2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Raluca Epureanu, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Raluca Epureanu

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Age: 38

“I’m a life-long learner, driven achiever & people person who easily sees the positive in an ordinary life.”

Hometown: Constanta, Romania

Family Members: Mother & Father who live in Romania

Fun fact about yourself: I have a hearty and hilarious laugh which makes others join in (for no apparent reason). My friends advise me to “trademark” it.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania,

B.S. in Applied Economics and Management (Major in Tourism)

Where are you currently working? Founder & Managing Director at re:look consulting, a consumer experience consultancy firm (https://relookconsulting.com/)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Member of the Forte Foundation – First Romanian woman who has been awarded the Forté Scholarship for Women at Saïd Business School for the EMBA programme

Volunteer Work:

  • Business Consultant, part of the Oxford Strategy Group
  • Business Consultant, part of the Liber Project organised by the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School. This initiative is designed to support UK-based start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs to solve concrete business challenges in a tailored business development programme. The project connects founders and C-level executives together with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford MBA, Executive MBA students, and alumni.

Additionally, I took part in extracurricular activities such as the Ideation Lab organised by the Entrepreneurship Centre, multiple presentations, conversations with industry leaders and career workshops organised by the Careers Team; dedicated special events such as Women in Leadership and Leadership in Extraordinary Times which are invaluable ways to learn experientially. Oxford opens the door to an entire world of opportunities that can uplift us, build our confidence, and break down barriers.

At re:look, I champion the presence of more women in business and leadership positions by offering pro-bono consultancy & personal coaching support (after obtaining a Diploma in Transformational Coaching from The Henka Institiute).

Supporting yearly charity activities dedicated to cancer research & access to education for young people aged 11 to 30.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The quality of the relationships (in the class and outside of the class), which I built with my incredible colleagues (in my cohort and across cohorts), is my biggest achievement during the business school. We all meet people. However, forming deep meaningful connections is extremely rewarding (taking the time to understand people, their life stories, what makes them tick is a very rich experience). I started this EMBA programme having imposter syndrome and these widely successful yet humble leaders encouraged me to be unapologetically myself. Letting go of who I think I need to be and just being who I actually am has been fantastic. As Goethe said, I found “genius, power and magic” amongst them.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During the past 16 years, I worked with exceptional professionals, for truly international brands & organizations which inspired me to build a fulfilling international career journey across five countries (Romania, USA, UK, UAE, Hong Kong – SAR) and four continents, always in service-focused industries and in functions such as sales, marketing and operations.

These amazing leaders, experiences and lessons shaped the global professional I am today and made an already enthusiastic lady dream more, believe more and achieve more. I’m extremely grateful for all these opportunities.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” If I have to choose one thing in my professional career so far, it is the impact we had, as a leadership team in Asia-Pacific region while working for Marriott International. Being the voice of a discipline across 800 hotels, 23 brands in 24 countries and 175,000 associates has been a tremendous responsibility and privilege.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?  This is not an easy question. Oxford is well known for its academic excellence. While I am appreciative of all of my professors in one way or another, I am especially thankful for Professor Marc Ventresca teaching the Strategy and Innovation course, for three reasons:

1) For managing to rewire my brain by taking a novel approach to researching how markets and networks are formed over time (forget the “Porter’s five forces” framework)

2) For creating a proper learning experience (via zoom and in person), truly engaging the mind, the heart, and body, being generous with the gift of time & attention. He truly instilled my sense of belonging as an Oxonian.

3) For his special talent of creating connections and a powerful support ecosystem; Marc is involved in a number of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives within Oxford and he knows how to skillfully create opportunities and bring people together. I’m grateful for being involved in projects outside of the main coursework allowing me to learn in an experiential way.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? During the selection process, I looked at top 10 universities & top 10 EMBA programmes in the world. From the list, I reached out to 3 of them for further conversations and I applied to only ONE, The Said Business School, University of Oxford.

The main reasons are the following:

1) The diversity of the cohort: Oxford attracts incredible leaders from across the globe and all walks of life, which truly enhances the learning experience, extends perspectives and creates a fantastic network (e.g. now we are 36 nationalities partaking in my course, from 28 different employment sectors and 41% of my fellow students women).

2) The core theme of the EMBA program matches my aspirations: Entrepreneurial Thinking, Strategic Leadership and Global Complexities and Risk. Peter Drucker mentioned that “since we live in an age of innovation, a practical education must prepare a person for work that does not yet exist and cannot yet be clearly defined.” The Oxford experience, truly enhanced new critical ways of thinking and opens new doors of opportunities and impact.

