Dereka Lee


United Kingdom


Jan 2018 - Sep 2019

By Dereka Lee

Road to Saïd

The first module of EMBA January 2018 wrapped up two weeks ago. IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE. This blog was an invaluable source of information for me throughout my journey to reach that point. Thus, I am delighted to contribute and share my experiences at Saïd with you. For my first post, I want to share with you my application process in the hope you will find it useful.

Let’s start at the beginning: How did I decide to read for an EMBA?

It began in April of 2017 when I was assessing my near- and long-term career goals. For my near-term goal, I want to lead the Asia-Pacific Consumer Insights division for General Mills. And my long-term goal is to start my own business. With these objectives in mind, I took stock of where I was present day and the skill-sets that that I needed to execute on my goals. I landed on three areas that I want to strengthen.

1. Build a comprehensive foundation in general management – I want to learn the fundamentals beyond the realm of Consumer Insights (my current function) and gain a deeper appreciation of how businesses operate and make critical decisions from other perspectives.
2. Develop my leadership skills – learn tactics and strategies to be influential with leaders and team members.
3. Develop a framework to start thinking about my own venture.

With these goals identified, it became apparent that I would benefit greatly from an EMBA programme. The core curriculum would provide an in-depth study of different business functions. Learning alongside accomplished professionals from varied fields would help me strengthen my leadership skills. To confirm that this was indeed the right course of action, I consulted my mentors (both of whom hold an MBA/EMBA), and they enthusiastically agreed that an EMBA would not only be an ideal complement to my career goals, but also be a great source of personal development.

Ah, this EMBA is just right: How did I choose?

With my rationale in place, the question became: which programme is right for me? I spent a healthy amount of time reading and analyzing EMBA websites/brochures to answer this question (I created a spreadsheet – it would go against my Consumer Insights nature not to). There are countless parameters to base your final decision upon, but my goals served as useful guideposts to rank and filter the schools. Ultimately, four criteria – course structure, world-class faculty, global class profile, entrepreneurial focus – drove Oxford to top of my shortlist.

Up to this point, I had predominantly conducted desk research, so it was only after attending the Oxford Open House in September and speaking to past/current students that the personality and values of Saïd come to life. They described Oxford as a diverse place with an open and welcoming learning environment; while studying and working may be overwhelming at times, the class is supportive and actively helps each other learn and grow. This was music to my ears and Saïd became my top and only choice. I recommend taking the time to consider what you want in an EMBA program, choose a school that meets your criteria, and be sure to talk to alumni and visit the school to make sure it is just right.

Accepted! Which college should I choose?

I was euphoric when the acceptance e-mail came through in October. YES – my dream is becoming a reality. It was then time to choose a college. First of all, what are colleges? Oxford is comprised of 38 colleges, each with a rich history and distinct traditions, but all fall under the Oxford University umbrella in a kind of federal system. It is important to point out that not all colleges admit EMBA students, so before you research each and every one, the admissions team will provide you with a starting list. You can decide based on prestige, fellows at the college, etc.

It was important to me that my college of choice admitted a fair number of EMBA students, providing me additional opportunities to connect over college events. In the end, I choose Keble! One pointer – I would not recommend choosing your college based on distance from Saïd. I say this because you will may not stay at your college for every module (i.e, you can stay at hotels, Airbnbs or even other colleges). Ultimately, distance to Saïd should not dictate your college choice.

Beginning of a new adventure

I have never been more excited to go back-to-school. The first week was better than anything I had imagined. It simply flew by. Sixty-five students from forty countries travelled to Oxford in January for the first module of the EMBA – it is a truly global community filled with talented individuals from diverse professional backgrounds. The class is extremely supportive and we were able to form strong bonds already after five days together. The professors’ Socratic style of teaching alongside the lively discussions keeps you engrossed during class. Timon, my classmate, did a beautiful job summarizing our week that I am going to refer you to his blog for the full Module One recap:

A jolly good start to the EMBA programme

On this note, I hope you find my thoughts helpful. Until next time.
–  A proud member of the January 2018 EMBA cohort (EMBA J18)

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