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Forté Foundation scholars Julia Goldfeld and Sarah Lester from Cambridge MBA Class of 2019 share their insights for the forthcoming year and their personal career journey so far.

Career background

Sarah Lester (MBA 2019).
Sarah Lester (MBA 2019)

Sarah Lester from Melbourne, Australia has a background as an equities analyst at corporate giant Morgan Stanley. In 2012 she stepped off this racetrack and onto a completely different field as an international athlete. As a professional triathlete Sarah qualified to represent Australia at the Elite World Championships, the “ultimate goal I had strived for since beginning my career”.

Sarah went on to travel the world as a professional triathlete, not only representing her country internationally but mentoring and working to inspire the next generation of female athletes along the way.

In her role at Morgan Stanley her hard work and perseverance also paid off. “I was recruited into investment banking during the 2008/09 cycle, when there was a lot of competition for very few jobs. I then contracted glandular fever at the very same time as the recruitment process was going on. I struggled to speak and was bed ridden but I recall sitting up in bed conducting telephone interviews. Thankfully I was rewarded for my efforts”.

Julia Goldfeld (MBA 2019).
Julia Goldfeld (MBA 2019)

Julia Goldfeld from New York, USA, has had a successful career on the trading floor at HSBC in New York, working as an Associate in a team of 15 covering Corporate Foreign Exchange Sales.

She explains: “Although women in finance, particularly in sales and trading, are vastly outnumbered and outranked, I was able to thrive in a male-dominated environment, consistently outperforming many of my colleagues and onboarding the most new-to-bank clients on my team for two years in a row”.

Coming to Cambridge to study

Sarah’s motivation in coming to Cambridge was the international and global nature of the programme and the corresponding class cohort:

“I was steadfast in my decision to study at Cambridge following the interview weekend. Every corner of Cambridge inspired me, the curriculum excited me, and all my potential future classmates were so incredibly friendly and supportive. I came away feeling like I had found the place that I belonged.”

On being awarded the Forté scholarship Sarah says:

“I felt a very strong sense of responsibility on receiving my Forté Foundation Fellows Scholarship. Not only a responsibility to maximise the amazing opportunity provided to me, but with the additional meaning of the Forté Scholarship, I felt – and still feel – a responsibility to embody all that Forté stands for and to reciprocate their generosity by “paying it forward” by supporting other women at Cambridge, in the MBA and in the broader business world.”

For Julia too, receiving the Forté Scholarship has cemented her determination to contribute to their mission: “I am humbled and grateful to both Cambridge Judge and to the Forté Foundation. Forté is an incredible organisation and I believe deeply in its mission to change the balance of power in the workplace and give women equal access to both infrastructure and opportunities”. Julia continues: “As a self-financing student, who is not planning to return to the workforce straight after my MBA, the Forté scholarship is immensely helpful to me. I hope starting my own company after the MBA will allow me to contribute to the Forté mission, even if in a small way”.

Julia’s career journey with five years on the trading floor led her to choose the Cambridge MBA: “I knew I was ready for a change. For many years I had wanted to start my own company, but other than having the initial business idea, I didn’t know where to begin”.

“I knew an MBA would provide me with the knowledge, resources and professional network that would help make my business vision a reality.”

Julia was attracted to Cambridge for both its 800-year history as an educational institution, and the strong core of entrepreneurship that runs through both the city and the business school. “Cambridge appealed to me because of the strong focus on entrepreneurship that was in the very fabric and foundation of Cambridge Judge Business School”.

However, it was visiting the Business School in person and experiencing the atmosphere across the City of Cambridge that sealed the deal. Julia explains: “Visiting the campus during my interview and meeting future classmates and faculty from all over the world is what ultimately convinced me that Cambridge was the right school for me”.

On the Forté scholarship at Cambridge Judge

On her aspirations as an ambassador for Forté during her MBA, Sarah says “I have always relished any opportunity to mentor the younger generation – whether during my time as Captain of the track team at school, or at Morgan Stanley when I preached the case for women in investment banking to final year female school students. I have enjoyed many opportunities to pursue my passion for mentoring during my sabbatical and while representing Australia on the world stage in sport. It is something I am enthusiastic about continuing during my MBA year, and beyond into my future career”.

On her future career Sarah is “itching to return to the world of finance, specifically the investment banking industry. My time away from the industry whilst pursuing my international athletic endeavours, has confirmed just how much I loved my role as an equities analyst. This time however, I have my eyes firmly fixed on working internationally, beyond Australia”.

She continues “Working in a dynamic and challenging financial hub like London, New York or Hong Kong, would be the perfect transition from the tough but exhilarating life of a professional athlete, to the similarly demanding but equally rewarding world of investment banking”.

Margaret O'Neill
Margaret O’Neill

Cambridge MBA Head of Careers and Admissions, Margaret O’Neill comments;

“The Cambridge MBA is a proud partner with the Forté Foundation, further championing women’s progression within business through providing increased access and opportunity to education. We aim to develop the next generation of women leaders and expand the pool of women with the requisite leadership skills.”

She continues, “We offer these scholarships to outstanding female students joining the Cambridge MBA. Successful candidates demonstrate strong leadership skills through academic achievement, or in a role as team or community members, as well as showing a commitment to helping other women achieve their career potential through personal mentoring or community involvement”.

“We are delighted each year to have a strong pool of female talent applying for the programme, as well as those students highlighted with these prestigious awards. Our MBA cohort each year has an active and engaged female community that are active across the class as well as the wider Business School, and the University of Cambridge”, Margaret concludes.

The year ahead in Cambridge

Looking across her forthcoming Cambridge MBA, Sarah plans to “be a sponge for the next year; to soak up every single experience provided to me, and to learn from both the curriculum but also my incredible class. It is a rare opportunity to study at, and to be a part of, a university such as Cambridge, and to study alongside a class of so many different backgrounds and experiences”. She continues: “my singular aim is to maximise all that this amazing opportunity presents”.

Sarah concludes: “Coming to business school I honestly don’t feel that my expectations would vary much from my male classmates. I fully expect to be challenged by an intense and rigorous curriculum, to learn an enormous amount, and to be gifted a broad and wonderful friendship group that will last long beyond our time at Cambridge”.

For Julia, attitude and determination are key for women to succeed: “I would say that although the cards are often stacked against women, with the right mindset we can break through the barriers facing us and succeed in more male-dominated industries”.

On being asked what she most wants to get out of her forthcoming Cambridge MBA year, Julia replies: “My plan is to experience everything to the fullest, have no regrets, and to have an academically enriching, fun and memorable year. I also hope to expand my personal and professional network and perhaps to meet my founding team”.

 “With a Cambridge MBA I believe the opportunities are truly endless. My post MBA goal is to start my own fashion brand, but if that doesn’t work out, I look forward to finding out where else I may end up!” 

With the MBA Women’s Leadership Special Interest Group, the School’s Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre, the ‘Men as Allies’ initiative, International Women’s Day events, and the prestigious annual Wo+men’s Leadership Conference to build on, Sarah and Julia have an exciting year ahead as Forté scholars in Cambridge.

We wish all our Cambridge MBA scholars from the Class of 2019 well on their MBA journey.

To hear more about the Forté Foundation scholars and the experience of women more widely at Cambridge Judge Business School please register for the forthcoming Women’s Experiences at CJBS webinar.