Marla Woodward




United States





By Marla Woodward

Interviews with Alumnae: Marla Woodward

Before the MBA, I was in the consumer goods industry with functional experience across physical product management, digital product management, and consumer research. I’d spent much of my career working for global companies headquartered in the US, and I wanted to use my MBA to break out of my industry, possibly geography, and move into either technology enabled companies or consulting. I pursued both avenues from the start of the MBA, and ended my year with offers from consulting and tech companies. I ultimately decided to pursue the role with the tech company as it was a faster path to my ultimate goal: CEO or company founder.

My advice for MBA applicants looking at the same area of work;
If you want to work in marketing or product management, try and get experience wherever you can. Even if it’s volunteering work for a non-profit or an extra course or two to build up your technical skills. Many of these job interviews now include mini case studies along with competency questions. The more experience you have and the more comfortable you get with the language of the discipline, the higher your chance of success.

One of the ways I built my consulting experience, for example, was joining the Oxford Strategy Group during my MBA. I got to conduct strategy consulting work for Barclays and Unilever, and one of these projects even turned into a job offer at the end of the course. This was invaluable work experience that let me practice my MBA course skills in real time and also came up in every job interview I’ve had since gradation.

Advice on applying:
You’ve heard it a lot, but it’s true: know what you want to get out of the MBA and communicate it well. A one year program needs you to be more in the driver’s seat than a two year program, and the admissions team is looking to see if you know what you’re about and how Oxford can help you get there.

Don’t give-in to imposter syndrome. Apply. I almost didn’t apply to Oxford because my GMAT wasn’t over 700. However, what I lacked in high test scores, I made up for with 8+ years in industry, global business experience, and a really good cultural fit with the school. Just apply! The actual risk is minimal and the potential upside is tremendous.

Why I chose to move to London post-MBA
Halfway through the MBA, I knew I wasn’t going back to the same small town I came from because the opportunities I was seeking weren’t there. Since I would move my life anyway, I focused my job search (and secured a job) in London because:

  1. I had a built in network (MBA) in lieu of family and friends from home. About half of our class moved to London after graduation, which made it an easy transition. This support network alone moved London to the top of the list.
  2. I’ve always had a passion for financial literacy, and I began to develop a passion for FinTech at the end of the MBA. While I’m not yet working in the industry, I have been talking to some early state startups and am constantly exploring the space. London is one of the global hubs for FinTech, Being in London allows me to keep a pulse on the space.
  3. My partner is a music teacher, and England in general has a wonderful choral tradition he was keen to explore. When he found a job and coworkers he loved a month after the MBA finished, it felt like the city would be a good fit for both of us.
  4. Travel. I love it, I live for it, and being in Europe (anywhere in Europe) puts you much closer to parts of the world that are generally harder to get to from North America. I may be quarantined for the moment, but that’s not stopping me from planning affordable trips to Russia and Germany in the near future. Also, the 5 weeks of holiday in the UK makes it possible to actually travel more than once a year.

Marla Woodward, Oxford MBA class of 2017-18

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