiential learning versus case studies.
  • Old school yet entrepreneurial. The university was founded in 1209, but outlets for modern entrepreneurship abound — among classmates and around town – the so-called ‘Silicon Fen.’

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate?

My main objective is to be pushed to think in new ways, to find new doors I did not know existed, and to feel more equipped to walk through those doors.  I’m open to how this might occur, but some goals along the way include:

  • Working on a startup with classmates and/or advancing my own startup idea.
  • Working with a company or in a field or geography where I would never picture myself.
  • Gaining financial and managerial confidence and skills.

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