Ajintha Pathmanathan




United States




Jan 2019 - Sept 2020

By Ajintha Pathmanathan

When inspiration meets contemplation…

As I write this blog, I reflect on how things came to be and what could be… as the Dean of the Australian College of Intensive Care told me after my primary Anaesthesia exam in 2006… “the world is your oyster.”  I don’t think I quite believed him at the time as I embarked on my journey to become a Specialist Anaesthesiologist.

My life journey has now brought me to Said Business School at Oxford University. We have just finished Module 6 of 20 for our Executive MBA (Master of Business Administration). Whether you attend Said Business School, another or none… the world truly is everyone’s oyster…

The idiom has been used for millennia to describe the position people are in to see and seize the opportunities that life has to offer. Curiously, I seemed to have also lived my life in accordance with my high school motto – “carpe diem,” which translates to “seize the day.”

Two EMBA Students sat in Skoll Exec Lounge

Break time in the Skoll Executive Lounge

We all have and can create any opportunity, and you don’t need to go to school to do this – but it helps immensely.

The environment at Oxford University and Said Business School fosters diversity and excellence to help create a mindset and inner confidence to achieve. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. If you can achieve it, you can be it.

My shortlist for executive MBA had been either Said Business School or MIT Sloan business school, primarily because of my interest in new ventures and new frontiers (like AI, blockchain, aerospace, etc). Having explored MIT media lab (through lectures and events), I was extremely impressed by the programs there into aerospace, wearables and social initiatives such as the disobedience awards, patent panda and the algorithmic justice league to name a few.

I specifically chose Said Business School because I perceived it offered a more integrated humanities perspective (arts, ethics, law) through the broader affiliation with Oxford University. The timing in terms of fitting in with my life requirements was also perfect. Admittedly, there was some implicit bias as I had lived in Oxford in 2005 for Anaesthesia training.

Having joined Said Business School in January 2019, affectionately known within the school as the EMBA-J19 cohort, we are a vocal group that within the first weeks of hanging out formed a special bond.

Infographic of bottles in landfill

Infographic used to persuade the class and school to use refillable water bottles

Yes, I’m a dag. My first mission on arrival, armed with the calculation of the amount of waste (~10 500 plastic bottles during the course) and an infographic, was to reduce plastic waste arising from the daily plastic bottles of water placed on our desk. The school responded immediately with refillable water bottles and new water fountains that were plumbed in and ready to go within four months. I can’t take all the credit here as previous cohorts had expressed their concern and my motion was perfectly timed for the tipping point.

Beyond sustainability moves, the school is also making great strides in encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. The opportunity to engage with other innovation hubs such as the Oxford Foundry, the Oxford Creative Destructive Lab, the Oxford Sciences Institute and many other groups are ample. We are just about to embark on our entrepreneurship project, so hopefully, I will have a blog later about the golden bullet idea that was a blockbuster and took off like a rocket.


EMBA Student pointing at whiteboard

Entrepreneurship teamwork

The EMBA course thus far has traversed topics such as leadership, statistics, global rules of the game, strategy, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and marketing. I have found this broad education to be immensely invaluable. The new knowledge requirements sufficiently outside of my comfort zone to excite and engage my attention and yet within my comfort zone to not leave me at a loss or confused. Broad enough to give me a perspective and ability to draw from the knowledge created in many other industries.  Education of any kind can only guide us and prepares us for exploration of what we need for our unique jobs, experiences, or journeys.

I only wish I had done this before I embarked on my private practice and setting up charities.  Medical school and specialist training appear to have been too narrow in its focus. Foundational knowledge of the law, business, and computer science seem essential to the practice and future of many disciplines, including medicine.

