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Real Humans of Cambridge Judge Business School’s MBA Class of 2020

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Graeme Wallace, Cambridge Judge MBA Class of 2020

Graeme Wallace, Cambridge Judge MBA Class of 2020

Age: 30
Hometown: Glasgow, United Kingdom
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of St Andrews, International Relations
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Government Affairs, 8 years

Why business school? Why now?
I’d been in China for almost ten years and was looking for a geographical change. My experience had been quite specific, and I was concerned about a hard landing (in the job market) if I just moved to another country directly. I thought business school was a good way to plug some of the gaps in my own skill set and to tap into networks that I could leverage to get started back in the UK.

Why Cambridge Judge? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I’d always thought if I went back to school it would be in North America. Not long into the process, I shifted my focus to the UK. I was worried about the political (anti-foreign) sentiment in the US, while I was concerned that the top business school in Canada didn’t carry the type of global cache I was looking for given I could envisage my career eventually taking me back to Asia. As my research developed, I was also of the opinion that the one-year program was a better fit. The focus and intensity suited my working style, while I also preferred the shorter time out of the workforce.

In the end I was really only looking at Oxford and Cambridge, which share many of the same strengths. While there are interesting specific aspects of the Cambridge program that I may have focused on more in my application, in choosing between the two it really came down to the smaller cohort size, which I felt was more conducive to a collaborative learning approach.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020?
I think the eyes of the world are on China at the moment. My on-the-ground experience and my ability as a foreign national to speak Chinese probably caught the eye of admissions. I recall at the pre-interview dinner when we gathered in small groups to chat, people just really wanted to get a sense of what was going on in China.

In terms of a differentiating contribution, based on my experience working in policy and government relations, I’d be inclined to pay more attention to external factors that would affect business outcomes.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I made sure to use that 200-word “any additional information you wish to share” bonus section to touch on some of the quirky things I did outside of work that didn’t fit into the application, such as my involvement in competitive boxing.

Post-MBA career interests?
In the medium term, I’d like to continue to work with multinational companies on their engagement with China, either in a global public affairs team or as an external consultant.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I think it was helpful to go to Cambridge for the interview. Despite what the program seemed to promise, I had assumed I was signing up for a dog-eat-dog type of environment. Going to meet my future classmates and some of the previous cohort really allayed those fears and generally made me more comfortable in committing to the program.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Calm down in the interview process. I was trying to reel of talking points and keep selling myself, but in hindsight, the exercise seemed to be more about ensuring that I was the same person they saw on paper and that there was a personality fit. I remember leaving the interview thinking that I’d really taken the wrong approach; fortunately, I didn’t quite do enough to talk myself out of a place in the program.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I pretty much hated the whole process from trying to reacquaint myself with maths (it had been 15 years) to having to ask myself some uncomfortable and searching questions in the application. I was pretty dependent on an online product (MAGOOSH) for GRE prep and really just willed my way over the finish line when it came to the application.

What is your initial impression of Cambridge Judge’s students/culture/community?
While my impressions from the interview were pretty much universally positive, I think that’s a tough one to answer until I’m moved in. 

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I think some elements of the careers process, particularly those that require a real close self-examination. I think to some extent, being from the west of Scotland, I am fighting an ingrained notion of discomfort when talking about personal achievement. I’m reassured by the emphasis that Judge seems to place on ensuring students get over such apprehension and can put their best foot forward in future job applications.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the course and the wider opportunities available at Cambridge. I’d rather lost the passion for my previous job towards the end and so I’m excited by the prospect of a new challenge.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.