Celebrating PRIDE: Oxford Saïd ROMBA Scholar Reflects On Her Journey

Margarita Quijano

During PRIDE month at Saïd Business School, we highlighted our active commitment to inclusivity for our LGBTQ+ students through ROMBA.

Saïd Business School has partnered with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) to promote a unique program whose aim is to promote exceptional scholars who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. The program, Reaching Out MBA LGBTQ+ Fellowships, is generously supported by our alumni through the Rewley Fund, increasing the impact of MBA students as future business leaders.

ROMBA scholar, founder, tech startup leader, and product marketer, Margarita Quijano, shared her views in a Q&A on becoming a founder, her passion for entrepreneurship and technology, and her advice to budding entrepreneurs.

Q: Tell us about your background, your career experience, and what you are passionate about.

Quijano: My family and I emigrated from the Philippines to Canada when I was quite young. Influenced by my family in medicine and healthcare, I began my academic journey studying medical sciences at Western University. However, it was during my undergraduate studies that I founded a social impact non-profit that scaled to several universities across North America. That’s when I fell in love with entrepreneurship and technology, and their ability to scale impact.

After joining The Next 36, a life-changing founder development programme in Canada, I co-founded two venture-backed AI startups, exited one to a Y Combinator-backed company, and moved to San Francisco for a couple of years. Since then, I have led product marketing at three Series A startups, two of which are also Y Combinator companies. I am now working on my third AI startup.

Through my personal and professional experiences, I’ve learned that ‘coming out’ transcends sexuality — coming out is about embracing your identity. Coming out is getting closer to who you are. Coming out is more like ‘coming in’ with yourself. And I believe that the world is a better place when we accept our authentic selves. Living truthfully liberates others to do the same, cultivating inclusive environments that inspire diverse perspectives, enhance problem-solving, and drive innovation.

I am passionate about empowering people to connect with their authentic selves and achieve their true potential — whether it’s mentoring someone through a career transition, helping people become more aligned and productive through using tools like Notion or advising startups on their product, strategy, or my favourite, investor pitch. For fun, I love learning about business, tech, and the world at large. Staying creative waters my soul, so you’ll also find me making vlogs, writing, and dabbling in improv and stand-up comedy.

Margarita Quijano

Q: What are your reflections on being appointed a ROMBA scholar, and how important is representation?

Quijano: Being a ROMBA Scholar is an absolute honour. Growing up, I feared that my sexuality might impede my professional aspirations. I developed a strange fallacy that everything I worked for wouldn’t amount to anything, because simply, I was gay. Thank goodness, I was wrong.

Being a ROMBA Scholar symbolises my journey from hiding my identity deep in the closet, to celebrating it openly — embracing recognition in both academic and professional settings. The ROMBA Fellowship goes beyond financial support, even though that has been immensely helpful.

Being a ROMBA Scholar serves as a platform from which I can hopefully inspire and empower others by showing that authenticity and achievement can coexist.

Representation is necessary. It is a beacon of hope — a reminder that it is possible. That you can do it, because someone like you, did. Not only does representation dismantle stereotypes and promote inclusivity, but it also allows you to feel seen, valued, and accepted, no matter what background you might have.

Oprah Winfrey, who shares my birthday and inspires me with her authenticity, once articulated her desire to fulfil the ‘highest, truest expression of herself as a human being.’ As a ROMBA Scholar, I hope to do this not only for myself, being the role model I once needed, but I also want to help others do the same, not only in their personal lives but their professional ones as well.

Q: What different perspectives do you bring to the classroom?

Quijano: My background as a founder, tech startup leader, and product marketer, enriched by my personal experiences with identity, provides me with a uniquely empathetic, inclusive, and open-minded perspective. I hope that my insights enhance classroom discussions, bringing a depth of understanding to interactions and fostering a more inclusive academic environment.

Q: Describe your experience at Oxford Saïd and how is it helping you

Quijano: While my academic term at Oxford Saïd is set to begin in September, I have already started forming meaningful connections with my classmates through virtual hangouts and our very active WhatsApp and Slack chats — including our Pride group chat for our LGBTQ+ classmates and allies. Not only are we making friends already, but these early interactions are shaping a supportive and collaborative learning atmosphere that I am eager to immerse myself in once the term starts.

Fun fact — I’ve led an ‘Intro to Notion’ workshop for our classmates since I’m quite passionate about the productivity tool and can’t seem to stop myself from encouraging everyone from checking it out, if they might need it. Leading the workshop has helped me break out of my comfort zone more. I learned that it’s important to put yourself out there before school starts so I’m trying!

Margarita Quijano

Q: How will you celebrate PRIDE this month?

Quijano: This summer, I will celebrate Pride in Toronto while also connecting virtually with the Oxford Pride group. Participating in the ROMBA Summer Trek in New York City was an amazing opportunity to meet LGBTQ+ MBA peers from all over the world and hear from seasoned LGBTQ+ professionals about their experiences bringing their authentic selves to work, which was incredibly eye-opening, reaffirming, and above all, inspiring. At my company, I am contributing to our Pride celebrations by creating Pride themed virtual backgrounds for our lovely colleagues and providing Pride resources, including the ‘Pride in the Workplace’ webinar hosted by Forté Foundation and ROMBA. Lastly, I truly look forward to participating in Oxford Saïd’s upcoming panel for prospective LGBTQ+ MBA students!

Q: What are your plans?

Quijano: After Oxford Saïd, in the short-term, I plan to pursue product marketing leadership roles that combine my passion for storytelling and AI, potentially at companies like YouTube, Instagram, or Apple. I’ve also always been interested in finance so I look forward to exploring that more during school, which may impact my short-term goals.

Long-term, I plan to continue solving problems meaningful to me, mentor early-stage founders, and invest in startups founded by LGBTQ+, female, and BIPOC founders. My goal is to help close the significant gap in venture capital funding, where less than 10% currently reaches these groups combined, thereby promoting greater equity within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

About ​​Saïd Business School:

Saïd Business School is a vibrant and innovative school, embedded within the University of Oxford, offering accredited degrees and diplomas for undergraduates and postgraduates and a broad portfolio of on-campus and online courses for business executives. The School educates global business leaders, change makers and innovators across every industry and sector. Its ground-breaking research and exceptional teaching transforms individuals, who transform businesses, which transforms the world and creates ïmpact from within.

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