It is hard to believe that Michaelmas term has come and gone. For the one-year Oxford MBA programme, Michaelmas represents the single most intense period, mostly because a lot happens so quickly and all at once: moving to Oxford, meeting new people – and of course, dealing with FOMO and coping with the relentless academic demands.
And yet, in the blink of an eye, our cohort has already begun the Hilary term. Before losing myself in the stack of readings that is once again steadily piling up on my desk, I wanted to take some time to share two of my most memorable lessons and musings from the Oxford MBA experience thus far.
1. Don’t be a FOMO sapien
Every Oxford MBA goes on and on about FOMO – because it is real. This is Oxford. On any given day, there is a prominent speaker at the Oxford Union and another one at the Oxford Foundry, or a bop at one college and a ball at another, or varsity matches and formal dinners to attend, or historic pubs to visit. But there are also assignments to do and (endless!) readings to get through.
Ultimately, after a few initial hectic weeks firing on all cannons, everyone comes to the same, inevitable conclusion: we cannot be FOMO sapiens. But what we can do is try to make sensible decisions and, in doing so, trust that whatever we do in the end will be well worth it.
Everyone has his or her own strategy, but the way I like to think about trade-offs is to consider things along two dimensions: urgency and importance. If the work is urgent, drop everything else and do it right now. If the work is important but less urgent, then perhaps I should schedule time to do chunks of it over the next few days, and go attend that Oxford Union talk tonight (and, since I am at it, maybe that formal dinner as well!)
2. Monte Carlo is not just a casino
It is no surprise that, academically speaking, the Oxford MBA is hard work. Hundreds of pages of readings, midnight cramming sessions in the (beautiful!) libraries, study group sessions on weekends, and insurmountable exams are de rigueur.
But an MBA experience is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put aside all that you know – or that you think that you know – and immerse yourself in a full-year of learning, alongside classmates with some of the most diverse sets of experiences and expertise. While some of these topics will be directly and immediately applicable to your career, many others will seem less relevant or appear to be way out of your comfort zone.
And that is exactly the point. In Michaelmas, we had the opportunity to design a linear regression model and conduct a Monte Carlo simulation to determine how different input variables alter the revenues of a restaurant business. This is something that I have never done and, indeed, might never need to do again in my career. It did, however, make me recognise the importance of always testing hypotheses, and enabled me to better appreciate how seemingly minor changes can have very large impacts later down the line.
It is tacit lessons like these, which are sometimes so hard to articulate, that make the MBA experience most worthwhile. Making the decision to take an MBA is a huge leap of faith – a gamble, if you will – but know that at Oxford (and perhaps unlike at Monte Carlo), the odds will ever be in your favour.Back to top of article