Memoirs of South America

The International Study Trip (IBST) for the 2015 EMBA was delivered in two cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. There was an alternative trip that was held in Cambridge for students who couldn’t make South America due to personal reasons. I attended the South American IBST so this is what I am writing about this month.

As the trip has now finally come to an end, I remember with nostalgia the possibilities we discovered as well as the challenges that we were nervous to encounter. Throughout the week, the group presentations were the uppermost in everyone’s mind; but now they are completed, we can all look back and appreciate our accomplishments.

We began on the morning of Sunday, 13 March, at the amazing Alvear Art Hotel, Buenos Aires and concluded on the evening of Saturday, 19 March in Santiago at the gorgeous Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Buenos Aires – Argentina

The course was opened by Dr. Othman Cole followed by Profesor Michael Kitson, who gave an overview of the week. Our organisers, Austral Group, came in to brief us on logistics and safety, and gave us tips about life in Buenos Aires. Professor Diaz Hermelo of the IAE Business School then took the floor and gave insights into the economic and political climate in Argentina. After our induction, we had a city tour of Buenos Aires and finished the day at the tango Restaurant Querandi with an optional tango show.


On Monday 14 March, we had a morning seminar “Competing in the Global Economy” with Professor Kitson. After the seminar, we rushed off to CloClo Restaurant for lunch and then visited the 3M Innovation Centre. We finished the day with dinner at Cabana Las Lilas. This was the best steak in the world and was a dinner to remember.


On Tuesday, after the morning seminar with Sally Buberman of Wormhole IT and Lisandro Brill of AX Ventures, we split into two groups and visited Saporiti and Millanel. In the evening, we were hosted at the gorgeous house of the British Ambassador to the Argentine Republic, HM Dr. John Freeman CMG.


The time in Argentina soon came to an end as we had to catch our flight to Santiago, Chile on Wednesday afternoon. This, however, was not before we visited the intriguing project site of Fundacion Energizar, a social enterprise aimed at providing renewable energy to very poor neighborhoods in the city.

Santiago – Chile

We flew for about four hours to Santiago and were received by the Austral team. We then checked into our rooms at the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Following our breakfast on Thursday 17 March, we settled in for our “New Forms of Innovation” seminar with Professor Kitson and proceeded to the Ideas Factory for an innovation forum. After lunch, we had a session with Anthony Pansford, Managing Director of L’Oréal Chile. We then visited Chrysler had an audience with the Managing Director. That evening, we dined at Osadia Restaurant while we listened to Jose Louis Cortes, the CFO of LATAM Airlines Group.


Friday 18 March was my favourite day of the IBST. I studied Agriculture as my undergraduate degree, you can imagine my excitement seeing agribusiness in action.  After our morning seminar “Future of the Global Economy” with Professor Kitson, we departed for Subsole, a fruit export company. Once there, Miguel Allamand, President of Subsole, took us through the export process for his well-bred fruits. We then had lunch at Vina Odjfell, a vineyard in the valley of Maipo. It was a great trip: lunch, talks, tours and wine tasting. Dan Odfjell, the owner of the winery, did not spare any expense to entertain us.


Saturday 19 March marked the final day of the International Business Study Trip. Teams had to put finishing touches to their group presentations and submitted them on our Virtual Learning Environment platform. At 9.30am, the presentations began. The final group’s presentation ended at about 2.10pm and Professor Kitson gave a final presentation and declared the trip closed.

After the ‘official’ end of IBST, the coaches departed the Ritz for the city tour of Santiago. We visited the La Moneda, Plaza de Armas, St. Lucia Hill and the Andes Foothills. We returned to the Ritz at about 6pm and a few groups departed for the airport while the others stayed a few more days to enjoy the sun in Santiago.

Maria C. Umoren

01 April, 2016.


Christmas in Cambridge

We had just completed our December cycle and we were ready to take on the town, which was beaming with beautiful Christmas decorations. It was time to celebrate our Christmas party which was jointly hosted by the 2014/2015 EMBA cohorts. After the stress of the Financial Analysis class test, it was certainly a perfect time to let down our hair and enjoy some social time with classmates and members of the 2014 class. I had a good time and I’m sure everyone else did, too.


The beautiful night was put together by a team of students from both the 2014 and 2015 classes. Cecil organized the drinks, Khayala organized a professional photographer, Andrea brought our classes together and Andi and Ghazaleh made sure we all booked our seats for the event. I hope it will be a regular event and I am looking forward to next year’s party. I also hope we can create some other social events like this during the year.

The Night at St John’s College

We started the evening with three fine dining courses which were delicately prepared by the kitchen at St. John’s College. It was really nice to end the cycle socialising with classmates and making new friends. The atmosphere of the evening was unparalleled; a delightful fun- filled night.


St John’s College is a constituent college, which means it is one of the colleges with the University that provides accommodation for undergraduates and graduates. The formal name of the college is, “The Masters, Fellows and Scholars of the College of St. John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge”. The College was founded by Lady Margret Beaufort as a charitable corporation, established by Charter on April 9, 1511, with the aim of promoting education, religion, learning and research.