Mornings kick off with rowing, cycling, walking or sleep-ins

The days bring lectures, debates, paparazzi photos of colleagues and laughter

The numerous breaks filled with healthy three-course meals, barista coffees, and cakes

The nights disappear with college balls, cocktails at the Alchemist, dancing at Hanks, pub crawls starting at Frevd, poker nights, barbeques and so on…

Some modules we travel together to learn in Delhi, Beijing, Cape Town or Palo Alto

When seeking varied illumination, we attend the Oxford Union debates or wine at the bar

Early morning rowing

Early morning rowing

The intensive modules bring our cohort together from all over the world; Patagonia, Africa, Paris, Moscow, Berlin, London, California, Beijing, Shanghai, Philadelphia, Oklahoma and a host of other locations and future holiday destinations.😉 For anyone thinking of doing an executive MBA , it feels essential for practice at a Consultant or executive level.

Studying at Said Business School also means you can steep in the Oxford University college culture. This expands your universe through networks and experiences beyond the business school life. It is one of my favourite aspects of my life here at Oxford. My college family has organised rowing every module for our group. If needed they have inexpensive accommodation, a library, gym, tennis court, dining hall, lunch midweek, lectures and all sorts of other activities including the annual garden party.

GTC gardens and observatory

GTC gardens and observatory

The garden party oh was so twee

The quintessential springtime fairs

In a city where the old world meets the new

We sit in Green Templeton College grounds

Surrounded by the splendid gardens and observatory too

Little children running around with glee

Getting their faces painted, playing with armadillos and snakes

Brave little cubs of the lions that are our college mates

Diverse as that could be … from all parts of the world… with all different manner of interests

Contemplating how we will be in the new world of big data, machine learning, global mobility, transient workplaces, and so on…

I sit with a group of college mates and personal friends – a barrister, a Ph.D. researcher in AI and the law, a Ph.D. in public health looking at nutrition and obesity, and a banker … people from England, Africa, Australia, Europe, USA…

It is incredible to know that we are all so similar despite our differences….

The college breathes life into passions outside of our daily work inspired by musicians, rowers, tennis players, philosophers, yoga teachers, and the list goes on…

Green Templeton College (GTC) was born as a medicine and business college but embraced graduate students from all disciplines

Like GTC … so many other colleges exist in this medieval town known as Oxford that the business students become a part of … Keble, St Hugh’s, Balliol, Hertford, St Margaret’s to name just a few.

Playing with a snakeThe business school makes an effort to organise dinners at the infamous dining halls of each college from Balliol College to St Anne’s College, St Margaret’s College, Keble College and many more

Oxford University also has mentoring programs including a women’s mentoring program. The Said Business School likewise attempts to promote women in business, family days for our male and female colleagues, social innovation through the Skoll centre and other programs too numerous to mention in this blog.

Like any old university, it also has its oddities, quirks, and inefficiencies. To focus on these would be genuinely unfair as it is also an education system willing to change and progress. Maybe not as fast as some would hope, but in a rapidly changing world, it is a team effort. It’s up to not just the University or Said Business School but up to all students to solve the problems as they arise.

As sure as the sky is blue in the day and black in the night, so too will there be new challenges and problems to solve. As you solve one problem, another will surely emerge, and that is what makes us all break, grow, and create.

Whatever we do in life we learn; we create and break habits every day and every moment of our life. When fortunes favour us, we can choose what we want to learn and what habits we want to create or break. As we go through life’s cycles, we also learn to empathise with not just those who are our friends or family but our global community. For me, for now, I chose to read (fancy word for study) for my executive MBA at Said Business School and Oxford University.

I can sincerely say my head is at peace, my soul is illuminated, and my heart is happy with this choice.

Unicorn LionThe world is our oyster.

As each pearl is beautiful despite its difference so too are, we

We can be what we achieve, and we can achieve what we dream.

Invenimus amoris in lumine,

Invenimus abundantia in pace

I hope everyone can empower themselves and educate themselves, whether at school or home in their life’s journey. In this learning to empathise, collaborate, and share. To understand that our differences are the mosaic threads that complete the fabric of our global society.

Wadham College ball

Wadham College ball

Outside Hanks

Outside Hanks

Classmates in subfuscs

Classmates in subfuscs


Oxford canal BBQ

Oxford canal BBQ

Balliol College gardens

Balliol College gardens

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