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Meet Cambridge’s MBA Class Of 2018

Some of the MBA students in the Class of 2019 at Cambridge

“Intense” might not be the first word most people would associate with Cambridge Judge Business School. From the outside, Cambridge University appears so tranquil. It is a maze of wide courtyards and pristine gardens, shadowed by jagged Gothic chapels from fairy tales. Chartered during the 13th century reign of King Henry III, it is the home of Nobel Laureates and cultural royalty that stretches from John Milton to Stephen Hawking. A majestic mix of the medieval and modern, Cambridge is a place where history is continually refreshed by new creations born out of innovations of old.

Alas, divine inspiration doesn’t just happen. It takes discipline and experimentation, being open to new ideas and experiences, and collaborating with the best minds in your field. That’s why Judge is such an “intense” experience. It is a business school that demands students to step outside their comfort zones – and work together to reach the very highest standards.

“What students don’t really expect is just how intense the program is because we are a one-year MBA program,” says Conrad Chua, executive director of Cambridge Judge’s MBA program, in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “We cover all the core subjects a two-year MBA covers with the same kind of rigor and we also squeeze in quite a bit in terms of the consulting projects. We are quite different from other schools in the sense that we have two mandatory group consulting projects with corporate clients so the expectations are very high. All in all, people don’t realize until they get here in the first two or three months just how intense it is.”

A TALENT FOR STRADDLING WORLDS

Intense, yes – but those are also the types of candidates who are attracted to a Judge MBA experience. They are students with the rare talent for straddling worlds. As professionals, they possessed the creativity and courage to launch new solutions in new markets. At the same time, they’ve mastered the ability to build relationships and champion causes – to get people on the same page regardless of their diverging backgrounds. In other words, they are first adopters who translate their words into action – and bring out the best in those around them in the process.

Cambridge Judge Business School in the autumn, surrounded by yellow-leaved trees

The Class of 2018 is no different. Take Vaidehi Bhatia, for example. A Delhi native who majored in chemistry as an undergrad, Bhatia helped lay the groundwork for Unilever’s entrance into Myanmar and Cambodia. Her job? Develop the consumer research infrastructure in two markets where little research had previously been conducted. Starting from scratch, Bhatia organized a “well-oiled” operation, ranging from developing a system to track brand perception to “conducting field research on Buddhist values and communication tenets” to executing advertising campaigns. The result? “[I] grew turnover for three flagship brands by 30%.”

Oh, and she was able to do all this in less than a year!

At Judge, Bhatia plans to prepare herself to go from collecting insights in Asia to managing a global tech brand top-to-bottom. “Given these goals, the Cambridge MBA seemed to be a perfect fit. It provides ample opportunities through coursework and school’s extensive network to engage with tech firms and top tech talent,” she says.

CLASS RANGES FROM RECORD MOGULS TO ADVERTISING STARS

In fact, you’ll find this go-getter spirit in spades with Judge’s Class of 2018.  Looking for the class bootstrapper? That’s be Jeremy Peters, who co-founded a successful record label on just $3,000. That venture, Quite Scientific Records, is now home to 17 artists and 60 releases. Philipp David Drissen earned the distinction of being the youngest managing director in the Fackelmann Group, a household goods supplier with 3,500 employees. Clare Bridget Dussman made an equally impressive climb. In just four years, she rose from being a junior account manager to the senior manager in the New York office of The Marketing Arm, an Omnicom-owned advertising agency. Her biggest accomplishment? Leading a team that landed a $2 million social media account against all possible odds. “We were an under-resourced, uninvited underdog, and we won,” she says with Don Draper’s trademark succinctness.

Despite the swagger, Dussman thinks of herself as a “nerd” – one who loves success. Indeed, she is part of a highly successful class – one that defines success on its own terms. It is a class that might surprise people once they get to know them too. Despite working in 14 emerging markets, Bhatia considers herself a “yogi at heart.” Her passion? Museums! “I recently authored my first book on the Untold Stories of Florentine Art,” she writes. Peters once sang on a double platinum album. Khushboo Gandhi, who comes to Cambridge from Edelman, is a certified deep sea diver.

And what about Carolyn Goddard? Well, she’s just happy to be alive after her brush with a famous person. “Harold Shipman was my doctor,” she admits. “He was arrested for the many, many murders a couple of years after we moved away from the area.”

APPS, GMATs AND CLASS SIZE ALL UP

Statistically, the Class of 2018 represents the biggest and best entry into Judge yet. During the 2016-2017 cycle, the school received 1,100 applications, a 12% boost over the previous year. At the same time, the class size rose from 160 students to 208 students. In the process, Judge maintained its 33% acceptance rate. Even more impressive, the average GMAT score rose six points to 696…despite adding 48 more students. In a nutshell, Judge is attracting more candidates with higher credentials than ever before. Academically, the school matches up well against its peers as well. Its 696 GMAT is 11 points better than Oxford…and higher than IESE, HEC Paris, and IE Business School too.

However, it is the global scope of the 2018 Class where Judge truly shines. This year, 94% of the class hails from outside the United Kingdom – a percentage that even exceeds Oxford (92%) and INSEAD (89%). Even more, the class is carefully calibrated so that no nationality dominates. This dynamic breaks up nationality-driven cliques that may develop, pushing everyone to interact. For the Class of 2018, that was one of the biggest benefits of this MBA program. “The diversity at the school is also unparalleled and provides an excellent opportunity to understand cultures and people and thus unique working styles,” Bhatia notes.

Cambridge students punting along the River Cam.

The 2018 class isn’t just diverse based on nationality. It is also comprised of 39% women. This is six points higher than the previous class. Even more, it ties Judge with the percentage of female students at LBS – and is just two points lower than Oxford here as well.

NEARLY ENTIRE CLASS CHANGING FUNCTION, INDUSTRY OR COUNTRY

This diversity is furthered by the academic backgrounds of the class. Business and engineering majors account for the largest share of the class at 27.4% each. The rest is a mix of every imaginable area of expertise, including arts, architecture, science, education, environmental studies, medicine, psychology, social studies, languages, law and information technology.

These differing backgrounds may be a recipe for conflict in some schools. According to Anvi Shah, a 2017 graduate and member of P&Q’s Best & Brightest MBAs, these differences help bring Judge students together. He credits the school’s “strong culture of collaboration” – one symbolized by the “colorful hallways and the magical architecture of the school” – for this. “I experienced it first-hand as I prepared for my Amazon interview,” she explains. “There were seven of us competing for the same position in Amazon, working together relentlessly for hours to conduct mock interviews, and give constructive feedback to help each other improve.”

This supportiveness can also be traced to the transitions that these MBA candidates are attempting to make. According to the school, 98% Class of the 2017 had switched either the country, function, or industry they had previously worked in after graduation. In fact, over a third switched all three. The school has also grown increasingly popular with employers. Last year, 92% of the class had received job offers within three months of graduation, with Amazon, McKinsey, Google, Uber, and BCG ranking among the top employers. Forbes also reported that Judge MBA alumni enjoyed a five year pay gain of $140,000 within five years of graduation. This ranks 4th among international MBA programs. Such results may be one reason why alumni ranked Judge #1 for “Value for Money” in the most recent Financial Times survey.

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Cambridge Judge MBA students.