Derich Cabrera









By Derich Cabrera

Meet the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22: Derich Cabrera

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: FMCG, Pharmaceuticals

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Pharmaceuticals, General entrepreneurship

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: Philippines

College: St. Peter’s college

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

Best friend: Versatile
Manager: Resilient

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

People who learn that I’m taking an Oxford MBA usually ask whether business was always something I wanted to do as a kid. I wish I could say that there was a deep, meaningful memory that thoroughly inspired me to pursue this. The truth is, I never had one of those life-changing experiences. I was just a snot-nosed kid that thought it was a cool job that grownups did. The negotiations, the deal-making, the fine-print in contracts that lead to plot twists in movies, and of course, the firm handshakes struck with such gravitas!

As I grew older however, curiosity would turn into passion and an appetite to seek out opportunities. I’m a Filipino that works as an Operations Manager to a family business called Diamond Laboratories, a national manufacturer and distributor of generic medicines and herbal supplements. My main responsibilities are to supervise our sales, marketing, and production teams, collaborating with international suppliers and key accounts. More recently, I’ve piloted distribution strategies that entailed rebuilding our sales team, creating new budgets, leading negotiations with distributors, and developing methods to audit our successes.

Prior to my involvement with my family business, I took on a key account role in one of the biggest FMCG companies in the Philippines, Monde Nissin. I am certain that I am not exaggerating when I say that the people in this firm are built differently. They find ways to relentlessly tackle tough issues in the retail industry and do so with such passion and energy. Thriving in this environment not only taught me the importance of refining processes, but also gave me a lot of confidence as a decision-maker.

And so here I am! Although there were several MBA programs that caught my attention, I was focused on a program that could rapidly expand my knowledge, global perspective, and personal and professional contacts. I hope to one day capitalize on the growth potential of the ASEAN pharma market and think that the one-year Oxford MBA was my best choice. What clinched my decision, however, was the program’s emphasis on purposeful leadership. As a former student (of 16 years) to a Jesuit university named Ateneo De Manila, I was always taught to strive to be better. Ambition without service owed to others is simply not enough. ‘Magis’ puts pursuing this responsibility above all, and I felt a strong connection to this ideal with the Oxford MBA.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

The business school has definitely done spectacular work keeping incoming candidates riled up for the experience. Whether that’s through exercises initiated by the school’s stellar Career Development Center, or a webinar on university life, you do feel like you are a part of something special.

As a round 1 admit, I had close to a year to prepare for the program. Although my focus was on facilitating new programs and adjusting our business operations to Covid, there was a lot of time for introspection. I knew these were my last months in the Philippines, and I spent them enjoying all the Filipino food I could get my hands on (because as my family knows, there is absolutely no chance I would succeed as a cook). Above all, it was a time where I was able to ask bigger questions – How do you scale a business to other countries, and what does this entail?

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

As a professional, I want to sharpen my skills in global strategy and finance, while building a network of contacts from this diverse group. I’m confident that I’ve come to the right place and it’s evident even in the handful of batchmates I’ve met in zoom calls. On a personal level, I’m ecstatic to meet people, to be challenged by them, and to collaborate on solving the tough issues that no one else can!

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

A lot of mentors come to mind, but I think one of the best pieces of advice given to me is to genuinely root for other people’s success. Doing so prevents you from comparing yourself to others and builds a quiet confidence, making you less fixated on other people’s perceptions than on your own goals.

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

A common misconception is that a high GMAT score is the golden ticket to any top business school, but don’t be a fool! Making the mistake of overhyping one aspect of your application rather than making it as holistic as possible will cost your chances. Instead, you should be asking yourself questions that aim to align your goals and skillset with what the program can offer: What are your goals? How would the MBA help you reach these goals? What skills were you able to develop during your career? How would these skills enrich the classes? There are of course several other questions, but introspection is key.

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

Building connections and learning from the experiences of others are certainly at the top of my list. The fact that we are thrust into a new environment with no idea of what to expect and of what skills we pick up along the way – similar to operating and managing a business – is what excites me the most.

In particular, I’m keen on experiencing the Entrepreneurship project and GOTO.

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

I think the most challenging aspect of the program is also the most exciting. There are too many opportunities and uncertainties that come with student life. On top of your curriculum, there are networking events, college events, extra-curriculars, and a ton of other activities in the broader university. Having said that, uncertainty and risk-taking are at the core of business and of life, so to say that I’m excited is an understatement!

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

As an entrepreneur that hopes to scale his family business to new heights, I think it’s important to prioritize responsible business leadership, especially since I’m from a country like the Philippines. It’s embarrassing because amidst decades of fighting past dictatorships, we found ourselves slipping 14 notches in the Corruption Perception Index in 2020, and now face month after month of setbacks due to the government’s poor response to Covid-19. Additionally, any kind of gain that the Philippines does get economically is never enjoyed by those who actually need it. The poor get poorer, and the country’s leaders (both in politics and those who run big business) seem to relish in it.

I want to bring responsible business leadership back with me, and I firmly think that the Oxford MBA is the premiere program that instils purposeful leadership into its students. Initiatives like GOTO, which thrusts students to think of scalable ways to address social issues are evidence of this.

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

I have my eyes on the Entrepreneurship and Innovation OBN (Oxford Business Network) for sure, but there are also new groups such as the Family Business Network, which was spearheaded last year by a group of students. The fact that most of these clubs are student-led means that success depends on how active the members are, and I think that’s really cool 😊. It’s definitely going to be an exciting year.

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