2020 MBAs To Watch: Michael Philbin, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Michael Philbin

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“I’m from a small mountain town in Colorado but aim to make a global impact.”

Hometown: Evergreen, CO

Fun fact about yourself: I’m an Eagle Scout

Undergraduate School and Degree: MSc Latin American Studies, University of Oxford; BA Economics, Harvard University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Sculptor Capital Management, NYC, Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Sculptor Capital Management, London

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Pershing Square Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of Saïd Business School’s 1+1 programme, I completed an MSc in Latin American Studies at Oxford before continuing to the MBA. During my MSc I won the Crowley Award for the best MSc thesis, which focused on the use of cryptocurrency in Latin America to help combat inflation and currency volatility, and helped guide my elective course selection and academic focus during the MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I helped launch and manage JP Morgan’s Futures and Options US Treasury trading book, which transformed previously unused margin cash into one of the most profitable trading desks at the bank.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Mungo Wilson, a professor of Firms and Markets, is an extremely engaging lecturer who is able to seamlessly integrate theoretical microeconomics to economic history and modern applied economics.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The University of Oxford has a rich history of tradition, but one of the most notable is the matriculation ceremony at the beginning of the Michaelmas term every fall, which formally marks the admission of every new student to the university. The ceremony highlights the Business School’s integration within the larger University and serves as a reminder of the standards set forth by the University’s tradition of academic excellence.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Saïd Business School because of the 1+1 programme, which is a unique opportunity to combine in-depth, multidisciplinary learning across the social sciences during the MSc year with practical application and skill-building for a future in business during the MBA. The MSc core and elective curriculum, dissertation, and seminar series through the Latin American Center provided a sound background and holistic understanding of Latin American history, economics, international relations, and policy required to successfully navigate the environment, understand its challenges, and transition to an entrepreneurial, financial, or operating career in the region after the MBA. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? While previous academic success and strong standardized test scores are certainly important for a successful application, Said Business School does a tremendous job evaluating candidates’ entire backgrounds, and they value the impact that future students will make in the world after graduating as much, or potentially more, than what they accomplished before Business School. Saïd Business School seeks to accept students from an array of professional backgrounds and geographies that are passionate about solving global challenges. It is important for candidates to truly evaluate their motivation for getting an MBA and addressing how Oxford Saïd’s programme, as well as the University of Oxford, will assist in achieving their goals.

What is the biggest myth about your school? As part of the University of Oxford, there’s an expectation that the Business School will be a uniquely British experience, but in fact, it’s a truly global experience with 95% international students from over 60 countries. The diversity in backgrounds of students creates unparalleled learning opportunities that extend beyond the classroom.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? A one-year MBA can be challenging because students must balance a rigorous academic schedule, extracurricular activities, and recruiting, all in a condensed timeframe. Moreover, the University of Oxford has countless opportunities to hear renowned speakers and attend unparalleled academic seminars, and I should have better planned out my schedule at the beginning of the MBA to maximize participation in different learning opportunities across the University.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate that I admire most is Eli Mitchell-Larson, a fellow 1+1 and Pershing Square Scholar, who completed his MSc last year in Environmental Change and Management. Eli has excelled both academically at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as professionally, working across several industries prior to Oxford including renewable energy and impact investing. While his previous accomplishments are impressive, it’s his passion for solving global environmental challenges that I admire most. He has leveraged his previous academic and professional experiences and continued skillset development through the MBA to further pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Change and Management next year, and I’m confident that it will be Eli who is proposing feasible, workable solutions to the challenges of climate change in the future.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My decision to pursue an MBA was most influenced by my mother, who instilled the importance of education on my brother, my sister, and myself from a very young age. My family has a history of commitment to service of others, and my mother dedicated her professional career to public service, and I was encouraged to pursue an MBA to explore different ways in which I can use my education in the service of others.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d like to run my own investment firm that focuses on sustainable growth in Latin America, and one day I’d like to work in politics to help shape US economic policy to promote development in the region.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that my peers remember me as someone that is deeply driven, but also compassionate, personable, open-minded, and fun.  

Hobbies? Golf, travel, snowboarding, and fishing

What made Michael such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Michael’s drive to help create scalable solutions to challenges in economic development is directly aligned with our values and purpose, and we are delighted to welcome him not just to the Oxford 1+1 MBA but also into our Pershing Square Scholar community. His knowledge of and experience in economics, politics, and Latin American studies, uniquely equips him with the skillset needed to create real, impactful change in the region by focusing on enhancing current economic tools to promote growth and combat inflation.”

Liz Starbuck Greer
MBA Programme Director


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