Danilo Mura









By Danilo Mura

It is all about “People”: reflection on my journey at Oxford Saïd

It took me years to decide in which school I should have taken my Executive MBA. I met all the top business schools around the globe, over 4 years. I finally decided that Oxford Saïd was the right school for me, at this stage of my life; and I was right. I worked hard to get admitted: tests, networking, visits, and a deep reflection to write competitive essays. Eventually, I received the admission letter! Many friends often asked me: “Why an MBA? Danilo, you have a good job, highly recognized and impactful, why do you want to study again?”

The answer was always: “I need to learn how to lead people: understand them, motivate them and get them committed to a common cause”. In fact, the Executive MBA is my third degree: I have received at BSc degree at Bocconi University, where I learned many technical knowledge, and a Masters from Grenoble Ecole de Management, the school that enabled my talent, gave me all the relevant skills to succeed in the job market and the means to keep studying (I studied at Oxford while also teaching as a professor at Grenoble EM). Oxford Saïd enriches these two experiences (I learned a lot in every subject!) but, most importantly, gave me the necessary knowledge to lead organizations in the long-term.

I understand why so many politicians and leaders studied here, at the University of Oxford. Courses like Leadership and The Strategic Leader, paired with individual coaching and workshops delivered by the career service increased my awareness on some key aspects of human nature. We are humans with feelings, and we often take irrational decisions, influenced by our culture and what we are afraid of. Understanding my leadership traits and fears allowed to control/develop them, overcome some of them and, most importantly, decode many reasons behind people’s actions. Sometimes, the pursuit of the Truth (one of the values of the University of Oxford) was my solo journey, as surprisingly the more understood and the more I felt alone – but I decided to continue my exploration, if necessary for years and hopefully not alone. I reflected on many failures, and shared them with my classmates: the class became the perfect context where everyone shared failures & wins, proving to myself once again that “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”, at any age and at any moment in life.

Oxford Saïd taught me many frameworks that focused my attention on human aspects I partially considered before: motivating factors, personality traits, building influence, people’s fears, the 5 Whys to discover people’s fears, career planning, the Purpose, incentives that shape corporate cultures, leadership styles and so on. I absorbed this knowledge after having deeply reflected on myself, with the ultimate goal of re-sharing my learnings for the benefit of my team, my community, the people around me and the organization I work for. The Executive MBA was an infinite source of knowledge, and in fact I usually think of Oxford Saïd as a temple with many doors: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” – another famous quote that I repeated myself when on campus.

Isn’t it when we are under a lot of pressure that we learn the most? Many assignments, teamwork, professional deadlines piled up all at once, making it very tough to cope with the workload. It was in these moments that I felt I was learning the most, sometimes when studying all night at the Balliol College’s library (I got the overall distinction eventually!). These two years were an interesting learning experience: studying in such a diverse class, and travelling 4 modules around the globe (China, India, South Africa and USA) allowed me to learn from my classmates and from other cultures – while having a lot fun together! After this long journey, one of my ultimate learnings was that regardless of rank, the seniority or success of individuals, human beings are often afraid of not being good enough or of the unknown. Not necessarily that a young person is insecure or has no purpose, while an older person calmly nurtures his classmates. Constantly reflecting on how to enable & forgive people around us, setting a clear purpose & impact to achieve, expanding people’s comfort zone from within, and planning my career for the next 10 years (or, at least, defining a clear trajectory) laid down a robust foundation for me to lead people – and it took me two years to somehow answer my initial questions, leaving me still with a lot of work to do. My classmates helped me in many ways, providing with honest friendships, support and vision. I am very grateful to all of them. We helped each other in difficult moments, and we celebrated together in good times. It was amazing.

At the completion of the Executive MBA, I found many answers & new questions, but also a new job. I was humbled and honoured to join PwC Consulting in Dubai, the firm that one of my classmates (MG) leads; for whom I have infinite esteem, eternal gratitude and I will always remember as a role model. During this journey, I experienced deep love which gave me the energy to keep up the good work, fuelling me with motivation in very challenging moments. And, in tough times, my faith also played a big role: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life …. Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them” – Sometimes I just learned to wait and be patient, enjoying the process, the journey, my loved ones & the good moments. Dominus Illuminatio Mea. Thank you, Oxford.

Special thanks go to: Aashish & Rupali, Alberto, Alessandra, Alessandro, Amparo, Amy, Andrew Gibbons, Anna, Caro & her family, Celine, Chloe, David Baty, Danilo P., Dario, Diana, Dina, Dolly, Don Dario, Elena, Elisa, Frances, Gael, Gian Franco, Gionata, Gisela Collins, Grant Phillips, Greyling, Hardik & Akshita, Helen Saward, Irina, Jean-François, Jean Matthew, Jim, Jeff, Julie, Jwani, Karina, Kathy Harvey, Katia, Laura, Loreto, Luca x2, Luigi, Maria Teresa, Marie France, Mark Esposito, Massimiliano, Mattia, Maurizio & Giovanna, Mehryar & Toliana, Mike, Nancy, Nathan, Nick, Nicoletta, Nishit, Nurlan, Ottorino, Peter Tufano, Philippe, Riccardo, Rita, Robert, Sabine, Sca, Surya, Santiago, Sarah, Sophie & her family, Sue Dopson, Surya, Susan, Susanna Hofmann, Tania, Tim Morris, Tomas Farchi, Ulara, Vicky Morrison; my parents & sister, my family, all my friends, Grenoble EM and all the team & management in France, the SBS team and professors, Balliol College, the SBS Balliol classmates, the Castel Goffredo Parish, all my classmates from S16 and the many classmates from J17. You all made this experience unique and possible.

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