Why Oxford MBA is the best class of MBA’s Globally

After I was accepted to Oxford I had an amazing opportunity to visit and meet a few fellow admitted students. We sat through a mock lecture, toured the business school and all of Oxford (including the spot where Catholics were burned at the stake for betraying the King), and had lunch in a Great Hall of Balliol college, one of the oldest colleges in all of Oxford. I’d like to spend today’s post telling you more about my class and the amazing people in it.

During my weekend trip I met a handful of my future classmates, but most exciting was that after I accepted my spot at Oxford, I was looped into a facebook group of fellow students. And over the past 5-6 months we have connected, collaborated, and connected with each other that makes me excited about the next year.

As I said last week, the diversity of Oxford is one of the main reasons I am excited about my next 12 months. Most people seem confused when I tell them that there is only a small contingent of British MBA students and part of that is because the Master’s programs in the UK are 1. Cheaper, and 2. Usually all UK citizens need to boost their career should an OxBridge degree not be enough. Therefore I want to provide a few stats about my fellow classmates and a handful of amazing stories to excite you about my class.

On average, my classmates will be 2 years older than I am (not anything new for me). Our class is 32% female which, while low for US top programs, actually is on par for international programs. We have 56 nationalities and an average of 5.5 years work experience. Additionally, we have only 2.5% LGBT representation (which I hope overtime will increase for Oxford).

What makes us truly unique from US programs is our international diversity. In the US there is ~40% non-US population, and that includes US citizens who happen to be working overseas. My class is only 20% from the US. That means 80% of my class comes from another country. The impact this is going to have on my global mindset is amazing!
Here is a graph of our geographic diversity:

Geographic breakdown of the class
What’s more important than our geographic & gender diversity is the quality of students we have attending this year. We have an Indian male with 10 yrs experience working in energy development, a Filipino-American female who managed global marketing campaigns for Warner Brothers, robotics engineers from Sydney, an Indian female who built her family fashion business coming to school to grow it globally, and a Mormon Angel investment banker from Utah.

Beyond the traditional Finance/Consulting careers that typically drive MBA students, we have international journalists, former military vets from all over the globe, lawyers from South America who have never worn a winter coat, nonprofit managers from Idaho, a Canadian researching the impact of social entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum leaders who are working on solving global water shortages, and a fellow DC student working with Madeleine Albright on international development.

I am 100% confident that our class will out-perform any and all US schools on the global market because at our core is an international, global focus on providing lasting, social and environmental impact on the world in which we live. I also know that starting next month, anytime I want to visit another country I’ll have someone who can host me for a weekend. After All, this is my classmate’s global map.

Map of countries attending Oxford Said 2016

I am extremely excited about the diverse perspectives my classmates will bring and look forward to the discussions, and arguments we get in due to our cultural and geographic biases that other US students may be missing out on.

How to get into Oxford (or any top MBA program)

Applying for any business school is a marathon, not a sprint. First you have the GMAT/GRE, then you visit all the schools, fill out the applications, polish your resume, and then you are left with the essays.

While preparing for my application I went to an admissions fair and heard Harvard’s Admissions Director Dee Leopold state that an essay is an unprovable story about a candidate and having 3 essays * 10k applicants takes a long time to get through them all.

Hearing Dee talk about the essays gave me the insight I needed. I put myself in the Admissions Committee position, at the end of a long day reading yet another essay about how “My greatest weakness is my perfectionist mindset.” I realized that in order to get into school, my essay had to excite my reader enough so that they wouldn’t skim my essay.

I read examples of essays that had gotten kids into Harvard in the past and it was freeing knowing that I could be very creative in my writing and I made it my mission to write an essay that would excite my reader.

For Oxford one of the 7 essay prompts was “Sport is pure competition. What does it teach us about companies, individuals, and markets? Maximum 500 words.” After brainstorming for about a week I wrote the next two paragraphs with the intention of exciting my reader.

David Baker post-matchSweat was everywhere. Dripping down my face, sweat made my mask slippery, grip weak, and legs itch. Sweat’s pungent perfume poured off of me as I retreated backwards two steps; I could not retreat anymore. Saltiness on my lips threatening distraction, I flèche past my opponent, catching his blade and hitting his right shoulder. Touché. The bout was finished. By ignoring the sweat and focusing on what mattered, I made it to the Junior Olympics in fencing.

