Eileen Chen









By Eileen Chen

Don’t settle for default

I sat doe-eyed in the Nelson Mandela Theatre during our first week with 315 new best friends, all eager and excited for the year of adventure to come. I did not expect to hear a 4-word quote that would change my career perspective forever.

In the middle of the week, 2016 alum Gillian Benjamin used her time on stage to point out that we are living at a space in time that stands at the cliff of climate change crisis. I was instantly hooked – this was THE reason I applied to Oxford and the MBA. She shocked us with climate change graphs, pictures, and finally weaved this quote into her narrative: “don’t settle for default”.

Christiana Figueres, ex-Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, giving a speech on “What now? Next steps on climate change” at the Sheldonian Theatre

Initially, the quote struck me on a personal level: I had been debating applying for corporate roles post-MBA purely out of familiarity, in hopes of one day moving into the climate change space. However, it occurred to me that day that if I really wanted to make an impact on this issue, there would never be a better time than now. Throughout the semester, this point was consistently reinforced like a beating drum in the back of my mind. In the timeliest manner, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released just weeks after this speech. Climate scientists convened and concluded that the world needs to curtail global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 21st century before we reach a disastrous tipping point; however we are currently “on track to reach 3 degrees or more” (Source: NY Times).

As the semester progressed, the quote took on new meaning as I absorbed the plethora of new content Michaelmas offered. This included:

Climate change and many of the world’s issues cannot be fixed with the toolbox of the present, a point these incredible thought leaders proved again and again. During their speeches, they challenged the “default” of business as usual, and suggested innovative ways in which a better society could function. Sitting in the same room and breathing the same air makes you feel that you, a 20-something MBA student, are capable of challenging this “default” too.

The semester has come to an end, and I can confidently say that Oxford has exceeded my expectations. Instead of seeing my career as a series of organisations and positions I will work in, I now see a series of problems I will help solve and a default that I will not settle for.

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