In the book I’m reading, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, there’s a scene where the characters face a crossroads. Four people are on a motorcycle trip across the United States approaching the Great Plains, an expansive flatland east of the Rocky Mountains. The Great Plains make for rough riding, and one character suggests his wife, Sylvia, take a plane to the Rockies to avoid the arduous trek. The narrator, Robert, shoots down this idea because it’d take Sylvia away from the triumph of the group. She’d still get to the Rockies, but she’d miss the journey. If she rode with the group, the Rockies would not just be a beautiful view, but also a trophy representing the hard work, commitment, and camaraderie of the group during the ride across the plains. By going together, the Rockies would not only be picturesque, but they’d be a reward the group achieved together.
Regrettably, Saïd Business School doesn’t have a motorcycle class this directly applies to. However, this mini allegory illustrates the importance of not thinking about life in terms of destinations, but rather in terms of journeys. Like the book, my Hilary term at Oxford was a group journey.
If Michelmas term taught me to become a student again, Hilary term taught me how to leverage the community and build memories as a group. Across academic, career, and social scenarios, I was constantly in group settings that provided me with memorable journeys and accomplishments.
The term began by kicking off two major group projects: GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford) and the Entrepreneurship Project. Our GOTO groups were randomly assigned, with only our 'track' organizing us (mine was Economic). I barely knew my group members, yet we began digging into global economic systems that needed intervention. Leveraging a group member’s nationality and public sector experience in Pakistan, we researched how to address the low financial inclusion and savings rate of young, Pashtun women in the KP province of Pakistan. Not only did I learn a ton about an important (and solvable) problem, but I also was able to work with a diverse group to deliver a 25+ slide deck and 3,000-word report. Early on, we realized each other’s skill sets and interests, and trusted each other to put in the work. Through this, we delivered a great project and made friendships!
GOTO emphasized getting out of your comfort zone with a new group and unclear topic. The Entrepreneurship Project (EP) is teaching me and my group how to start a business. Four of my closest MBA mates and I are polishing our pitch deck for our lucrative cocktail-in-a-box service. Each group member brings their own skill set that combines for a rockstar team. I focus on the strategy of the business, while my teammates have taught me about financial forecasting, discovering the potential customer base, and finding a price point customers will love. Stay tuned if we get initial funding after our late-May pitch.
Camaraderie helped me outside of the classroom in Hilary term, too, through preparing me for job interviews. With a competitive interview process for a strategy consulting firm in front of me, my classmates came out of the woodworks to run through practice case interviews with me, both via Zoom and in person – I owe a few pints to these people for their help. Before the final round, the careers team had 1-on-1 calls with me to practice interviews. David Baty, the head of consulting careers, even hopped on a call while on holiday from a ski chalet in France to help me out. It was no surprise after all this teamwork that I received (and accepted!) the offer.
All the hard work our cohort put in during Hilary came to a head the last weekend of term, when 40+ of our cohort converged on London to support our friends and classmates in the Varsity rugby match and Boat Race against Cambridge. It’s one thing for our cohort to support each other within the School's walls but making a weekend trip took things to the next level. Our classmates – Martin, Barnabe, Eric, Alex, Drew, and Erin – all made the trip worthwhile with their inspiring (and victorious!) performances.
In the book, the characters had a clear place they were approaching: the Rocky Mountains. Unlike them, our MBA cohort doesn’t have a destination. The classes will end, and we’ll go our separate ways, but the camaraderie and memories we’ve built (and will continue to build) will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Our lives and careers will have a thousand destinations, and each one will be even more satisfying knowing we got to each one together.