Alma C. Gutierrez Toledano






Private Equity



By Alma C. Gutierrez Toledano

Why an Oxford MBA after working in Private Equity?

Sometimes people choose their life path, but sometimes they are living the lives in which they were chosen to be. It makes sense, we are only 18 years old when we are supposed to take one of the most important decisions of our lives: “What to study? Which college to go to? What do we want to do for the rest of our lives?”

It is good to start with something you like though. I loved math, and I knew I wanted to do things around that, but I also wanted a life where I could pay my own house, buy my own car, travel around the world and have everything I wanted when I wanted it.

I chose to study Actuarial Sciences. Immediately after graduation, I started working in a small Mexican private equity firm, focused on infrastructure. There I learnt about finance, risk management, financing structuring, profitability, financial performance measurement, IRR and multiples calculation, discounted cashflows, NPVs, and everything you can think of as important to make investment decisions for institutional investors and shareholders.

I enjoyed it. I never knew I was going to be good for finance, but it seems I was: I got promoted quickly, I was part of a team managing more than US$1 billion in assets, my salary increased 30% on average each year and annual bonuses attached to the investments’ financial performance were good enough to travel and buy stuff.

Everything was fine, but even though we were investing in assets that were providing economic growth to society, I knew the main driver of our decision making was not the social benefit we could achieve, that was only a “nice to have”.

I wanted to learn something different. I was thirsty to explore what people was doing in other parts of the world, how other Private Equity firms worked, how money was invested in other cultures, in other human needs. I started to ask myself the question I was asked 9 years before: “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?” I certainly didn’t have a concrete answer, but I wanted options.

I started thinking in doing Masters’ studies. As I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, an MBA seemed to be the best option: I could still learn about businesses, learn soft skills, learn a little bit of everything around businesses, so that then I could do a better-informed decision with my life.

Oxford has given me a completely new way to think about business. “We believe in developing business leaders who lead with purpose.” Purpose. Looks like a slogan, a marketing strategy to come to Oxford. But it is not. The Oxford MBA has genuinely helped me understand a new vision of business. I am not sure if it is about the people, the students, the teachers, the staff, the City, the forums that the University itself provide to discuss about this, the Skoll Centre, the social entrepreneurship concept, the conversations, the human design thinking approach, or the magic that flows in this school, but by being here it turns easy to understand that every business and organisation needs a purpose beyond the constraint of profitability.

The Private Equity industry gave me all the analytical and financial tools I needed to build rational ideas. But the Oxford MBA has given me the skills and way of thinking to direct those rational ideas towards something that can go beyond me, beyond numbers and financial results. I now believe in a world where business decisions can be taken considering more than the financial expectations, but most importantly, I feel prepared to transform businesses towards something driven by the impact they can have in society and in the environment. The Oxford MBA is not only a good experience, it is a transformational way of thinking, full of tools and knowledge to become a truly purposeful leader.

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