Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2019

Sultan Fahad Alotaibi

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

A leader yet a team player, goal driven yet enticed by uncertainty.”

Hometown: Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Fun Fact About Yourself: Creative football player, tactically-savvy football coach, and a nature-loving photographer

Undergraduate School and Major: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Majoring in Operations, Supply Chain Management, and Marketing.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Business Development Analyst at Saudi Aramco working in the taskforce responsible for leveraging the company’s ten-year forecasted spend of $300 billion to localize key industries, promote entrepreneurship, and develop the Saudi labor force.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While undergoing economic, social, and cultural transformations, Saudi Arabia is facing dire challenges as it balances a ballooning public sector with dwindling government reserves and spiraling unemployment.

I had resolved to leverage the power of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest company, to address some of these challenges. I shared my vision with the director of the Entrepreneurship Center within Saudi Aramco who, as a result, made me the center’s youngest relationships manager and interview committee member. In these roles, I oversaw a portfolio of more than 30 different startup companies. Soon after, I became the youngest of three delegates nominated by Aramco to help transform the General Sport Authority (GSA) into a financially sustainable entity. In this role, I co-developed plans to commercialize sport clubs, renovate old stadiums, and widely expand the role of Saudi women in sports. Results to date include introducing sports classes for the first time in girls’ schools and permitting women to attend sporting events in stadiums for the first time in Saudi Arabia. As I am a proud father of two young girls, playing a role in these changes has meant the world to me.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? In a class of 320 students from 63 different nationalities, impactful leadership is the number one quality that is shared among Oxford Saïd’s MBA candidates. They all have remarkable achievements in their fields and communities, yet, they are eager to learn best practices to expand their roles to positively influence corporations and societies. It was captivating to learn about their passions and how they plan to utilize the valuable opportunities offered by the school to achieve their dreams.

Aside from your classmates, 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? The MBA program at Saïd Business School offers an unparalleled learning approach to use business to tackle world-scale challenges. The school has designed this exceptional MBA program to educate future leaders on making responsible business decisions while meeting the interests of stakeholders. For the annual Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford (GOTO), the school forms teams of MBA students, faculty, and subject matter experts to work together to address a global challenge and propose solutions. I believe that Saïd Business School’s philosophy is the perfect match for my values and interests.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I have registered for the Oxford Strategy Group (OSG), a student-run management consultancy that brings graduate and undergraduate students from different departments to work on real-world projects. The team members are assigned to these projects according to their skill sets, expertise, and interests to solve the challenges faced by clients in both the profit and non-profit sectors. I aim to further develop my problem-solving and leadership skills by working with clients from different industries with a wide range of challenges.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Even though it is incredibly tough to step away from the exciting changes that are happening within Aramco and Saudi Arabia at the moment, my early efforts presented me with many challenges and left me with a hunger and motivation to learn world-class management practices to play a more influential role in the transformations still ahead of us.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? An MBA fosters decision-making skills under uncertainty when evaluating business challenges from different industries and countries while simultaneously considering political, cultural, and financial aspects. The study environment in an MBA program encourages students to share and discuss their ideas with and learn from ever-capable classmates who view the same business problem with unique lenses drawn from their diverse backgrounds. I believe that these development opportunities are unique and worth the investment of money and time.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?

Harvard Business School

Cambridge Judge Business School

How did you determine your fit at various schools? As I was applying for the MBA, I wanted to be enrolled in a program that will give me the knowledge and tools to achieve my ambitious goals in Aramco and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, I evaluated schools on four major criteria:

  • Academic excellence
  • Track record of developing leaders in both private and public sectors
  • The community and culture of the business school and the university as a whole
  • The program emphasis on social responsibility and impact

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Growing up with 17 family members crowded into a four-bedroom apartment in Jeddah, my father spent every last penny he earned providing his children with a proper education. At age twelve, I started a fireworks distribution business, which quickly became the dominant player in the district. At age fourteen, I ran a concession stand at our local football arena. At age fifteen, I was put in charge of my family’s laundry business which gave me experience in collecting revenues, buying raw materials, paying laborers and bills, and providing daily financial updates to my traveling father. These experiences at an early age cultivated my ambition to never accept the status quo and to thrive amidst adversity. It also gave me a sense of responsibility and the confidence to use my abilities to improve the situation of people in similar circumstances.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After the MBA, I plan to return to Saudi Aramco, as it offers unparalleled opportunities and government high-level access to drive the socio-economic transformation in my country. I will apply my MBA training towards analyzing industries, evaluating investments, engaging local SMEs as well as major multinationals, and developing strategies to localize key industries and create jobs.

Where do you see yourself in five years? The next decade is going to be incredibly exciting and transformational for my country. Thus, I see myself working in the public sector to develop investment strategies and economic plans to achieve the optimistic goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 and beyond. My country has supported me throughout all stages of my life and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to be of value to my people.

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