Oliver Doraisamy









By Oliver Doraisamy

Get to know Oliver Doraisamy, Class of 2020-21

Tell us about yourself: Australian diplomat with over 6 years’ experience in international trade and development, including at the UN and WTO. Previously managed a social enterprise supporting primary education and community business in rural Uganda. Passionate about driving financially sustainable solutions to social challenges.

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Government (Foreign Affairs)

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Social Impact/International Development

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: Switzerland

College: Christ Church

Social Media:

Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would your manager describe you?  
Best friend: Loyal
Manager: Versatile

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.
I’m a first generation Australian – my parents were born in Singapore and the UK, and my grandparents were born in Germany, Guyana, India and Sri Lanka. This multi-ethnic, multi-cultural background has shaped both my interest in the world and my commitment to social justice.

I have been fortunate to enjoy an extremely diverse and fulfilling career as an Australian diplomat and foreign service officer. My work has taken me to India and Indonesia for bilateral negotiations on digital trade, to Nauru for economic and financial reporting, to Rwanda for monitoring and evaluation of aid projects, and to Davos for multiple World Economic Forums. I recently completed a three-year posting to the United Nations (UN) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, where I worked to promote foreign investment, women’s empowerment and sustainable development.  Outside of government, I spent 6 years managing an Australian-based social enterprise, which supported primary education and community business (agriculture and transport) in rural Uganda.

The culmination of these experiences has firmed my interest in driving financially sustainable, multi-stakeholder approaches to social challenges.  The Oxford MBA is an ideal opportunity to test myself, learn and grow. I was particularly drawn by Said’s focus on business as a tool for positive social change, the diverse class cohort, and of course the rich history of the University and town!

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?
Aside from the long list of necessary (and often tedious!) tasks associated with moving overseas, my preparation for the MBA has focused on the following:

–        broadening my reading and podcast libraries (I’m currently enjoying reading ‘Impact’ by Sir Ronald Cohen, and loved reading John Carreyou’s ‘Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup’)

–        spending time reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses, and setting objectives for the year ahead and beyond;

–        speaking to friends, colleagues and others in my network to better understand the trends in the international development landscape, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?
The two main things I’m seeking from the MBA are: (1) a deeper understanding of the role of business in society and the intersection of the private, public and non-profit sectors; and (2) a diverse network of friends and colleagues to learn from and collaborate with over the next year and into the future.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?
A couple of pieces of advice I’ll endeavour to keep in mind are that despite not having a business background,  my experiences and knowledge will still place me in good stead to bring a unique and valuable perspective to the course. Additionally, while the MBA can help to open opportunities, there are many ways to get where you want to go!

Q6. Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?
I would say that it is important to do your research and speak to people to get a better understanding of the school, the programme and the application process. For me, this included visiting Oxford in-person and speaking to current students and alumni. Doing so helped me get a gauge for the culture and vibe of the School – and importantly – to see what a magical place Oxford would be to live in!  I would also say you should back yourself, trust your judgment and be authentic in both the application and interviews.

Q7. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to? 
There are three parts of the programme I’m most excited about:

–         Meeting, working with, and learning from both academics and classmates – many of whom I’ve already met and are at the same time interesting, impressive, and humble;

–         Seeing how the School integrates the notion of ‘responsible business’ into the programme overall, through the teaching, projects and co-curricular activities;

–        The mixture of theoretical and practical/experiential learning, through opportunities such as the Entrepreneurship Project, GOTO and various Labs.

Q8. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?
Prioritising! Many alumni have emphasised how quickly one year goes, and how there is no shortage of choice for spending time. Striking the right balance between sticking to my objectives and keeping an open mind to different and new experiences will be a key challenge I think

Q9. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?
I’m most interested in cross-sectoral collaboration on social challenges – in particular poverty and inequality. I hope that my professional experience in government and non-profits, combined with the learnings from the MBA will place me well to drive innovative efforts in this space. As for the ‘how’ and ‘where’, this should become clearer as the year progresses!

Q10. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?

On the academic side, I’m keen to get involved in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) programme, and probably a few others.

On the College side, I am thrilled to be a Member of Christ Church, and am looking forward to hearing the choir sing in the Cathedral and joining fellow students for formal dinners in the Hall (and yes, it’s as magical in real life as it is in Harry Potter!)

On the personal side, my partner Emma (who is also doing the Oxford MBA this year) and I share a love of running and hiking. We have been fortunate to explore some spectacular places in Europe over the last few years, and we are both keen to join student running clubs and head on weekend adventures with classmates.

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