Rowan Laurence

Rowan Laurence (2016, MBA)Thanks to a generous bequest from the late Maurice Benavitch (1930) and his wife, Natalie, St Catharine's is able to offer up to five scholarships worth £10,000 a year each to outstanding MBA candidates. Rowan Laurence (2016) came to Cambridge from the University of Auckland.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background and career so far?

Since graduating from university in New Zealand at the height of the global financial crisis, my career hasn't exactly followed the linear path that I see among many friends and colleagues. I have already worked across several different industries – strategic research, management consulting, and more recently as head of marketing for a tech start-up – and with a range of organisations, from small partnerships through to large multinationals. My journey has also taken me from New Zealand to Singapore, Hong Kong, and now to the UK.

Why did you decide to take an MBA and why did you choose Cambridge?

I had always anticipated taking an MBA at some stage in my career, and now seemed like the ideal time to tie together the experiences and skills I have gained over the last few years, to help put them in context and understand how I can best utilise them going forward, as well as to fill in some of the gaps where I've discovered my knowledge is lacking. I'm also very keen to take advantage of the networking opportunities and exposure to talented people from a wide range of backgrounds as I engage in the next stage of my career.

My decision to come to Cambridge specifically came down to a couple of main factors. Aside from wanting to attend one of the very best-regarded business schools in the world, it was also important to me to be at a university that excels in a range of different fields, where I will be exposed to students and faculty from a variety of disciplines – Cambridge's standing in the sciences and humanities, and the opportunity to be part of the college system where I would interact with scientists, philosophers, jurists, and all manner of leading minds therefore stood out as a particularly strong differentiator for me. The other big attraction was the nature up of the CJBS MBA cohort – its high degree of diversity (both geographical and career-wise), and its relatively small size which I understand can lead to a more collegial and convivial atmosphere than might be found elsewhere.

How did you feel about being awarded the scholarship?

Being awarded a St Catharine's Benavitch scholarship was extremely gratifying. Admittedly, throughout the application process there were moments when I did wonder if I was truly Cambridge material (the dreaded Imposter Syndrome), so to not only gain admission but to also receive this vote of confidence from the selection committee gave me a major boost and affirmed that I do genuinely belong here. From a financial point of view, the generosity of Mr and Mrs Benavitch also ensures I will have the freedom to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to me to make the very most of the year ahead.

What were your first impressions of St Catharine’s?

The thing that struck me the most was probably the sheer age and history of the college. While most of the other MBA students are in newer colleges, I felt fortunate to take up a place in an institution that is more than three times as old as my country! Aside from that, it was probably the relaxed and laid-back nature of the college and its members. While it might not have the grandiosity of some of the bigger colleges I had visited as a child, that also made it appear – to me at least – a more welcoming place, where I could feel more comfortable and at home.  

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

The thing I'm looking forward to the most is to immerse myself in knowledge, to have the opportunity to learn from faculty members, from my classmates, from the wider Cambridge community, and to not be limited by the demands and confines of a commercial environment; to be able to test ideas and theories, to debate, to experiment, and to discover new concepts and new possibilities that I never knew existed; and furthermore, to have the chance to do it all in one of the greatest centres of learning that ever existed in human civilisation, to walk the same halls and avenues as Newton, Darwin, Bacon, Rutherford, and so many other incredible minds of the last 800 years.