Fencing is 90% mental and 10% physical. A single mental distraction and you are off-guard, likely caught by a savvy opponent. Due to the highly competitive nature of fencing and business, this principle of focus is applicable to both. If you lose focus in either, you risk losing ground to your opponent.

The top piece of advice I share with friends who are applying is to make certain that your essay isn’t “meh,” that at the very least, it stands out from the thousands of other bland essays. You can a reader into the story as I did above, or you can break-up the flow by leading with dialogue  as I did in the essay where I talked about the personal importance of ethics. The prompt was “What should Oxford expect from you? Maximum 500 words

“So … are you seeing anyone?” Lisa asked as I came into the office.

“Yep, they are great,” I replied, careful to hide my boyfriend’s gender by using “they” not “he.”

“What’s her name; how did you meet her?” came the inevitable follow up.

“Alex and I met online,” I replied while silently appreciating ambiguous first names and hoping for the conversation to end.

As a gay Mormon, I lived at the tangential point between two opposing ideas: the LDS side, believing that traditional marriage is critical for eternal happiness, and the LGBT side, believing that embracing my sexuality is critical for happiness in this life. Forging my own space between these ideologies meant I walked an even narrower ethical line for many years of my life.

I know that I received an interview because these essays grabbed my reader’s attention. In fact, during my interview the second essay was mentioned and quoted from for one of my questions.
I can’t stress this enough, the worst thing you can be as you are applying to business school is bland. If you are a white male coming from finance & consulting know that you are one of a thousand others, Indian IT males face even tougher odds. Almost everyone who applies to business school fits a mold in the Admission Committee’s mind.

If you want to get into a top school, break the mold. Highlight why you are different, why you would bring something different to your class. Because if you put yourself in the admission committee’s mindset, that is exactly what they are looking for.

OxfordMBA’s Unique Advantage – Colleges

What first inspired me about getting an MBA was the fact that class sections are  meticulously manufactured to create conflict and diverse thoughts. If a school can manage it, nobody from the same firm, school, state, etc will be in the same section. This creates an environment where everyone is approaching a problem from a different perspective. It forces students to realize that diverse perspectives provide the best solutions. It forces conflict which creates stronger resolutions that are better for business.

 

When I realized this, the kid who grew up in very homogeneous Salt Lake City, Utah was intrigued. At BYU 98% of those I met were white, American, and Mormon, at the University of Utah where I finished my degree it was a lot better, more like 90%. An MBA would force me into this environment that I had seen first-hand during my time at Google and learned to embrace.

 

I mention this aspect of diversity because when I learned that Oxford gave me the opportunity to add an additional layer of diversity onto my education beyond my fellow MBA classmates I was hooked. The biggest differentiator between Oxford and any other program is the college system.

 

Oxford University is comprised of autonomous self-governing Colleges which to simplify it for my readers, are essentially Hogwarts houses, except instead of four there are 38. Each college has a history, a separate alumni association, housing, scholarships, doctors, nurses, chapels, rivalries, and most importantly common rooms.

 

As an MBA student this offers a dedicated space and community comprised of graduate students studying law, philosophy, economics, medieval literature, latin, engineering, and even medicine. So when I have a solid idea I have another space filled with intelligent people who approach problems from a completely different perspective. My college, Lincoln, is clearly the best 😉 … or at least the first college to create a common room like this for graduate students.

Lincoln Quad

After getting into the MBA program you are able to apply to a college. In addition to their history and size of their middle common room, I chose Lincoln in part because of a professor at Georgetown University whom I have guest lectured for over the past 3 years. He is a fellow Lincolnite who attended a mere 50 years ago and during my selection process he was certain to highlight the best things about Lincoln, even introducing me to other Lincolnites in DC.

 

I say a “mere 50 years ago” because despite what some of my American friends have asked, no it isn’t named for Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Lincoln is one of the oldest colleges at Oxford founded in 1427. For context, that is a few years before Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, 65 years before Christopher Columbus set sail for America, 100 years before the Church of England was founded, and 200 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.

 

Famous Lincolnites include John Wesley the founder of the Methodist faith, John le Carré the former MI5 & MI6 agent & author of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, Rachel Maddow, actress Emily Mortimer, and Dr. Seuss. Yes Dr. Seuss is a proud graduate drop-out of Lincoln college.

