2023 MBA To Watch: Daisy Moraa Ong’angi, Cambridge Judge Business School

Daisy Moraa Ong’angi 

Cambridge Judge Business School

“A polymath born to break the generational limits/ barriers of my lineage.”

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Fun fact about yourself: I consistently wrote poetry for a decade from the age of 14. I was so in love with poetry that I even started a poetry club in my undergrad, as an engineering student. Now I write sparingly, but the process refined my appreciation and understanding of the English language.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, BSc. Civil Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I founded and ran an EdTech business, gained 2500+ customers and grew the business to a social media following of 100k across the combined social platforms.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? While this is yet to be determined, I am keen on exploring venture capital and private equity.

Where will you be working after graduation? No matter where I work in the short term, my long-term goal is to be a savvy businesswoman and to continue building the EdTech business that I already have.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: The chairperson of the Africa Business Network, which brings together people of African origin and those who have an interest of doing business in Africa within the Cambridge Judge Business School.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The thing about business school and being in an MBA is that it offers so many different possibilities that you can choose from. Therefore, learning to stay true to my values and long-term vision even when interacting with so many brilliant people in the diverse cohort for me is what I am most proud of thus far.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As it is hard for me to choose, I will share two achievements as they are both equally important to me.

The first achievement is that I built an EdTech business focusing on etiquette and personal right in the middle of the pandemic (May 2020). It’s a venture from which I learned so much about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship through the process, while also impacting thousands of lives along the way. In just under 3 years, the brand has over 100k combined social media followers and 2500+ customers from 80+ countries.

The second is that, in 2019, I formulated the framework for a $300,000 rural development project focusing on SDGs 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) that won 50% of its funding from the Italian Corporation. This framework came to life after engaging industry experts and potential investors and also undertaking a solar energy and micro-grid training to better understand the food-water-energy nexus matrix. The project is currently underway in Baringo, Kenya, and I cannot wait to see how it transforms lives.

Why did you choose this business school? The experiential, collaborative, and practical nature of the one-year Cambridge MBA programme is what attracted me. I knew that I wanted to spend just enough time in a business school to expand my knowledge about the world of business while also expanding my European and global network. My goals and values aligned well with the Cambridge Judge Business School MBA and so it was a no-brainer choice. I’d also like to say that feeling that warm, and collaborative aspect even when communicating with the MBA Admissions team sealed the deal for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? All the professors are good in their own respect. However, the one who stands out for me is Mark de Rond, who teaches the Negotiations Lab in the MBA programme. He has done extensive and interesting work in the field of ethnography. I believe part of that experience is what has made the negotiation practices and exercises we have undertaken in the Negotiations Lab so powerful and transformative. From the resources and practice cases that he has provided, I discovered my negotiation blind spots. I also gained negotiation skills to claim and create value, to solve disputes, form coalitions and secure consensus in professional and personal settings. Now, I can be involved in negotiations with confidence. The frameworks he has shared with us are invaluable, and I use them for the rest of my life.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? The Negotiations Lab in that it is experiential. After each session, we have a debrief and receive feedback on how well we performed and what we can improve on, which normally does not happen in real-life negotiations. That immediate peer-to-peer feedback compounds week-after-week, and it is fascinating to see the individual and collective improvements in each subsequent negotiation lab. The other two courses that I also derived immense value and shifted my thinking are the Corporate Finance and the MBA Strategy courses.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favourite tradition as a Cambridge student is the College Formals. Being that the University of Cambridge is a collegiate system, the formals in any of the 31 colleges provide the perfect networking avenue; you can be sat next to a fellow, a PhD student, a master’s student, or an undergraduate. Still, the intellectual richness of the conversations will still be engaging. Cambridge is a hub of knowledge, and the college formals provide a structured way to network, which in and of itself is important for any MBA candidate.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? At the beginning of the Cambridge MBA programme, there were so many things going on, and it was easy to want to be everywhere all at once. If I could go back to the very beginning, I would keep the main thing, the MBA, the main thing. Being a one-year MBA, time flies by so fast, and I find that being focused on what matters and what is crucial is the prudent thing.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I have spoken to some young professionals from Europe and Africa, who are keen on further studies and asked them to consider Cambridge, and almost always they say they think they cannot get in. But then when I look at their profiles and see the amazing things they have done, I tell them they have a chance. However, most people tend not to believe it. It’s like they self-cancel even before they start the process. And to anyone who has this type of mindset, I would say that they need to believe more in their value, and their brilliance. This is because in my experience, the University of Cambridge is a place that loves and thrives on diverse brilliance, as this diversity provides an avenue for collaboration and innovation.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was the support I have received as someone who recently received an ADHD diagnosis. I find that the mechanisms that the University of Cambridge and the Business School have put in place to be resourceful. Since this is not something I had anticipated before joining the programme, I have found this to be positively integral to my learning process.

Before I joined the programme, a lot of people spoke about how integral the networking part of the programme is, and I had my idea of what to expect. But the reality is so much more phenomenal. I have access to over 47 nationalities within the class, alumni, and the networks provided by the CJBS Careers Team. In addition, the colleges and formal and informal events are beyond what I had in mind. It is, in many ways, a very valuable asset that I have gained just by joining the MBA programme at Cambridge Judge Business School. This access is an intangible asset and I know it will be valuable for the rest of my professional and personal life.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe that the authenticity and intentionality that I had when writing my essays gave me an edge. I spent well over four months thinking through what I really wanted from the business school and how that would act as a bridge between my professional past and future. I wrote and rewrote the essays until I felt there was nothing more to add or remove. When I made my submission, I remember thinking, ‘If they do not accept me for who I am, and what my story is, I am okay with that.’ So, you can imagine how happy I was to receive that acceptance letter.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ina Zhao, from Shenzhen, China, who has an architectural background, but pivoted into business. So far, she has run 20+ retail businesses for her family-owned business, and she also co-founded a jewelry museum in China. She and I had previously interacted in class and in the Retail, Ecommerce, Luxury and Marketing Special Interest Group. Recently, we scheduled a one-to-one afternoon tea, and we had an enriching and soulful conversation.

We connected on so many levels as we found out that we have similar family and entrepreneurship values. I was impressed by her productivity, even as a wife and young mum of two. Her vision for her life and what is possible inspires me so much.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? To have a TEDx talk, and successfully run businesses back home in Kenya, that will provide employment to the youth in my country.

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

“It’s a real joy to have Daisy as part of our MBA cohort this year – a Cambridge cohort that is diverse by design. One that has flair. We wish for our students to learn from others – about how life’s circumstances can be lived in a variety of ways, and be experienced as purposeful, meaningful.

Daisy is an exceptional example of exactly how full of life, and how stimulating (and inspiring) a single human life can be. She is a published poet (!) She is commercially astute. She started her own business and made a success of it. She raised substantial funding for a local rural development project. She is very bright. She is thoughtful. She has a kindness born not of political correctness but of a genuine, insatiable curiosity about those around her: about what life does to them and they to it, and what we owe another going forward.”

Mark de Rond
Professor of Organisational Ethnography
Cambridge Judge Business School


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