On my Executive MBA application, I was asked what words my close associates and friends would describe me with. My opening line was ‘intrepid, resilient, innovative, amazon and ambitious’. Since commencing the programme and e-meeting so many brilliant and interesting people, I have also come to see these attributes in the 70+ member cohort. In hindsight, I would rather have described myself with words that you would typically not find on my CV: relatedness, empathetic, friendliness, vulnerable and reflective.
‘Relatedness’ to the stories of strong women shattering bamboo ceilings. You think that the glass is hard, try bamboo. This makes you realise the numerous struggles of different cultural groups and why the School is committed to promoting equality and equity for several disadvantaged groups – one of which includes creating the right structures for women to excel and enrich themselves in their chosen career paths. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to connect with the many brilliant women.
‘Empathetic’ to the journeys and inspiring stories of the people; some who have birthed businesses, watered their seeds, watched their seeds sprout forth, and then at the peak of what seemed like a sustainable business came Covid-19 and other factors leading to the loss of an empire of practice. Yet, like a tardigrade, they rise again, bouncing back from the disappointments, to face the challenge head-on.
‘Friendliness’ in a virtual world is extremely difficult but the humans make it possible. From reaching out to getting to know cohort members individually to having volunteer tutors, ‘Billy and The Sherpas’ and ‘virtual office assistants’ from within the cohort helping the cohort members navigate through the enormous reading lists and coursework, this can only come from a place of belonging and a deep sense of community. Saïd Business School gives us the platform but we, the ‘humans of cohorts’, give ourselves the leeway to build connections and friendships through humility and shared interests.
Amidst these attributes, ’intrepid, resilient, innovative, amazon and ambitious’, is a vulnerability that makes one sometimes feel like an impostor. However, that same vulnerability brings out the human in each member. A vulnerability that echoes ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ and then ‘I want to know’ and, lastly, ask for help; that’s the vulnerability that requires support to thrive and excel through a joint coalition of all humans of Saïd Business School. It is in these moments that one needs to be particularly kind to oneself.
In the words of Isaac Newton, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’ – the ‘humans of cohorts’ and Saïd Business School. As I reflect on my virtual Oxford experience, one thing that has remained is that ‘education and exposure have been instrumental in my journey’ and, truly, I have learned more through interactions.
I’m grateful for the new friends and associates at Saïd Business School and the ‘humans of cohort’ I have met on this journey. The CVs are great, but the humans are what make our community phenomenal and strong. These are the greatest assets I could have ever asked for and I look forward to physically meeting them all.