From my MBA at the University of Cambridge to consulting at McKinsey & Company

'I loved exploring the ancient colleges in Cambridge'.

Nathan from Indonesia graduated with an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from the University of Cambridge in 2021. He reflects on moving away from home for the first time, living and studying in the UK and how he went on to start his consulting career at McKinsey & Company.

I did a one-year master’s in the UK not to lose momentum in my career

I decided to study in the UK when I was at a point in my career in which I was progressing rapidly. At the time, I was the country planning manager for Shell Indonesia’s lubricants business. At that time, I didn’t want to, even temporarily, leave the workforce and lose momentum. While MBA programmes are more prevalent in the US, those in the UK are often a year shorter than their US counterparts.

Not only did studying in the UK help me maintain my career momentum, but it was a lot more economical: with the programme being just one year (versus typically two years in the USA). It meant I only had to pay tuition fees for one year and have one year without receiving a salary. I also found that MBA programmes in the UK are more diverse than elsewhere, with higher numbers of students coming from overseas. As an aspiring global leader, learning to work with people from a wide range of nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds is very important for me.

Nathan on a day out in the woods with some of his friends.

At Cambridge, my horizons broadened beyond belief

At Cambridge, I loved being able to have conversations with some of the best minds in the world across a great number of fields. If I had studied at another business school that was not part of a wider and larger university, I would have likely met people who were mostly from similar backgrounds and who held similar aspirations and views as me. But at Cambridge, my horizons broadened beyond belief. I would often have deep conversations with, for example, someone who is researching the likelihood of someone getting cancer one day. Then another day, speak to someone specialising in the impact of colonialism on Indian women and their decision-making. It was extremely humbling and, at the same time, very exhilarating.

'Me and some classmates from my MBA'.

I had never collaborated so closely with people from as many nationalities as I did at Cambridge

It was challenging but in a good way. Even though my earlier education was in an international school and I later worked in a multinational organisation, I had never had to collaborate so closely with people from as many nationalities as I have here. Just in the MBA programme itself, there were 47 different nationalities and countless in the wider university.

Through working with my classmates and other university students on consulting projects, club activities, and competitions, I became more familiar with various working and communicating styles I was not accustomed to. Sometimes the experience was overwhelming but in the end, it made me more aware of the value of thought diversity and keener to improve my working style accordingly.

'It was the little things that made me happy like cycling through the city'.

Nathan punting on the River Cam.

Walking into the business school with its floating staircases and intricate decorations got me every time

It’s the little things that made me happy. Every new day during my master’s brought something special. Even if it was just cycling around the city amongst the ancient colleges with the (occasional bit of) warm sun on my skin. Or, for me, as a city boy, the surprise of seeing foxes and swans happily roaming around town. The cry of songbirds every morning got me, as did walking into the business school with its floating staircases and intricate internal decoration as I bought a coffee before class. I was very blessed to study there.

'I was very blessed to study at the University of Cambridge'

My course prepared me to follow my career ambitions with confidence

My MBA gave me the opportunity to hone three main skills that I don’t think I would have been able to have done so quickly while working. Firstly, the ability to think structurally and strategically and view problems from a ‘helicopter view’ to assess moving parts. Secondly, the soft skills required to collaborate with an extremely diverse and occasionally challenging team dynamic while working in unfamiliar circumstances.

And finally, the ability to communicate convincingly and succinctly to achieve stakeholder buy-in.

These skills helped me receive job offers from some of the best consulting companies in the world, even before the end of my first term.

Nathan with some of his college mates.

After graduating, I chose to start my consulting career at McKinsey & Company

After my MBA, I was offered job offers from some of the best consulting firms in the world, and I chose McKinsey & Company to start my consulting career. This way, I will be able to drive positive change for the clients I work with in Indonesia and beyond. But I will also be able to directly influence the advancement of my nation by collaborating with previously mentioned state-owned enterprises and the government.

Nathan in formal wear at his college.

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