A Day In The Life Of An Oxford Saïd MBA Student

Oxford Saïd MBA student Aditya Chopra holds an airplane turbine blade during a recent Operations class. Courtesy photo

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, and I am a little hungover.

The rainy weather isn’t helping much. Getting ready, breakfast, calendar schedule check, email check, charging my phone, some Twitter, some Instagram, and a bike ride to Saïd Business School consume the next 1 1/2 hours.

I am going to spend the next 3 hours studying Accounting with around 80 brilliant classmates from across the globe. I sit with my name card in front of my desk in a modern plush lecture theater with wooden walls, warm carpeting, and a little too much technology. We are discussing whether a large staircase manufacturer should fire its supplier of 63 years.

The sales manager values the client’s loyalty, the client values the firm’s consistent performance, but the senior management is concerned about margins on some of their products’ offerings to the client. It’s a lively discussion of diverse opinions, and the professor, Dr. Anette Mikes, squeezes in pictures of beautiful bespoke staircases and calculations of product contribution margin with equal élan.

The view in Accounting. Aditya Chopra photo

Case studies are a brilliant way of learning, because they let you experience the concepts in action. Problems in management (and life) are unlikely to occur categorized as “strategy” or “operations,” and the case method enables learning of the principles behind such problems in all their complex glory.

The afternoon is consumed by an interesting Operations case with a professor who is as brilliant and engaging as they come (check out Dr. Daniel Snow), from discussing the nuances of restaurant and car manufacturing operations to his love for Porsches to the meaning of life. It’s a joy to be in class.

From Operations, we move to Organizational Behavior (not before a quick coffee break!) and ex-consultant-now-professor Dr. Mike Gill engages everyone in a thought-provoking lecture on mental health. I come out of that class with new perspective, a little unease, and also a some pride that Oxford Saïd is the only global business school to introduce mental health in graded coursework.

I spend about an hour in the evening in the library, power reading for lectures the next day. Little had I thought during my teens and early 20s that reading The Hindu newspaper would help me cruise through GMAT (scored 770) and also power through long readings at Oxford. A quick catchup with friends and I head to my locker next to the lecture theater to put on a blazer. Google is presenting internship and full-time opportunities for my cohort for their London and Dublin offices in a few minutes, and I am not sure whether to suit up or go casual, so I have decided to stay in the semi-formal safe zone.

A two-hour seminar and some freebies later, we head to the lobby where a networking event with Googlers and wine has been organized. It’s a packed room, and I see some of my classmates in formal suits, but most others have embraced Google’s comfy vibe with hoodies and bomber jackets. The wine glass is common. I recall my wine- and cheese-tasting session two weeks prior and recognize that the one being served isn’t too fancy. But I still indulge with all the pretentious tricks I remember.

We discuss everything from product management career paths to social impact through business; from failings of multilateral institutions to the art exhibition by Nicola Green; from the upcoming international conference at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government to the next debate at the Union and the diminishing sunny days at Oxford. After hours of animated conversations and lots of wine and chips, it’s finally time to call it a day.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday, and I am a little hungover.

Aditya Chopra worked for a consulting firm in New Delhi, India before joining Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. He will receive his MBA in 2020. This article was originally published as a blog here.


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