Meet the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22: Sophie Frankham-Smith

6 minute read

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22 to Oxford. Get to know our students in this blog post series. 

Tell us about yourself:

  • Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Management consulting
  • Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Strategy and operations or entrepreneurship
  • Country of residence before coming to Oxford: United States (Washington, DC)
  • College: St Hugh’s

In one word, how would your best friend describe you and how would your manager describe you?

Best friend: Empathetic

Manager: Curious

Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford and, more specifically, the Oxford MBA.

You wouldn’t know based on my southern American accent, but I am originally from the UK and moved to the US for my dad’s job when I was nine. I’ve always wanted to live in the UK as an adult to explore that part of my heritage and spend some time closer to family. Little did I know that I would get to do that by moving to Oxford for the MBA programme 20 years later.

For the past six and a half years, I’ve been in Washington DC, working in consulting and specifically supporting clients in the public sector during pivotal times in their organisations and helping them navigate points of change. I worked on large-scale business transformation efforts primarily in the public health sector, providing change management. I’ve always loved school and have known for several years that one day I’d love to get an MBA to expand my learning.

When thinking about where to go to get an MBA, Oxford topped the list every time. I remember the first time I came to visit Oxford when I was little with my family. I fell in love with the magic of this place and always dreamed of coming back. As an adult, I was drawn to the way Saïd Business School and the broader University embed social impact and tackle world-scale problems in everything they do, and the diverse, driven and caring students it attracts.

This year has shown the world more than ever how interconnected we are and how the way we live our lives truly impacts not only our neighbours and co-workers but those around the globe. This year has been life-changing but it has also shown the true resilience of the human spirit and the importance of compassion, empathy and integrity. Now more than ever, we need leaders in all types of organisations that have these traits and lead with purpose. I can’t think of a better place to be than Oxford to continue to learn how to be just that!

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I’ve taken a lot of time to be introspective and reflect on the past six years living and working in DC, and to really think about what is important to me, my values, and dreams and goals for this next year.

Over the summer, I tried to join as many webinars as possible organised by the School to start connecting with the careers team and learn more about the year ahead. I really enjoyed getting to know some of my new classmates through meet ups and Zoom calls!

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

I can’t even begin to imagine all I will learn this year! At this moment in time, I hope the MBA will give me new perspectives and open my mind to new ways of thinking and the opportunity to explore different interests and career paths. I hope to build my confidence to have a stronger voice to be a confident communicator and leader. I already know this is going to be a year that will change me and a year I will never forget.

What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?

A couple of things stood out to me:

  • As much as we’ll learn in the classroom, we’ll learn from one another ten-fold. When else do we get to spend a year with such a diverse community? Soak up every chance to build relationships and learn from one another.
  • Don’t spend all your time at the School. The School has so much to offer but we get to be a part of the larger University and different colleges. Make sure to get involved outside of the School and meet students that aren’t just on the MBA programme.

Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?

My advice would be to start the process as early as possible by joining school information sessions and connecting with admissions staff, current students, and alumni. Everyone at Oxford is so kind and approachable and truly wants to help – make use of that resource. Spend time reflecting on your experiences, motivations, and desires, and let your genuine personality shine throughout the entire application process.

Don’t get discouraged when there are long nights of studying, essay writing and interview prep. I promise it’ll all be worth it!

What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?

I don’t think I could pick just one part! I’m excited to be fully immersed in the traditions of Oxford (college dinners, rowing, sub fusc, punting, Oxford Union debates etc) and to explore the city by bike like a true Oxonian. I’m equally excited to spend time with my classmates; our class is so diverse in nationality, experiences, and passions!

What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?

Beyond time management (there’s so much to do and get involved in), I think a challenging part of the programme will be fighting the comparison trap. Everyone’s journey and hopes for the year are different, and I’ll have to continuously remind myself how comparison is the thief of joy.

How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?

To whom much is given, much is required. I am so proud and honoured to be a part of this class and I want to take this opportunity to grow, to learn from world-class professors, to explore interests, and to open my mind to new ways of thinking for granted. 

The MBA will equip me with the confidence and skills to lead well and lead with purpose to positively impact any organisation I am a part of, and to always be challenging the status quo.

Are there any sports teams, societies or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?

Oxford has so much to offer within the School and the wider University. I’m particularly interested in beginning a journey in entrepreneurship through Ideation Lab and the Oxford Foundry, supporting a startup with the Creative Destruction Lab, being involved with the Oxford Union and, of course, trying rowing with my college, St Hugh's!