A topic of discussion across the Module 6 was why each of us chose the EMBA. This was obviously a question many of us had asked before signing up for the programme, but 7 months later as the work load increased, the exams loomed ahead in the summer, and papers became due, it seemed this question was on the minds of many.
Perhaps this was spurred on by a discussion on the Sunday night before the module in Vincent’s Club, which was arranged independently by one of our classmates. At the Club, one of the students shared with us his fascinating life story, what he had learned along the way, and his regrets and his successes. Through the night he regaled us with anecdotes that made us laugh, made us pause and think, and also made us wonder how this fellow had actually survived so long (picture a journalist, a motor bike, and a war zone and you get the idea). The long arc of his personal history seemed to so logically point to him sitting in that chair in Vincent’s on that night; it seemed clear why he was Oxford. As he told his story, I started to reflect on my own story and reasons for why I was here. Such serious matters required stopping for pint to help the thinking process.
Fast forward four days later and groups of EMBA students were maniacally building small colorful plastic objects according to orders placed through an electronic system and passing their pieces to others for the next step. This was the demonstration exercise for the Technology and Operations Management module, designed to drive home some points of business process design and how to approach process improvement. Through several rounds the number of orders increased time and time again. Which meant that more and more the orders were filled incorrectly, that boxes of plastic widgets were upended, and orderly hand offs were surpassed by tossing pieces in the general direction of where they were to end up. Along the way Alistair Nicholson merrily conducted our motley crew to reflect on the process, where the bottlenecks were, and how we could fix them. He hit pause on the game and asked what was going wrong, what our opinions were, and what we thought we could to solve it. Reflection. Again. But from a very different direction.
And then I had what I call ‘An Oxford moment.’ It is when all of a sudden you connect the dots on some level between wildly different experiences and compile them into something greater than what the formal EMBA education offers. For me, it became clear that one of the reasons I was at Oxford was to reflect on what I have done, what I have done for others, and what to do next. Beyond the learning of analytics, marketing, operations management, global rules of the game, and other topics, why I was at Oxford became clearer to me in Module 6. I was at Oxford to actually reflect. When do we actually pause our daily lives to reflect on why we do what we do? Was it conscious choice that got us to where we are? A healthy dose of luck? Was it a tragedy or loss or an injustice that drove us to this point? And what does that mean for tomorrow? These are questions I continue to dwell on even as I move back to my daily work in Nairobi. I am glad I have another 11 months to go, for then maybe I will find some answers . Or failing that, at least more time to reflect.Back to top of article