2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Taylor Barden Golden, Cambridge Judge Business School

Taylor Barden Golden

Cambridge Judge Business School

“I’m a proactive leader and problem solver who is willing to work inside the box but would rather break it entirely.”

Hometown: Highland Park, IL, USA

Fun fact about yourself: I grew up in a musical theatre family and performed professionally and non-professionally until I was 18.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I have both a B.A. in Political Communication & M.A. in Media & Public Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was Senior Operations Manager for the Fundraising and Engagement vertical at Bonterra, a philanthro-tech SaaS company. In 2021, my former company, EveryAction NGP VAN, was purchased by a private equity firm and merged with three other companies that also served non-profit organizations through digital solutions, formally becoming Bonterra in 2022. Prior to that I served as a Director of Scheduling in the US Senate.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I was working full-time at Bonterra in the summer of 2022 before starting my MBA in Cambridge.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m hoping to use my experience watching a private equity merger from the inside to help VC/PE firms build and grow companies with sustainable, scalable operations with a focus on change management and internal communications during funding rounds, M&A, and integrations.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am First Year Representative of Queens’ College Middle Common Room, meaning I represent the first year post graduate students in my college, Queens’ College, Cambridge. The MCR is the governing body of post-graduates at colleges in Cambridge (if you’re unfamiliar with the Oxbridge college system, think houses and Hogwarts).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My team placed 3rd out of 100 teams in the Royal Challenge, an international private equity challenge sponsored and judged by Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners, Partners Group and Verdier & Co. Although I am interested in private equity from an operational perspective, one of the main reasons I’m continuing my education is to become stronger on the quantitative element of business, which I have always found intimidating. I was apprehensive about entering a PE competition based primarily on financial modelling, but proud that I took the leap. We were awarded the opportunity to deliver our presentation to the prestigious panel of judges and honoured with the 3rd place prize.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional moment was when I started my own consulting practice working with Members of the US Congress and their chiefs of staff to build stronger operational practices. Convincing powerful people how integral scheduling processes and executive management are to a Congressional offices’ success was no small feat. Scheduling is a unique skill that is little valued outside of the political world, and often under-valued within it. Knowing that offices were willing to devote resources to improving their scheduling operations validated what I had accomplished during my years as a scheduling director in the US Senate.

Why did you choose this business school? There are many reasons that Cambridge Judge was the right choice for me, but its strongest draw was the ability to work and live within the Cambridge ecosystem, a hub of scientific and entrepreneurial innovation. The University of Cambridge houses some of the smartest, most interesting people in the world. Earlier this term, I was sitting at a formal college dinner next to an undergraduate in his final year studying astrophysics (and yes, I told him to call me if he wants to start a company). I knew I wanted the experience of living outside of the US, but also to live in a place where innovation is fostered and rewarded with strong channels of flowing capital. There are many exciting professional possibilities. The history and beauty of the University were a close second and third.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Thomas Roulet, Associate Professor in Organisational Theory, is the reason I chose Cambridge Judge over my other top choice (which shall remain nameless). He was my interviewer. We discussed how important the human element of management is to the core of Cambridge MBA curriculum. He showed me that Cambridge Judge was the best place to gain the financial knowledge I was lacking in addition to expanding my existing knowledge of business and management. Thomas was so upbeat, engaging, and excited about his work at Cambridge, that I left the interview with CJBS as my number one choice. It was certainly the right one.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? So far, my favorite class has been Managing Innovation Strategically with Professor Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat. The class is designed not only to teach you how to elicit innovation in others, but also in yourself. I have never thought of myself as a particularly creative person; I have always thought my skills best lie in analysing something that already exists and improving it. This class has retrained my brain to think of creativity and innovation as learnable skills through entertaining and though-provoking activities.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? At the start of every term, there is a college dinner, where students are divided into large groups to have a formal dinner together in one of the old colleges. It’s a wonderful way to start each term by enjoying delicious food with friends, and meeting new ones, in a grand and historic setting.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have started studying for finals earlier! Procrastination is a menace.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about business schools in general is that they are full of students competing against each other. This couldn’t be further from the truth at Cambridge. I have never met kinder, more supportive people than my classmates. We all vehemently want each other to succeed and make efforts to ensure it.

What surprised you the most about business school? I’m constantly astonished by the kindness and support of my classmates. During Lent Term, my husband experienced a death in the family and my classmates (and their partners in some cases) immediately snapped into action and started taking care of us. They cooked food, brought us groceries, provided class notes, finished group projects without me and without complaint, and even took care of our cat when we had to head back to the US. I knew that I would make friends in business school, but I had no idea we would become a family.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I tried to be as honest and open about myself as possible, even if that meant highlighting a negative quality. Self-knowledge, to me, correlates to future success more than a standardized test score. A huge part of business school, at least at Cambridge Judge, is growth through self-reflection. If you’re unable to see what you need to improve or unwilling to do so, you will miss out on a key value proposition of an MBA program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m constantly impressed by the young women in the Cambridge MBA program. Specifically, I had a young colleague from Singapore in my study group last term named Aurora Kwek who was able to distil large amounts of disparate information – usually the many ideas the other members were animatedly shouting at each other – into fully formed idea maps that incorporated all our thoughts into actual answers. I loved to watch the way her brain organizes information. It’s a skill I’m practicing that, to her, comes so naturally.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d like to write a book relating my operational experience to everyday life, both to help people bring order to chaos and to promote the value and skills of administrative professionals. I’d also love to be in the position to invest in female-founded start-ups as an angel investor.

What made Taylor such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Taylor is an exceptional student who comes with a unique experience in the sphere of politics, and non-profit management. She made me discover the complexities and challenges of scheduling! I was immediately impressed by her dynamism and natural curiosity, and I knew she would bring contagious enthusiasm to the class.”

Thomas Roulet
Associate Professor in Organisation Theory
Deputy Director of the Cambridge MBA Programme


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