Meet The Oxford Saïd MBA Class of 2016

Talisa Jane Du Bois

Talisa Jane Du Bois

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa – Bachelor of Commerce: Politics, Economics & Philosophy
  • UCT, South Africa – Social Science Honours: Politics, Economics & Philosophy
  • UCT, South Africa – Master of Commerce: Economics (cum laude)

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • New Leaders Foundation (NLF) – Programme Manager
  • Lean Enterprise Acceleration Programmes (LEAP) – Business Development Manager
  • Deloitte Consulting, Strategy and Innovation – Strategy Consultant (Economist)
  • Step Consulting – Analyst (Economist)
  • Vega Branding and Advertising School – Economics Lecturer and HOD
  • The Green Cape, Department of Economic Development – Economist

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? More than anything, the GMAT is about solid exam technique. With time, hard work, and repetition, you can grasp most of the math and English content. The real trick is to master writing the exam. This skill involves time-keeping and knowing when to stick at a question and when to make an educated guess. It’s about keeping your head clear for each question, without psyching yourself out if you think you get one wrong, and especially keeping your cool as you near the end of each section. The only way to master GMAT exam technique is to do as many past papers as possible. Practice, practice, practice. Through exam simulation at home, I was able to raise my score by almost a hundred points. Manhattan Prep, Princeton Review and Kaplan offer great practice exams, which are vital for anyone looking to score in the 650+ range.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? I was lucky when it came to School selection; Oxford was my first choice after the Global MBA Fair in Johannesburg. The more research I did, the more I discovered that Oxford Saïd aligned perfectly with my long term goals, values, and personality. Most people start their school search with the general rankings (Economist, FT and Forbes) and move from top to bottom, considering location, course time span, areas of excellence, and cost. Instead, I looked at the more specific rankings. For example: Best Business Schools for Social Entrepreneurship (Intelligent HQ), where Oxford Saïd features as number one. Beyond looking at more specific rankings, I would really urge you to consider the following as you make your choice:

  • Think about where you want to take your career and where you would like to be based in future. Then, choose schools which can offer you skills, networks, and reputational value in these industries and locations.
  • Understand how you learn (auditory, visual or kinesthetic) and what environments make you come alive. Then, look for schools that offer teaching styles and course structures which appeal to your strengths.
  • Know which kind of people schools tend to choose, the kind of people they create, and be honest about where you would fit in. While we have all embraced the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ philosophy, don’t subject yourself to an environment that will take you off course, simply for the sake of ambition.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? After getting into Oxford, a few people asked for my advice in this area. While practical tips on editing, preparation and asking for references well in advance are important, I have realized that, more than anything, self-awareness and strategy are required. The keys to an impressive application are:

  • Know your story, be comfortable about the tough parts of your life that have made you remarkable and share your story strategically and honestly. Know what drives you and why, and be clear about your objectives. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of your flaws.
  • Not to be confused with arrogance. Confidence is ‘an inclusive belief that you are a unique catalyst for impact.’ Knowing your story is just the beginning, but knowing why your skills, talents and attributes are worth backing is pivotal. Be sure that you can articulate why a business school would want to be part of your story, and not the other way around.
  • Business schools are well trained at finding scammers. Don’t get someone else to write your essays and certainly don’t write your own references. Rather, get coaching on your essays, and coach your referees. Make sure that you invest time with your referees to get them on board with your aspirations and help them understand which of your attributes you want the school to know about.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? As a social entrepreneur, development economist and career woman, I chose Oxford because of the focus on relevant global issues, social entrepreneurship, and developing women in business. Not to mention the School’s excellent reputation globally, expansive network, and stringent application process. I was looking for an MBA which would boost my career and firmly plant me in a community of world changers. I was so convinced of Oxford Saïd, I didn’t apply anywhere else.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I would like to make as many meaningful connections as possible. I have already met around 20 of my future classmates and each of them is completely extraordinary; William the toothbrush millionaire, Simon the economic exports advisor, and Richard the movie maker, to name a few. Beyond making connections, I would like to challenge myself both intellectually and as a business leader. I plan to take full advantage of the business coaching, teamwork and travel opportunities that the programme offers.

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