The power of the Oxford network

3 minute read

It seems wild to imagine that six months of the Oxford MBA programme have passed. When looking back, I’m amazed at the growth that’s occurred, and a large part of that has been through conversations with classmates, professionals, mentors, and professors – connections that, I feel, are available to me due to Oxford and its history, the School’s culture of social impact, and the talents of its student body, alumni base, and educators.

The pandemic has been a global stress test across industries, professions, and borders, but one of the silver linings of this situation has been the digitisation of professional networking. While sitting in front of a screen has its issues, I’ve been amazed at the generosity of the professionals I’ve met who have offered their time and advice through Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, and Microsoft Teams.

Someone once told me:

'Someone more experienced than you has probably had the same problems you’re thinking of right now. Rather than reinventing the wheel, why not just ask and learn?'

For me, there are many problems leading to many questions. I came from the US healthcare system, a system where access and quality of care are frustratingly inequitable, siloed, and entrenched by established stakeholders making innovation difficult. 

I was (and still am) frustrated by the shield that wealth provides against disease, a shield that should be extended to all citizens. This frustration motivated me to come to Oxford to learn a global perspective on health and business, and the Oxford experience and network have been instrumental in channelling this frustration into structured, logical analysis and problem-solving strategies. This contrasts with the feelings of hopelessness I experienced whilst a front-line care worker.

I bring up this example because, in my specific case, the curriculum (aligned with the Saïd Business School credo of social impact) has given me the chance to speak with subject-matter experts about the problems of healthcare in the US and globally, opening doors through the power of the Oxford name and way of thinking.

A few examples:

  • Learning from world-renowned epidemiologists following submission of an analytics assignment focusing on Covid-19, immunisation rates, and overall prevalence.
  • Connecting to an executive from a major professional sports organisation, giving insight on translating medical and sports leadership principles towards larger organisational leadership, following a ‘coffee chat’ organised by the Media and Entertainment Club.
  • Mentorship from pharmaceutical executives, marrying the power of technology, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods verticals to scale impact on a global scale following a ‘eureka’ moment involving organisational hierarchies in our Organisational Behaviour class.
  • Guidance from venture capitalists, opening my eyes to the execution of converting world-changing ideas into world-changing products, solutions, and programmes following experiences in the co-curricular Creative Destruction Lab.
  • Counselling from professors within and outside of Saïd Business School, including law, engineering, finance, sociology, medicine, and physics, to help untangle the myriad layers of the truly ‘wicked’ problem of healthcare inequality following a frank conversation with Dr Peter Drobac, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Most importantly, growing through the shared perspectives and talents of a cohort of students from 60+ countries, with 60+ models of healthcare, and a limitless hunger for changing the world as we collectively navigate the difficulties associated with a Covid-altered educational environment.

In many ways, the curriculum helps unlock the power of the Oxford network by first becoming aware of different ways to approach problems and formulate solutions. This awareness gave me the courage to reach out to strangers with clear questions in mind, and I have been humbled by the responses I’ve received. 

With each passing month, this unfiltered frustration associated with the US healthcare system refines itself into clearer questions through problem deconstruction. As our cohort moves into the second half of the MBA curriculum and its shift towards solution building, such as through GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford) and the Entrepreneurship Project. I’m excited to continue building these networks and convert what I’ve learned into something that will, as Dean Peter Tufano says, build back better.