It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So, here we are a few days before the beginning of the Cambridge part of the fourth cycle and in between finalising matters at work before the Christmas break and a Corporate Finance assignment, I’m trying to figure out where the time has gone. I’m pretty sure that last time I looked it was September…

Wolfson College
Wolfson College in Autumn

I suspect this is the way it’s going to be  for the foreseeable future or at least until I find myself at the end of the EMBA, or perhaps I’m just trying to convince myself of that. Thoreau said in Walden: Or Life in the Woods, he wanted “to live deep and suck the marrow out of life”, and perhaps the great man would be turning in his grave by me applying this to studying an MBA, but I think it sums up my experience well. I’m trying desperately to soak up all of the constituent parts of this EMBA, but sometimes it feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the things that you want to do, and do them well, which also includes your day job.

To immerse yourself in a subject and read beyond the required, to invest in the relationships you’ve begun to build with your classmates, and to experience all that you can when at your college and at Cambridge. It feels distinctly like there’s a lot to know, and not a lot of hours left to get to know them. I don’t think this is unique amongst my classmates or for that matter the cohort above us. Every time I run into someone on the programme from the year ahead and they ask how it’s all going with a knowing smile, I’m somewhat relieved that I’m not the only one who feels there aren’t enough hours in the day.

In the past few weeks, the usual has happened for November / December in London, it’s been a bit mad: I’ve succumbed to the standard pre-Christmas cold, the annual festival of Christmas parties both within the company and externally, my mother come to stay for three weeks catching up with her first grandchild, attend a three day conference for work with our Treasury teams across the world, and helped my EMBA team hand in what has seemed like a non -stop revolving door of assignments, with one more due just before Christmas eve (take a bow, Corporate Finance).


Executive MBA dinner at Sidney Sussex College
Sidney Sussex College Dinner with EMBA 2013 classmates

So after the final session in Cambridge this coming weekend, and a Christmas dinner with the 2013 and 2014 Classes, I fly out to Sydney to see family I haven’t seen in almost 2.5 years. I’m also planning on catching up with one of the members of the 2013 class who lives in Sydney and flies out to the UK for each session.  As it turns out, I actually went to primary school with Shaun about 25 years ago – it really is a small world. Whilst I’m planning on dealing with my Vitamin D deficiency by spending disgraceful amounts of time in the sun, at the beach or at the Sydney Cricket Ground, I’ll also be doing a fair amount of study in time for the exams which roll around in January and February on my return to London (I believe they call this “squeaky bum time”. Not quite as prosaic as Thoreau, but you get the idea).


Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!




About me

Michael CliffordMy name is Michael and I am member of the 2014 Executive MBA class at Cambridge Judge Business School and I am going to be blogging about my experiences on the EMBA programme over the next 20 or so months. I’ll try to make it more interesting than that sentence suggested.

When I travel up to Cambridge each month, it’s hard not to walk into the School with a massive smile on my face, catching up with my amazing classmates and diving into another cycle of information overload. After many years thinking about an MBA, to find myself studying at one of the top universities in the world is quite a humbling experience.

If someone had told me that I would be studying at Cambridge when I was a few years younger, I would have laughed at them – but here I am, so maybe I should give you some idea of where I come from and what I’ve been doing until now.

After completing my final exams at school in Sydney I spent three years completing my bachelor of commerce degree (like most Aussies after school, my friends decided a year travelling the world was a better idea). I remember thinking at the end of my bachelor’s degree that my friends had perhaps had a better time than I had, so I travelled to Austria to train to become a ski instructor and after passing the instructor exams, spent a season teaching in Austria.

At the end of the European season I headed home to work in the ski fields in Australia and then on to Park City, Utah where I studied and trained to become a Level 2 PSIA Ski Instructor, with the odd downhill ski race thrown in as well (reminds me of the joke: How do you know when someone is a ski instructor? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you).

After returning home from Utah, and thawing some frost bitten toes, the off-season was a blur of part- time bar jobs that I wasn’t enjoying very much. I decided to go back to university to study law, and in the blink of any eye, the degree was completed and I found myself practising law in Sydney. I replaced skiing with rock climbing, and, when I wasn’t at work, I was climbing or using my annual leave to go mountaineering or ice climbing in New Zealand.

With impeccable timing, in September 2007, just at the US housing market turned nasty, my wife and I made use of my British passport and relocated to London to begin working in a large international law firm. In September 2010 I was offered the opportunity to move in-house with SABMiller plc, one of the largest brewers in the world and one that I couldn’t pass up. I had been considering moving in-house for some time, and once I had made the switch, I haven’t looked back. The work has been incredibly varied, intense and complex, more often than not in challenging jurisdictions across the globe.

I am also lucky enough to work with some of the smartest people I have ever met, and for a company who is very supportive of me with regard to the EMBA. Hopefully this gives you some idea of my background. Over the next few months, I’ll give you my thoughts on the programme and reflect on whether I’m managing to juggle family life, work and academic life with any success – fingers crossed.