Tell us about yourself: I come to Oxford after six years of working in finance (three in South Africa and three in Australia), focussing on financial due diligence and corporate valuations, and I continue to call Africa home.
I have decided on 6 values to take with me into the MBA and these will form the themes of my upcoming blog posts: Authenticity, Flexibility, Contribution, Connection, Courage, and, the one with which I will struggle most, Creativity. I am expecting something life-changing from my Oxford experience. Because, you see, I have been dreaming of Oxford for 8 years.
Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Finance/Accounting
Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Social Impact Finance
Country of residence before coming to Oxford: South Africa/Australia
College: St Catherine’s (St Catz)
Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would you manager describe you?
Best friend: Adventurous
Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.
As third-generation South African I grew up on a farm in the northernmost corner of my beloved country. I continue to call Africa home. I come to Oxford after six years of working in the KPMG Deal Advisory team (three in South Africa and three in Australia), focussing on financial due diligence and corporate valuations. Whilst I find my job challenging and satisfying, I had always known that I would pursue an impact driven career. Thirteen-year-old me was not only preparing my parents’ GST returns for our ‘spaza’ shop on the farm but also in constant argument with them about our (seemingly outrageous) 30% gross mark-up (blissfully unaware of something called ‘operating expenses’).
Oxford, and the Oxford MBA, has such a strong focus on social impact and this seems like a natural fit for my career ambitions. I of course applied to a couple of ‘safety schools’ (at the risk of sounding arrogant), but there was always only going to be one school for me.
Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?
Research on Oxford and the MBA has never felt like a chore to me. You see, I have been dreaming of studying at Oxford for 8 years.
The one piece of advice that was shared by every MBA alum I met is to forget about pre-reading and rather arrive well rested. In saying that, I have done several Wall Street Prep courses to prepare me for the Finance Lab kicking off in the week before the MBA launch. I am also (slowly) working my way through ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, ‘The Essays of Warren Buffet’ and ‘Private Equity Demystified’ (here’s to hoping John Gilligan reads student blogs!).
I am also fortunate to be able to take a month off before the start of the programme and will use this time to reconnect with old friends, visit my family back in South Africa, and try and learn the names of my (320) classmates!
Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?
As mentioned earlier, I am determined to follow an impact driven career and hope to work for, and to soon manage, an impact fund. Business and social impact should no longer exist in isolation and Oxford’s MBA seeks to integrate a range of different skills which is necessary for me to be an impact leader. The focus on social impact in its various forms permeates every aspect of the MBA, from ‘Global and Sustainable Business’ and ‘Impact Investing’ electives to the Impact Lab and co-curriculars through the Skoll Centre. Social impact truly is embedded in the programme.
Additionally, I’m looking to gain a global network of ethical future business leaders, and friends, who will support and challenge me throughout my career.
Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?
I’ve been lucky to network and connect with dozens of diverse people who have completed their MBAs at different schools. Advice has ranged from what pre-reading to focus on, to which laptop to buy. The three pieces of advice that resonate most with me are:
– To not only spend time defining my own priorities and goals before the start of the MBA but to also strengthen the relationships with my current network of ‘cheerleaders (family, friends), advocates (mentors, managers) and role models’. I’ve been told that an MBA experience is fully immersive, not necessarily because the academic workload is overwhelming but because socialising, career exploration, and extra-curricular activities will be all-consuming; so, it’s important to solidify these relationships before the start of the programme.
– To go into the MBA with an open mind. I am known to be somewhat of a planner. Unfortunately, our plans can sometimes get in the way of us reaching our full potential. A good friend had it right when he said: “I would be disappointed if you didn’t end up someplace you weren’t expecting.” So, I am going in with ‘a plan’, but not ‘the plan’, I want to leave room to explore my options and to say ‘yes’ spontaneously.
– To give myself enough time to settle in and sort out admin – there just won’t be time once the programme starts. Oh and to stock up on vitamins – I’ve heard some horror stories about the infamous ‘Fresher’s flu’.
Q6. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?
Connecting, and learning from, with my diverse cohort (60+ nationalities), the Finance Lab and associated Private Equity case competitions, taking Professor Mungo Wilson’s elective, MBAT, and of course the international electives (although I haven’t quite decided what I will bid on).
Q7. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?
Prioritising. As they say, ‘you can do anything at Oxford, but not everything’. This is a unique opportunity to try new things, while learning and failing, all in an environment that is positive and encouraging, and I want to squeeze every single drop from it. Who needs sleep anyway?
Q8. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?
Other than wanting to use the MBA to launch a career in impact finance, I look forward to genuinely learning from my classmates, understanding their stories and having conversations that shapes my own thinking. Our stories can influence each other’s thinking, ideas, and be used as a force for positive change. As Eileen Chen (class of 2019) said in a recent interview ‘Go where you’ll find the conversations you want to have’. I have no doubt that for me that place is Oxford.
Q9. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?
Oh so many! I’ve been working on striking a balance between allocation of effort (the 80-20 rule) and the inevitable FOMO from not trying new things. I’ve therefore decided to take advice from a student in the 2017/18 cohort (shout-out to Marla Woodward) and focus on one new thing for each of the body, the mind and the soul.
To keep fit I’d like to try out for the St Catz rowing team. This seems like a natural fit as I spent my last two summers a part-time lifesaver at Bondi Beach in Australia.
For the mind I will focus most of my time and energy on the Finance Lab and associated case competitions.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, one for the soul; book clubs! Our cohort has already formed a virtual book club and we look forward to turning this into something more tangible when the term starts. I am also in a book club with my friends in South Africa and hope to continue reading at least a book a quarter with them for the next year. Some of our best philosophical conversations have originated from the books we’ve read.
Q10. Lastly, what’s your favourite hashtag?