The Oxford Executive MBA has come to an end for our 2017-2019 scholarship winners, Dr Pamela Walker-Geddes and Elena Mariotti. Here they reflect on Legacy:
Pamela: ‘A legacy for my children.’
Returning to Oxford in 2017 for the EMBA was a brave step for me, both intellectually and emotionally. I had a baby and a toddler at home, a full-time job, and a busy calendar. Stepping through the doors of the Thatcher building, I felt like a child on the first day of school. I took a deep breath, and I opened up my world to something new.
By taking me out of my routine and bubble, these past two years have helped me reconnect with who I am and what is important to me. As I now look ahead to the future, I want to make certain that I have a job that I love, I contribute to my field, am a strong leader, and most importantly, a supportive team player.
The EMBA has also made me think a lot about the legacy I want to leave my children, how I want to inspire them, and the person I want them to know that I am. There are three key learnings I hope will help them to build the careers (and lives) that they want:
Surround yourself with the right people
There is no one size fits all recipe for this. The ‘right people’ bring to the table a mix of personalities and skills. They are honest people, collaborative people; people who help you build on your ideas, see the world in a different way, and who can teach you new things. This is not a simple task, and, at times, you will get it wrong. When you do, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward.
Strive for intellectual honesty
Love what you do. Respect yourself and your boundaries, as well as those of others. Your gut instinct is incredibly powerful. Trust it. If you find yourself working in a way that doesn’t fit, don’t be afraid to stop and change course. This is not failure. Contest your beliefs and behaviours with a growth mindset.
Challenge the ‘have it all’ stereotype. Prioritise, juggle, re-prioritise… and relax in the knowledge that you are doing all you can. A meaningful life is important for the soul. And although we all must do tasks we would prefer not to, it is important that deep down we are at peace. Soul search for what makes you truly happy and use this as a litmus test. Even if you can’t make a desired change overnight, make a plan and follow it. Knowing that you are moving in the right direction can make all the difference.
I stepped into this EMBA not only to develop a new lens on business and explore organisations across a range of cultures, but to set an inspirational example for my children. I am still juggling a million things in my journey to that end, but I know they are immensely proud of me (and thoroughly enjoyed the visits to ‘Harry Potter’s school’). There is nothing more I could ask for.
Dr Pamela Walker-Geddes, our Forte Fellowship winner, is a strategy consultant in the pharmaceutical sector, a Director and the Head of Health at Incite Kin + Carta
Elena: ‘A legacy for women in my field’.
As my Executive MBA journey comes to its end, I reflect upon it and the legacy I want to leave to others like me in my field. For me, there are three key ingredients to success I have applied in my career in industrial engineering and consulting: passion, purpose, and diversity.
For this reason, I want my legacy to be one of inspiration – inspiration for others striving to find their passion and purpose in business, to give them the energy and tools to reach their full potential, and the inspiration to be “different” to foster innovation.
Be passionate: get your hands dirty
During my career to date I worked in a variety of roles, from technical engineer, to hands-on operational roles, to management consultant, to go-to-market commercial leader, to Non-Executive Director. Out of all my experiences, one of the key differentiators for my career – and among the most exciting – has been my hands-on operational experience on the shop-floor of Oil & Gas rigs in the North Sea, LNG terminal in Wales, Oil Sands plants in Canada and Biomass plants in Italy. This has helped me to add value to my clients to better understand how real problems impact the bottom line, to analyse problems in a different way, and to help bring the shop-floor team spirit to the boardroom.
Find your purpose: push yourself outside your comfort zone to achieve it
If you don’t feel uncomfortable, if you don’t take risks, if you don’t fail and restart – you are not pushing yourself enough, you are not learning, you are not growing! At work, I apply this principle by constantly looking for what can be the “next big thing” which can help my clients be more efficient, profitable and sustainable. It is this attitude which motivated me to embark on this Executive MBA. In fact, before doing the EMBA I felt I was not working to my full potential, not challenging myself as I would like to.
Seek and foster diversity
In a world where most people try to fit within conventional rules, I believe being “different” is a gift. As a woman in my sector I have always been the “different” person in the team, on the shop-floor, and in the boardroom. It is this “difference” which enables me to see things differently, find alternative solutions, better collaborate in teams and gain trust from many different stakeholders. It is this broad diversity which I want to encourage leaders from across different fields to seek and embrace, to foster innovation and inspire teams.
My final big takeaway from the EMBA is that it is all about people. It is who we meet along our journeys, what we learn from them, and what we give to them, which enables us to be who we are and to achieve what we achieve; in both careers and life.
As Dirk Wittenborn said: “We are the sum of all the people we have ever met; you change the tribe and the tribe changes you”. In my words I say: “you help and inspire the tribe, and the tribe helps and inspires you”.
Elena Mariotti, our 30% Club Oxford Executive MBA scholar, is a Business Consulting Partner at IBM and a Non-Executive Director at FOCUS.