Catherine Perry






Energy and Resources



By Catherine Perry

A year of two extremes

What a difference 12 months makes.

The Director of Exploration for a mining client told me that my exploration drilling project would see me spend February 2019 in Ponton, Manitoba. The fact that this location had a name would signal – for most countries in the world – the presence of some sort of community. For remote northern Canada, the rules are a little different. Instead, Ponton is literally just the intersection of two highways. It used to have a gas station but it had burned down the previous summer.

I’d been thinking about doing an MBA for a while. I loved my work in exploration but the long hours (typically 12 hour days, 7 days a week, for as many weeks as the client needed in a rotation) and travelling were becoming increasingly gruelling. I needed a change but wanted to be able to use my existing skills and experience to make a leap forward in my career instead of taking a step down, as I’d already had to do for my career change from Oil and Gas to Mining. An MBA seemed like a perfect fit that would get me where I wanted to be.

The Ponton project also coincided with some brutally cold weather – the coldest I’d ever experienced while living in northern Canada – with -45c sunny days and -55c starry nights. Most of the time I was studying my rocks in a supposedly heated tent but occasionally I’d be forced to leave my cosy hole and venture out to visit the drillers or do some other outdoors work in advance of a drill move.

It was during my stay in this literal gravel pit that I received the news that I was being interviewed for the Oxford MBA program! I’m not sure who was more excited – me or the team at camp – but it was cause for celebration.

I’m sitting right now in Saïd Business School’s Sainsbury Library and sometimes still find it hard to believe that I’m here and blown away by such a dramatic life change. So far the program has exceeded my expectations and I’m both shocked and sad that we’re halfway through our taught courses.

We’ve finished our first block of Hilary classes, completing Firms and Markets with an exam and Strategy with an essay. We changed sections and study groups for Hilary so that we could work on our GOTO projects in a Climate Action stream of interest. My new section is Rethinking Growth and my study group are focusing on e-waste in Oxfordshire. We’ve mapped our system and have found an intervention point.

For block two of Hilary, we’ve added the Entrepreneurship Project to the mix. It’s still early days for the group projects but I’m really excited about the idea my EP group has and I’m looking forward to seeing the project progress. In addition, we started our Core+ course and first elective. For me, that means Business Finance Plus and Corporate Valuation.

The pace hasn’t relented. Though last week’s introduction to the entrepreneurship project felt quite laid-back, there’s still a lot happening in Oxford. This week the school celebrated International Women’s Day with events such as a seminar with Vivienne Cox, the most senior woman in BP. On Tuesday about half of the MBA cohort visited St Catz for a delicious dinner to celebrate (or commiserate?) reaching the halfway mark. The Oxford Foundry hosted Mark Pollock, a blind and paralysed endurance athlete, to talk about his experiences.

It also goes without saying that winter in Oxford is so much more enjoyable than it was in Ponton. As I write this, the sun is shining and it’s 11c. The spring flowers are brightening our days, the trees are in blossom, and walking along the canal behind the business school is a treat for the senses. Manitoba feels like it was a lifetime ago but the year is racing by. No matter how long the MBA is, I know that in September it won’t have felt long enough.

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