Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2018

Barati Mahloele

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Ambitious eternal optimist, passionate about African economic and social development – also a marathon runner!

Hometown: Polokwane, South Africa

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I was 9 years old, I was chosen to be a TV presenter on a regional South African kids’ television program called Teeny Bop!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting)

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Direct Equity Investments- Africa, CDC Group Plc

Senior Investment Associate, Tshiamo Impact Partners

Supply Chain Finance Manager – East Africa & Emerging Markets, Unilever East Africa

Finance Manager – IT Innovation, Unilever UK

Finance Manager – Spreads & Tea, Unilever South Africa

Assistant Finance Manager – Deodorants & Skin Care, Unilever Australasia

Category Accountant – Ice Cream, Unilever South Africa

Assurance Accountant, Unilever South Africa

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment was while I was based in Kenya, when I was the finance lead in multimillion-dollar manufacturing infrastructure projects in Ethiopia and Kenya. The Ethiopia project, in particular, involved large corporations that were avoiding the Ethiopian market. Even though it looked great on paper from a GDP per capita perspective, it was (and is) a challenging market to operate in, where you need to have a long-term view on your investment. I was part of the team who fearlessly entered, developed the market, and provided much needed products to the bottom of the pyramid consumers. I lead the financial business case, working closely with my Supply Chain colleagues to ensure that we had a strong business case which met the financial hurdles and return aspirations, as well as delivered on the uncompromising sustainability promise.

The reason this was a highlight for me was because it was the first time I could tangibly link my finance role to on-the-ground impact in Africa, as the impact of the investment has resulted in job creation and economic growth and development for the region. This was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue my MBA. I wanted to continue to make sustainable and scalable investments in Africa, and I wanted to go to the best Business School to equip myself with more world class skills to do it successfully.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Be yourself. Honestly, that’s putting your best foot forward. Don’t try and write essays on what you think the admissions officers want to see, or what you might have read makes the perfect MBA candidate. The admissions officers are so experienced, that you will most probably get caught out eventually anyway. If you are genuine, then your essays, what recommenders say about you, and what you say during your interview will all align. Don’t try morph into Superman when you know you are Robin (or vice versa), just to fit in. Be yourself and the perfect Business School for you will accept you, and there is a place for everyone. Oxford Saïd, for one, is so diverse, with incredible people from all corners of the world, and vast backgrounds, but all with a common fibre of wanting to contribute in some way to transforming individuals, business, and ultimately society.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you?  Oxford was an easy choice, given Oxford Saïd’s thought leadership on Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing, Africa, and Responsible business.

If I were to choose just one key factor from these, it would have to be the Social entrepreneurship/Impact Investing. My long-term goal is unlocking scalable economic and social change, by investing in innovative businesses that solve Africa’s most pressing challenges. Given this goal, Oxford Saïd presented the best platform to connect with like-minded leaders from across the globe, and immerse myself in developing innovative financing models to enable this access to capital.

Saïd has a leading edge social entrepreneurship centre – Skoll Centre for Social entrepreneurship. There is also an Impact Investing boot camp that brings in global experts in the field from both emerging and developed markets, and upskills students on this emerging and crucial investment trend of investing not only for financial return, but to have a positive environmental and social impact.

The Dean once said that if you want to change careers, geography or progress up the corporate ladder, then in all honesty, you have a plethora of business schools to choose from. However, if you want to change the world – then there is no better place than Oxford Saïd. There is no bigger pull factor than that!

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Success for me a year out of business school would be back on the African continent, disrupting current models of access to financial services and capital, energy, education and affordable quality health care. I want to build a solid track record before I embark on my own fund. That’s because as much as investors value the skills gained from an accredited, world renowned MBA program, that is just the license to operate; I would still need to prove my ability to grow investor capital, and develop enterprises. I look forward to the opportunities that present themselves in this space.