Sanoma Jean




United States





By Sanoma Jean

Meet the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22: Sanoma Jean

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22 to Oxford this September. Get to know our incoming students in this blog post series as they prepare to join Saïd Business School.

Tell us about yourself

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Tech & Data

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Entrepreneurship, Impact & Tech

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: United States

College: Kellogg

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

Best friend: Adventurous
Manager: Ambitious

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

I have been a curious and ambitious person my entire life. From an early age I craved knowledge and learning, which was mostly good but occasionally got me into trouble. Throughout my academic career this translated into a passion and drive that brought me to a well-suited career in Tech.

I spent my undergraduate career and my first year of working experience in Denver, Colorado, enjoying a gracious work-life balance, working for one of the Big4 as a Tax Technology Data Engineer, and spending my free time in the Rocky Mountains.

Sanoma sitting on a yellow and blue bike with a red basket, Google branded, holding a thumbs up

After that first year, I got the call to move out to Silicon Valley and join the Global Trade & New Markets team at Tesla. This was my first real taste of tech and Silicon Valley. After some exciting and interesting experiences at Tesla, I made the jump over to Google to work in Finance. Here I was doing a similar kind of work, business intelligence, data engineering, and data visualization. However, I knew that I wasn’t meant to be an individual contributor for the rest of my career and I had aspirations to either become a Program Manager or to head off and work on my own venture, focused on social impact.

After the tumultuous year that was 2020, I was swiftly reminded that life is short, time is precious and if not now, then when? And I set out to discover how I was meant to make an impact on the world.

Enter, Oxford. When doing my research on MBA programs, I immediately felt drawn to Oxford not only for the brand name and history, but because out of the top European MBAs, Oxford is specifically focused on and dedicated to social impact. I knew that this was the kind of environment and people that I wanted to be surrounded by if I was going to truly use this MBA to take the risk I’ve always wanted to, and start my own venture, or pivot into a more fulfilling social impact career.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

Preparing for the MBA has been both exhilarating, as it indicates the beginning of a new chapter, and overwhelming, as there are so many opportunities of which to take advantage. Oxford University has done a phenomenal job of providing pre-programme students with the resources, materials, and support systems we need to hit the ground running when we get to campus in September. So I have spent two months this summer, after I left my job, both refreshing myself on various skills, and also taking some time to travel, reset and allow myself some mental breathing room so that I can come into this school year ready to tackle some of these challenging problems we are facing.

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

There are so many different things I know I will gain from this MBA, from relationships and connections, to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. However, the thing I am most focusing on gaining during this time is simple: clarity. I have always been a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type. My fragmented mind wants to start 1,000 different projects, but struggles to put valuable focus into one. This year during my MBA I plan to take the leap of starting my own venture and truly having the time and resources to put everything I’ve got into one focused effort. I hope this will bring me the clarity to know what the right path is for my future and in what way I am meant to change the world.

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

The best advice that I received before my MBA is simply to be genuine. While this may sound like a massive ‘duh’, it is so easy for schools, or people for that matter, to see through any facades and perceive your true hopes and intentions. Being your genuine self on an MBA application may feel uncomfortable, but it is outside of this comfort zone that you grow and your humanness shines through.

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

Don’t feel like you need to have your entire path figured out when applying. For me, my future plans during the application process went from catalyzing my current career and planning to go back to Google, to social impact careers and impact investing, to my current pursuit of entrepreneurship. The brilliant thing about an MBA is that it provides you with so many avenues to discover yourself and it is the perfect time in your life to take risks. So it’s completely okay to not be sure what your ultimate path will be, as long as you’re transparent with your intentions, goals, and values.

What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to learning and growing from the accomplished and diverse peers that I will have in the MBA. I have already been able to meet several people pre-programme and have been continually astonished at how simultaneously driven and down-to-earth everyone has been. I very much believe that I will learn just as much from my impressive peers as I will from the program itself.

What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?

The COVID19 pandemic has posed an incredible variety of challenges for most people over the last year and a half. I think pursuing an MBA during this time will be no exception. While Oxford is taking every measure that they can to ensure in person class and hybrid learning where appropriate, I expect that there will still be qualifications and certain aspects that won’t be as engaging as they could have been pre-Covid. However, I also see it as the perfect time to be pursuing an MBA as COVID19 is changing our world as we know it, which is the most ripe time for entrepreneurship and innovation.

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

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and crave building things from the ground up. I hope to use my learnings from this MBA to catalyze my ventures and help me find the path forward to build and scale. The ventures that I hope to pursue, including one that I am currently working on are all related to social impact in one way or another. If I can bring these companies to a successful, scalable model, then it is my hope that they will positively impact anyone with whom I engage.

Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?

With over 400 teams, societies, and clubs at Oxford it is so hard to narrow down where I want to spend my time. I also love how easy it is to start your own club for a specific interest if it doesn’t already exist. A couple of groups that I have my eye on are the Mountaineering Club, Ski & Snowboard Club, Blind Tasting Club, Global Exchanges Club, and Sustainable Business and Entrepreneurship club. But I’m sure I’m not over-committing myself or anything….

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