2019 MBAs To Watch: Slaven Stekovic, Cambridge Judge

Slaven Stekovic

Cambridge Judge Business School

Scientist/entrepreneur addicted to cerebral adventures and jumping in-and-out of the box.”

Hometown: Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Fun fact about yourself: It might sound geeky, but I can get lost working with chalk and blackboard in an empty lecture theatre. I guess that’s the professional deformation I got working in academia for the most of my twenties.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Graz, Austria – PhD in Molecular Biomedicine and Biochemistry

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Team Lead and Senior Innovation Consultant at Science Park Graz (the biggest high-tech startup incubator in Austria)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Before moving to Cambridge, I worked full-time at Science Park Graz before joining the MBA programme.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still considering a couple of options in entre/intrapreneurial space, possibly even joining a VC fund. Being an entrepreneur with already one rather successful company (and one exciting failure), and a scientist who is driven by his diligence, I am always looking for new challenges in dynamic environments.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Co-Chair of Entrepreneurship Special Interest Group at Judge Business School

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being active in the entrepreneurial space in Cambridge outside our business school enabled me to open the doors to this exciting world to quite a few of my peers. We are currently working on some exciting collaborations that will be announced very soon. On the other side, I decided to pick up my guitar and play again on stage – something I haven’t done in years. I stopped playing music other than for myself and some of my closest friends when the workload in the lab and later in the company started to clash with it. Doing an MBA opened enough time in my schedule to do something I really enjoyed before. Interestingly, one of my MBA colleagues contributed a lot to this and now we are friends thanks to our shared love of music.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Bringing scientific results created in our laboratory to a final product was a long and hard journey that thought me a lot. I am very thankful to my team and mentors for their endurance and patience on this path. In the Health/MedTech field, following your passion from the research idea to the market requires you to deal with many things – from learning new lab techniques to regulatory and industrial processes to understanding customer’s behaviour and needs. This whole journey happened thanks to the team effort and it was amazing to see that our work and focus was also recognised by investors that enabled us to close the Series A round last year.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? If I had to pick one, I would probably choose Thomas Roulet. His spirit, wittiness, and desire to become better at helping us become better leaders is what I really like about him. However, there are couple of other very good professors at CJBS who challenged our way of thinking by building on the academic spirit of the University of Cambridge – an almost sacred institution for my scientific peers across the world – and bringing it to the 21st century with their respect for humanity, reason and ethics.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I found Strategy classes to very entertaining and intellectually stimulating. I even had to fist-bump the professor once for the very interesting class he gave. Other than that, I enjoyed Cambridge Venture Project, as I had the chance to work with an amazing team (this includes our client) and learn more about group dynamics and about my behaviour within the group.

Why did you choose this business school? The main reason why I chose CJBS is its proximity to the academic and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cambridge. It is one of the best spots in the world to observe scientific breakthroughs as they transform into value-adding technologies. Another reason was the variety of classes related to healthcare, entrepreneurship and strategy at CJBS. If I had to choose again, I would make the same decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Consider why you want to join the Cambridge MBA programme before you apply. Having a defined goal helps you prepare for the process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Some people believe that most of the learning happens in class here. In my experience, this a secondary source compared to self-initiated, diligence-driven learning and interactions with your colleagues and random encounters at university-wide events. Professors here will give you introductions and guidelines to various aspects of business, but it is your responsibility to build on it if you want to become the best at what you are doing.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Cambridge is supposed to be the driest place in the UK. If I had known that, I would have brought all of my suede shoes with me.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The transformative aspect of the business school happened for me through the new environment and separation from my previous career. It gave me an isolated, well-structured place (in space and time) that created safety to question the past, the present and the future. After going through that process, I felt like I re-calibrated my career and my goals.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I would have to go for two of my colleagues – Chris Spinello for his great discipline, ability to rationalise and analyse almost everything, and his great compassion and emotional intelligence; and Jamil Muna for his intelligence, great talent and strategy abilities.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My former boss (although we acted more as partners) – Martin Moessler. Martin studied at LSE and had an academic stay at Oxford. These experiences were instrumental for his intellectual development. After I talked about the idea of joining the Cambridge MBA programme with him, Martin gave me his full support and I am very grateful for that.

What is your favorite movie about business? Asking me a question that contains words “favorite” and “movie” will always give you the same answer – Top Gun. I just love that movie. If your response to that is that Top Gun is not a business movie, I will have to agree with you. It still taught me a great deal about the ups-and-downsides of recklessness and rebellion, importance to manage these behaviours, and the power of human relationships.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? Blueberry pancakes. There are very few people who understand this term and it is being used as a trigger for managing my inner “Maverick”.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…writing my second book.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? It is hard to put a price on it, as the benefit of the MBA education lies in the future and it is hard to anticipate, especially given my rather rare profile. I would definitely with saying that it is at least worth the price I paid for it.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Let’s not talk about the top two. Number 4 is getting a dog. I just love dogs. Number 11 is eventually getting into the music industry (one thing I really envy Richard Branson for). Does that work?

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Blueberry pancakes.

Hobbies? Making and listening to music (especially on my hi-end equipment), Scuba diving, Boxing, Yoga & Meditation, Cooking

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