My Story: From The CIA To An MBA

Christopher Schildt (fourth from right) and members his Oxford cohort visited LinkedIn on their Silicon Valley trek earlier this year. Courtesy photo

Tell us about organizing a student trek to Silicon Valley and Seattle. What did you hope to accomplish?

The student treks are all student-initiated and -organized. If you get a large enough group together interested in your vision for the trek, the school will provide support and facilitate alumni connections. But doing the planning for where we were going to be, how we were going to get there, which companies we were going to visit — all the scheduling — that was all on me. I had really good help from the career office.

It was a business trip for me. A lot of people went away for the break and had a great vacation, but I was every day coordinating with the companies, coordinating with the students, letting people know where to go, so it was a big task for me.

It’s interesting because being such a global program here, there were a lot of foreigners and it was their first trip to the U.S. So I felt a little extra responsibility to show my country in a good light.

You visited Tesla, LinkedIn, Amazon — a bunch of companies. Was the trip all you’d hoped?

The trip went really well. We have a pretty strong alumni community in Silicon Valley, and all the companies that we went to, we had alumni connections. They put together panels, luncheons, tours. We saw the Tesla factory. We were there for about a week, including a few days in Seattle. We just got a really honest and candid assessment of what it’s like working for those companies, what roles we should be looking at as newly minted MBAs. It was just a really good experience.

I’d been to the Bay Area once or twice before but only for a day or two. So really getting to see not just the individual companies but how the whole ecosystem works — that was really valuable.

How will you use your MBA after graduating in September? What’s your passion now that you’re out of government?

My passion lies with travel and transportation. I’m really interested in the future of transportation. I’m flying to L.A. next week to go to the Uber Elevate Summit, and they are discussing the future of urban air transportation. So think flying taxis. I think it’s a really cool, innovative way to solve traffic congestion problems that are plaguing major cities.

For a lot of people, you talk about this stuff and the first image they have is flying cars. But this industry is moving ahead and has the advantage of other technologies that are being developed in other sectors. We have a few visionary companies that are pushing this industry forward. I would love to get involved in a strategy/business development role where I can then use that blend of tech, business, and policy background to help them build out not just a business case, but help build the actual industry.

At this point, it’s such a nascent market, you can’t build a business model without considering the regulatory impact. What is the community going to say? What is the government going to do? They’re all tied together.

So far you’re happy with the path you’ve taken, diverging from government and into business?

Fifteen years is a long time, but I plan to have a very long career, and I think it’s really important and interesting to reinvent yourself every once in a while and stay sharp. I’m older than the average MBA, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a year off and really thinking about things. It’s an opportunity you only get a few times in your life. I have absolutely no regrets — about my past career or leaving it.

And Oxford is fantastic place to do it. Not only because it’s a great business school, but the B-school is imbedded in this world-class university, so we get to learn so much more than just the standard business classes.


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