It’s a beautiful Thursday in Oxford before MBA Launch begins. Naman, Pablo, and I grab cups of coffee, walk out onto a terrace at the Saïd Business School, and sit outside, enjoying the view.
Sagar: Tell me your stories!
Naman: I’m an engineer, and I’ve specialised in energy. I’ve been working in renewable energy for the last five years at a blue chip utility. I was focused on business development for environment sustainability credits, solar energy, and wind energy projects. In fact, I also write on clean energy issues for lots of publications.
It was Oxford Saïd that got me interested [in clean energy], actually! I participated in the school’s Youth Business Development programme in 2009, wherein I got mentored by MBAs for ~5 months to develop solutions to address a social challenge in the local community. The process not only taught me valuable lessons in responsible leadership, but also got me really interested in renewable energy and environment sustainability. Coming back here to study after all these years feels like a homecoming for me. Like coming full circle.
Pablo: I’m from Brazil, trained as a business manager. Before coming to Oxford Saïd, I was a portfolio manager at an investment company I founded. Worked there for three years, using a value-oriented strategy to find attractive opportunities in the equity market. Before that, I worked in the private equity industry, focusing on high-growth companies from a variety of industries, including IT, healthcare, clean energy, etc. Before that, worked for Citibank.
Overall, I really am excited about the diversity of people I can learn from. I hope to spend a few years afterward and learn from the financial industry here in London. London is a truly important financial hub, second only to maybe New York. But I think London has a much more international perspective.
Naman: Here’s a question I have. Is London really as international as it seems? Is it international in terms of its presence, or in terms of its perspective? In a given industry, if we all have the same interests, won’t it be pretty similar? Juxtapose that with Oxford and our class in particular. There are people from as many countries as in a typical London work environment, however each background and perspective is so unique.
Pablo: Well, I’m talking about the global reach that financial companies based in London have. These are truly global businesses. You’re right, though. In terms of interests and mindsets, they’re unlikely to be terribly diverse compared with other financial centres.
I hope ultimately to take some of that experience back to Brazil in order to strengthen the bridge between my home country and these international markets. There are many investment opportunities in Brazil and in Latin America in general, but we don’t have the money to fully take advantage of this. With the changes that are taking place in the institutional environment there at the moment, I believe that many investors based in high-income countries – where money is cheap and investment opportunities are scare – might be tempted to cross the Atlantic in the near future.
Naman: In India too.
Pablo: Maybe we can take advantage of that discrepancy in Brazil and make relevant connections. I want to create bridges and form investment opportunities while I’m here in Oxford.
Naman: So, you’re basically aware of what you want to do. You’ve had an investment company that invests in various sectors, and you’re interested in figuring out how to get more international finance into Brazil. Also you’re here to learn from the different perspectives in our class, so as to become a better investor and a better businessman.
Pablo: Exactly. Consider this: if you’re a long-term investor, and you buy a reasonable number of shares in an organisation, you can get a fair bit of control over that company. This means that you’re not only dealing with share prices and spreadsheets, but also with strategies that these organisations will pursuit and, ultimately, with jobs, taxes, environment issues, etc.
Sagar: So given these interests, what will you two do while at Oxford Saïd?
Pablo: The Finance Lab is something I’m hugely interested in. I was really impressed with the collegiate system here as well. You can pop by to exchange some ideas, brainstorm with some of the world’s brightest professionals, seek mentorship, and make friends for life – that’s something you don’t get everywhere.
Naman: So I’m definitely going to be going strongly for the Consulting Lab. In fact, I just met David Baty today to discuss the way forward with the Lab. I am also very keen on the Strategic Consulting Project. But you know, what I’m really looking forward to is all the stuff outside of class and more broadly in Oxford. I’ve been watching Oxford Union debates online for years, which has had renowned speakers like Stephen Hawking, Dalai Lama, and Richard Nixon! Where else can I hear from a Prime Minister or Nobel Prize winner on a weekly basis?
For me, I was 19 years old when I did [the Youth Business Development] programme. And I had never looked outside India before then. That experience became a symbol of possibility for me and changed how I looked at everything. I felt that if you’re at Oxford Saïd, you could do anything! So I haven’t been looking for just a specific programme, but really the broader community. If I could’ve been affected so much as a teenager, then I wonder how much more I might learn in an entire year with the level of experience and maturity I have now.
Conversations like this are what I’ll not be able to have in the future. I just spoke to someone at Kellogg [College] who’s doing an MPhil in something I couldn’t even pronounce properly! I spoke to a woman who’s doing a translation of an epic 12-book poem from some local dialect into English! My housemate recently moved in, and she is studying Medieval Art History! What? That’s amazing! So much to learn from things like that.
Pablo: It’s true. Oxford itself is 800 years old, older than the Aztecs. Brazil, my country, is only 500 years old. Incredible! It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific factor that brought me here, but the whole experience is remarkable.
I have to really focus, however, on not dividing myself too thin. I need to pick just a few things and focus on them deeply.
Naman: What you’ve highlighted is the single most important thing we’ll all have to figure out. Such limited time, but so much possibility. It’s like a knife. You can cut yourself with the knife, or you can use it to cook the most amazing meals. There’s so much stuff happening, I feel like I’m already behind, and school hasn’t even started yet. Imagine when you have a full day of classes, a guest speaker followed with drinks reception in the evening, and assignments and study team discussions in the night coming up.
Pablo: But you know, knowing our tradeoffs in how we spend our time here is a business management lesson itself. We’ll have to allocate our time very carefully here, just as we do in the real world. We are all going to be pushed way out of our comfort zones this year, and that’s where all the learning lies!
 Sample articles by Naman:
 This is a new and growing programme. No official Oxford Saïd website for it yet.
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