2016 Best MBAs: Sean Heisler, Cambridge Judge

Sean Heisler Cambridge

Sean Heisler


Cambridge Judge Business School

“I would describe very few people in our program as normal, or typical and that is an environment I feel very at home in. I don’t believe there are many tall-ship sailing, gay, Canadian, circus performing, engineers around – and yet it seems that everyone I’ve met has a background just as fascinating (if not more so!) than me. The diversity and variety of perspectives my colleagues brought is irreplaceable, and I know that the friends I’m making will be with me for a very long time.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Education: University of British Columbia; Bachelor of Applied Science – Integrated Engineering, Minor in Commerce

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? GableCraft Homes; Two roles Project Manager (May 2012 – March 2015), then Special Projects (March 2015 – August 2015). Based in Vancouver and Calgary, Canada.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? No Internship in 2015 (one-year MBA program)

Where will you be working after graduation? Role not yet confirmed. Currently in discussions regarding an Operations Management role in a Cambridge-based biotechnology company, as well as options in a similar role with a startups based in Cambridge and San Francisco

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Executive Director – TEDxOxbridge (annual conference organised jointly with Oxford and Cambridge business schools, targeting audience of 450)
  • Regional Finalist (Dubai) – Hult Business Prize Competition (Social Innovation business plan competition)
  • Tutor/Mentor for ETECH Undergraduate Course (Course for final year undergraduates focusing on how to turn a technology into a company)
  • Co-Chair of Entrepreneurship Special Interest Group (MBA Special Interest Group bringing together entrepreneurial-minded students for workshops and round tables)
  • Internet of Things and Smart City Venture Creation Weekend; 2nd Place
  • Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, £100 for 100 Words Competition Winner

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? To date, being selected as a mentor for the undergraduates is a highlight of the program; there is something extremely fulfilling about being able to work with, motivate and mentor undergraduates with the skills I am developing in the MBA program. Directing the TEDxOxbridge conference is also a massive honour and responsibility (as well as a lot of fun!), but given the event hasn’t happened yet, it feels a bit early to claim it as the one I’m most proud of.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Organising the inaugural International Engineering Competition in Canada stands out as a highlight for me; partially because it had never been done before, and involved working with a spectacular team from across Canada to bring Engineering teams from across Canada, the US and Europe to compete.

Who is your favorite professor? Potentially because she is a like-minded, operations-brained person, Jane Davies (also the Director of our Program) has been one of my favorite professors so far. I’ve taken two classes with her now, and I have rarely met a professor so student-focused and willing to adapt anything she does to better help the class.                                                                 

Favorite MBA Courses? To continue the trend, Operations Management (largely because Jane Davies was teaching it) was definitely a highlight; it was interesting, engaging, and helped me solidify that a role in operations was a pathway I wanted to take. Our core Negotiation Skills course was also a standout — every class was a little theory, a lot of application and practice, and reflection to help you grow. It struck a perfect balance.

Why did you choose this business school? Moving to Cambridge was my first step to a more global perspective. I’d never lived outside of Canada and, when I travelled there for my interview, was a place I quickly fell in love with. The amount of history you become quickly immersed in thanks to the 800 year old university it is a part of, affords experiences I wouldn’t have expected. Formal halls, old stone architecture, college legends, and sporting traditions contrast beautifully with the modern MBA program which is still young enough to evolve with our cohort.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I would describe very few people in our program as normal, or typical and that is an environment I feel very at home in. I don’t believe there are many tall-ship sailing, gay, Canadian, circus performing, engineers around – and yet it seems that everyone I’ve met has a background just as fascinating (if not more so!) than me. The diversity and variety of perspectives my colleagues brought is irreplaceable, and I know that the friends I’m making will be with me for a very long time.

What was the hardest part of business school? Without a doubt, because the Cambridge MBA program is a one-year course, I struggle most accepting that I don’t have time to do everything. I’ve made a go at fitting in as much as physically possible, from conference planning and international competitions and to college rowing and MBA study getaways, but it still feels like I’m giving up a chance at two more experiences for every one that I take advantage of. As logical as it is, I’ve struggled admitting to myself that there isn’t enough time to do everything — regardless of how much I want to.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Don’t be afraid to stand out as different – it is what Cambridge is built on. There isn’t a template you can follow if you want to come here. Figure out what makes you strange, and help the Admissions staff understand why those oddities are so integral to your future success.

 “I knew I wanted to go to business school when…Canada started to feel small, and I needed a gateway, a launch pad into the broader world around me.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…standing in the communities, townhomes and apartments, that I’d managed the development of — from acquiring a patch of dirt through handing the keys to the families moving in. I’d be marveling that my time had helped something so tangible be created.”

What are your long-term professional goals? Business strategy is crucial to the success of an organisation, but even the best strategy requires the right execution. I will become an expert in that interface, bridging its objectives and tactics with its operations — enabling the rapid, and sustained growth that many companies aspire to. Be it as the COO, CEO, or as a member of the Board, enabling the organisations I become part of to perform at their best will become my habit and my reputation.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? There is a conversation that my karate Sensei decided to have with a very bright yet arrogant teenaged me that stands out in my mind — it was something he had no obligation to do, yet likely started a long chain of events that helped me get where I am, and as such Rob Richardson, thank you for taking me to bubble tea, helping me understand why I struggled so much to get along with my father, and that raw intellect wouldn’t carry me forever.

Fun fact about yourself: One of my favorite stress reliefs is training, coaching or performing aerial silks; there is something so freeing for me about flying through the air in the midst of crazy flips and rolls.

Favorite book: Fond memories of being read Winnie the Pooh, and the amount I look forward to reading it to my nephews, means despite being childish — it’s still my favorite.

Favorite movie: Clue (the 1985, now cult classic). Erratic, snarky, and abrupt – it never seems to get old for me.

Favorite musical performer: Andy McKee, a freestyle guitarist who should be much more famous.

Favorite television show:Planet Earth somehow summarized years of watching the Discovery channel into one series that is still the video of choice if I’m sick at home.

Favorite vacation spot: Hale Pau Hana is my family’s recurring getaway to Maui.

Hobbies? I’ve done karate for 14 years, fell in love with six different styles of swing dancing, taken up circus aerials and have spent 100 days sailing on wooden tall-ships on the Pacific. When I got to Cambridge I found rowing, rock climbing and I have had an on-again off-again relationship, and I’m sure by the time anyone reads this I’ll have a new passion to add to the growing collection. I’m always up for trying something new.

What made Sean such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Sean is an active and upbeat member of the School, bringing a great energy and dynamism to his classes. He actively embraces the Cambridge collaborative ethos — whether through his willingness to mentor undergraduates or building constructively on his classmates’ comments in class discussion, he always has valuable advice.

Sean has demonstrated incredible drive and leadership skills during the MBA, and he has really given back to the School through the organisation of the Oxbridge Tedx Conference and his help in promoting the Cambridge MBA, submitting video blogs of his MBA experience — all of which greatly add to the positive view of the School. Sean is also the joint representative of the Entrepreneurial Student Interest Group, a popular and vital part of business school in bringing Faculty and students together.” — Carla Keen, MBA Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Cambridge Judge Business School


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