Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Mary Zhukovskaya, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Mary Zhukovskaya

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

“An always-smiling MBA powered by sheer enthusiasm and determination to help people believe in themselves.”

Hometown: Korolev, Russian Federation

Fun Fact About Yourself: I jumped off the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and lived to tell the tale!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Manchester, Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: PwC London, Audit Manager

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? I wanted to do an MBA because I wanted to help not just businesses, but also people. I made the decision to apply during the first lockdown, having witnessed the harsh realities that millions were facing. I was struck by the setbacks the pandemic evoked in the education sector across the globe and the rapidly-widening education access gap. I wanted to help; I did not know how.

Social impact is the prominent part of the Oxford MBA curriculum – few of our lectures fail to touch this subject. It is weaved into our Accounting, Marketing, Strategy modules amongst others. Then, of course, there is GOTO (Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford). This is a formal part of our curriculum, where we work on a project to identify a systematic challenge the current world is facing – and then create and map a solution. There are many great projects in the works: helping refugees, combatting smoking, and building resilience to misinformation through education. You are pushed to come up with something that can really work and be implemented.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? Bringing my classmates to my college, Pembroke. There are 39 colleges in Oxford, each with its own history and traditions. I was lucky enough to bring my friends from other colleges to our formal dinner – a three course meal served to you in the main hall (think Harry Potter great hall – complete with candles on the table and very old portraits on the walls!). You must wear a “sub fusc”, a black gown, on top of your clothes and you listen to a grace read out in Latin before you eat. After dinner, I briefly show them around our grounds, which include 400-year-old buildings, and talk about history of the place. Fun fact: JRR Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit” and the first two books of “The Lord of the Rings” while teaching at Pembroke college!

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? I attended a lecture and dinner with Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the creator of the Astra-Zeneca COVID vaccine. I could have never imagined having a conversation with someone who literally made history and whose work helped save millions of lives. Despite her amazing achievements, she stayed so humble and gave credit to her whole team at every opportunity. This sort of interaction – only at Oxford.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Managing and delivering a high-quality audit with a fully remote team in April 2020. Back then, nobody was prepared for the operational setbacks of the pandemic; our carefully created timeline had to be completely redone. Our team was one of the first to fully carry out and deliver an audit during the pandemic – proud to say, we didn’t even miss our original deadline and we did not compromise on the quality of work!

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? I have been elected to this year’s MBA Student Council and being part of this inspiring community is so humbling. My proudest accomplishment is being presented a chance to make a difference as co-president and learn from my colleagues. The Council is just a wonderful example of how incredibly clever and driven our class is. In the first two months, we have pushed for creation of the Asia and LATAM Regional Business Groups, improved internal admin policies, pushed for even higher standards of Diversity and Inclusion, established great Health and Well-being support for our classmates, and opened a discussion on the diversity of cases used in the classroom. My colleagues organised several socials and put together a great team prep us for MBATs. And, of course, we helped classmates 1:1 in their times of need. I love that about our class in general: everyone wants you to succeed and be happy.

We are not stopping there! We are also looking at things that can be improved in the long term as well, something the class of 2023 and beyond can benefit from. I would encourage future students to run for student leadership positions; it is a rewarding way to give back.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? LBS and Judge

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program?

Myself: Before the MBA, I was always the problem-solver. You come to me with an issue, I do my best to find a good solution. At Oxford, I realised that it’s okay not to know or give the answer to everything – sometimes people just want you to listen.

World: It is far too easy to be cynical about the state of the world these days, putting profit over everything else. Having met literally hundreds of bright and socially-driven classmates that genuinely want to make a positive difference, I think we can afford to be hopeful about our future – because I know we will succeed.


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