3) The format of the programme (1 week/month) and the emotional connections which I have for Oxford. As a teenager in beautiful Romania, I studied English from the Oxford University Press manuals. At that time, Oxford has been perceived to be for elites and fortunate few only. Being mindful of my very humble beginnings (and first generation to go to university), it seemed almost impossible to study there. Little did I know then that indeed: “the future belongs to those who dare”.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I feel as if I learned something applicable to my work in every class I have taken. I founded my own consumer experience consultancy practice at the beginning of my EMBA and during the programme I gather the tools and frameworks that I needed.

If I walk away with one lesson is the importance of organizational culture in fostering innovation and long-term success. I think that in real life this is underestimated. We learned about culture from so many perspectives, across so many modules: Strategy & Innovation, Governance & Ethics, Leadership Fundamentals, Business Finance, and even M&A (when personalities are more complex than numbers, especially in a post deal integration). Concretely, I’ve learned different cultural models & strategies, which enable me to make this complex topic more tangible in real life and intentionally impact an organizational transformation.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During the programme, I’ve learned how to push myself and find creative ways to juggle work (and the creation of a new business), courses, and assignments while maintaining a personal life. At times, this has proven harder than others but learning to be vulnerable when struggling has brought me closer to people – both colleagues and friends. The safe space you create when you open up to someone encourages real conversations and understanding. It also teaches you how to lift each other up. Through these conversations, I’ve learned that my colleagues had far more complex situations than me, involving new babies, home-schooling for 2-3 children, and more. As a result, they have my complete admiration. My classmates who have children deserve the credit for juggling everything. I just did my best to have an ear to listen at the right time and an extra hand wherever I could.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Fully commit to the programme. Just attending the classes will not help you to make the most out of the programme. There is a ton of work before and after the class where you can strengthen your knowledge. Also, there are so many extracurricular activities, career support, entrepreneurship initiatives, and social events which truly enrich the programme. Focusing on the coursework side of things at the expense of everything else means that you’ll only ever experience one side to this course.

Every business school out there will provide a great EMBA programme. The question is, which one would you like to build a relationship for life with and develop a sense of belonging?

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myth: You have to do all of the pre-readings.

Reality: Prioritize the case studies, the essential readings and everything else is a bonus, honestly. The important part is to be ready to engage in class and not to let down the group discussion during the breakout sessions. With a full-time job, an assignment due every 3 weeks and with a new module coming up every month, you will ultimately realise that (despite all the good intentions) is not always possible to get through ALL the pre-reads. It is a juggling act.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Honestly, I have no regrets. Although some of the international modules have been delivered online, so we couldn’t be fully immersed in the experience, I see this as an opportunity to come back at a later stage, after the programme, and travel with my cohort to these destinations. Our journey together and the relationship with the business school will not stop when the programme stops. This is a journey for life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Thandi Luzuka is the classmate I admire most. She is exceptional from all points of view: smart, beautiful, successful, kind, considerate, a fabulous mother, and an amazing partner. To add to the complexity, Thandi embarked on her EMBA while six months pregnant with twins and she managed everything brilliantly. When I feel overwhelmed, I think of her and all my problems disappear.

With an inspirational life story better than any movie script I’ve seen, Thandi is a powerful example that in life you can have it all if you work hard, get creative and continuously challenge yourself.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? There are two reasons: 1) The flexibility to study and implement what I study, alongside a full-time job and 2) Benefits of being part of highly experienced network of professionals.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Leave every place I’m part of better than when I came.

What made Raluca such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Raluca has embraced the collaborative spirit that we value so highly at Oxford. She is an advocate of the benefits of getting involved in the extra-curricular activities offered outside of the core EMBA programme. We are extremely grateful for her voluntary work as a Business Consultant in the Oxford Strategy Group and her work in supporting start-ups and SMEs as part of the Liber Project organised by the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School. Raluca also supported the #breakthebias campaign for International Women’s Day, inviting men to speak out alongside women regarding gender bias. It has been fantastic to see Raluca grow in confidence during her EMBA journey, using her naturally empathetic nature to support other classmates and to collaborate on the creation of sustainable business solutions.”

Kathy Harvey
Associate Dean, MBA and Executive Degrees
Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

DON’T MISS: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2022

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