It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting at a coffee shop in Oxford working through seemingly endless computer tabs. They contain readings from a Business Finance course, a personal story outline on the 'power of difference', an event sign-up form for AI and the Future of Humanity, a handful of global articles on topics ranging from climate change to effective altruism, and an Excel sheet for a Master Chef fusion cooking extravaganza I’m hosting for my colleagues. This is what an MBA at the University of Oxford looks like.
As I reflect on the first two months of term, I’m grateful to embrace both the familiar and a drastic change in this new Sunday habit: a familiar sense of motivated curiosity, matched with an inspiring change of pace in conversation.
One year ago, I might have used my Sunday to prepare for the week ahead at my job with Google for Startups, reading up on technology innovations and ecosystems around the world. I loved working in an environment filled with smart people who had a healthy disregard for the impossible and believed in the potential of technology to accelerate change. So why leave?
After nearly eight years working at one of the world’s leading technology companies, my interest in solving complex global problems and creating more opportunities for people to flourish was as high as ever, but I knew it was time to press the professional pause button so I could reflect on where I currently was at, and where I wanted to go.
I decided to take a somewhat unconventional path to Oxford by building my own 18-month learning journey. After closing my first professional chapter of large-scale digital transformation and acceleration, I dove into eight months of research on decision-making, humanitarian work and global travel, followed by a year of study on impactful systems change in business.
As a one-year accelerated program, I’ve been able to design my studies at Oxford catering to my anticipated future work at the intersection of entrepreneurship and social impact. Several activities in particular stand out:
- Impact Lab: Collaborating with the Skoll Centre has been a highlight of my time thus far. A small cohort of impact-driven leaders across the public sector, private sector, and NGOs were selected at the start of the year to study systems change theory and develop our own impact narrative. As a highly interdisciplinary group, we’ve used our diverse experiences to investigate topics such as impact measurement, technology democratization, gender and social mobility, and perhaps most importantly, connect over our own stories.
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Oxford Business Networks are a great way to engage with communities inside and outside of Oxford. In our MBA, entrepreneurship isn’t defined as just Venture Capitalist-funded startups - it also includes social enterprises, intrapreneurship and more. Since the term started, I’ve had the opportunity to lead events for people of all backgrounds to pitch and develop new business ideas.
- MIINT (MBA Impact Investment Network and Training): Competitions and conferences are a great way to grow and learn throughout the MBA. I recently joined a team for an upcoming Impact Investing competition focused on women’s empowerment, filled with incredible powerhouses working in diplomacy, grantmaking, finance and more.
- Yoga: Hey, what’s yoga doing in a business school blog post? Oxford is a place of multitudes. Teaching yoga at my college has given me an opportunity to build a mindfulness community made up of brilliant individuals bringing practical experience ranging from musicology to chemical engineering to Latin American literature. Connecting over physical and mental groundedness has created surprising connections between business students, DPhils and masters students.
More than anything else, my time at Oxford has shown me how many incredible people exist who are ready to change how we create a more sustainable, flourishing future. These aren’t the 'next generation of leaders'. They are today’s leaders who are using this protected time and space to test, validate and amplify the work already making waves in their community.
Oxford is at its best when it listens to the voices of these young leaders filling its storied halls. We’ve already seen this in action with sustainability principles being incorporated into lectures and assessments, and projects such as Global Rules of the Game and the upcoming Entrepreneurship Project. The role of higher education is changing, and it’s exciting to see Oxford meet that challenge by frequently engaging with our cohorts’ ideas for high-impact, sustainability-focused learning experiences.
We are only two months into the program, but it feels like we’ve already packed in two years. Since arriving, I’ve been challenged to think differently, and given the opportunity to learn with people who not only believe the world can be better, but are actively taking the steps to make it better.
I have no idea what my computer tabs will consist of next Sunday (except for class reading - there is always class reading) - but I do know they’ll be inspired by the people and experiences fueling each of my days, and that they’ll push me to think bigger in the coming months ahead.