Säid Business School, University of Oxford
“Optimistic, collaborative, energetic, strategic, innovative, rigorous, generous, kind and curious with a sense of humor. “
Age: 54 – the second oldest member of our cohort!
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Family Members: 2 daughters ages 18 (UCLA) and 20 (UCB)
Fun fact about yourself: I know most of the names for plants found in CA gardens.
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Santa Barbara , History and Global Peace & Security
Where are you currently working? Just Like My Child Foundation, Executive Director
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Currently serving in the role of Class Representative for J19 Cohort, Säid Business School. Also member of the board for the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-founded with fellow J19 colleague Imane Lallali-Benberim a network for Mums doing EMBAs, coined MUMBA . It was designed to provide a safe place to share experiences between mothers pursuing EMBAs; provide a positive and inspiring network for mothers who are considering pursuing an EMBA; and serve as a source of ideas for improvements and changes for Säid Business School to enact towards developing a more “mother-friendly” program. I was proud to be a part of this movement which we believe will help mothers consider pursuing their EMBA’s in a world-class school that is flexible and accommodating to the needs of mothers and at the same time help SBS achieve their gender parity goals.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my ability to make and maintain relationships irrespective of the mission of the organization. Those relationships have become an invaluable network and resource which has been leveraged in countless ways in every new role or challenge encountered. Most professional achievements are not earned alone, so relationships are more important than you might imagine early on.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Incredibly, Oxford called me – and how could one’s interest not be piqued when you receive a call like that? Oxford was the perfect choice, offering an international cohort as well as international locations in our studies. For me, the perspectives and quality of education Oxford offers could not be met by any other organization.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed meeting the other members of my cohort. Their participation and perspectives enriched the learning experience in a way that could not be underestimated. That mix, challenged by world-class educators in an undeniably beautiful and historic setting, is an experience no other EMBA program can match.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Question everything, consider other options, be anticipatory, be nimble, innovate, and be ready to pivot. Turns out, in this time of COVID-19, gaining these insights couldn’t have been more timely in every aspect of my life, in all our lives.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you are thinking of choosing an international program like Säid Business School, be prepared for your world will be transformed beyond what you could have imagined. The institution is not only providing you an education which will help you earn the degree. You’ll also gain a commitment to self-improvement and colleagues who have also entered into this contract will change your life and your perspective in ways you simply cannot anticipate. The “EMBA “experience” is as important as the alumni you will carry with you for your entire career. Don’t be afraid to push yourself and stretch for the institution with a reputation and network that will benefit you most after your graduation. No matter where you attend, the work will be difficult so you might as well get the most out of it!
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The myth that it was too late for me to go back, to learn and transform myself is just that, a myth. At 54, it has been a truly validating experience to be reminded that it’s never too late to learn and to compete at the highest level.
What was your biggest regret in business school? I was waiting for the second year to use the services the school offers such as career development, leadership coaching, etc. and then the coronavirus pandemic hit, requiring us to go online. I missed the chance to take full advantage of the school. If I had the chance to do it all again, I would be more inquisitive about all that the school offers sooner.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Imane Lallali-Benberim. She gave birth to her second daughter during our first year and has managed to raise an infant and a toddler, excel in school and work a full-time job. Her contributions and insights are invaluable, and our cohort is much enriched with her presence. She is an inspiration to me and the other women in the class. She is fearless and the epitome of grit and grace.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I had finished reading a book called Winners Take All The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas which was very critical of the industry for which I had dedicated my life. Business school provided the formal opportunity to think about the innovations and systems change I am committed to in my industry while also providing the forum to improve my business and leadership skills.”
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am committed to being part of the change needed for non-profit organizations. After 30 years in the industry, I long for innovation and disruption to the NGO business model. My goal would be to help an organization achieve this transformation and share that model with the world.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like them to remember that they were important to me, that they added to my experience and learning and that I am genuinely enriched by their friendship. Or, as Maya Angelou said best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What are the top two items on your bucket list? Participate as a navigator in the Ralle de Gazelles in Morocco and take a trip to Antarctica to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton.
What made Shawn such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?
“Shawn came to the School with a great career history in the non-profit world. We expected her to be a standout candidate, but her dedication to the programme and the cohort has been exemplary. She has organised events, setup and supported networking groups for women on the Executive MBA and dedicated herself to the role of class representative. Her positive attitude to life and work has inspired cohort, faculty, and staff alike, and we feel lucky Shawn chose to study her EMBA at Oxford.”
Executive MBA Programme Director