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Tom Perfrement

Degree:

MBA

Location:

Australia

Industry:

Management Consulting

Year:

2020-21

By Tom Perfrement

Get to Know Tom Perfrement, Oxford MBA Class of 2020-2021

Tell us about yourself:

Chemical engineer turned management consultant turned social entrepreneur. Passionate about tennis, investing (listed equities), coffee, traveling, and empowering the not-for-profit ecosystem with data analytics capabilities.

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Management Consulting (L.E.K. Consulting)

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Social Impact / Funds Management / Consulting

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: Australia

College: Lincoln College. I selected Lincoln College after a recommendation from a Lincoln alumnus and close friend (thanks Will!). Lincoln is a special college: small, historic (founded 1427), sociable and extremely central. It also lays claim to the most picturesque library in Oxford!

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPerfrement
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tomperfrement
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomperfrement

Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would your manager describe you?  

Best friend: Optimistic

Manager: Ambitious

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.

I grew up in Canberra with a loving family that mean the world to me. On my mother’s side, I have German ancestry, with my Oma and Opa leaving behind everything they loved and that was familiar to them, to migrate to Australia post World War II. They have been inspirations to me and are a driving force behind my desire to succeed and make my mark. I am driven by the realization that I have been granted an opportunity via the choices and sacrifices that others have made before me. An opportunity to live in a peaceful and egalitarian society, and to thrive in a supportive educational environment.

After finishing high school in 2011, I was grateful (and lucky) to win a co-op scholarship to join one of Australia’s largest and most respected university scholarship programs at UNSW in Sydney, based on academic excellence, contributions to the community and sporting achievements. My decision to tackle a chemical engineering degree was grounded in the notion of contributing to the grand challenges of the 21st century: food security, energy, water and health.

Yet, as my university experience progressed, my attention shifted to how these concerns can be addressed via social entrepreneurship, within the business community and critically, in the not-for-profit sector. Towards the end of my undergrad degree, I represented Australia as a youth delegate to the World Bank and IMF annual meetings and subsequently took a role with a global management consulting firm, L.E.K. Consulting. Two years later, I co-founded and launched the Good Data Institute (GDI), Australia’s first dedicated organisation to give not-for-profits access to pro bono data analytics support and tools, via a network of socially minded data analytics volunteers.

The launch of this organisation was driven by the realization that the same data and analytics processes that the private sector is using to compete in the marketplace, can also be leveraged by non-profit organisations to accomplish their goals and enact change. Ultimately, this passion was central to my desire to study at Oxford University to leverage my consulting experiences to learn more about how purposeful business and social enterprises can solve world-scale challenges.

Lastly, having been involved in investing across the best part of the past decade, I am also currently a full-time private investor, running a personal portfolio and sharing equities research under the TEP Investments banner. The Oxford MBA degree has also provided an opportunity to learn from world class investors and participate in the Asset Management Masterclass programme.

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

Someone I greatly admire gave me some sage advice leading into my Oxford University experience. He suggested that rather than spending time working through books, course material, or other more conventional forms of preparation, the ultimate form of preparation is to simply learn about the remarkable history of Oxford.

To learn about who has walked the ancient and cobbled streets of this town in the centuries gone by. To learn about the astonishing history of Oxford’s 39 colleges. To learn about the unique traditions that have permeated the grounds of this special place for over 800 years.

“One day, decades to come, you’ll revisit this special place, perhaps with a family, and maybe you’ll do a tour, and the tour guide will tell you that on this exact bench, CS Lewis wrote many of his most famous works, including The Chronicles of Narnia. You don’t want to reflect back in time and think: I parked my bike by this bench every day and didn’t even realise.”

Savour the small, daily experiences and enjoy the little things in life. Appreciate life as it happens. In the end, they are the only things that we have and that matter. Thank you Nick Holder for this powerful advice. Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

The MBA is providing an incredible platform to learn about social entrepreneurship, asset management, finance, accounting, marketing, economics, leadership, and many other topics from world class professors. But the most powerful aspects of this experience for me personally are not academic.

By the end of the MBA, I hope to have continued to forge connections and friendships with truly wonderful people.

  • I hope to continue to learn more about the world and the cultural norms that shape its countries and cultures.
  • I hope to have had further chances to explore an incredibly special part of the world, and to have travelled the U.K. and Europe more broad
  •  I hope to have competed in further tennis tournaments, been a part of a vibrant Oxford University tennis ecosystem and have established a Top 500 U.K. national tennis ranking (#3473 with 2 U.K. tournaments played so far).
  • I hope to have learned more about myself, as a leader, follower, team-member, peer, and friend.

Lastly, I hope to have utilised this incredible experience to have expanded the operations, footprint, and impact of the Good Data Institute. I am thankful for the work of the Skoll Centre, the Oxford Hub and individuals in Oxford who have been excited to join me on this mission.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?

I spoke with two inspiring individuals in the MBA cohort above me before commencing my MBA: Carlos Blanco from Australia and Vera Argyle from South Africa. Both Carlos and Vera encouraged me to think deeply about what I wanted to achieve from this Oxford experience and to layer the different parts of the program on top of each other, such that they would complement and augment one another.

Q6. Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?

Firstly, with regards to taking the GMAT exam, I would simply encourage prospective Oxford students to take the test without “overengineering” their preparation. Less is more. More often than not, people act of the side of caution rather than taking a risk. It’s human nature to be risk-averse. After a week or two of preparation, simply take the leap and take on the test. I have personally found that the 80/20 rule is a powerful guide; 80% of output is generated by 20% of your effort; the last 20% of output takes 80% of the time. Once you have covered the essentials, increases in performance become ever incremental and your efforts may even backfire if you hit a state of burnout.

Secondly, think deeply about what your goals are and specifically how the Oxford experience will help you achieve those goals. Think deeply about what you personally can contribute to the Oxford community. Once you have clarity on your path and what it is that excites you every morning when you wake up, the rest of the application will fall into place. Moreover, once you are clear on your vision, you may find that you can rule out other business school choices. Personally, I applied only to Oxford University and Cambridge University, and could therefore focus all my attention on these two applications.

Q7. What is the most challenging part of the programme?

COVID has had an undeniable impact on our academic, extracurricular, and social experience across the year to date. It has challenged each of us in different ways. Some will have wished they had deferred. However, we, each of us, are at a place in our lives because of innumerable circumstances, and we, each of us, have a responsibility to make the most of the opportunity we have been given and the path we are on.

I am grateful and blessed to be at this special place at this unique time in history.  This ‘adventure’ truly has evoked a higher form of character from so many of our class.  Crises are times when the world forces our character to grow or shrink. I am thankful to my peers who continue to show leadership through these extraordinary times.

Q8. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” – C.S. Lewis

The need for the development of data analytics capabilities in the NFP world has never been clearer, but the sector faces several challenges on this journey. I am inspired by those who have transferred key business driven capabilities into the NFP world, such as Michael Traill, founding CEO of Social Ventures Australia, and believe that Oxford may act as a springboard for myself to personally follow this path.

The MBA experience to date has already provided key connections, knowledge and skills that will enable further growth of the Good Data Institute. I look forward to continuing to work towards our aim of empowering the non-profit world with data analytics capabilities alongside a wonderful team and community that I am incredibly grateful and proud to be a part of.

If this has struck a chord with you, reach out and join us on our journey.

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