2020 MBAs To Watch: Simon Schwartz, Cambridge Judge

Simon Schwartz 

Cambridge Judge Business School

Determined to make the world a fairer place for those whose voice may not be heard.”

Hometown: Chicago, IL, USA

Fun fact about yourself: Dressing up for Halloween was a big thing at my office. One year I dressed as “Spicy Salmon Simon Sushi Roll.” This costume sums up my personality quite well, fun, fresh, and with a kick!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA

Bachelor of Science in Business: Marketing (Honours) and Accountancy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? GPShopper, a Synchrony company – Senior Account Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I worked in my full-time role pre-MBA

Where will you be working after graduation? I am considering opportunities in the tech space.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • LGBTQ+ Scholarship Recipient, Co-Chair Pride@Cambridge Judge Business School.
  • Cambridge Judge Admissions Ambassador; Cambridge Women in Business Mentor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my work with Pride@CJBS. I started working with last year’s class before coming to campus to identify gaps, opportunities, and ways to incorporate the broader Cambridge community. As part of those efforts, I introduced Cambridge Judge to the Reaching Out MBA organisation and they’ve since joined as a member school. Having Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) as part of Reaching Out MBA will help the business school recruit a diverse pool of LGBTQ+ candidates and showcase an amazing programme to candidates in the United States who may not have been familiar with it before.

Re-launching Pride@Cambridge Judge for the 2019-2020 year, I worked with the school and my classmates to plan events celebrating National Coming Out Day and to launch the Authenticity@Work speaker series. The series features LGBTQ+ businessmen and women sharing their stories and career advice. Showcasing diversity across all segments is something I’m passionate about and will continue to pursue.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working in a small tech start-up is exciting and also very chaotic. Anything that can go wrong usually will—and with little notice! After a particularly trying client implementation finally launched, there were numerous technical issues that were taking weeks to resolve. This was particularly troubling given how essential this client relationship was to our company and the potential financial ramifications of not fixing issues in accordance with our agreement. I knew something had to change for us to save this client relationship.

I evaluated several options. Working with my manager’s feedback and support, I determined the best option would be to dedicate a team of developers solely to fix the client issues. This was not our company’s typical operating model and would require buy-in from the technical teams and senior leadership. The technical teams had spent nights and weekends working on the client implementation and were tired and demoralised from the work. To gain their support, we discussed their needs and how they could be best supported and came up with a resolution plan. With buy-in from the rest of the teams, I was able to make my case to the CEO, underscoring the need to invest in this client relationship in order to save it. In the end, we were able to decrease our resolution times to acceptable levels and regain some trust with the client. This enabled us to begin repairing the fraught relationship.

I am particularly proud of this accomplishment. Not only did it require me to take on work beyond the scope of my role, but I had to negotiate internal and external politics to do the right thing for my client.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are many great professors at Cambridge Judge, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Professor Lionel Paolella. Lionel’s strategy class is engaging, interactive, and full of interesting cases which he brings to life with personality and humour.

Why did you choose this business school? The short answer is this: the moment I stepped onto campus, it just felt like I belonged here. Besides feeling like the right place, the diversity and intimacy of the cohort, and the focus on experiential learning were huge draws for me. Cambridge is known as Silicon Fen and the opportunity to work with disruptive companies, through the Cambridge Venture Project really excited me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Many people will advise you to “be yourself.” While I’ll back that advice 100%, I’d also like to add two words to it. Be honest with yourself.

Finding the right programme transcends rankings and is a very personal experience. Make sure that you can see yourself spending days, nights, and weekends with the types of people the programme attracts. There will be great days and terrible days, but if you pick the programme that fits who you really are the best, it makes the bad days so much better.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Many people assume that the Cambridge MBA is the same as the MBA at the “other place” (the joking terminology Cambridge and Oxford use to refer to each other). The truth is that while both are great programmes nestled in historic institutions, each one has a unique culture and the programme delivery differs between them. It’s important to understand those differences to find the right programme to meet your needs.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? With the variety of career options and experiences available through the Cambridge MBA, it’s easy to get swept up in the different recruiting currents or cycles. Since different sectors recruit at different times, it can be stressful to have half of your classmates interviewing for jobs while you’re not. I came to the programme with a clear idea of my post-MBA role and reminding myself of that would have saved me a lot of anxiety.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My classmate Mel (Melony Mahaarachchi) is amazing! Her background working at SpaceX and NASA is fascinating. Despite her career accomplishments and the foundation of a charity to encourage women in STEM, she is always humble, positive, and helpful. I always appreciate hearing her perspective in class and am inspired by her personal life path, which took her from Sri Lanka to designing space rockets!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents influenced me to pursue business in college. As refugees from the former Soviet Union, they didn’t have the opportunity to attend university. However, they worked extremely hard to give my brother and I every opportunity to pursue our passions. I recognised that studying business would give me the toolkit I needed to turn my interest in technology and marketing, into an enriching career path.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would like to be the keynote speaker of a tech conference and would love to continue mentoring students or early career professionals beyond the Cambridge MBA programme.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who is open-minded, empathetic, and humorous (hopefully!)

Hobbies?Meeting people and seeing new places is important to me so I would say travel and socialising take up significant amounts of my time. I am also a giant nerd, so I love aviation, technology/gadgets and current affairs.

What made Simon such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Simon’s initiatives to support diversity and inclusiveness should be an example to everyone studying in a business school. What he accomplished with Pride@CJBS is highly impressive and shows some of his personality: generous, committed, and creative. It is also a pleasure to have Simon in class as he participates a lot and conveys his ideas with clarity and humour.”

Lionel Paolella
University Lecturer in Strategy and Organisation (CJBS)

“Simon is a strong personality across the Cambridge MBA cohort. He stood out as a passionate leader many months before his arrival at Cambridge Judge. He is passionate about the rights for inclusion and diversity across all workplace communities, and as the recipient for the business school’s LGBTQ+ scholarship for 2019/20, he stepped up and was very energetic in driving this agenda from the outset. Coming Out Day events were led and hosted across the business school at the very start of term, leveraging the energies and support of his cohort from the very beginning. He represents and garners viewpoints from his class and friends, and shares them when appropriate, with confidence.”

Conrad Chua
MBA Executive Director


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