Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interview with Cambridge Judge Business School's Conrad Chua

I am pleased that Conrad Chua, the Head of Admissions, Marketing and Recruitment at the Judge Business School at theUniversity of Cambridge could take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. Be sure to follow his twitter feed or take a look at his blog.

1. How did you get into this line of work? What do you like and dislike about it?

I stumbled into it! Through a previous role, I got to know a recent alum from Cambridge Judge Business School who gave me great insights into the values and ethos of the MBA programme. These resonated with me so that when this role became available, it was a natural choice for me.
I have been in this role for three years now, enough time for me to see talented people go through the entire Cambridge MBA lifecycle - from a prospective candidate to a current student and now as alums. I love hearing their stories about their lives and their accomplishments. And it helps that I have a good, committed team that reflects the values of the school and our community.

The only thing I would like to see change is the harmful way in which MBA rankings are perceived. I value feedback and rankings do measure some very important criteria but we should understand that an MBA experience cannot be reduced to a number.


2. The Cambridge Judge admissions website lists 110 as the minimum required TOEFL score for entering the program.  Should applicants not apply if their score is only 100? How about 105?

Candidates may still apply if their score is 100 or higher in TOEFL.  However, any later offer would be conditional on them undertaking an assessment by the University of Cambridge’s Language Centre.  They may then request that the individual attend an English course prior to the MBA if necessary.

3. Why is the second referee to be a team member or peer? What kind of information are you hoping for?

The Cambridge MBA is a highly practical programme, with a focus on group work and collaboration. This includes real consulting projects for actual clients. As such we need to understand how a candidate works within a team setting, and what skills they utilise and contributions they make when working with others.  The value of a diverse class only comes when people are willing to share their experience and skills with others.

4. Why do you ask as the 3rd required essay a hypothetical question about what the applicant would change about their current organization?

The third question is designed to help us to understand the candidate’s ability to reason an argument and to critically analyse the industry and company in which they have been operating.  It is also an opportunity to demonstrate clarity in writing and original ideas.


5. Cambridge is gaining a reputation for being strong at entrepreneurship. Do you agree, and if so can you give example as to how?

Cambridge cannot help but be strong in entrepreneurship by virtue of the environment in which the business school sits.  Firstly, the wider University of Cambridge is a hub of ideas and innovation, and has been for 800 years.  Secondly, this has infiltrated into the local business environment and the city is renowned for being one of the start-up hubs of the UK – Silicon Fen.  An example of how we take advantage of this is through the Cambridge Venture Project. At an early stage of the programme the students are required to undertake an actual consulting project on a real brief for a local start-up or other entrepreneurial venture. 

6. Some MBA professors bring real-world experience to the classroom. Others focus on academic research. How would you characterize the faculty at Judge?

Our faculty are very international, with a range of backgrounds.  Many have worked in leading global companies and bring that experience into their research and teaching.  Others have followed a more traditional academic path, but will bring “real-world” experience to their work through their engagement with clients on Executive Education courses, or through consulting projects that they may be doing for companies.  One of the benefits of a relatively small programme such as the 150 cohort at Cambridge is that they are open and accessible, available to discuss ideas with the students whom they will get to know by name and not just as another face in a lecture theatre.

7. The Cambridge Venture Project occurs relatively early within the academic calendar. What are the benefits of getting such a hands-on experience so early within the MBA?

There are two main benefits to undertaking the CVP early in the MBA.  As I mentioned previously it is firstly an opportunity to sample the local entrepreneurial scene and to work on a project for a business that is in its early stages of development.

Secondly, it feeds in to the core course in Management Practice. The CVP is undertaken with your study group – up to five individuals with a broad range of backgrounds who will not know each other very well. The exercise therefore also provides insights into how teams form and organise themselves and how this can be managed.  This can then be related back directly to the Management Practice module.

Outside the Classroom

8. Cambridge uses a college system. What benefits does this offer to students in the MBA program?

The collegiate system allows MBA students to engage and network with brilliant minds from across the various disciplines being practiced within the University of Cambridge.  In the past this has even led to the formation of successful entrepreneurial ventures.  It is also a place to socialise and undertake extra-curricular activities.  The Colleges allow participation at all levels, so there is the opportunity to try out a new cultural or sporting activity.  Being Cambridge, rowing is particularly popular amongst the MBAs.

9. Do student clubs and organizations MBAs tend to get involved in originate within Judge, their college, the greater Cambridge community or all of the above?

I see the opportunities for MBAs at Cambridge to be multi-layered.  The Business School Club provides student Special Interest Groups that may be of specific interest to those studying for an MBA.  However students can also engage as part of their College community or at the university level in the amazing range of clubs and societies that only being part of a world leading university can offer.

Thank you Conrad for taking the time to answer my questions!

John Couke