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Charles Wahab

Degree:

EMBA

Location:

United Kingdom

Industry:

Investment banking

Year:

Jan 2019 - Sept 2020

By Charles Wahab

A gown, a baby and a spreadsheet

“damn it. I am wearing the wrong trousers.”

It’s 10:45am on the Thursday of Module 1 and I am staring down at a very tall cup of black coffee, and I just realised that I am not wearing “dark coloured” trousers for our welcome ceremony tonight. The instructions to go with our gowns is to wear dark coloured clothes under it. In a panicked frenzy I speak to Bryony and let her know the situation. She comforts me that it should be fine, but she will double check nonetheless.

At this point, I am hoping this is the only thing I missed on my way to Oxford this morning. It happens that I had to miss the first three days of Module 1  for a rather compelling reason that my wife gave birth to our first child, a lovely little girl we named Lia.

Getting into Oxford was an achievement I am very proud of, and I had been planning a change in my career for some time. I married the love of my life and achieved a long standing ambition of owning my own house, reaching a respectable position at a reputable firm, and starting a family, I was looking for the next step in my career. After discussion with my wife, embarking on the EMBA journey at Oxford was the right time. She was going to take some time off, and so would I, and taking the opportunity to get another degree was now, before life caught up with us and in a few years I would be spending my weekends at swimming events and music classes, with little to no time to read anything, let alone intellectually stimulating academic papers.

We had it planned, or so we thought…

My wife was due to give birth on February the 7th, nicely spaced in between Module 1 and Module 2. We had failed to study our family data set properly and the mean (u) of both our families was an average of two weeks of children being born early.  So while my classmates were sitting in lecture halls having interesting debates and enjoying the tasty lunches at the School restaurant , I was sleeping on a reclining chair and surviving on cold sandwiches and biscuits. My lovely daughter decided to make an appearance a couple of weeks earlier than we had planned!

Nevertheless I think I was probably far happier than my classmates , as I was holding my new baby girl in my arms, and not taking an analytics class (enjoyable as it is!).   I would have preferred not to miss out on the Oxford fun for the first three days but I would not miss this for the world ! Especially that my wife had to be kept for monitoring to make sure that when we finally were sent home, her and baby were in top form.

I didn’t want to miss the entire module, and once I was comfortable that wife and baby were doing well, I decided to at least make the last two days. After sleeping for merely 3 hours on the reclining chair, I snuck into the “patients only” disabled toilet at the hospital , Beady eyed and in sweat pants I came out wearing a suit and carrying a messenger bag. Not exactly a superman in a phone booth experience but I got almost the same surprised stare from one of the midwives, I might as well be wearing a bodysuit with red underwear over it. So I left University College Hospital Thursday at 6am to catch the 7:30am from Paddington station.

Paddington station always brings back memories , as my first glimpse of london 15 years ago was coming out of Platform 9 from the Heathrow Express terminal and on to Praed street….

I grabbed some breakfast and got a seat on the train.

Arriving at Oxford and into the lecture theatre, Bryony pointed me to my seat  where my pass, my welcome pack and my gown were waiting for me, while she went to fetch my student ID (more on this later). I was seated next to Sabastian who I had already met at one of the introductory session prior to accepting the offer to do the EMBA.

Hema , a budding Entrepreneur from South Africa sat on my left, and Steve from the Cayman Islands was sitting in front of me. I work for a global business running a global team but this has taken diversity to a whole different level. I dived right into James Taylor’s analytics class, which called for that very long black coffee shortly after the session and the realisation that I had the wrong evening attire.  I started thinking of what else I could have missed. I’ve done my NEO personality test, read through the available material on Canvas prior to the start of the module (well, most of it) , and enabled all my IT logins and email addresses. However, I’ve already missed three days, so I had to catch up fairly quickly.

Later that evening we had our welcome ceremony at the Divinity school, where we got to wear our gowns and hats. Apparently, according to our alumni speaker at the dinner, former Gold Medallist Tim Frost, you only need to be wearing the gown when entering and leaving the examination rooms however not during the exam, which is a relief, as I think it would be rather inconvenient to have a tassel hanging over my eyes while doing an accounting exam. We only have to sit two exams for the EMBA which is sufficient. I haven’t sat an exam (Baring my regular health check) in over 10 years and I think my stomach has gotten worse over the years that I might struggle for nerves . Generally calm as a person my nerves usually manifest themselves in my stomach and I have to visit the gents frequently. Luckily in the last 10 years I was well versed in this process. I swam the English Channel in 2016, and if I can stomach that, I am sure I can stomach an accounting exam for a couple of hours! (I did discover while we were at the hospital that baby fruit compote is actually fantastic to deal with a stressed and unsettled stomach! My life has already started changing as a father!).  The Ceremony was brief but —- and we all were proud to be there. Many pictures and poses ensued. I so wanted to go to the pub with the rest of my classmates but I was done for the evening. I barely made it to the hotel and crashed until 7am next morning.

Friday was another day of Analytics with James Taylor, and we were to test run the software tools for applied analytics. A far cry from my days as an undergraduate at the mathematics department where most of the work was manual, and deriving formulas and proofs was our daily bread. Business lesson number two was on the Apple business model, when I had to dish out £79 for a charger for my MacBook. Running out of the hospital I also forgot to bring the charger for the MacBook , and to my luck just before James Taylor’s second session on Analytics , which required using our laptops for some excel number crunching , my computer died.  There’s only one Apple certified store in all of Oxford, and I had missed the memo that you can actually buy a non-branded charger for a fourth of the price. To my further disappointment, coming in at £79 was that my Excel version on my Mac was 2011 and was too old to run James’ software that apparently we will need for the Analytics assignment. Lesson three was on the Microsoft business model. I closed my laptop and decided to just listen. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve and next Module I’ll be much better prepared. (I hope).

Module 1, albeit only brief for me, brought much excitement that doing the EMBA was the right decision and I will learn many things here that will bring new perspective to my work and career.
However, for the moment, the biggest change for me is that  my day begins at 6am with a milk bottle and a massive cuddle from the most beautiful girl in the world. There is no better way to kick start my day.

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