It may not be Slytherin or Ravenclaw, but Lincoln is my Hogwarts House College. Besides the friendships I will gain through my MBA, I am looking forward to building lifelong friendships with graduate students of all types, so long as they are Lincolnites.

 
Join me next week as I talk about my application process and how I got in, including parts of my essays.

Why Oxford?

The number one question I have been asked after letting people know I am headed to get my MBA at Oxford has been a variation on the question “Why Oxford?”

From “Why not a US School?” to “Why did you think to apply to Oxford?” this has been a central theme as I talk about picking up my life and moving 3,600 miles away.

So why DID I apply? Why did I say yes? I could tell you about how it is the oldest university in the world (it was 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded). I could tell you it was because the business school is ranked in the top 5 international programs. I could tell you it was because I wanted a school where I could focus on making the world a better place instead of making a bottom-line. I could tell you that its because it will expose me to more international students than any other US program. And while each of these is certainly a reason why I justify my choice to go to Oxford, the truth is simply. Magic.

Like most kids from my generation, I found a love of reading in the words penned by J.K. Rowling. I fell into the world of Harry Potter, waiting for MY letter from Hogwarts, standing in line for hours for book launches and midnight movie showings.

Hogwarts & Oxford were synonymous in my mind and after I finished the Deathly Hallows as a college student I paid special attention to anything coming out of Oxford. When I started on my thesis just a few months later, I read papers from the Oxford Internet Institute about the impact of technology on politics and government. My thesis cited these papers heavily and in 2010 I decided to apply for a Master’s program at the Oxford Internet Institute. Here was my chance to get my letter from Hogwarts.

Instead, I was politely rejected (read more here), which turned out for the best because just a few weeks later I received an offer to work at Google. I put Oxford up on a shelf with my Harry Potter books and figured I’d never get a chance to attend. Most importantly, I made peace with that decision.

Flash-forward to 3, almost 4 years into my career at Google. I am looking at MBA programs in the US, visiting campuses across the US to get a feel for the school I want to go to. My chain-of-command at Google went Fuqua, Kellogg, HBS, HBS, Boston College, Larry Page and so I felt the need to get an MBA and not the Oxford Master’s program I had made peace with before Google.

I looked at most top 20 programs and before I started the application process, I took one last vacation with friends before the busy season of the election. We were going to Ireland and I figured I’d leave a few days early and visit London as I had never been before and I couldn’t be THAT close without at least a few days of playing tourist.

One of my precious days in London I woke up early, hoped on a train up to Oxford hoping to see the Bird & Baby pub where Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings met each week; hoping to see the Oxford Internet Institute and think on what might have been; hoping to see the atmosphere that gave us Oscar Wilde and of course catch a glimpse of the Hogwarts great hall at Christchurch.

I spent 7 hours in Oxford wandering around the city, visiting colleges and just taking it all in. I took one of the last trains back to London, headed to my hotel and promptly had a bout of insomnia. I couldn’t stop thinking about Oxford. It just felt right for me. It wasn’t until I opened up my laptop and looked at the Oxford MBA website that I could fall asleep.

When it came time to pick between a couple of schools, there was little doubt in my mind. It is, after all, the wand that chooses the wizard and in my case, Oxford had chosen me. harry-potter-gets-wand

Next week I’ll be back to talk about Oxford Colleges including my own, Lincoln College.

Oxford, A History – New Blog Theme

Years ago I started a blog when I moved to DC and starting coming to terms with the fact that I was both Gay & Mormon. It served as a way for me to express myself and allow my friends & family to stay in touch. In the past 7 years I have gone through many iterations of this blog, at times leaving it dormant. Now I am bringing it back to talk about my journey to Oxford’s MBA Program at the Said Business School.

I set my sights on Oxford for several years and now that it is actually happening I knew I needed to share that journey with others. This blog will talk about life at Oxford, the people I meet, places I visit, and of course those pesky academics I’ll be studying.

Rather than use a completely fresh blog for this journey I have chosen to simply modify my old blog. Below you will see the past stories of my life and my writings at each stage, including;
My life coming out as a Gay Mormon and how it has made me a stronger and more empathetic person.
My time working in DC after I came out including some of my political thoughts and ramblings.
Thoughts and life while working at Google in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and back in DC again.