The College is well known for its choir and we saw a performance during the evening. The hall was beautifully arranged with the entrance left open for taking pictures, the choir sang beautiful carols and there was a lot to drink and eat. There was a huge turnout of formally dressed ladies and gentlemen which made for interesting and enjoyable conversations.

Christmas is a time of cheer and merry making and St John’s College provided a beautiful ambience for our 2014/2015 EMBA Christmas Dinner.

Photography credit: Jay Williams

View and buy more photos of the event.

Maria C. Umoren

2nd January, 2016

EMBA Class of 2015

Cycle three: We’re all in this together

Our third cycle ended a week ago and I have been struggling with the Management Science Assignment which is due tomorrow. Working on the assignment has again brought to the fore the need for collaboration and team work. The EMBA is heavy on teamwork; all of the assignments so far have been group assignments and you must consult with your team members. You can’t get away from it.

Before we began the programme in September, our class had been split into small groups. I confess that many of us are still trying to understand each other. The teams are designed to mirror the corporate world as much as possible and the EMBA team did a good job putting together different professionals to make up each group.  Even though we all recognise the power of teams to create synergy, they sometimes fail to achieve results especially if the members are all very smart people. However, the merits of teaming is far reaching as it creates efficiency and dynamic collaboration to achieve set goals.

Now to class work: we had two courses this cycle, “Financial Reporting and Analysis” and “Management Science”. In Financial Reporting, there was an in-class test (fingers crossed!). I thought I’d learnt all I needed to know until I encountered some questions on the test. It turns out that there are still some grey areas in my knowledge and I have more to learn before the exam in January. We also learnt about cash flows and financial ratios, using Costco as a case study.

In Management Science, we learnt about the management of a single project under uncertainty to managing several projects in portfolios. Portfolio management stresses the creation as well as the preservation of value. The focus was mainly on qualitative and quantitative tools for assessing portfolios of uncertain business opportunities. We used the Cambridge Breakthrough Science (CBS) Project as the case study. Portfolio thinking usually involves multiple projects (as Danny Ralph would put it – “a basket of several activities”). By definition, portfolio management could be described as the process of making strategic decisions about investment mix and policy, understanding relationships and risk as well as balancing such risks against performance. It is essentially about exercising business intuition. We learnt how to manage strengths in the choice of tradeoffs encountered in trying to maximise returns on a given project. Projects with negative correlations are usually the best business combinations. Risk is measured by standard deviation as it tells how likely you are to get a negative result given a certain set of project combination. In the group assignment, we are to come up with a scenario to buttress this kind of thinking.

What came through to me is that where there are two portfolios of the same value (mean), the project with the lower standard deviation is the better one. My second conclusion is that where two projects have the same standard deviation, the portfolio with the higher mean is the most efficient portfolio.


Maria Umoren

28th November, 2015.



An introduction

My name is Maria Umoren and I started the Executive MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School in September 2015. I’d like to introduce myself as I will be blogging about my experience over the next 20 months whilst studying on the programme.

I will first tell you about my professional journey, then how it brought me to study an EMBA at Cambridge.  After high school, I got accepted into the Faculty of Agriculture in the University of Calabar to major in Crop Science. I graduated as the best student in my department in 2001 and at the time I was certain that I would tow the academia line. But life happened and I accepted a position in banking and have been with a foremost commercial bank in Nigeria for the past 12 years.


I decided to start the programme at Cambridge Judge for two reasons: I would get formal training in finance and entrepreneurship and have the opportunity to learn in a diverse class of people from all over the world. I have always wanted to study at a Russell Group university, so when the opportunity to go to Cambridge came up I knew it had to be Cambridge or nothing. I was caught in the web; emphasis on women, equality and diversity, and the University’s reputation for academic excellence meant that it was just the place for me.

When I discussed the opportunity with my boss, he said I was brave to take such a leap and that it was okay to take a day off every month to travel to Cambridge. Now, I leave work on Thursday once a month and take a flight at 11pm to London. I arrive at 5:30am on Friday and commute to Cambridge for my classes which begin after lunch.

My first cycle of the EMBA programme was a rush. To kick-start the programme, there is an orientation week in September. Every day started at 7.30am with breakfast and ended officially at about 9.30pm. Then, we would go to the pub! The week also included college dinners which were a good way to unwind.



The diversity in my class is mind blowing. It’s by far the most diverse group I have come across in all my life. We are a class of 64 people from 26 nations with an average of 12 years’ work experience. During the orientation week, I realised that a key feature of the class was learning from collaborating with others and everyone has been willing to share knowledge. It is an amazing group and I am sure we will make life-long friends.

I joined the EMBA at Cambridge Judge because I think that I have reached a time in my career where I need a boost for where I want to go next. I have been thinking about how to develop my career further and I feel that the EMBA will give me the opportunity to broaden my skills and push me to a top management level position.

I am now already through the second cycle of the programme. I have to juggle a full time job, family life, taking a 6 hour flight to the UK once a month and completing the heavy work load of the course.  It has already been an amazing experience and I am excited to see where my Executive MBA from Cambridge takes me.

Maria Umoren, 5 November 2015