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Alan Keeso

Degree:

MBA

Location:

Canada

Industry:

Consulting

Year:

2014-15

By Alan Keeso

Through Term One: The Transformation Report

I came to Oxford to achieve a career transformation. Specifically, I’ve been looking for something that my father has often repeated he is fortunate to have found in his work: a spiritual connection.

No. Allow me to explain. Since 1872, my family has been stewards of the land in the hardwood lumber industry. In addition to looking after a natural resource for the resource’s sake, the long-term health of the industry is tied to the health of forests, and my father operates with a strong sense of responsibility for them.

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I have endeavoured to acquire knowledge, skills, and credibility in the realm of environmental sustainability to add a greater sense of purpose to my career. Having completed year one of the 1+1 MBA Programme – with an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management – and term one of the MBA, I remain in the transformation fight. To succeed, I’ve structured my MBA year to:

  • Bring forward MSc-based tasks to generate tangible outputs;
  • Expand upon new-found knowledge through continued learning and applied skills to determine how to use knowledge for impact; and
  • Complete or continue the transformation by closing on the right role with the right organisation.

Bringing forward MSc-based tasks to generate tangible outputs

I am transitioning my MSc dissertation on big data and environmental sustainability into a working paper through the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE). While it’s an on-going effort, the abstract reads as follows:

Big data, referring broadly to, “the ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value” (Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier, 2013, 9), has been heralded as, “the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity” (McKinsey Global Institute, 2011, 1). Despite these claims, a review of literature that highlights big data’s revolutionising effects across sectors and industries revealed that environmental sustainability is largely not yet part of the popular lexicon of big data in action. This study addresses this gap. By interviewing 14 organisations across sectors, I examine how big data is perceived, employed, hindered, and enabled. I conclude that while big data adoption has broadly been slow to coalesce with sustainability efforts, emerging factors such as collaborative partnerships and business model innovation are positioning big data to become an integral element of environmental sustainability and vice versa.

Publishing my dissertation will allow me to take it from the oblivion of a grading system and accompanying archives to the world and encompassed greater purpose. However modest the effort, it is an important component to my career transformation, and arguably the most important aspect of the entire 1+1 MBA programme.

Expand upon new-found knowledge through continued learning and applied skills to determine how to use knowledge for impact

I am fortunate that Oxford provides many outlets for me to further explore environmental topics. To name a few:

  • SSEE hosts talks from business leaders on topics such as, Rethinking Finance – How GDP and other Financial Constructs and Mindsets Effect Business Sustainability;
  • The Oxford Martin School produced a panel discussion on their new book, Is the Planet Full to provide a preview of expert opinions on whether or not the planet can continue to support the growing population;
  • The Blavatnik School of Government hosted the Challenges of Government Conference, focusing on Flourishing Cities. Environmentally sustainable cities were a topic of conversation throughout the panel discussions; and
  • The Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests hosted talks on The politics of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report process and its significance for forests and REDD+ progress and performance in Brazil: institutions, actors and power.

These outlets allow students from different departments to refine their thinking on policy, business, and conservation. I am looking at public and private sector environmental sustainability career avenues, making these multi-disciplinary expert talks invaluable.

Complete or continue the transformation by closing on the right role with the right organisation

I’m not sure whether it’s typical or atypical to remain in line with your answer to the MBA application career questions. In brief, my 1+1 MBA answer looked like this:

Now I seek to earn a 1+1 MBA from Oxford to combine my interest in business with a focus in environmental sustainability so that I can develop a career concentrated on creating environmental solutions that also focus on the bottom line so companies can remain competitive. In the long term, I see the potential to make a contribution in the field of sustainability by working with a global organization such as the…OECD to address similar environmental issues experienced by countries in the face of financial and economic constraints. To achieve this transition, I will require an understanding of the overarching financial, economic, and strategic business concepts required to assist companies in factoring in environmental forces at the point of strategy development. With this knowledge, I hope to join a large firm such as McKinsey…immediately following my MBA in order to work across multiple functions while hopefully gaining early exposure to projects focusing on global forces and in particular sustainability. When I fully transition into environmental based advisory work I will have established the background to allow me to understand the business drivers as well.

My plan largely remains in tact, as the OECD and McKinsey are organisations I continue to consider while my areas of interest undergo refinement. Accenture’s work has similarly inspired me. I am now weighing immediate entry into an intergovernmental organisation along with the possibility of re-entering management consulting.

In summary, the transformation battle continues. Targeting a new sector, industry, or function requires an effort that extends beyond the requirements of an MBA programme. I’ll have to convince my organisations of interest that I am not only serious about entering new territory, but also that I am prepared. In this way, I feel the 1+1 MBA provides me with a solid transformation platform as I work toward a career that carries with it greater meaning, helping me to continue an important family tradition.

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