Why I studied an EMBA at Oxford Saïd: Alumna Profile

EMBA alumna profile, Oxford Saïd

Having worked her way up at Westpac Institutional Bank, Janet Dawson didn’t look to an executive MBA program to change careers. Instead, the degree she undertook at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School represented the fulfilment of a dream for someone who had never had the opportunity to attend university:

Executive MBA program represented the ‘sacred chalice’

 Janet Dawson, EMBA alumna“The decision to apply for the executive MBA program at Oxford Saïd was one of the most challenging yet compelling decisions of my adult life,” explains Dawson.

“The opportunity to attend Oxford and work fulltime in a job that I love was a big ask, but one that I knew without a shadow of a doubt would yield results for the rest of my life. I have worked at my firm, Westpac Institutional Bank for 32 years, and most recently have headed up our European and Americas Foreign Exchange (FX) sales businesses, a role that has taken me across the globe.

“FX is a dynamic market and I love the challenge of learning something new every day, so my motivation for doing an EMBA program was not to change careers. I commenced my career straight out of high school and was able to work my way through the retail bank and into the trading room, where I ultimately had the opportunity to work in New York, The reason for sharing the detail here is because I had actually never attended university or college and, for me, this was the ‘sacred chalice’ and something I personally wanted to achieve.

“So obtaining an executive MBA degree from Oxford University was the obvious choice! Well not really – but it was a dream, and I had a mentor, an Oxford alum, who encouraged me to apply. I know a lot of students research numerous schools and rightfully use a combination of cost, program suitability and rankings to make their decision, but I just applied to Oxford Saïd.”

Revelling in a ‘true university experience’ at Oxford Saïd

In outlining her reasons for singling out Oxford Saïd as her sole choice, Dawson points to the benefits of its executive MBA program structure – something which allowed her to immerse herself in the academic environment and sporting traditions associated with the University of Oxford:

“Why Oxford Saïd? There is no other business school that can give you the Oxford experience or reputation,” Dawson explains. “This includes the ability to go rowing in the morning before class, while still immersing yourself in the best academics and mixing with the future world leaders that frequent the streets and pubs (including the Oxford Union) as part of your daily ritual. The college experience truly offers a unique perspective – one where you can mix and attend classes (time permitting) at the other faculties, allowing a true university experience.

“Other business schools, and there are some great ones, focus purely on the business degree. The chance to meet a Rhodes Scholar studying history or medicine is priceless. The other aspect that really worked for me was the modular structure of the program, as this was a better way to study, getting away from work for a week, rather than every weekend.”

With an executive MBA program now under her belt, Dawson feels that she has gained the confidence needed to identify and explore new opportunities in her career, and to avoid being pigeon-holed at her current firm – an affliction from which long-serving employees can often suffer. 

“Having completed the degree I have more options in my career – more so than I had before. To be brutally honest, being at a firm for so long you cannot help but be pigeon-holed. This degree has given me the confidence to step up and out to look at all opportunities with a new and qualified confidence that is just so different from my peers. 

“The last thing I would say is don't let the fear of thinking that if you apply to Oxford Saïd that you won't get in hold you back. I think a lot of people approach Oxford with that mind-set. But what if you do? I did – and graduating from Oxford is a day I will never forget. 

“This reminds me of something written regarding the NYC marathon one year:  ‘There will be days that you think you can never run a marathon, but you will spend a lifetime knowing that you have.’ This explains my Oxford experience to a T!”

Written by Dawn Bournand

Dawn Z Bournand is associate director of the Executive MBA department at QS and handles editorial content for the department which includes serving as editor-in-chief of the QS TopExecutive Guide. Along with two of her QS colleagues, she recently wrote the book, QS TopExecutive Passport - Your essential document for entry into the world of Executive MBAs.  One of her favorite parts of the job is serving as an MBA/EMBA expert on webinars and panels, at conferences and in the media.

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