One year ago, I joined a cohort of 208 professionals who decided to leave the “earning” reality of working life for a prestigious program that promised to unlock their leadership potential and fast-track their careers — the Cambridge MBA. Not long ago, we officially finished that program, and the year in between could not be described as anything short of extraordinary.
An MBA from Cambridge is a serious thing — an intense one-year program in one of the world’s oldest universities, in a city often considered the Silicon Valley of Europe. Rarely will you find a place where consultants, musicians, bankers, actors, and entrepreneurs from all over the world work together by day on hands-on projects that sharpen their business acumen and dine together by night in 800-year-old Gothic buildings.
Everyone came to Cambridge with a main goal, often different from the ones they ended up achieving, and just as often adding further to their list. Some worked in different industries and wanted to move to advising businesses as consultants; others already worked in consulting and financial services and wanted to try a role in a corporate, NGO, or start-up setting. A few wanted to maximize the learning experience itself as they seek faster growth with their current employer or when launching/growing their current companies. But beneath all diverse backgrounds, spoken languages, character spectrums, and cultural bridges (not barriers, mind you), we were all eager to do something different, do something differently, or do something that makes a difference.
INSPIRED BY CLASSMATES
Maybe not everyone was obsessed with saving children or ending world hunger, but their added value to how business will be carried out in the future — and their future contribution to its innovation, growth, and improvement — is bound to have a far-reaching impact on people who need it most, whether that takes place in a tech start-up, a business consulting career, or an operations role.
Living daily with my classmates, I sensed a conviction by the majority that doing business in its profitable and pragmatic sense is the best way to reach desired change and bring a profound impact — an impact far beyond what charity and corporate social responsibility (as much as they remain needed) can ever deliver. And for people who believe there is more to life than having a lucrative career, playing by the current rules, and following others’ footsteps, the Cambridge MBA was a golden opportunity to ponder the future roles they can play to make the world a better place, paving the way for future generations of “Neo-MBAs” who think far beyond six-figure salaries and early retirement.
That’s what encouraged me to pursue the Social Innovation concentration within the MBA; I wanted to leverage my experience in financial services and corporate development to play an active role in the impact investing space, and bring this notion to further maturity in the Middle East region. This step wouldn’t have felt right had I not been inspired by my classmates in the process.
BUSINESS: THE FASTEST TRACK TO THE CHANGE YOU SEEK
Take Chiara, who, after working in banking in South Africa for years, is now eager to work in a platform that uses the scaling power of technology to accelerate social impact in developing countries. Or Saemi, who had multiple offers from tech companies in Asia chasing her, but who has delayed her joining date to follow a passion for international development through educational projects in under-developed communities. Tadashi, whose environmentally innovative start-up won more competitions than he kept track of, keeps promoting initiatives that help aspiring entrepreneurs take their ideas to fruition. And Brenna can’t wait to return to her previous firm to launch an initiative that expands consulting services to budget-cautious clients in healthcare and education and helps them magnify their social impact.
In addition to being strategically located in an ideal start-up ecosystem, Cambridge Judge Business School is increasing its presence in the social impact space through its Master in Social Innovation, its Cambridge Social Ventures program, and other initiatives by its Centre for Social Innovation. Cambridge Judge also has recently been enrolled in MIINT, the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training, a global flagship competition and training program on impact investing.
An MBA is no longer necessarily a tool to kick-start a wealth-building career or be featured on magazine covers, and the Cambridge MBA is proof. Business is the fastest track to see the change you currently envision and make life a more pleasant experience for all. Do you want to know how? Our batch of 208 Neo-MBAs would love to talk to you about it.
Ashraf Shouaib recently completed his MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School.