The Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates: Celebrating early career alumni.

The Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates recognises those who have made significant progress in their careers within ten years of graduating from Cranfield. This award recognises those who have the potential to reach the highest levels of success in the future.

Alumni who have won this award will:

  • Have had an early career impact on the sector or industry.
  • Demonstrated achievement beyond individual position and company.
  • Have international experience and impact.
  • Role model behaviours/highest standards of business practice.

Meet the 2024 Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winner

Professor Sara Siakala (MSc Management and Corporate Sustainability 2015)

Founder and CEO, hatefree gGmbH

Sara SiakalaSara began her career at BMW, undertaking a Doctoral internship in sustainability. She followed that up by managing a two-year research project with a six-figure budget on the subject of sustainable supply chain management at BMW. She went on to work as a researcher and lecturer at the University of Ulm at the Institute for Corporate Sustainability, completing a PhD in corporate human rights responsibility.

Sara founded hatefree gGmbH, with attorney Markus Hampel, to counteract online hate. Sara and her colleagues have already been able to enforce numerous claims to cease and desist, deletions, and financial compensation payments. This kind of success is important for the victims of digital violence from a psychological viewpoint and can be life-changing.

In 2022 Sara was nominated by Cosmopolitan for the Support-Her-Award because of her commitment to victims of digital violence. She has also spoken in the media about how those affected by digital violence in the form of insults, threats, slander or sexual harassment, for example, should be able to defend against this legally without risk of costs.

Meet the 2023 Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winner

James Owen (MBA 2017)

Global Chief Financial Officer, Profiles Division, Kantar

James OwenJames Owen is the Global Chief Financial Officer of Kantar Profiles, a world-leading marketing data, and analytics company.

James is a multi-award-winning c-suite executive with a proven track record for delivering explosive growth and business transformation. James’ career to date has spanned many industries including retail, FMCG, banking, audit, consultancy, and education.

He is a highly driven and inspiring leader with a passion for elite standards, customer centricity, impactful communication, and a ‘change the game’ attitude.

James is a qualified Fellow of Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) where he was subsequently further recognised through being elected to the global board six years ago to help shape the future of the accounting profession, pivoting towards data science and automation. He was the youngest member elected to the board in CIMA’s 100-year history where he represents the 25,000 qualified members across London and the North Thames region.

During his full-time MBA at Cranfield School of Management James won the 'McFarlane Leadership Prize' and was a nominee for ‘The Odgers Prize’ and the 'Henry Ford II Scholar Award'.

Recently James was nominated for the extremely prestigious Fortune Magazine’s ‘Global 40 Under 40’ and is a regular speaker and panellist at key finance leadership conferences.

James said: “It is a real honour to have won the Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates, especially given the nominations are submitted by fellow Cranfield alumni. The School of Management still commands gravitas and prestige in the business world and I’m proud to represent our cohort in the boardroom on a daily basis.”

Meet the 2022 Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winner

Daniel George (MBA 2014)

Founder, StepEx

Daniel George

Daniel George started his career as a government economist, working on solutions to protect natural resources and provide people with an adequate standard of living.

After pursuing an MBA, he was exposed to the lifechanging potential of top tier qualifications and the high cost that was a barrier to the less wealthy majority. Post-MBA he joined Deutsche Bank and subsequently became a director in a consultancy to the banks, to better understand why the financial system couldn’t effectively provide education finance.

In 2017, he founded StepEx to solve this problem – an award winning, venture backed fintech, providing the infrastructure for education providers to enable people to pay with a share of their future earnings. From 2022, financial institutions will also be able invest in these future earnings as a new asset class via StepEx.

In contrast to other providers, StepEx is the only enterprise provider of outcome-based finance, the only financially regulated provider globally, with an unrivalled level of predictive sophistication and access to data. StepEx is using this sophistication and access to unlock opportunity for everyone.

Meet the 2021 Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winner

Dr Charmaine Griffiths (Executive MBA 2012)

Chief Executive, The British Heart Foundation 

Dr Charmaine Griffiths (Executive MBA 2012) Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates 2021From the very start of her career as a scientist, Charmaine has been passionate about the power of research to save and improve lives.

Since leaving the laboratory in 2003, Charmaine has held leadership roles in pioneering health and research organisations such as the Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Brain Research UK. In these she played a leadership role in ambitious initiatives including the London Cancer Hub and the pioneering new £75m Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.

She is currently Chief Executive at The British Heart Foundation (BHF) and has a number of other roles including being a Non-Executive at the Human Tissue Authority and Chair of the Cranfield Trust. 

Having joined the BHF in February 2020 her focus over the past year has been on leading the BHF’s swift response to the pandemic. 

The BHF has been a pioneering research charity for 60 years and today is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular disease research and a lifeline for people with heart and circulatory disease. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the biggest challenge the BHF has ever faced, the organisation has played a key role providing information and support for millions of people and also played a key role in convening and funding researchers to better understand the connection between Covid-19 and heart disease globally. 


Meet the 2020 Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winner

Lucie Basch (MSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management 2014)

Co-founder and Chief Expansion Officer, Too Good To Go and CEO, Too Good To Go France

An engineer, Lucie began her career in the food-processing industry in the UK. Witnessing the immense scope of food waste in her branch, she quit her job and started thinking of a concept that would give every citizen the opportunity to fight food waste at their own level.

“Collaboration is the new competition”, and Lucie joined a couple of young entrepreneurs in Denmark that had a similar idea. Together, they created Too Good To Go, and Lucie launched the initiative in France in June 2016 with great success.

Since then, 29 million meals have been saved in 14 countries, Too Good To Go has more than 37 000 business partners and counts 500+ employees. Lucie is a member of the Carrefour Food Orientation Committee.

Lucie is a member of the Carrefour Food Orientation Committee and speaks regularly on topics of social entrepreneurship, including at Les Mines de Paris - Engineering school in Paris.

Previous Excellence in Achievement Award for Recent Graduates Winners

  • Peter Kwok (MSc Finance and Management 2008)
  • Dr Kim Nilsson and Jason Muller (MBA 2012) 
  • Haitham Rizk (MBA 2010)
  • Andrew Darfoor (EMBA 2006)
  • Paul O’Callaghan (MBA 2011)
  • Andy Baker (EMBA 2005)