How I ran ads on Oxford for the price of a good lunch

On his post about getting an internship with GOProud, Trevor calls my plan to get into Oxfrod diabolical and too complicated to reproduce. Well now that the campaign is over I am going to share with you what I did, how I did it, and the final results.

To those of you who haven’t been following the story, after applying to the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) I started an online ad campaign designed to target faculty members. The goal of this was to demonstrate that not only did I have a deep understanding of the Internet, I also had an innovative personality that would flourish at the OII.

To start I used publicly accessible information provided by OII’s website about their staff and found the Facebook profiles of 9 of the 20 professors. I discovered their Facebook profiles only after discovering a weakness in their collective privacy settings. Dr. Kathryn Eccles had her setting relaxed enough that I found her profile and her friends list, from there it was a short hop to find 8 others. Those professors were: Prof. William H. Dutton, Prof. Helen Margetts, Dr Cristobal Cobo, Dr Eric T. Meyer, Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Dr Ralph Schroeder, Dr. Greg Taylor and Dr. Mark Graham.

I spend 45 minutes setting up Facebook ads targeting each professor. Now while Facebook won’t let you target a specific person you can target all 49 year old women in Oxford who “like” Cake-boy. So I built 9 campaigns targeting these professors driving them to my website. Out of 30 clicks and ~50K impressions 7 unique visitors came from Oxford University’s IP addresses. Given the length of time users spent on my site and other factors like bounce rate and pages per visit, I feel confident that at least 8 if not all 9 of these professors visited my site from Facebook.

The entire goal of the Facebook campaign was to have them download a cookie onto their computer so that I could follow them with Google ads as well. Now this was where my plan hit a snag because in order to target the people who had visited my site Google required that that list include over 500 unique individuals. With the help of some friends and readers like you I was able to hit 500 users on that list within 60 hours of putting out a call for them. The ads I ran on this list were targeted to a 5 mile radius around Oxford and included search ads, text ads, image ads and the following video ad designed to illustrate that I had a great grasp on the Internet. All of this was achieved with less than $15 dollars and 5 hours of work.

Sadly this ad campaign either was taken the wrong way, wasn’t as successful as I thought it might be, or the 9 people I targeted didn’t have influence over my application. Last Friday I received a letter from the OII that informed me that my application was unsuccessful. There were 73 applicants this deadline while last year there were 81 applicants for all three combined deadlines last year and both years only 20 slots. There must have been something in my application that put me at a disadvantage compared to the other successful candidates. I hope that next time I will have a stronger and successful application.

A glitch in the plan to advertise to Oxford

Hey Friends,

So it looks like in order for my dreams of creating a 30 second ad for YouTube that is seen by a handful of Oxford professors is being hamstrung by a technical policy at Google. Apparently to do the (kind of creepy) advertising that I need to do I need to have a list of at least 500 people. This list is build when someone visits a site and in doing so downloads the below cookie onto their computer. It goes away after 30 days.

My vision was to target the Oxford faculty with Facebook ads (successful) and get them to see my site and download said cookie. Once I had a decent mass of the professors with the cookie I would start running ads on them across the internet culminating into a video  that they would see one day on YouTube. So if you have a website, or a blog and understand a little bit of coding and would like to help, take the following code and place it onto your site so that in the next couple of days I can grow the list to have 500 people on it. Once on this list, the only ones who will see the ads are those within a 5 mi radius of Oxford university so 99% of you are safe from my ads. If you need help setting it up please let me knwo I will help wherever I can.

<!– Google Code for Oxford Remarketing List Remarketing List –>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
/* <![CDATA[ */
var google_conversion_id = 986554626;
var google_conversion_language = “en”;
var google_conversion_format = “3”;
var google_conversion_color = “666666”;
var google_conversion_label = “3TsYCJbRhQIQgsK21gM”;
var google_conversion_value = 0;
/* ]]> */
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/conversion.js”>
</script>
<noscript>
<div style=”display:inline;”>
<img height=”1″ width=”1″ style=”border-style:none;” alt=”” src=”http://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/conversion/986554626/?label=3TsYCJbRhQIQgsK21gM&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0″/>
</div>
</noscript>

Thanks again,

~David

Applying to Oxford, a proactive approach

Some of you may be aware of this already but I love the Internet. That’s one of the reasons I applied to the Masters in Social Science of the Internet from the Oxford Internet Institute. Contrary to what you might think, this program is a taught master’s program that I would move to England for. It is not an online degree but rather a degree in the inter-disciplinary study of the Internet and (in my case) public policy and law.

