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The Executive MBA – 10 years on

Where are the Cambridge Executive MBA class of 2009 now?

Cambridge Executive MBA class of 2009

The Cambridge Executive MBA (EMBA) was launched in 2009 to provide a global business education to professionals holding senior leadership positions. The challenges facing senior executives in the workplace have become more complex and more global, from the after-effects of the 2008 financial crisis to the increasing disruption of industries and political systems across the globe.

The first EMBA class (EMBA 2009) had 46 students, representing 22 nationalities, and the programme has since expanded to the current class of 124 students, representing 32 nationalities.

We caught up with some alumni during this year’s EMBA Electives and its tenth anniversary celebration who shared memories about their time at Cambridge Judge Business School and where their subsequent journeys have taken them.

Fran Milnes
Fran Milnes (EMBA 2009)

Fran Milnes

Then: Principal, IMS Consulting, Cambridge, UK

Now: Oncology Regional Value & Access Head, Novartis, Basel, Switzerland

“In 2008 I had been in strategic consulting for the pharmaceutical industry for coming up to 10 years and career discussions with my mentor and various clients made me realise that, if I wanted to successfully transfer across to industry, either a PhD or an MBA would be needed. At the time I lived in Cambridge and whilst exploring options Cambridge Judge Business School were for the first time offering an Executive MBA which, with half of a Friday and all-day Saturday once a month for 20 months, would perfectly fit my consulting schedule. IMS Health, my company at the time, agreed to sponsor me and in early 2009 I was accepted onto the inaugural programme.

“Later that year I discovered I was pregnant with my second child, due January 2010. The EMBA team were completely understanding and, as long as I didn’t miss too much class time, there was no reason why I couldn’t start as planned. Casper was born on 19 January 2010 just after our accounting exams and I only missed the February face-to-face session. I had a wonderful maternity leave with group assignments and study groups replacing baby classes and mothers’ meetings in Starbucks. My best memories are our group project – helping a Chilean winery break the British supermarket channel – and being in our main lecture room on a Saturday morning diving into topics as diverse as the reasons behind the global financial crisis of 2008 to the bullwhip impact in supply chains and the role of leadership at the boardroom level.

“At the end of the programme you get a professional coach and, following her advice to update my LinkedIn profile, I began a career at Novartis in Switzerland in May 2011 straight after graduation, so the impact was immediate! The EMBA has given me an alumni network that I continue to stay in contact with, a breadth of understanding how a business works and the opportunity to do the work I love today. Every year that I can, I return in February to take part in an elective and get my grey cells firing whilst catching up with old friends. As of 2017 for Novartis Oncology I became the Head of Value and Access for our Emerging Markets Region where my remit is to open up access to our innovative oncology portfolio to as many patients as possible. It is a fulfilling and exciting role and I am grateful for the 20 months with Cambridge Judge that enabled me to do what I do today and to see my family and I living in Switzerland.”

Jes Hansen
Jes Hansen (EMBA 2009)

Jes Hansen

Then: Senior Project Manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff UK, London

Now: Managing Director, WSP, Copenhagen, Denmark

“I applied and was admitted to a number of business schools, however what inspired me about Cambridge Judge Business School was the focus on softer management and leaderships skills, as well as the emphasis on making a difference in the world we live in. Additionally, the world-leading faculty, renowned for the extremely high standard of its teaching, was also a key attraction. The design of the programme fitted really well with our busy life and didn’t require large periods away from work.

“I really enjoyed my time in Cambridge, and remember it as a very busy, yet an incredible rewarding time; where we were all challenged in every possible way. A time where I personally and professionally developed and created the foundation for which my career sits today.

“After the EMBA, I was offered a new management role, and a role where I make daily use of the knowledge and tools we acquired at Cambridge. I often reflect on a new area and what we learned, as well as how I can apply it in my daily job as a Managing Director. No doubt, I will continue to do so many years to come.”

Stephen Edwards
Stephen Edwards (EMBA 2009)

Stephen Edwards

Then: Business Development Manager, Nexen Petroleum UK, London

Now: CEO, Tailwind Energy, London

“I was keen to broaden my professional education and horizons as I felt I had plateaued in a specialist industry. I wanted to gain insight and understanding from other sectors and individuals to bring a fresh perspective to my job and ultimately develop a skills base that I felt was necessary to strike out in my own venture.

