Deciding to do an Executive MBA: “When you know, you know”

Oxford, United kingdom, 08 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell

By Reema Mehra, current Oxford EMBA student

A native of Seoul, South Korea, yet equally at home in the U.S., Reema is particularly well suited to see things from a global viewpoint given her international background.

A resident of Dubai, UAE, Reema began her career in the U.S., where she considers to be her “second home.” In Dubai, now her third home, Reema dabbled in entrepreneurship and fell back into consulting – within the financial services and, more recently, construction industries. Reema is in her first year of the 21 month long, part-time Oxford Executive MBA programme. She reflects on the decision-making process she made before embarking on the programme.

Reema Mehra

“WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW”

Not exactly love at first sight, but something like that.  I first stepped foot on Oxford’s campus in June 2018, having been invited to interview with Associate Dean of the MBA and Executive Degree Programmes, Kathy Harvey. It wasn’t exactly love then, as I was more stressed about missing my train from Paddington to Oxford; I did make it early to the interview, however, and did what every millennial would do while waiting – find a charging dock pronto.

Fast forward to October, when I still couldn’t make my decision on whether to attend, for a variety of reasons.  I decided to attend the “MBA Experience Day” Oxford had advertised earlier that month, and didn’t even hesitate to sign up, thinking that the day would once and for all put to rest my hesitations and burning questions, like: How will I manage the financial bit?  Won’t the travel be too much? How will my work handle it?  Will I be able to juggle it all?  Shouldn’t I be focusing on “settling down” instead (aka getting married and having babies as my cousin recently told me – this is fact).

All these questions were laid to rest the minute I arrived at freezing and snowy Oxford.

Egrove Park, Said Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 15 November 2017
Egrove Park, Said Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 15 November 2017

As soon as I took care of the first order of the day –coffee at my now-regular spot at Oxford’s train station—and settled into my chair in the conference room with about 50 other potential MBA’ers, I felt right at home.  As the day progressed, I was conscious of the very rapid change in heart (not to mention mild irritation by the fact that I was supposed to be reaffirming my decision to not attend – not the opposite!).  I just knew then and there that I had to make it work somehow; put it this way: I knew that if I didn’t accept, I would regret that decision forever.

The short time between accepting the decision –probably making several enemies at Admissions in the process–and starting the MBA seemed to go by in slow motion.  I simply couldn’t wait to start.  Long live the nerd in me.

Come January, and Module 1 happened. Wow. Never had I been as nervous and atypically quiet as I was that first week at Oxford.  Everything happening around me – be it meeting fellow classmates, dining, sitting in lectures, sleeping – seemed to happen at an exaggeratedly accelerated pace, with limited time to do anything mildly relaxing (like get on Instagram, which I still managed to do during a five-second break in Analytics class that left me pondering over whether I made the right decision to do the MBA).

It’s now been three months since the program started, and I have learned so much about myself (and decision trees). Our first week at Oxford we were given results to our neo-personality tests, where I scored rather high in anxiety (which, of course, gave me a mild panic attack). I know that all is not doom and gloom in one little test, however; considering that, with the right tools, resources, and support system, one really can work to improve on oneself. I have learned other things, too; namely:

  • Yoga helps. A lot. I do it rather obsessively anyway and had to weave it into my schedule as much as possible, sometimes interrupting the flow of things (ha, see what I did there);
    • Talk to your classmates – they’re really the lifeline of the Oxford experience. One beautiful thing about the program is just how international the class is.  I found solace in the fact that there are others doing the crazy commute like me (some even having to switch planes, aghast!);
    • Don’t try to do everything. This is probably my biggest learning as I found myself over prepared for Module 2, which ironically resulted in diminishing returns. Why? Because reading cases that were expected of us three weeks before class is pretty much as good as not reading them at all…unless your memory is bomb. So, I now try to apply the 80-20 rule to life, as I’m learning that it’s about working smarter, not necessarily harder.

Ask me in 12 months and we’ll see if that rule still applies. For now, though, I close with one final thought, dedicated to my cousin who said that I should be getting married and having babies. This MBA is my baby. Albeit for longer than nine months!

For more information about joining the next class of the Oxford Executive MBA, visit the Saïd Business School website.

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