Catherine Perry






Energy and Resources



By Catherine Perry

Michaelmas musings

As I write this blog post, 9 weeks have gone by since I started at Saïd Business School. It feels like it was months and months ago because my weeks since then have been so packed with activity. On that first day, I arrived excited but anxious, wondering what the future held for me and with the normal worries about whether or not I’d make friends, if I was going to be the oldest person there and how I’d fit in with the cohort if I was, and how I would cope with a return to school (and homework!) after 12 years of working.

I’m happy to say that those worries vanished quickly. Launch week quickly had me feeling at ease at the school and though I can’t say I met all 328 other people at the school in the networking events during those first two weeks, my croaky voice told me I did speak to a significant number of them.

The highlights that stand out to me now from Launch are:

  • The first speech from Dean Tufano in the Nelson Mandela Theatre. I remember looking around as the theatre filled up and the volume of chatter increased, and then feeling so much optimism and excitement for the year ahead. Just a few months before I’d been working on a drilling program out in the snowy middle of nowhere in northern Manitoba and then suddenly I was at the historical and world-famous Oxford University embarking on a life-changing year.
  • Drinks with Dinosaurs. Needless to say, this was the perfect setting for a Geologist with a glass of wine in hand and the networking here seemed so much more relaxed.
  • The boat trip along the Thames. It felt good to get out of the school and get some fresh air on the river with new-found friends in Section D.
  • The dinner at St Edmund Hall for Sections C and D. Not only was the food delicious but I got to meet even more people from my section before Careers week started. Fleur from the MBA 2018-19 cohort gave a short speech and it was reassuring to know that the tumult of emotions I was experiencing were totally normal!

The careers week was also good with classes on organising presentations, practice interviews, CV and LinkedIn sessions. We also had our first Organisational Behaviour classes, which were a great excuse to play card games and build Lego models in teams. This was also the week where I met my study group for the first time and we all have such diverse backgrounds coming from literally all over the world and from different industries and years of work experience.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much free time had been built into the first two weeks and it was very much appreciated. My belongings that I’d shipped from Canada had been incredibly delayed and were still floating around the Atlantic somewhere so the free time gave me the opportunity to do some shopping for essentials that I didn’t think I needed to pack in my suitcase. And let’s be honest, the first two weeks were tiring so just having some relaxation time was great.

The first four weeks of classes whizzed by even faster than Launch. Our first block was Organisational Behaviour, Tech and Ops Management, and Accounting. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time! We had our first exam (Accounting), our first graded essay submission, and our first group presentation to a panel that included a representative from Tesla, the company my group had chosen as the subject for our presentation. We also started and finished Global Rules of the Game in a flurry of activity over a few days, and got an introduction to the integrative module, Responsible Business. Today we start our next block of classes: Business Finance, Analytics, and Marketing.

One of the best things about being here is there’s so much going on, not just in the Saïd Business School but also in the wider community. In school there’s classes, careers and networking sessions with recruiting companies, other lecture series such as Engaging with the Humanities, and visiting speakers, such as Paul Polman (former CEO of Unilever) and Muhtar Kent (former CEO of Coca-Cola) coming to talk to us.

I just gave up valuable weekend relaxation time to attend the Amplify Trading Simulation, which I highly recommend. Amplify took us through the theory of the buy-side and sell-side over two days with lots of intense but fun simulations to put theory into practice. It was a great introduction to a career in Finance and especially to roles that many students may not consider. Before the simulation I would have given a resounding ‘No’ to the idea of working as a Sales Trader but I loved that role in the simulation so now it’s something I’m looking into. Even better, after I posted my experience on Instagram, a fellow MBA student got in touch to say that he worked in that area before the MBA and to get in touch with questions! That’s the power of the MBA at Oxford Saïd: you can explore your options and there’s always someone there willing to help you with that exploration.

In the wider university I went to see Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, speak at the Oxford Union, and also Michael Foale, the NASA astronaut, who came to the Natural History Museum to talk about his career and intense experience after a disaster onboard the Mir. Oxford attracts so many great speakers and the hard part is finding the time to see them all!

I’ve been working with the Oxford Foundry as well to try and develop an entrepreneurship idea I’ve had inside me for the last few years. There’s also a ridiculous number of clubs and societies to join and, as planned, I joined the OU Powerlifting Club and the OU Rifle Club. With all this going on, the only thing I really need to worry about is finding time to breathe.

The experiences I’ve had here in the first 9 weeks more than justify my choice to come to Oxford, even though there were hard choices to make alongside that and loved ones (temporarily) left behind in Canada. But if I’ve found this much enjoyment in just 9 weeks of the program, I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel at the end of the year!

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