Emma Openshaw




South Africa





By Emma Openshaw

Get to know Emma Openshaw, Class of 2020-21

Tell us about yourself: City-slicker turned wildlife novice, I have made a career out of doing what I love, telling stories. My time in the entertainment industry has spanned from producing and coordinating films to directing live television shows. I am rarely found without something to say or without a cup of tea in hand.

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Media & Entertainment, specializing in film and television production.

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: I am not planning on straying too far from the Media & Entertainment sector, but check back in a year.

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: South Africa

Kellogg, the café is renowned for their desserts so it seemed like a good fit.Social Media:
Instagram:  @emmaopenshaw

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

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.
I have always and probably will always call South Africa home. Although green, suburban Johannesburg gave me an unrealistic idea of ‘city-living’, growing up in a city and country built atop a tumultuous history with a whole lot of healing and promise ahead, the energy was like no other. Story-telling is a family trait and I made it my business to listen to people’s stories wherever I went. From a young age I wore the label of a bossy little know-it-all quite proudly and it has served me well having just come from a role as a content director of a live, safari show.

I am as surprised as many of the people closest to me that I ended up working in wildlife content. Straight out of studying production at The University of Cape Town, I went to work for the Director of Film Finances SA. This was my first look at the business side of showbusiness and I was thrown by how unfamiliar it all seemed. Since then, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about understanding how content makers can gain access to funds and how best they can go about using those funds. After that, I became practically involved in making content, coordinating and facilitating a range of projects from international films to television specials. Then came the unexpected twist of up and moving to a wildlife reserve to learn how to direct a daily, live wildlife show. It is truly something to be surrounded by people who care so deeply about what they do and why they do it. Apart from watching the epic crossings of wildebeest in the Maasai Mara or seeing a leopardess ‘boop’ her father on the nose, the importance of passionate people, the impact of conservation and the content creating conversations about it changed my perspective for good. So here I am, looking to draw all I can out of the MBA programme. The balance of business knowledge and practical application, alongside the course and co-curricular initiatives’ focus on impact seemed like the perfect package for me. Not to mention that you have the opportunity to connect with an incredibly diverse cohort of students, all at extraordinary levels of excellence in their own rights. I’ve never grown out of wanting to change the world and I’m certain that this programme will contribute a great deal to making that possible.

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?
I was fortunate enough to work until just before leaving for the start of the programme. It was lucky for many reasons but mostly because it kept my mind focused. It forced me to prepare for the move practically, without allowing too much anxiety from over-thinking to be a distraction. The University and the Business School provide you with a wealth a material to prepare, the trick is to not become over-whelmed and work through the information, highlighting what you’re interested in and what you’re not sure of yet. I tried to make sure I was in the right headspace, ready to take in as much of the knowledge and the experience as possible.

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?
The tools to take over the world (mostly in a figurative sense).

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?
I am incredibly lucky to have a phenomenal support base, all of whom had gems of wisdom for me as I embarked on this adventure. It may not technically be considered advice but the amount of pride that I have felt from my friends and family leading up to this is more motivation than any one-liner.

Q6. Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?
Just do it. If you are considering doing an MBA programme, especially at an institution like Oxford, you are probably the type of person who has already listed every pro and con twice over, I know I did. I found that speaking to friends and family encouraged me to think about my motivations for applying, or at least come up with a better answer to ‘so why do you want to do an MBA’. Once the idea is set, it is difficult to shake and everything that comes with the application process, the GMAT; the motivational questions and the interviews, have a purpose and an end-goal.

Q7. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to? 
Establishing core connections, from study groups to networks, and sharing knowledge. There really is just so much to learn!

Q8. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?
Twenty-four hours in a day is not enough and seven days in a week is sheer madness. Managing time, my eagerness and my caffeine intake will definitely prove challenging.

Q9. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?
I want to work towards creating a commercial space for content creators focused on telling stories that incorporate representation and purpose. It is a long-term and relatively vague goal. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like in terms of a concrete position or role but having the backing of this programme will be a fundamental step in the right direction.

Q10. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?
There are an unbelievable amount of options on offer but I want to be sure to invest time in groups that I am passionate about and not just the ones that will look good on a LinkedIn profile.


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