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Ania Johnson

Degree:

MBA

Location:

United States

Industry:

Investment

Year:

2021-22

By Ania Johnson

Meet the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22: Ania Johnson

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22 to Oxford this September. Get to know our incoming students in this blog post series as they prepare to join Saïd Business School.

Tell us about yourself

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Asset Management

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Impact Investing

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: United States

College: I intentionally chose Kellogg College because I felt the community values best embodied those of my own. The graduate community includes a diverse student and faculty body across different disciplines and backgrounds which was key for me. While Oxford is known for the High Table dinners, I gravitated towards Kellogg’s non-traditional Dining Hall experience without one. Not to mention it boasts one of the most sustainable buildings on campus.

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

Best friend: Determined
Manager: Go-Getter

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

I’m originally from Atlanta, GA, USA where I was born and raised. I moved to New York to attend NYU Stern School of Business for my undergraduate studies and have called the city home for the last 10 years!

I started my career in Marketing with BlackRock working on strategic campaigns for Wealth Management clients. There I found a growing passion to learn more about the investment landscape and expand my client work beyond marketing. This led me towards a transition into the firm’s Client Business group where I worked with clients within BlackRock’s Retail & Institutional departments for the next 5 years. As a relationship manager, I worked on teams partnering across the firm to help solve client needs which involved new investments, marketing campaigns, research, and other cross-functional projects. I enjoyed the multifaceted nature of my roles, and it was working with a variety of different investors that exposed me to the burgeoning world of sustainable investing.
I naturally gravitated towards this space as I began to realize that there was a career pathway that would allow me to merge my personal interests with my professional ambitions. I have had the privilege to travel to different places in the world and some of my most profound experiences were always tied to engaging with different communities. At work, many of my clients were focused on managing retirement investments. I had seen how transformative smart and diversified investing could be, helping to enable my clients to strengthen the financial futures of their beneficiaries. From there, I knew I wanted to broaden my scope of impact by focusing on investing in historically underserved communities and businesses.

Getting an MBA was always a part of my long-term plan and as I recalibrated my goals, it was important to find MBA programs that would provide the best foundation for a career in impact investing. Furthermore, I knew I wanted to pursue my MBA in Europe, and given its reputation, Oxford stood out on the list. While the brand name was convincing enough, one important recurring theme I heard in speaking with different individuals was Oxford’s focus on social impact. SBS showed a true commitment to rethinking the traditional approach to management programs by ensuring impact was integrated firmly across its curriculum and throughout its culture. When I received my offer, it was hard to say no to an opportunity to study at one of the world’s most renowned universities, especially one that shared an equal commitment to creating positive, sustainable impact across disciplines.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I’m hoping Oxford is just the first step in a journey to building a career abroad. For that reason, it was important to spend time with close family and friends before leaving. Having lived in New York for the last 10 years, I made sure to experience my favorite parts of the city from visiting my staple restaurants and coffee shops in Brooklyn to getting one last surf in at Rockaway Beach. I also feel grateful for being able to visit close family and friends that I had not been able to see much of due to the pandemic. Equally important, I took some time to transition out of the workplace for a few months to embrace some adventure via travel and mentally recharge before the program start.

On a professional note, I was keen to gain more direct exposure to the impact investing space. I had the amazing opportunity to spend a few months in the summer working with some talented individuals at Lafayette Square, an impact investment firm innovating on how to provide capital to businesses and projects that positively impact local communities. It was an invaluable experience where I was able to deepen my understanding of the impact investing landscape.

What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

I am excited to spend the next year learning more about impact investing from both my peers and Said’s faculty/thought leaders, as well as continuing to develop my skillset around other managerial areas of interest from organizational strategy to global economics. Additionally, I hope to engage with Oxford’s diverse student body from fellow graduate students at Said and Kellogg College to the extensive alumni network throughout the year. In the end, I hope to look back on an experience that I know has provided me the tools and resources to successfully advance towards my next step.

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

One of the recurring themes from colleagues, mentors, and friends who had been through MBA programs was to be very thoughtful about my time management. The MBA provides you with a unique privilege to take a step back from your daily life, both professionally and personally, and change perspective. From there, it is up to you to figure out how to balance what you want to do with how long you have to accomplish your MBA goals. I was encouraged to spend time meaningfully understanding the range of opportunities to get involved in and come up with a blueprint for what made sense to focus on. I was able to prioritize my interests based on how they met my MBA and post-MBA goals so I could attempt to manage my time and avoid spreading myself too thin.

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

There are two pieces of advice that I would share with any MBA candidate considering applying or those already in the process: (1) you’re more prepared than you think and (2) don’t be afraid to be authentic and vulnerable.

I always knew that at some point in my career I wanted to pursue an MBA abroad. Like many, my timeline shifted unexpectedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was originally planning to apply within the next two years, but with so much changing in 2020, I began to reconsider my timing. I thought about where I was in my career and the direction I wanted to head. In speaking with my community of supporters (mentors, family, friends, etc.), I realized I was more prepared and ready than I realized. I decided to go for it and be confident in what I could bring to the table. Moral of the story: don’t sell yourself short!

One of the best, but also hardest, parts of the application process for the MBA was crafting my story. I spent a lot of time whiteboarding my goals and ambitions. It was an exercise in taking time to appreciate and document my journey so that I could clearly articulate where I had been and where I wanted to go. Importantly, friends, family, and mentors were a critical part of this, helping to remind me of my greatest strengths, but also areas where I could improve. When you have a good understanding of who you are and become comfortable sharing your story, I believe the things that make you truly stand out will naturally come through. My essays became less about focusing on just achievements, but more so on sharing my experiences and being confident in my growth trajectory.

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

Getting back into the classroom! There are so many talented individuals that I am genuinely looking forward to working with and hearing from in my courses. I’m looking forward to GOTO and seeing what unique theme will be released this year for our cohort to tackle.

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

Time management is likely to be the biggest challenge. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed (in the best way) by what Said and the broader University offers to students. I’m hoping to employ some of that well-received advice on how to approach taking on and managing my commitments and interests alongside the MBA curriculum.

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

I believe targeted capital into historically undercapitalized communities representing diverse gender, identity, and racial backgrounds can help close the ever-present gap of global inequality. This inequality in part comes from institutionalized systemic barriers that keep so many around the world from accessing our capital markets. Whether that’s small businesses run by diverse entrepreneurs who lack access to lending sources or individual families who struggle to save for retirement. It is this intersection of social impact and investing that I am most interested in focusing on here at Oxford and continuing in my post MBA career with an impact investment firm. I believe progress can be made by educating more institutional investors on how to increase their portfolio allocations to impact funds and by working with impact investment firms to scale up investment platforms for more sustainable growth as the sector accelerates. That’s the challenge that wakes me up everyday here in Oxford, excited to leverage all the resources around me to try and solve.

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

I’m very excited to experience Student Life at Said and Oxford more broadly. As I get started, I’m exploring areas to get involved in from Student Council, Skoll Centre student opportunities, the Social Impact OBN, and more.

Outside of student life, I love to run and surf (where/when I can). I’m looking forward to finding a community while at Oxford in both sports to keep them up in my spare time.

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