“This EMBA just keeps getting better and better”

Tom Martin and his Executive MBA ‘fellas’ travelled to Kazakhstan to begin their Team Consulting Project, an important part of the EMBA.

A few months ago, I blogged when flying home after an EMBA-inspired trip and just two months later I’ve ended up doing just that once again!  We’re currently 30,000 feet above Germany having just spent five days in Kazakhstan. Five days with five friends. Five days of the best learning I’ve ever experienced. Five days I’ll never forget and want to share…

Team: a definition

On this EMBA programme, we undertake a ‘Team Consulting Project’. A group of us decided to work together, bonded by mutual respect, drive, and friendship. With no clear view of what we were to actually do, a coffee-break conversation with a fellow student led to an opportunity. The opportunity, being based in a country none of us knew much about, was great. We didn’t ponder ‘why’ too long…. we just stepped forward saying, ‘why not?!’ I am a proud Retail Banker, who loves my job. Yet, the experience of working with others, that we’ve mutually chosen, bonded by ‘kinship’ is something very special. A former England Rugby player is on the team, and said that not since his playing days has he felt such a bond. The word ‘team’ has now taken a new meaning to me.


What a country! It’s a land-locked country with an area the size of Western Europe. A country that is modernising after c. 30 years of independence. Numerous former state controlled companies are transforming, ready to be floated. The capital Astana has some fabulous, unique and world-renowned architecture. In a country with a proud nomadic heritage, we even rode horses! However, above all, I’ll remember the hospitality of the people – I’ve never experienced anything like it. Never an empty plate, never a moment without flowing conversation and laughter, and always an invitation to return! Genuine hospitality personified.

Cambridge alumni

I’ve heard a little about the power of this network, but to see it in unexpectedly in action was an inspiration. At Samruk-Kazyna, we met a 2013 alumna called Baljeet Kaur Grewal. Now working as the strategy-lead in one of the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Funds, she was in a unique position to share the privatisation plans of a number of their businesses. She talked about culture, social and economic policy, and a real desire to transform the country. Yet, as many of us would probably do, we also laughed about lecture room anecdotes, assignment deadlines, and some real characters. Another bond – unexpected, but very real.


We did, of course, work too. We were privileged to understand and discuss a business with an incredibly committed and energetic Executive management team. We got to see a variety of facilities – from a unique ‘postal supermarket’ to freight trains which have just travelled the breadth of the country. The business has real competitive advantages and strategic optionality… which isn’t a bad combination. Together, with the management team we’ve defined a number of opportunities and questions to answer.  Our perspective: a cocktail of experiences and approach is valued. Win:win.

And finally… 

Thanks to my friends John Barry, Musaddiq Khan, Jamie Moore, Ollie Phillips and Umirzak Shukeyev – you’ve taught me more in four days than I ever thought possible and I’ll never forget it – you fellas rock!

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