Damiano Pietroni




United Kingdom




Sep 2018 - May 2020

By Damiano Pietroni

Oxford EMBA – The Many Facets of Diversity

Having completed the first week of the Executive MBA at Oxford Saïd a number of topics come to mind. That said, this blog article will focus specifically on how the many facets of diversity present in the EMBA cohort add to the learning process and overall experience.

The first type of diversity present in the cohort is geographic, in that all continents, apart from Antarctica, are represented. This breadth of geographic coverage ensures that issues are examined from multiple lenses relating to multiple geographic areas, uncovering complex nuances related to cultures and ways of working which could hardly by gleaned in any other way other than directly engaging with someone from the specific region. For example, during a class focusing on culture within organizations, a student from Japan provided insights on female participation in the Japanese job market that were of great interest to other students, in particular to those who either did or planned to do business with Japan.

Following on is diversity related to public and private employment. Having a healthy number of public sector students ensures that in case studies angles related to government, regulators, and supranational organization are examined. For example, while working through a simulation related to a health sector company, EMBA students with public sector backgrounds provided detailed insights on how health care organizations in their countries engaged with governments and regulators, allowing the entire group to refocus its thinking and ultimately formulate more effective solutions to the simulation.

The third type of diversity relates to whether students work in organizations, or own them as entrepreneurs, with both groups having much to share with the other. Entrepreneurs in the cohort are experienced at building organizations from blueprint to maturity to sale, and provide great examples of success beyond progression on the corporate ladder. Students working in organizations do so from many countries and in many sectors, but all exemplify the great things that can be achieved in the relative safety of a corporate.

The fourth line of diversity relates to whether students work for NGOs or whether they work for profit focused organizations. The Oxford EMBA is structured to get students to think about issues beyond only maximizing profits and shareholder value, meaning that even if all students came from for profit organizations, there would still be great discussions around the wider roles of organizations. That said, having a number of students in the cohort in senior roles in NGOs across the world provides a very direct window into lines of thinking that many professionals in for profit may not regularly engage with. For example, while dining together following the matriculation ceremony, a very interesting discussion on the merits of investing on vocational training for under-privileged youth involved a specialist in the sector, but also a management consultant and a finance professional who would likely not have otherwise gone into such detail on the topic in their organizations.

The final perspective on diversity relates to career stage, in that the cohort includes everything from up and coming managers to seasoned executives. The interactions between students at different stages in their careers add significant value. Managers and Senior Managers in the cohort are often close to operational issues and tend to have insights on how to balance technical work with people management and strategy. For example, in an informal discussion, a student shared how he successfully progressed from a purely technical role to one that entailed managing others. Students that are Directors and Managing Directors tend to set direction at a macro level, and are very aware of the impacts that external forces have on their organizations. For example, a student operating as divisional head for a large corporate provided to the rest of the class a very detailed and valid analysis on the forces that shaped the industry he worked in.

Overall, the diversity of the Oxford EMBA cohort with regard to geographies, public / private sector, NGO / for profit, and career stage, drives an environment in which ideas, both new and old, can effectively be built upon leveraging multiple lenses.

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