Dirkje Jansen






Not for Profit


Sep 2019 – May 2022

By Dirkje Jansen

Black cab: 3 days down the row

My first day in the city of Oxford is also my very first time at Oxford University where I am about to embark on a 21-month Executive MBA programme. Ranked impressively as the best university globally, Oxford University is the oldest global hub of knowledge.

The university is a hive of knowledge activity. Today isn’t any different. It is buzzing. Impressions I have gathered from my globally electric multi-sectorial cohort have been uniquely enriching. Impressive still are the erudite professors who passionately discharge their duties with an engaging mix of wit and professionalism. Further outside, it is not hard to miss the multitude of scholarly people across the Oxford grounds engaged in deep conversations and punditry– which I suppose could cover a myriad of topics. It is as if the sheer presence on this majestic sanctum of knowledge fuses the obsessive pursuit of knowledge.

Ok, let me be candid. Oddly enough – entirely not unexpected – I initially felt out of place given my seemingly ‘un-Oxbridge’ background. Coming from a not-for-profit sector with expertise in capacity building with a focus on health in Africa, running around at a business school with a significant representation of venture capitalists and financial engineers felt like an anthropological experiment at times. Only I felt I was the control factor in the experiment. Naturally in such an environ, given my instinctive personality disposition, it automatically triggered a slight sense of insecurity and unease. Luckily, that sense did not prevail for long.

Research establishing the connection between leadership and personality, indicates that your ‘personality’ is like the back wheel of your bicycle. This means that you can always decide which direction to take. Being Dutch, the bicycle metaphor resonates instantly with me. Hence, I decided to fully enjoy the ride! I felt a certain triumph over s system scripted by all the subtle forces of social privilege and proximity. That’s what leadership is about. Leading when you are in a swamp – even when everything around you is disruptively chaotic and radically new. Adaptation! Module 1 ‘leadership fundamentals’ in action.

One of the things I love most about life in general – and life at Oxford in particular – is the unexpected encounters with people that inspire and with whom you connect with instantly. In just three days, I had two such encounters in ‘the Black Cab’. Sharing cab’s is not only economical and (a bit more) environmentally responsible, but it can offer the chance running into new people. My taxi encounters ended up into meeting people and getting inspired by what they do: impact investment in Africa, entrepreneurship, leveraging new financial resources for the achievement of the Social Development Goals. Ultimately the two encounters had the net effect of expanding my network with people closely tied to my own personal and professional interests.

I suppose in a nutshell this is what encapsulates Oxford at its best. Seemingly random encounters ending up to be relevant.

I think I will be adapting just fine.


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