2016 MBAs To Watch: Holly Engelbrecht, Cambridge (Judge)

Holly ENGELBRECHT-Cambridge-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Holly Engelbrecht

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

Age: 27

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa


BA Film and Media Production, University of Cape Town

Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Meltwater Singapore; position: Managing Director, Client Acquisition

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, Accra, Ghana; position: Business Mentor (designed and delivered lectures to students and acted as advisor & mentor in the start-up incubator program).

Where will you be working after graduation? Watch this space — I am passionate about returning home to South Africa and building a career in Johannesburg to transfer my skills and knowledge and to make a local impact. Africa is a really exciting place to do business in right now, and I want to make sure I am positioned to take advantage of the next wave of growth that will be coming out of this region.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Scholarship recipient: Africa Regional Bursary Award; Recipient of a Merit Bursary; Sponsor Chair of the Cambridge Africa Business Network; Social Chair of the Cambridge Business School Club; Co-Lead of the Social Impact Special Interest Group (co-founder of the Social Impact Consulting Group, which is a pro-bono MBA consulting service to social enterprises.)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am really honoured to have been selected as part of the team to represent Judge Business School and Cambridge at the Sofaer International Case Competition in May this year. This is an annual strategic case competition run by the Eli Hurvitz Institute for Strategic Management at Tel Aviv University’s School of Management, where only eight top teams from around the world are selected to partake. I can’t wait to represent my business school, my country, and other keen business women out there!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am really proud of setting the fastest track record in the history of my company for a South African employee — I went from new sales consultant to international managing director in 15 months. Through this experience, it was really fulfilling to put South Africa on the global map for Meltwater and also to be a role model for female graduates who were looking for inspiring careers in sales. My company used my track record as the benchmark for hiring new female graduates for their sales and management program, which has seen the development of some great female talent over the last few years.

Who is your favourite professor? My favourite professor is Dr. Philip Stiles. He is the most passionate professor I have had the privilege of working with. He is not only generous with his time with regards to work projects, but also great to catch up with over a cup of tea!

Favourite MBA Courses? Digital Business Elective, Strategy, Negotiation

Why did you choose this business school? Cambridge Judge Business School is head and shoulders above any other business school when it comes to individual focus and a personalised approach. Given the smaller size of the program, each student is selected with a great deal of care and the cohort is strategically coordinated to deliver on Cambridge’s principles of diversity, collaboration and excellence. And how can I forget the setting? Steeped in the history of a world-famous university, the Cambridge experience is like none other — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

What did you enjoy most about business school? The people! No doubt getting to know 160 people from over 40 nationalities at the top of their respective careers has been the highlight. I am now lucky to have a much richer social group that moving forward will be spread out across the world creating a myriad opportunities for travel and business collaboration!

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business schools? Your class is your biggest (and best) resource! Linking this to the bigger picture outside of business school life — people are everything: they are what will inspire you to get out of bed in the morning and what will ultimately lead you to success. This is why you should prioritise the calibre and culture of your cohort in selecting your business school.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? It is how such a diverse community of people can come together so easily and form strong and lasting relationships within such a short period of time. Within just a few weeks, I knew I had formed friendships for life, and a strong network of business contacts and mentors.

What was the hardest part of business school? Learning to say no — you can’t do everything! In Cambridge there is seldom a day where you do not receive an invitation to some amazing science event, speaker debate, or college formal dinner. You have to be selective given the incredible choice available, but no doubt you will always find something memorable and unusual to do!

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? To get the most out of the experience, and to be successful in your application, you need to understand exactly why you want to attend Cambridge — and ensure that these reasons are resonate with what you are looking to get out of the experience. Speak to the current and past students, the faculty and walk around the actual school or town to get a sense of the place. Then go with what feels right and natural!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realised I still had a lot to learn before I could launch my own tech start-up!”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… right now, probably, sitting at a desk in an office! But at the moment, I’m fortunate enough to be in Costa Rica on my Global Consulting Project working with smallholder cacao farmers.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I really admire Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s Public Protector. For her fearless pursuit of human rights and equality, and her incredible courage to stand up to corruption. She is fantastic role model to all South Africans and demonstrates the significant impact that a woman can make in today’s modern political landscape.

What are your long-term professional goals? In the short term, I want to gain experience in the tech industry, with either an early stage start-up or a large tech company looking to expand into South Africa. I am hoping to gain experience that can position me well to launch my own company in the next seven years. 

Who would you most want to thank for your success? As cheesy as it sounds, I have to give all the credit to my family. First and foremost, I want to credit my parents, who have been amazing, but who have also always pushed me and ensured that I got the most out of different experiences growing up. My grandmother has always been an inspiration to me as a successful (and award-winning) entrepreneur, mother and wife.

Fun fact about yourself: I am a certified rescue diver. I am absolutely crazy about nature, so any activity that allows me to get up close and personal with wildlife is high up on my list!

Favorite book: Ooh, tough one! It’s a toss-up between The Power of One and of course the most famous 14-book series of all time, The Wheel of Time.

Favorite movie: Gone with the Wind — it’s such a classic!

Favorite musical performer: I don’t have a specific one — but I’m a big fan of a watching live bands — being located so close to London I am definitely spoilt for choice.

Favorite television show: As a guilty pleasure, it is “The Walking Dead.” On a normal day, as an avid foodie, I am obsessed with “Master Chef.”

Favorite vacation spot: That’s easy — safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park!

Hobbies? Apart from diving, I love anything outdoors — surfing, yoga, hiking. I love cooking, especially handmade pasta (I’ve helped with menu design for three family-owned restaurants), and travel photography.

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

“Holly is a well-liked and engaging member of the 2015/16 cohort. She has great enthusiasm and determination to make a difference. Whenever we need someone friendly to speak to prospective applicants, she is someone we can rely upon, having been active in many of our marketing activities such as webinars, as well as actively blogging.”

“She has demonstrated her entrepreneurial flair as a co-founder of the Social Impact Consulting Group, and shows how the Cambridge MBA experience is about more than just collaborating with MBA classmates; it is also an opportunity to make an impact within the wider community.”

Carla Keen

MBA Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge



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