“This ultimately led to me developing a distinct business model, quitting ‘corporate’ and setting up a brand-new company that was truly differentiated. In less than three years from inception the company is valued in excess of $800 million, has 50 employees and is regarded as one of the ‘rising stars’ in upstream oil and gas.

“It simply wouldn’t have happened without my attending Cambridge Judge’s EMBA programme.”

Simon Ross
Simon Ross (EMBA 2009)

Simon Ross

Then: Journals Director, Cambridge University Press

Now: Chief Executive, Manchester University Press, The University of Manchester

“After I completed the EMBA programme in 2011, I joined the Board of Cambridge University Press as Managing Director for the global journals business. From 2013-2016, I was based in the New York office.

“It was almost an accident that I took the Executive MBA. I came along to an open day event mainly to learn more about the Business School for publishing opportunities. The more I learned about the programme, the more my preconceptions about MBAs were challenged. The approach appealed to me, with a real commitment to recruiting an international mix from different sectors.

“Being able to free yourself from the day-day, often very insular view, of your day job was refreshing, but to do so in a challenging, yet open, environment was enlightening.

“The team-working produced some of the most memorable moments, culminating in our group project with a pharma company in Shijiazhuang, China, working on a real project with a great team.

“Since graduating I have been back to take electives to recharge and to reconnect with the experience and classmates.”

Andrew Wallace
Andrew Wallace (EMBA 2009)

Andrew Wallace

Then: CEO & Founder, Fruit Growers Alliance, Cambridge, UK

Now: Partner & Director, Fruit Growers Alliance, Cambridge, UK and Partner & Director, Tikuna, Santiago, Chile

“I had been living in Cambridge since 2007 and had started my own business after leaving a CEO position in a Chilean family company that I had held for 15 years. The new venture was related to import and distribution of perishable food, mainly fresh fruit, into the UK and mainland Europe. That company still exists but I am no longer the CEO although I am still a Partner and Director.

“Since 2012 I have been living in my home country Chile, where I have started a renewable energy company, Tikuna, with two other Cambridge alumni from the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development programme.

“I am currently also a non-executive board member of three other companies in Chile. One of them is a Catalonian/Spanish agribusiness called Fruselva, and the other two are family companies related to agriculture and foreign trade called San Clemente and Sargent.

“I always wanted to do an MBA after I left university at the age of 25 but I got married immediately afterwards (Maureen was not going to wait any longer – after my long career in engineering and seven years together), plus I did not have the money and time to do it. Whilst living in Cambridge 17 years later and at the age of 45, I read about this new Executive MBA and had the perfect opportunity, as I was living only five blocks from the School, with some time available since my business was starting very slowly. The Cambridge atmosphere and the fact that many people of my age were taking the programme really seduced me. It has probably been one of the best decisions related to my working career that I have taken.”

Ellen Hall
Ellen Hall (EMBA 2009)

Ellen Hall

Then: Senior Vice President, Fund Management, Prologis, Paris, France

Now: Global Head of Real Estate Investment and Corporate Development, Iron Mountain, Boston, MA and Non-Executive Director (Board position, company is headquartered in Vancouver and San Francisco), Grosvenor Americas

“I had always wanted to obtain an MBA but exciting career challenges, including numerous relocations (Boston to San Francisco to Amsterdam to Paris) never made a full-time programme possible. When I started to research programmes that allowed me to continue to develop my career while obtaining an MBA in parallel, an Executive MBA programme seemed to make the most sense. Especially as I would be bringing ~15 years of real-world experience with me. I wanted to be surrounded by other like-minded students who would be bringing a similar background. It was also important for me to attend a programme with global name recognition as it was my intention to continue to work for a global company in, hopefully, a global role.

“Cambridge ticked all the boxes. Additionally, its reputation for being a collaborative environment was in-line with my work style.

“I loved being part of the inaugural class! The programme was everything I hoped it would be from a learning perspective and many in the group are now life-long friends. Some of my favourite memories include the week in China, the group project and our associated week in NYC, evenings at the Hotel du Vin, the College dinners, etc. I also just loved being in Cambridge a weekend a month, surrounded by such history and tradition – it was a very motivating environment!

“Since graduating, I have changed jobs and locations. I have an expanded role that includes running all investment (real estate and M&A) for a publicly traded company. I am also a non-executive director which has been a long-time dream. I am leveraging my Cambridge education daily. The experience has given me a lot of confidence and a global perspective which has been invaluable.”