2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Eleanor Hevey, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Eleanor Hevey

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Age: 41

“Strategist and policy leader in climate and social impact. Driving innovative approaches in public-private impact finance.

Hometown: London, UK

Family Members: Husband, Jacob Mills, and daughter, Frances Hevey Mills  

Fun fact about yourself: I once held a Guinness World Record

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of East Anglia, BA Hons in International Development & Economics

Where are you currently working? Associate Director, the Centre for Disaster Protection

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Recipient of the Oxford Executive MBA Scholarships for Women in association with the 30% Club. Advisory Board member for UN and Red Cross climate early action and finance initiatives, as well as venture philanthropy initiative on global child malnutrition. Actively engaged in Women in Climate Finance network new London chapter, as well as the Oxford Climate Tech Initiative. Currently exploring post-MBA volunteer Board roles in social enterprise and FinTech-for-good.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was humbled to receive a high-score distinction for Inclusive Business. The elective had been a primary motivator in my decision to accept a place on the Executive MBA programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. The Entrepreneurial Project has also been a real highlight – I’m working to launch a healthcare start-up with world-leading medical and pharma experts.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
Through my career in humanitarian and climate policy and diplomacy, I’ve been actively involved in securing major intergovernmental agreements – including the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement. Two personal highlights have included negotiating a landmark treaty on safe migration at the UN General Assembly and playing a close personal role in securing over $3 billion for girls’ education from the 2018 G7.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Akshay Mangla, brought Business in Emerging Markets to life in an incredible hands-on module with industry, start-up and public leaders in New Delhi, drawing out the complexities of context, stakeholder dynamics, and political economy that enterprises must grapple with to survive and thrive in entering new markets.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I considered offers from other top-tier schools, but always knew Saïd Business School was the right school for me. The academic rigour for which the University of Oxford is globally renowned, combined with an emphasis on purpose-and-impact driven leadership, has been a perfect fit. The Saïd Business School Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship was also a key differentiator.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The value of leading through vulnerability. The strategic frameworks, theory, and academic and industry learnings have been incredible. But the truth is that the Executive MBA is more than a higher degree in business fundamentals – it’s a facilitated leadership journey that requires meaningful engagement and investment in personal growth. That requires being open to challenge and change. I’ve been excited and privileged to explore a more authentic leadership style and to bring that back into the workplace to foster a supportive but bold culture that’s less afraid to take calculated risks. It has equipped me with the tools to be more strategic and communicate and challenge more effective. It has prepared me to role model a culture of ‘what if we…’ or ‘why don’t we…’ – encouraging and supporting each other to elevate the quality and creativity of our work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I suspended the programme for a year, in the middle of the programme and I’m so pleased that I did. I started toward the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, looking after my infant daughter, working full-time, and studying for the programme remotely. During my first term at Oxford, one of my parents was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As well as caring for a young baby and sick parent, I changed role and organization, firstly in venture philanthropy and then joining the leadership of a climate and disaster risk finance initiative in rapid scale up. It was the Oxford Saïd Business School team who actively encouraged me to pause and take a break and I’m so grateful for their support. For the past year I had to take care of my mum, who passed away shortly after I resumed my studies. I’m proud to serve as an example to those – particularly emerging female leaders – with complex family and caring responsibilities. To show them you can still thrive and succeed on the Executive MBA programme, when supported to do so.

What was your biggest regret in business school? There are so many sacrifices required as part of the EMBA journey – I have no regrets. However, trying to balance competing priorities as a member of the leadership team in a fast-growing organization, as a mum, spouse, and high-performing student means accepting disappointment in foregoing some opportunities. I’ve tried to maximize opportunities to audit additional courses, travel or lean-in to Centre for Entrepreneurship or Oxford Innovation community initiatives as much as possibl. However, taking advantage of everything would be a full-time endeavor in itself! I chose not to take on the GNAM on top of the Saïd Business School programme, which if I had my time again, I would seek to prioritize.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Michelle Darracott. She is an incredible role model to us all as a pioneering female executive leader in Fintech, pensions and financial services. Plus, Michelle has consistently advocated for and walked-the-walk on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the school, and mentored many of us as a proactive member of the Saïd Business School EMBA women’s community. At the same time, it’s been wonderful to see Michelle take courageous risks in her own EMBA journey, exploring social impact finance and undertaking a bold career pivot and expanding her portfolio career.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The chance to learn alongside such an incredible, diverse, and well-curated cohort of peers was the key reason for choosing the executive MBA. Everyone brings such rich and unique experience. It’s a hugely inspiring, humbling and supportive community – I have made deep professional and personal connections and lifelong friends. My journey on the executive MBA programme has come at the same time as rapid and accelerated career progression – I wanted to maintain that momentum and get the chance to apply insights and learnings in real time.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have dedicated my career to complex global challenges in climate risk and social impact. I’m passionate about exploring leading-edge entrepreneurial, tech, innovation, and investment approaches to address these challenges through private sector, venture philanthropy or social enterprise. Over the past 18 months, I have really enjoyed working in start-up to scale-up and keen to continue to explore future senior leadership and C-Suite roles in impact-focused strategy and organizational growth.

What made Eleanor Hevey such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“At Saïd Business School, we believe in developing executives who lead with purpose. With her strong and authentic style Eleanor personifies this quality. She brings a depth of experience to the cohort from her extensive work in the non-profit and charitable sectors, leveraging her experience in places such as UNICEF Canada, the British Red Cross, and most recently the Centre for Disaster Prevention. Eleanor’s conscious leadership style extends beyond her professional capacity. Within the cohort she is an active ambassador for women in Leadership, engaging honestly with the lectures, course materials and with her peers. She is the recipient of the Oxford Executive MBA Scholarship for women in association with the 30% Club, and actively embraces building a better Executive MBA community through continuous support with recruitment.”

Helen Saward
Programme Director, Executive MBA
Saïd Business School, University of Oxford


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