Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2019

Julie Greene

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“Social introvert; advocate for women and social impact; keen eye for the unusual in life.”

Hometown: All over New England – Amherst, MA for simplicity

Fun Fact About Yourself: I sometimes like to challenge myself in odd ways– e.g. I sang in a Rwandan choir for two years because I think I’m nearly tone deaf and hate being on stage (I also only knew 25% of the words…)

Undergraduate School and Major: Macalester College, B.A. Geology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: The Women’s Bakery, Inc., Co-Founder & Co-Director

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When you are building something from scratch, each progressive step along the way feels like the “biggest accomplishment” – graduating our first women’s training group; registering a business and opening our first company-owned bakery in Rwanda; growing our parent company team from 4 to 12 and our bakery employees from 8 to 50+ in three years; providing TWB women with mental health counseling and other wellness support services; launching our beautiful Flagship bakery café in Kigali…

I could go on and on. But at the end of the day, what really motivates me are the personal and professional changes I see in the women we work with. It’s knowing that each woman employed full-time in a TWB bakery earns 2-5 times her previous income. It’s seeing one of the women rent her own home for the first time ever, or celebrating with another when she builds her own home. It’s hearing from a single mom who can now send all her children to school and knowing that each one has health insurance. It is sending women who were trainees in our program a year ago out to a new training group as trainers. Seeing the tangible social impact that is possible through a social enterprise — that is my biggest accomplishment so far.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Authentic and open. (Of course, I can’t choose just one). They are passionate about developing their current career, open to radical change, or frank about not knowing what to do next. Whatever their individual case, they are curious about others, and about all the possibilities that lie ahead. There is a real sense of camaraderie, without competitive one-upping of life stories or accomplishments, and a strong current of actually caring about the impact one has on the world. I can’t wait to get to know this class more!

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? I wasn’t seeking an MBA just to gain technical, hard business skills (which I do also want, and need, by the way!). I also wanted an MBA that would shape and guide my journey in global social impact. The huge focus on impact at Oxford Saïd, woven throughout the entire year and all of the classes, promotes a culture and program full of opportunities to explore disruptive ideas, sustainability, innovation, and positive social change. The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, whose mission is to “maximize the impact of social entrepreneurship to transform unjust or unsatisfactory systems or practices around the world and address critical social and environmental challenges,” is an incredible asset and resource, and was a huge draw for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Impact Lab with the Skoll Centre and perhaps a crack at Oxford Rowing – cliché but, when in Oxford…

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Over the last four years, I’ve been on what I consider an MBA crash course (i.e. flying by the seat of my pants in the start-up years of The Women’s Bakery). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (and at times been completely overwhelmed by) my leap into business and social enterprise. I felt like I had reached a point where I needed more technical skills, as well as a different kind of exposure to and engagement with social enterprise. Stepping back from the company for a year, I want to gain practical business skill sets and a different vantage point that I believe will enhance my leadership and ability to apply new lenses to the strategic growth of our company in the near term, and which can be applied to other social enterprise development in the long term.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Honestly, I struggled with this a lot. I knew that the knowledge, relationships, and community overall would be worth a sizeable financial investment, but that being in a social enterprise/start-up I wouldn’t come out of the MBA with a significant salary to help in paying back loans. The Skoll Scholarship is an incredible opportunity, making it possible for me to obtain my MBA and continue a social impact career after graduation without the financial pressure to secure a high salary job just to pay off loans. It is an amazing privilege to be a Skoll Scholar, knowing that I can focus my energy entirely into increasing my capacity to innovatively lead change, without the financial pressure of immense debt.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT, IE

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I looked primarily at schools’ focus on social enterprise/impact/sustainable change, cost, length of the program, student characteristics, and availability of scholarships.

Knowing that my interests lie mainly in the social enterprise space, both the program focus and cost were very important. The Skoll Scholarship and programmatic focus on impact at Oxford Saïd quickly put it at the top of my list.

I definitely spent time researching the “typical characteristics” of students – I wanted to be in a community that cared about more than just their title or salary, and who were curious about different ways to engage with business and the world. Both Oxford and MIT stood out to me for the kinds of students they attract. Reading blogs, visiting campus, and talking to current and past students were all very helpful in this.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? There were years of build up to this moment made of countless injustices against women that I witnessed or experienced, but my resolve to really focus on women’s empowerment (both social and economic) came during my Peace Corps service in Rwanda when a young female neighbor was severely beaten by her father. This wasn’t uncommon (and unfortunately all around the world is far too common), but I took her in that night and the following day was getting ready to take her to the health center when her mom came by, realized what I was doing, and tried to stop me. She wanted her daughter to get care, but she also didn’t want to risk exposing the extent of the beating to the entire community, and perhaps facing further repercussions at home. I realized then that neither the mother nor the daughter had any power or choice in this situation, and that really dug into me. I started thinking more deeply about why, and about all the inter-connected factors that exist to keep women and girls from having the same levels of dignity, respect, autonomy, and choice as men do. And I realized I wasn’t willing to sit silently by and let this continue.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? It’s amazing that it is already less than 12 months away, and we’ve only just begun! My initial plans post-graduation are with The Women’s Bakery. I am excited to see where this year takes me, the company, and our team. As with young companies, a lot can happen in just one year, so I’m really just looking forward to seeing how everything develops and then determining logical next steps as the MBA winds down next year.

Where do you see yourself in five years? The possibilities are endless! But I plan to be found in the social impact space. And hopefully in five years’ time, social impact won’t just be a space, it will be integrated throughout the fabric of everything we do.

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