I recently had a call with an acquaintance who was interested in learning more about the MBA experience. 'Isn’t it competitive?' they asked me.
I could not repress a chuckle. Although I could understand their assumption about business students, I was very proud to tell them that Saïd Business School was quite the opposite. I have evolved in many environments throughout my life, yet I have never been immersed in such a collaborative culture than during my MBA at the University of Oxford.
I knew the MBA was going to be a collaborative programme, for it is one of the reasons I chose it. My expectation was for my classmates to remain civil while pursuing similar job-hunting endeavours, and maybe count on a recommendation or two. How very mistaken I was. The School delivers much more than this: When it comes to collaborative culture, they truly walk the talk.
As Trinity term comes to an end, I look back at the three terms that have come and gone, and cannot help but marvel at the many times coming together with the incredible members of our cohort created pure magic.
On the academic side, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Impact Lab – a co-curricular programme curated for students committed to a career in systemic change – gave me a chance to team up with three of my peers to design a session on ‘Wilful ignorance in Social Entrepreneurship – A North-South Ecosystem Perspective’. Because we came from complementary backgrounds and operated in different geographies (Canada, Greece, Peru, Zimbabwe), together we came up with a 360° mapping of the dynamics between social entrepreneurs and organisations that seek to assist them. Our collaboration highlighted systemic issues in that space, and contributions by our classmates in the audience sparked a ground-breaking conversation on the matter.
When it comes to our coursework, like many multi-tasking students always busy attending events and working on demanding side projects, I of course end up in panic mode 12 hours before our assessments are due. Misery loves company: Instead of breaking down each on our own, students who did not prioritise academics organically came up with support systems: May it be through group chats, joint study sessions, or one-on-one hourly check-ups, we keep each other accountable on our progress, and come up with a game plan to make sure we manage to submit on time, even if it takes an all-nighter. When I felt like giving up because I believed I could never manage the workload in such a level of emotional fatigue, having constant cheerleaders throughout the night lifted me up to degrees of productivity I never believed I could achieve.
Our collaborative culture extends way beyond our classes. Early May, 200 of us joined the MBAT competition, an annual sporting competition gathering 13 European top MBA programmes in HEC Paris. We truly rallied around one other: Chants were raging for every sport, and whenever one of our teams was struggling, we would send a massive group of supporters, which quite often reversed game dynamics. Thanks to that empowering sense of belonging we generated by being there for each other, with a proud medal count of 15 golds, 11 silvers, and 5 bronzes, we once again won the competition! With this fourth victory in a row, there must be something about the culture we are doing right.
I cannot talk about collaboration without mentioning our career development endeavours. After all, we are all here to secure a position that suits our aspirations after our MBA. When it comes to figuring out the future, life sometimes feels like completing a 1000-piece puzzle: Many pieces look bright, but they are all scattered, and we are unsure where to start, nor how to put everything together. Thankfully, we do not have to go through that journey on our own. Conversations opening new horizons, peer-coaching, classmates referring you to their network, and countless pep-talks are among the many things that make Saïd Business School such a supportive environment. In this ecosystem, we are here for one another, and that is what makes us confident that, together, we will lift each other up to reach for the stars.