Meet the Oxford MBA class of 2021-22: Vinohar Kumar

8 minute read

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22 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: E-commerce (supply chain and business development)
  • Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Technology (product management/strategy)
  • Country of residence before coming to Oxford: Malaysia
  • College: Green Templeton College

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

  • Best friend: Ambitious
  • Manager: Curious

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

I was a very curious child. I doubt my parents were too pleased with this, but I loved taking devices apart to see what was inside but often didn’t know how to put them back together. My growing need to understand how devices and machines worked led me to pursue a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Australia. Upon graduation, I took on a role as an oil and gas engineer.

As an oil and gas engineer, I had the opportunity to work on oil rigs out at sea and in deserts in the Middle East. Working six-week rotations of 12-hour days in high-risk and remote environments was not where I pictured myself working when I graduated but I found myself hooked to the job for the better part of five years. The movie Deepwater Horizon was no exaggeration of what could happen if just one person makes a mistake on the job site. However, in hindsight, it taught me how to handle high-pressure situations, how to solve problems with limited resources and how to lead teams in difficult situations. These are skills that have helped me throughout my career and will be useful during and long after the MBA.

Five years into my oil and gas career, I realised that I no longer had the drive that once made me excited to get to work every day. My initial plan to transition my job function to a corporate strategy role was now unlikely as the industry was weathering a downturn. A role cropped up in Southeast Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, Lazada, and I grabbed it with an open mind. I started off in supply chain project management at Lazada and then transitioned to business development. It has been three years and I continue to wonder why I didn’t jump into tech earlier in my career. The industry has grown on me and I love that technology has played a part in the growth and survival of many businesses, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Let’s come to today, a couple of weeks out from a journey many (including me) would describe as a dream. An MBA is something I have always had in mind but continued to procrastinate on. I knew that, if I wanted to reach a senior management role early in my career, I needed to build a more holistic skillset and an MBA would provide that amongst many other benefits. The real push to put my head down and prepare for my GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) came when I worked with a supervisor who had just completed his MBA at a top European School. I admired his approach towards solving problems and the skillset he brought to the team; there was a certain finesse about it. In addition, working in tech, I observed that the opportunities to help society are endless and I decided that one day I want to start a venture to do just that.

I chose the Oxford MBA in particular for three main reasons:

  1. Its focus on social impact. I believe that our actions should in some way contribute towards the betterment of society regardless of the size of the impact
  2. Its class diversity. The Oxford MBA ensures that each cohort comprises of individuals from all around the world (the 2020/21 class comprises of 67 nationalities), with a myriad of experiences. As an avid traveller and foodie, I love learning about different cultures.
  3. It’s the Oxford MBA ! I didn’t think twice about signing up to be a part of such a prestigious University and School that boasts accomplished academics, dignified industry professionals and some very esteemed individuals as its alumni.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I was a Round 1 admit so I had plenty of time to prepare for the MBA, or so I thought. Time has just flown by since that amazing day when I found out I was accepted to the programme. I have been spending more time with family, connecting with my classmates, getting in touch with people working in my target industries and doing more self-reflection on my post-MBA plans. I took a month off between finishing work and leaving for the UK to recharge before the MBA begins.

I have also spent some time getting to know my classmates and industry professionals in my target industries to learn more about the career options out there and which ones appeal to me the most. The key takeaway from this is how much more there is to learn out there. It has been a real treat learning about the different career paths my future classmates have followed and having the opportunity to get an inside view on what drives their passion and what their typical day at work looks like.

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

The beauty of belonging to a diverse MBA cohort is the exposure to very culturally different individuals who come from a variety of careers. Through introductory calls with my future classmates, I have learnt about many different industries and job functions out there (some of which I had never heard of). I look forward to possessing the tools and exposure to approach problems outside of my area of expertise with a structured thought process and the confidence to participate in conversations I would have shied away from previously.

The programme also offers students an opportunity to test business models through the Entrepreneurship Project, with a vast range of support from the Entrepreneurship Centre. I’ve been toying with a few ideas that I would like to run by some of the brilliant minds in my class to get their input. I’m sure I’ll come out wiser on which ideas are likely to flourish and how to take them to the next level

Not forgetting bragging rights for experiencing Oxford: fancy dining halls, the Bodleian, Radcliffe Camera, and formals to name a few.

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

Be clear on what you want to achieve out of the MBA so you don’t lose your sanity trying to do everything. There are easily 80 events going on at any one time.

Some people experience imposter syndrome when they get to Oxford. However, I came across a quote by the previous Dean Peter Tufano in his welcome speech to the 2020/21 cohort: 'No one made a mistake in accepting you. You all deserve to be here.' A good reminder to believe in yourself.

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

Your GMAT score is not everything. The admissions team looks at applications holistically and want to know the real you: what you are passionate about, why you need an MBA at Saïd Business School and what you plan to do post MBA. The admissions committee needs to be convinced that, without an MBA from Saïd Business School, you will not be able to achieve your goals in the near future.

You need to spend some time reflecting on your life so far and have conversations with people who know you well to make sure you’ve covered all angles in your story.

Reach out to alumni who are working in your target industries to understand their experience during and after the MBA. With this you’ll know if the School is a good fit for you and you’ll be able to further refine your post-MBA plans. I found that the alumni I spoke to were extremely helpful and guided me on the questions I should ask myself to get started on the self-reflection journey.

Regardless of the outcome, you will come out of the application process more aware of your achievements and goals. We often don’t take enough time to reflect on our past and plan our future accordingly; this application forces us to do so.

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

Exchanging ideas and viewpoints with my peers and lecturers. As a qualified engineer who does not work as an engineer any longer, I have learnt sometimes the most interesting solutions come from people who are not experts in the field. One of the unique things about Saïd Business School's MBA cohort is the diversity that the School ensures when admitting students. We even have an Olympian among us!

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

The pandemic has forced MBA schools to tweak teaching mediums to suit the fluid nature of government regulations. This means students have had to change their perception of the ‘typical’ MBA experience. However, there are definite benefits to the new normal. With the new hybrid teaching concept that the School has adopted, we are now able to access speakers around the world over a Zoom call. Adapting to this new normal will be a challenge but let's face it, change is the only constant.

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

With an MBA under my belt and the knowledge gained from my classmates, I look forward to being a leader that influences and inspires his peers to consider the impact of our actions and businesses on all stakeholders.

More specifically, I have a deep passion for promoting the use of technology among businesses to provide services that improve the lives of our community. In turn, this will allow businesses of all sizes to increase their customer base and grow the potential of their income.

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

I am an avid football fan so I will definitely be playing it socially (at the minimum) and would like to catch some Oxford University AFC games.

There are around 400 clubs within the University’s ecosystem (even a Quidditch Club!) which has something of interest for everyone. I’ve already shortlisted the Blind Tasting Society and Technology and Innovation Association to name a few.