Meet the Oxford MBA class of 2021-22: Vicky Shi

6 minute read

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-2022 to Oxford this September. Get to know our incoming students in this blog post series as they prepare to join Saïd Business School.

Tell us about yourself.

  • Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Brand and innovation consulting
  • Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Social entrepreneurship/travel/tourism
  • Country of residence before coming to Oxford: USA
  • College: Hertford

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

  • Best friend: Energetic
  • Manager: Tardy (I’m working on it!)

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

I was born and raised in Maryland, USA. Fun fact: when I was young, my parents took me to a park in the neighbouring town of Oxford, Maryland. I was raised by adventurous Chinese immigrants who came to the US at 23. We’re a travel-obsessed family; I received my first passport at 10 months old. This carried through to my time at the University of Maryland, where I earned degrees in marketing and international business while studying abroad in the UAE, France, Germany, Australia, and Austria.

After graduation, I moved to New York to work in brand and innovation consulting at Lippincott. After almost three years, I gave in to my craving to experience more of the world beyond vacation days. I left to travel alone across South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, which sparked my interest in ethical tourism. When I returned, I accepted a freelance position to consult Airbnb, and continued freelancing for different agencies and clients. As I lived this flexible, unstructured life, I considered where I wanted to go next.

In common with many others, the pandemic forced me to face myself and reflect on how I want to spend my life. Two things rose to the top: I want to see the world, and I want to do good in it. I chose Oxford because it embeds social impact in its experience. It’s not just an elective or club, but woven throughout the cases we’ll analyse, the core courses we’ll take, and the projects we’ll complete (like GOTO, which stands for Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford).

I knew I’d be surrounded by people obsessed with the idea of improving the world, too. And just like my parents did when they set off for school overseas, I wanted to take the leap to build a life in a new country.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I was lucky enough to meet people in my cohort before the programme started, both virtually and in person (Princess and I had a fun Hawaii meet-up!). I travelled across the US to spend time with people I love, who I wouldn’t see as often once I went across the pond. And, finally, I relaxed. When I told a current student that I was considering a pre-MBA internship, he said, 'That seems stressful. You should chill before an intense year.' So, I did just that!

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

In one of our launch sessions this week, we were asked to reflect on whether we’re an explorer, transitioner, or an accelerator. I found it comforting that Oxford holds space for explorers like me – people looking to gather a wide range of experiences to better learn what they do and don’t want with their careers. As I continue exploring, I hope to gain three things: meaningful friendships, experiences that push me out of my comfort zone, and a clearer sense of where to take my career.

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

Do what makes your heart sing. I actually received this advice when I was choosing between MBA programmes – and it’s stuck with me as I go into the year. In the MBA (as in life), there are so many opportunities, people, and experiences presented to you, and it’s easy to get swept up onto a path that’s going somewhere, anywhere – without stopping to critically reflect on whether it’s the right path for you.

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

Reach out to current students and alumni, especially ones who share your post-MBA goals. From my experience, everyone I spoke with was candid, keen to help, and kind – and these conversations helped me solidify why Oxford was the right school to apply to.

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

Getting to know my classmates. Big shout-out to Sanoma, Taimur and Guada for planning an incredible pre-MBA trip to Scotland for 70+ of us! On that one-week trip, I was surprised by how quickly and meaningfully I connected with my new classmates and was astounded by how interesting everyone’s background is. And that was only one-fifth of our 355-person class! I’m excited to keep discovering more about my classmates’ unique stories and backgrounds, and to keep learning from perspectives that are different from my own.

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

Time management! My enduring flaw is that I say ‘yes’ to too many things (hence why I’m always tardy), and Oxford has no shortage of incredible stuff going on. Running on a few hours of sleep per night was do-able when I was a sprightly undergrad – but now I’m too old and wise to do that anymore…at least, that’s what I need to remind myself when I consider hitting the pub before an 8:30am session (sometimes I still go).

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

I have a big dream of founding a social enterprise in ethical tourism – one that creates intimate connections between locals and travellers with a model that sustains communities beyond the ebb and flow of tourists. But I know life can be weird and wonderful, and the MBA could take me down surprising turns.

Whatever I end up doing, I know that the MBA will connect me with other impact-minded professionals, hone my business and financial acumen, and consider global perspectives. A real-life example of the MBA’s structure and serendipity: I was practising my elevator pitch with my classmate, Carla, and she goes: 'I know exactly who to connect you to.' Turns out, her friend just published a book on responsible tourism.

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

So, to prepare my answer to this, I went through all the Oxford societies, clubs, and sports and created a long list of everything I was interested in – for a whopping total of 25 organisations. 

Unfortunately, going to real-life Hogwarts doesn’t mean I get Hermione’s time-turner gadget. One criteria an alum offered to help narrow things down: do things that you wouldn’t get to do outside of Oxford. 

For me, that means going to debating workshops at Oxford Union, checking out the Polo team, and going for a rowing taster day. I grew up doing ballet and contemporary dance, so I’d love to try out ballroom dancing with OU Dancesport (Wednesday salsa nights at the Oxford Retreat have gotten me hooked).