IP at 40: In conversation with Max Reibman

by Alice Oates

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of International Programmes (IP) at Pembroke, we are doing a series of profiles in 2017 on former students and staff who were involved with IP and the effect this experience had on them or on Pembroke.

Our fourth interview is with Max Reibman, a Thouron Scholar in 2007 as part of the Pembroke-Kings Programme.

I arrived at Pembroke in the summer of 2007 fortunate enough to have received a Thouron Scholarship and participate in the Pembroke-King’s Programme (PKP). The summer was a memorableMax-Reibman one and for me an important introduction to life at College and the vigorous intellectual community at Cambridge. I spent the summer between seminars in College, reading in the imperial and commonwealth room at the University Library, punting on the Cam, and enjoying idyllic afternoons in Grantchester. PKP offered a window into what graduate work at Cambridge might look like. It exposed me to the work of several brilliant historians and practitioners who have since become friends and mentors, notably Peter Martland and Sir Roger Tomkys. PKP and the connections I made during the programme also afforded me a strong network which I continue to draw upon in my professional life. I knew after finishing PKP that I wanted to return to Cambridge for an MPhil and Pembroke, with its welcoming academic staff, rich history and lively graduate parlor was a logical choice.

I excelled in my MPhil, which was broadly a continuation of my undergraduate work on the British Empire in the Middle East, and working with my supervisor, Tim Harper, as well as with the late Professor Sir Christopher Bayly, was a formative experience. I was then fortunate to be awarded a Gates Scholarship to stay on for a PhD, and both Pembroke and Gates generously funded my year of research away from Cambridge in Egypt between 2011 and 2012. As I neared the end of my PhD, I considered academic opportunities but ultimately decided to leverage my research background, knowledge of the Middle East, Arabic and French language abilities in a private sector role with the Risk Advisory Group, a global risk consultancy headquartered in London. I left Cambridge for Dubai in 2014 and have since arrived in Washington DC. Much of my work involves performing in-depth reviews of the corporate histories, operations and political connections of major Middle Eastern energy companies, industrial conglomerates and financial services firms. Our clients are mostly Fortune 500 US and European multinationals that require our expertise prior to moving forward with major investment decisions or entering new markets for the first time. My training as a historian at Cambridge, which forced me to repeatedly distill complicated information into a coherent narrative for a non-specialist audience, has been crucial to my ability to manage complex risk consulting assignments involving many different stakeholders.

I remain grateful for the experiences I had at Pembroke – which all started with the Thouron Scholarship and PKP in the summer of 2007 – and I continue to benefit professionally as well as socially from the College and University alumni networks around the world.