2016 Best MBAs: Halla Koppel, Oxford

Halla Koppel Oxford

Halla Koppel


University of Oxford, Said Business School

I have climbed four of the seven highest mountains in the world. I am also a contortionist.

Age: 33

Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland

Undergraduate School and Degree: Guildford School of Acting, BA (hons) Acting

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Actress/Presenter/Musician

Where will you be working after graduation? Goldman Sachs, Associate

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Giving birth to my baby daughter in the first week of school.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Maybe presenting the Icelandic X Factor or playing the lead roles in The Threepenny Opera and Footloose.

Who is your favorite professor? There are many. James Taylor for being a first-class performer. He is actually better than many professional actors and presenters I have worked with. Howard Jones for reconfirming why I like finance and Dr Nancy Puccinelli for being so incredibly engaging that she makes it a no-brainer to show up on a Sunday at 8 a.m. She is also a successful mother, which puts her in the super-cool role model category. Having said that, Howard Jones has twins so he gets to be up there as well.

Favorite MBA Courses? Whilst enthusiastic about most subjects, I’ve particularly enjoyed and become increasingly interested in the finance and economics courses.

Why did you choose this business school? After researching many schools both in Europe and the US, I chose the University of Oxford since it offered multiple two-in-ones: a business school embedded within a global renowned institution, a two year course in one year, a University town within an hour’s reach of the capital of Europe, and finally the combination of studying in small intimate streams whilst fully immersed in a wider diverse class where I can still meet a new person everyday.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I am only half-way through the course so it sounds odd to speak about something in the past tense. I enjoyed the rounded and solid foundations that the course gave me in the first term that allowed me to take tasters in multiple disciplines. This, in turn, educated me both for where I wanted to direct my MBA via electives, but also to drive the thirst for my career choice. I also enjoy and benefit from the variety of teaching methods, which the student can tailor to an extent, from case-studies, to self-learning, tutorials, group work, and support classes. I feel there is always a tool available that I can pick that will help me learn a topic or grasp a concept.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Managing multiple commitments, academic, personal and professional. Whilst you can revise in advance, you can’t feed a baby on a Sunday in advance for the whole week. Managing myself and my time around my new-born baby whilst still keeping all academic commitment plus still managing to keep some social ones has made my MBA feel more like a Ph.D. in time management in some aspects.

What was the most surprising thing about business school?  That I wasn’t so different at all.

I am also surprised by the number of elite companies coming to the university – almost too frequently – to recruit students. The near daily presentations and recruitment events from global companies in an array of fields shifts the position of power from the employer to the employee which was a valuable surprise.

What was the hardest part of business school? The workload of a one-year course with a newborn on my arm.

You can be very organised yourself but you can’t organise other people, so if your team works best under pressure quarter to deadline, that’s exactly where your project will end up.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Everyone has a very high GMAT score (hopefully you too), so you need to initially distinguish yourself on paper and then in person at the interview stage. For Oxford, learn about the history not only of the university but of the business school, take time to understand and read about the collegiate system, research the professors. More than that, make sure it is the right school for you – invest time in finding out which the right school is for you by visiting them or speaking to current or former students and compare with the outcomes that you want to achieve. Ask questions and project yourself in each school: Is the business school integrated into the university? Does the career department help you before, during or after the interview process with a company? Is it going to prepare you for your next job or the one a decade from now? Also, don’t apologise for things that make you different, embrace them and use them to your advantage.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I had the opportunity to run a business and realised this was a natural way for me to develop and combine my skills whilst moving forward in a new direction.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…climbing Everest.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to inspire mothers and girls to follow their dreams.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My husband. From our first ever conversation, he has shown me nothing but support and encouraged whichever outrageous goals I ever dreamt up.

Fun fact about yourself: I have climbed four of the seven highest mountains in the world. I am also a contortionist.

Favorite book: Valley of the Dolls

Favorite movie: True Romance

Favorite musical performer: My dad

Favorite television show: Arrested Development

Favorite vacation spot: Cartagena

Hobbies? High-altitude mountaineering, motorcycling, travel, Antarctic exploration

What made Halla such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Halla Koppe is a remarkable student. She has worked exceptionally hard to transition from the entertainment industry into investment banking. If the non-traditional career shift wasn’t enough, she became a mother during the first week of the MBA, and has utilised every spare second in order to understand applied finance concepts, and to acquire the required financial modelling skills in order to provide herself with a strong base for interviews. The job offer she’s received from Goldman Sachs is affirmation of her determination and passion to succeed in the finance industry.” — Andreas Angelopoulos, Executive Director, Oxford Private Equity institute & Programme Director, Oxford Finance LAB


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