HT: Week 1 and 2

Hilary Term has only started and we can feel the heat already here at Said Business School. The two weeks have been packed with activities and submissions, giving a peek into what will follow for the next 10 weeks.

Week 1 kick started with an introductory lecture on Entrepreneurship at Nelson Mandela Lecture Hall. Professor Hellman ‘s lectures and sessions delightful to attend and this one was a good antidote of sort for us still hungover from post exam holiday. We were introduced to frameworks and tools that assist in devising an effective business plan and inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset.

As part of Hilary Term course we are required to do an Entrepreneurship Project (EP) in a group where we work on a business idea and prepare a complete business plan and market strategy. The plan will be pitched to a panel of venture capitalists and industry experts invited from outside the school towards the end of the term. My groupmates and I are excited about our idea and on our first round of presentations we received encouraging response from Oxford based startup incubator that offered to support us should we plan to pursue our idea later on! Many groups in the past have gone ahead with their EP and have started their own ventures, and while our primary objective from this project is to learn and assimilate the nuances of entrepreneurship, we are open to the idea of our project materialising to something more concrete in future.

On Monday we also had an award ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate top GOTO projects. Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO) is an integrated module in our course where students work on complex global challenges being faced today and how we as business students can help address them. My group focused on the water draught problem in California and the impact it had on the almond farming in the region, which during the course of our project we unearthed was made far more complex due to various politico-economic factors and players in the entire ecosystem. I was delighted to find out that our project was recognised in the Top 10, for which we were awarded certificates of appreciation in the ceremony!

Week 1 and 2 also ascertained why I am grateful for being here – for having the opportunity to meet and interact with wonderful people from various backgrounds. Last Wednesday I attended a session on Self-Care and Leadership by Dr. Kurt April, where he talked about managing stress and maintaining a healthy mental and physical lifestyle which one tends to sideline in one’s daily race to always being on the top of things. I find these sessions extremely helpful during the MBA when one is inundated with multiple tasks and it is not unusual to often feel stressed out and overwhelmed. I also went for two formal dinners in each week, one at my own college GTC where I invited a classmate whom I had not spoken with much last term. We both were planning since last term to hang out for and finally took to the formal dinner for spending some good time. The other was with a good friend from the batch at Keble College and a mathematics DPhil scholar, also a third generation Indian. Interesting conversations ensued on politics, religion, Indian diaspora and philosophy.

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Keble College was established in 1870, originally constituted only for men until 1979 when it opened doors for women. The college’s distinctive red-bricked Neo-Gothic architecture is much talked about still, with the background story that its architect William Butterfield was heavily criticised for the presumably ‘ugly’ campus and non adherence to Oxford traditions. Hard to believe that a campus this magnificent was held controversial! Also a little note for the benefit of those interested- Keble dinner hall holds formal dinners all week long, while at my college GTC it is only twice a week which makes it comparatively harder to secure a reservation.

Week 2 came full force with lectures including 2 new electives, assignments, presentations and job interviews packed throughout the schedule. The two electives I chose for this term are Corporate Valuation and Strategy & Innovation. Both the courses, albeit demanding, are challenging and have excellent faculty teaching us. S&I had us reading 100+ pages and submitting our first assignment even before the first class, which was on how technologies emerge and evolve with growing markets. I am excited about this course and hope to keep pace with the extensive reading involved. The reason for taking Corporate Valuation was to get a deeper dive into Finance that I am rather petrified of. I hope that by the end of this term, I will be at a pedestal where I don’t dork around whenever drops the F bombs in conversations.

That’s all for now, I hope to write on this blog as and when I am able to steal some rare ‘me time’. Also I have been receiving a lot of requests from prospective applicants and new admits to write more on the admissions process, which I will cover in coming week. Off to a conference now at Pembroke College on Women in Boardroom and diversity at workplace!

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Launched, and ready to go.

Today was the last day of our three-week Launch, that ended on a high note with a drinks and dance reception. The class decided to shift the party outside of the school, while I excused myself to some quiet time in my room. As I reflect on the three weeks gone, my mind is getting overwhelmed trying to register all that I have experienced so far – met 350 future friends from 54 countries on the first day; interacted with an Olympic silver medalist (Said alumni); spent an evening with Dinosaurs; attended live Oxford Union debate (bucketlist item checked off); mastered an African hymn (also shamelessly sang the same outside the Oxford Union at midnight yesterday!); discussed the complexity of Brazilian indirect taxes with a stranger over dinner; pitched a business idea to the American Ambassador to UK; learnt punting from a high school student at Oxford; pondered over how a group of business students can help make a significant social impact– and many more.

My motivation behind joining an MBA program was much beyond the academics and recruitment. The idea was to spend a year on introspection and self-development, to push my boundaries to learn something new each day and to get a broader perspective of life. Three weeks of the Launch, apart from acclimatising us to the course, staff and the place also taught us to introspect and reflect. A few activities during the Launch made us sit back and think about why we do what we do, why are we here and what we hope to achieve. These are questions my mind often wonders about, or rather, wanders around. It would be unfair to say that I have found my answers already (as a classmate rightly joked about at the end of one such session “I find it hard to talk to myself!”), but I did find the sessions extremely useful in identifying and understanding various aspects of my personality to be able to leverage my strengths and work on my weaknesses going forward. 

Dean Tufano in his keynote on the first day mentioned that joining Oxford was a choice we made for ourselves. But I also strongly relate to what Dr. Kurt April pointed out to us during discussion on Leading from own Diverse Narrative – that it is a privilege to be here among the brightest and most talented minds from all across the world. Coming from a developing economy with an experience level below average in the class, I find it intellectually exciting to look through the narratives of others from the other end of the telescope that I have been accustomed to. What strikes me the most about my batch is, regardless of the personal accomplishments, the humility and enthusiasm with which each one of them comes with to learn and collaborate. The diversity in my class is incredible – teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, ex-servicemen, models, economists, journalist – which will make for a truly enriching experience. 

Before coming to Oxford, there was just one thing every body I spoke to from the school had to say to me, which is that time runs at lightening speed here and before you know it is over. It has been three weeks since I came here, which in hindsight would mean that roughly about 6% of my MBA is over. That really does hit hard, doesn’t it?

If the Launch is any bit an indication of how the coming year is going to shape up, I am excited to be here.

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