Planting seeds

4 minute read

It’s been a little over a month since we began our MBA at Saïd Business School, and almost exactly two months since I landed in Oxford. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’ve arrived at Hogwarts, this is probably the closest we’re going to get to that, isn't it?

From listening to the likes of Unilever’s Alan Jope speak at our launch to matriculating at the historical Sheldonian Theatre and, more recently, listening to Hillary Clinton talk at the Sheldonian for Women’s History Month, it has been an eventful first month.

Team Sub Fusc

The Oxford MBA, being a one-year programme and owing to the kind of ambitious and accomplished people it brings together, makes way for everything to be fast-paced. For instance, even as the year kicked off, some of us had already teamed up to participate in the Product Games competition hosted by INSEAD. Our team, Team Sub Fusc, made it to the global top 10 and got a special mention for the product we designed.

Up next is the seven-month-long Turner MIINT impact investing training and competition. Five teams from Oxford have come together for this. Ours is an all-girls team with a combined experience of more than 40 years across five continents. We call ourselves the 1% team. 

I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of ongoing co-curricular activities, specifically the Finance Lab, the Impact Finance Lab, and the Peer Support Programme, each of which I’ve found deeply meaningful and relevant to my personal learning. The Creative Destruction Lab just kicked off this week and I couldn’t be more excited!

As an introvert, opportunities to work in teams and learn hands-on have been a great way for me to start building relationships. I think that’s what I like most about my experience in Oxford so far: there are enough things to fit everyone’s interests and needs. Some of us are also working on relaunching the ‘Future of Business’ podcast to showcase the myriad of interests and expertise of the 355-people strong and diverse cohort.

And then, there’s also always the lowest common denominator: the core MBA curriculum. Of course, that was but a segue to get to talk about the academic side of things. I mean how could I not – I used to teach in a suburban girls’ college in India. A little context about where we’re at right now: this is our first assessment week, marking the end of our first block of the Michaelmas term (in other words, 0.5 done, 3.5 to go).

In this block, we had three of our core curriculum papers: Technology and Operations, Accounting, and Organisational Behaviour. With the MBA being a generalist degree, the courses are designed in such a way that you’re likely to take away the most from the ones that are farthest from your area of expertise. As a data analyst and a general manager with my most recent and substantial work experience being in social impact, this had to be Accounting.

The #1 reason the MBA at the School was the right choice for me (at least at this point in time) is the incredible content and lectures delivered by our accounting professors, Richard Barker and Anette Mikes. How do you measure and account for sustainability? How do you stress-test your strategy? How do you set levers of control? How do you manage novel risk?…. Anette is so amazing that her lecture on the Lehman Brothers case should be a TED talk!

That’s not to say that the other lectures/lecturers haven’t been just as amazing! While we’ve all heard that the MBA is not just about academic work, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and grateful for all the brilliant content put together by our professors – very true to the spirit of the Oxford heritage. 

The Organisational Behaviour lectures for one have pushed me to validate and appreciate how great a place to work Teach For India (my former workplace) truly is. Similarly, the generosity of the Oxford Intesa Sanpaolo Scholarship has pushed me to validate and appreciate what I potentially bring to the table.

The single best thing about my time so far is how much it has allowed me to embrace myself and my roots, even as I endeavour to grow. While it is too early to say which of these learnings and reflections will stay and which of these won’t, here’s to planting seeds! 

And, if you took the time to read on till here, here’s a little gift for you: Planting seeds’ performed by kids at Teach For India – aka my go-to rainy day song.