Community spirit and family visits

During her most recent study weekend at Cambridge Judge Business School, Brooke Bornick (EMBA 2016) continues to be inspired by her classmates’ community spirit, and enjoyed sharing the Cambridge experience with her family.

Sitting for the Quantitative exams

Executive MBA exams at Cambridge are intimidating but this cohort stands together. The January cycle kicked off with three hours of exams on Management Science and Financial Reporting and Analysis; the February cycle began with a three-hour exam on Corporate Finance. The exams are a mix of quantitative and analytical questions, which are graded by three different professors to ensure integrity of the assessments.

At the end of each exam, we all walked back to Cambridge Judge Business School together from the exam sites. We agonised over our responses to the questions, griped about the questions themselves and expressed relief that the exams were over. We have experts in management science, accounting and finance in the cohort[1] who undoubtedly felt more reassured about their performance than the rest of us on the exams. This must be the case at all business schools. What’s remarkable here is that I didn’t hear anyone bragging about the exams being easy; our experts even claimed to be challenged. Somehow arrogance feels out of place for the cohort.

Expert-led preparation for exams

At CJBS, the experts readily extend a hand to the rest of the cohort so we can all make strides in each subject area.  Yet preparing 81 people to perform well on Cambridge exams is a substantial undertaking that requires the efforts of more than a handful of experts.  An impressive number of people came together to provide support before the exams:

  • Alex Harrison and Sarah-Jane Thurman created practice problems and led a review session open to entire cohort to prepare for the accounting exam. Rosario Casillo and James Collyer did the same for Management Science. Rashid Zubari, Seb Long and Farhan Haque likewise designed and led review sessions for Corporate Finance.
  • Class representative Diana Henderson organised the review sessions and recruited our experts.
  • Ollie Phillips and Tyler Harris hosted the review sessions at their offices in London.
  • Nasser Ahmed made the review sessions available live and on demand through Google Hangouts to ensure that everyone could view them.
  • Anil Kumar and Hitesh Sanganee provided additional study materials to the cohort.
  • Steve Lile hosted a review session at CJBS the evening before the Corporate Finance exam for anyone with last-minute jitters.
  • In response to concerns about the accounting exam, class representative Mus Khan arranged for Othman Cole, our accounting professor, to lead a post-exam review of that exam.
  • Others organised post-exam festivities to relieve stress and enjoy our time together.

New subjects and new frameworks for analysing problems

After a term focusing on quantitative analysis, we are learning new ways of analysing organisations’ people and processes, as well as how to be more effective within our organisations.

In January, CJBS organised public speaking workshops for us in small groups to drill down on techniques appropriate to our individual skill levels to allow us to present in a more polished, engaging and effective manner. Although I have never before embraced public speaking opportunities, the workshop and the general support of my cohort gave me the confidence to accept an invitation to be a guest speaker on complex chapter 11 cases in the Advanced Financial Restructuring course offered to MBA and EMBA students at Rice University in Houston. My comfort zone has expanded unexpectedly in the last six months.

In Organisational Behaviour we examined persuasion, influence, motivation, organisational change and strategies for overcoming resistance to change. In Operations Management we discussed process analysis and improvement. The subjects are different but unmistakably complementary.

A new group of experts is emerging now that we have transitioned to new subjects. Learning about organisational processes and change from professionals and business owners in hospitals, FMCG, non-profits, agriculture and other industries provides interesting insight into other industries and makes for an engaging class dynamic. Yet the practical value is that these real-life experiences illustrate how the general theories apply in situ and where they prove inadequate.

Finding community in the cohort

The feeling of collaboration is palpable:  we are in this together. Working together on group projects, encouraging each other during class presentations, and preparing for the intense exams created the friction needed to know each other better. Coming together in Cambridge – away from life’s other responsibilities – means that each cycle becomes a retreat:  we work hard, we play hard, we have difficult conversations and we find inspiration in these relationships we are building.

Quality business schools deliver similar curricula and great business schools create the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships and support networks. So much more than making a few friends and some casual professional contacts, CJBS assembled 81 people who formed an entire community across borders and industries.

This cohort has become such a special part of my life that I brought my family to the UK for the January cycle to share it with them. My study group enjoyed a lovely French dinner together with our spouses in London. Xuhua Ji brought his family to Cambridge and our children played together along the River Cam. Cambridge’s historic colleges awed my husband more than our young daughters, but the girls can now visualise my Cambridge life and have met my “school friends.” My community comes together next in Silicon Valley for our International Business Study Trip and I can’t wait to meet them there.

[1] The nature of the programme is such that most people will have depth in one or more subject areas but everyone should obtain breadth across the subject areas by the end of the programme.

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