Everyone is a story. You write the script. You cast yourself as the leading actor. You evolve the screenplay. You fund the production and direct yourself in every chapter, as your story unfolds. I am no different. Let me begin with my chapter one.
Chapter 1: Mumbai: My foundation
Mumbai, India’s financial capital, and often referred to as the city that never sleeps, truly embodies the hustle culture. Every person here is constantly on the move, restless to get to their destination. Rich with history and heritage, it is also a city with stark socio-economic contrasts on every street. I humbly admit that my story is a reflection of Mumbai.
Born in a middle-class educated family in the suburbs of Mumbai, I was raised to feel strongly towards equity and working for the people, especially by my grandparents who had participated in the social movements in Maharashtra. But I was also raised with a nudge to climb the socio-economic ladder, earn well, convert income to wealth, so on and so forth. My career choices are a consequence of these influences.
Chapter 2: What I do reflects who I am
After completing my graduation as an engineer, I joined JP Morgan Chase Bank India in Treasury Services. The ~3.5 years at JPMorgan allowed me to sharpen my analytical, financial, and hard skills. I could explore global finance (secondments, Chartered Financial Analyst designation) and my interests in the impact sector as a pro-bono consultant in the education and edtech space within and outside India. These intentional experiences in the impact ecosystem moved me to plunge into the development sector in 2020.
I moved to Samagra, an Indian governance consulting firm, working on systemic transformation programs to improve the quality of life for citizens with governance as the lever of change. Leading the education transformation program in Haryana, I was able to work with the state administration on complex problem statements such as: how to provide home learning to economically disadvantaged students during the pandemic, how to enable personalized and adaptive learning for 500K students in the state. All of this while developing core consulting skills – top-down problem solving, critical thinking, crisp articulation, et al.
While my primary motivation is to work for the people, I enjoy complex problem statements and the scale of impact. I have figured my sweet career-spot lies at the intersection of development with consulting or finance. And hence, I decided to write the next chapter in line with that realization.
Chapter 3: Scripting towards my big win – Oxford Saïd!
I was at a juncture where I was confident about my skills; however, I was feeling the increasing need for three things. First, a rigorous academic break that would push me to reflect on my career thus far and articulate the boundaries of what I would pursue eventually. Second, an opportunity to seek exposure to the international ecosystem and interact with like-minded individuals. And third, time to invest in myself and build personal equity as an able leader in the development space. With these strong inclinations, I decided that the next best step was to pursue an MBA only to find myself at the next question – …but where?
I wanted an MBA curriculum with impact and sustainability embedded at its core. The commitment to impact was a critical driver while shortlisting schools. I wanted to be part of a cohort that learns and unlearns by engaging in meaningful and at times meaningless conversations. All of this coupled with avenues for relevant mentorship to build confidence as an impact-sector leader. As I applied all these filters, it became clearer to me that Saïd Business School is where I wanted to be.
Much to my joy, I did make it and am looking forward to spending the next 1 year exploring the rigorous curriculum, consulting and impact investing focused clubs, OBNs (Oxford Business Networks), and co-curricular programs such as the Impact Lab and MIINT. I intend to build over my foundations and solidify my grasp over two key levers of impact at scale – impact investing and governance consulting.
Chapter 4: Preparing the stage
I have 20 days (about 3 weeks) before I land at Heathrow and make my way through the cobbled-stone streets of Oxford to the orientation week at Saïd Business School. In the run up to this new beginning, I am mostly spending my time doing three things:
- Connecting with people: Engaging with ~350 people through online platforms can be overwhelming at times, but I am trying to force myself out of my comfort zone by connecting 1:1 with my batchmates ahead of our year at Oxford. Every conversation is insightful and feels as if I am planting a seed of a relationship; we will see how it grows over the year.
- Reflecting & prioritizing: A year can feel too short to accomplish your goals if you do not prioritize brutally; and I am actively reflecting on what I would want to prioritize for it to be meaningful in my story. I am hoping having this clarity will help me make some time-critical decisions while maintaining flexibility for some changes later.
- Making lists and to-dos: Invoking my inner consultant, I am figuring out my anchor collateral – a workbook for Oxford which helps me plan better, capture key details, checklists, and to-dos. The urge to not drop the ball is high; but will I be able to hold myself accountable to this meticulous planning – only time will tell.
Chapter 5: Drafting my narrative
My story so far brings me to chapter 5. I have just started writing this chapter. The cursor is blinking, waiting for my next move as I draft, edit, and re-edit my narrative in the coming year at Oxford. For those interested in my two cents to make it here, I would say the next three things:
- Reflect: Take your time to reflect on your reasons for pursuing an MBA. Bringing your authentic self to the application is only possible if you have clarity on the 'why MBA?' question. A few good questions to ask yourself might be: What have you done so far and what value will an MBA add beyond the obvious? Why is the opportunity cost of a year worth it?
- Research: Attend the forums by the Oxford Admissions team to understand the school a bit better. Connect with the alumni on LinkedIn and share your reflections from step 1 to understand Oxford a bit more. The more conversations you have – the more specific you would get about what it is that you are seeking through the Oxford MBA.
- Visualize: Combine the two to narrow down on the 3-4 macro things you would want people to remember when they interview / read about you. Visualize your story at Oxford and share it through the application process. This was the best advice I received last year, it is not particularly surprising that it also came from my manager and an Oxford Saïd alum.
My belief is that your Oxford story is the most powerful when it truly reflects your ambition and passion. My Oxford story revolves around impact; I hope you find yours.