Sanya Rajpal









By Sanya Rajpal

Get to know Sanya Rajpal, Oxford MBA Class of 2020-2021

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a Development and Policy Expert, Entrepreneur and Lawyer. Passionately dedicated to creating impact and facilitating change through creating opportunities for people’s excellence to shine – usually through education, entrepreneurship and cognitive skills. Most recently I was working at the UN, working on trade&development issues. I’m driven by a desire to learn and am unbelievably excited to engage with the incredible people of the MBA Cohort.

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Entrepreneurship/Policy/Development

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

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: UK/Switzerland

College? St Benet’s Hall

Social Media

Instagram: @SanyaRajpalOfficial

Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would your manager describe you?  

Best friend: Radiant

Manager: Innovative Problem-Solver

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.

Before Oxford, I spent the year working at the UN on trade and development policy and programs. Essentially working with youth and entrepreneurs. Both helping to increase advocacy opportunities and create policy recommendations for global decision makers, as well as shape local solutions to drive sustainable development.

As a qualified lawyer with a Masters in Education & International Development, with years of experience working in development (through volunteering, growing my own policy consultancy company and within large organisations), I saw that most solutions in development have gaps in how they are constructed – some miss the contextual on the ground buy-in, some miss the robust development theory, some miss the systematic policy frameworks and some miss the financial efficiency/sustainability, – and as a result solutions either create more problems than they solve, are not meaningful or are not long-lasting enough to have significant impact. Personally, I’m very interested in bringing these perspectives together to create a holistic approach to change. With my background, I identified that I was missing the high-level business skills in developing this broad approach to change and decided an MBA would be a great next step.

After learning about the ethos of most major MBA programs, Oxford became an obvious choice. With its focus on responsible leadership, and history of academic excellence, I knew It would a fantastic place for my development.

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I was most looking forward to meeting my incredible cohort and learning from the leading professors who teach us. How this happens has obviously changed significantly as a result of COVID, however it is vital to prioritise this aspect of the MBA.

So, I made sure that I was in the sight mental head-space and had the energy to be able to have meaningful conversations and build those powerful relationships. Which would help me learn, shape my future approaches to impact and my career, as well as allow me to effectively contribute to those I was meeting.

Therefore, I spend time researching and learning about the different sectors students may come from, what I would like to learn beyond the surface about those industries, and how it may be relevant to my areas of interest. As well as reflecting on my own experiences, and what might I bring to those conversations.

I also spent some time brushing up on skills that would help me with the MBA – wall street prep is a great tool!

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

I hope to spend my time in the MBA framing my extremely diverse experiences from 10 years working in development, as well as organising my key priorities for the next few years of my career. Additionally, I want to make sure I take advantage of all the diverse experiences, unique perspectives and great opportunities that exist at Oxford.

I want to know more than I came here knowing, and be thinking differently than just what I came in with. I think this is an active choice, and one I will need to take every day to reach.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?

Honestly I didn’t necessarily ask a lot of people advice specifically. But I did ask questions to understand how people think, how they imagine the MBA, and “change” as a whole. This helped me make sure that not only was I right for Oxford, or an MBA, but also that Oxford and the MBA was best suited to me; and this is how I framed preparing for the MBA.

That being said, this is what I learned that means the most to me:

Do not do anything on the basis of it defines you and your value. Be that applying to the MBA or the many programs and jobs you will apply for afterwards. As well as the people you will engage with while here. It’s just one more step on your journey. You are learning as you go, it’s important but it’s not everything. Trust yourself, and the process.

Q6. Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?

There are always more people with the same level of qualifications or experience as you. Therefore, my advice is to focus on how you approach and engaged with those experiences and skills you have developed. How that is unique to you and your personality, and how does that fit into your future.

However, I can imagine that “Let your personality shine” is can seem generic and a bit unfathomable. Therefore, what I’d suggest is that you ask yourself a few questions about significant things that you have done/achieved/experienced in your life that fulfil the criteria of being an Oxford MBA – innovation, leadership etc – and ask yourself why you did what you did?

What beliefs, cognitive processes, and approaches did you take in those circumstances? How do you react when you are challenged? What do you do when you see a problem? Find patterns, and key themes and use that to construct your story. These are the most powerful things about you that you can use to set yourself apart.

Q7. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to? 

The people. Honestly, it is rare to find such a dynamic, diverse and determined group of young people as you would at an Oxford MBA. Everyone has come here with such interesting stories and such mixed backgrounds, that there is just an endless number things to learn from them. Despite the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in, every conversation I have with my cohort reaffirms why I am here.

Q8. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?

This year especially, it will be the challenging obstacles the COVID pandemic throws up. The reduced face-to-face classes, the increased amount of self-driven learning and online content we have to consume and the restrictions on socialising make it difficult to get the sort of MBA experience one might expect. However, there are upsides to such a pressured environment… I no longer have time or patience for superficial conversations, I want to use my time as wisely as possible and I’m learning how to best look after myself and others. So there’s that.

Q9. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?

I would expect that this year will shape me in quite profound ways. I want to learn different perspectives to my own, find answers to the questions about business and society that I brought to the MBA, and develop myself into a truly capable leader.

I would hope everything I do immediately after this year, and throughout my life, will in some way be informed by those changes.

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

As a former Lawyer, who’s been engaged with political discourse for years, nothing is more exciting to me as the Oxford Union. I look forward to the debates, the fantastic guest speakers and the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of leaders who speak to Oxford Students.

Additionally, I’m looking forward to forming the new Oxford Leaders of Change Alliance, which was set-up by a small group of MBA students to facilitate Leadership Development in response to the immediate crisis of COVID19 as well as all the systematic challenges that have fed and been revealed as a result.

I’m also looking forward to trying out rowing (it is Oxford after all!) and any other adventure that comes my way!

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