Meet The MBA Class of 2021: Johannes Olschner-Wood, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Johannes Olschner-Wood

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

“Curious about understanding the world around me, clumsy dancer.”

Hometown: Tricky – I was born in Ithaca, New York but grew up in the UK (London then Brentwood, Essex).

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I was a child, I was a chorister at Brentwood Cathedral Choir and sang in a couple of broadcasts and recordings.

Undergraduate School and Major: BA in History from University College London and MA in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College London

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Director, ManoCap (an impact investment and advisory firm in West Africa)

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Oxford Saïd’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? In addition to my classmates – and I can’t emphasise enough how important a factor this was – two features about Oxford Saïd’s MBA really attracted me.

The first was the School’s commitment to social impact, which stretches beyond repeating the ‘doing well while doing good’ mantra. The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship plays an active role within the programme, and the curriculum requires students to think about business in a broader sense. Whether through the Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford (GOTO) project or core courses in marketing and operations, students interrogate the role of business in society, both positive and negative. The second was the wealth of co-curricular activities on offer, which afford students incredible opportunities to explore their interests more deeply or sharpen certain skills outside of the core courses and electives.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? While the pandemic has limited our ability to participate in Oxford’s traditions, I did wear my sub fusc on matriculation day. Oxford is known as a place where world collides, be it in the classroom or the dining hall? What has been the most interesting interaction you’ve had so far as an Oxford MBA student? There have been far too many to single just one out! Restrictions in the UK have forced us to socialise either 1-to-1 or in groups of 6, and our class size has been reduced to 20. Combined with the diversity of our cohort and the number of incredibly accomplished and intellectually curious people on the course, I’ve enjoyed a continuous stream of interesting interactions. I’ve learnt about social entrepreneurship in Burma / Myanmar, the finer points of negotiating at the WTO, impact investing in Japan and the nitty gritty details of sustainable coffee sourcing, all from fellow students who worked in these fields pre-MBA.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Setting up ManoCap’s investment advisory platform and developing it into a profitable business has been my biggest accomplishment to date. For background, ManoCap is an impact investment fund, based in Sierra Leone, that was established in 2006. I moved with my wife to Freetown in 2015 to join ManoCap. After a couple of years of trying (and failing) to build one of the fund’s portfolio companies, I worked on developing its investment advisory arm. With the guidance of my mentor, I was able to apply the many lessons from the failed venture and grow the company into a profitable entity through a broad client base comprised of institutional investors looking to invest in West Africa and start-ups in the region trying to raise capital.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Probably the work I’ve been doing with my team participating in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) competition. We’re only midway through the competition, but our team has made a strong start in terms of developing an investment thesis and sourcing potential deals.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? IMD

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? Becoming aware of the role of bias in human decision making – this has definitely shifted my approach to group work.


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