This program had been on my radar for a while now, but until I took a look at it this year it was merely a fantasy. You see, on my way back from Utah I spent the flight doing some of my annual cleaning which includes updating my resume and going through my “dream” folder in Evernote. Just after I had updated my resume to include my work during the 2010 Election, I opened up my dream folder and there was Oxford staring back. A graduate program studying the Internet became actually practical after having just writing about my successes with the Internet and politics. I looked at the program requirements (thank you in-flight Internet access) and realized that I fit the bill rather well.

As it turns out the application was due about 2 weeks later and so I steeled myself for a difficult application process. This was the only school I would be applying to so it had my full attention, but I also didn’t have any groundwork laid for  the supplemental materiel. I would have to build everything from scratch. Now my parents raised me to look at a problem and solve it proactively and creatively, to not be satisfied by simply doing the basics but by pushing yourself to go beyond expectations. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to do even the basics. I reached out to a few of my professors and asked them to write letters of recommendation on my behalf and after a few nerve-racking days they all agreed to write references for me.

I then redid my resume focusing on my education a bit more and tailoring it for Oxford specifically. For example I had a major accomplishment be my Eagle Scout award. In the U.S. everyone knows what that is but does the same reaction occur across the pond? Just to be certain I researched the Queens Scout award and listed that the Eagle was the equivalent just in case. I panicked a bit when getting my transcripts in such a short timeframe but thanks to FedEx and overnight shipping I was able to ensure that I had copies in hand with time to spare.

For my statement of purpose I drafted several different versions ranging from the deeply personal to the highly academic. I then studied the works of several of the Drs and Professors who I could study under and looked at how in line my thinking and past study was in line with their published works. I then printed out each draft of my statement of purpose, read them all, cut out what didn’t work and wove the personal, academic and professional around a technological narrative that the professors and I had similar views on.

After I finished writing my resume, statement of purpose, writing sample, and additional questionnaire I had a handful of editors take a look at them and help me refine the grammar and style. Then I filled out the necessary forms and submitted my application online with a visa payment of £50. However, like I said above, I grew up focusing on being proactive, up until now this is pretty standard grad school application behavior. Aaron Sorkin’s writing in The Social Network asks the question, “How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SATs?” Now I certainly didn’t get a 1600 on my SAT the sentiment is still a driving factor. How do you distinguish yourself as one of the top candidates when you all have nearly the same qualifications? How do I be proactive and be seen above the other candidates?

The same mentality is found in my entire generation. Most people want to stand-out and be noticed. Doubt me? take a look at 15 YouTube vlogs and then come talk to me. So how do you proactively stand out on an application for a prestigious academic institution after you have done all you can in preparation for submitting the exam? Well I have looked at the nature of the program. The MSc in Social Science of the Internet is focused on innovation, and the intersection of technology and other social science fields. What better way to stand out than by showing them that I understand the Internet, its limitations, its flaws and its drawbacks by literally advertising that fact to them?

Google AdWords, as well as most online advertisers, have a tool that lets you run ads on the people who have already visited your site. This means that I could plant a tracking cookie on my website and this blog and then geo-target the visitors who live at Oxford with text and image based ads that show that I understand the internet. If that isn’t an innovative, proactive, risky move to distinguish myself I don’t know what is.

There are some downsides to this plan:

1. These professors probably clear their cookies regularly leaving only a small window of opportunity to target them.
2. The Oxford Internet Institute staff is more likely than the general population to use ad blocking software.
3. If any group of people is going to hate Internet ads it is the people who study the Internet,
That is why, in order to prevent this from blowing up in my face, I have to create tactful ads that don’t paint me as a braggart saying “Look what I can do!” but that get the image across in a simple, unobtrusive manner. As part of that, should any U.K. reader of this post be annoyed by the ads I will stop them immediately.

Wish me luck for this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks.