David Saunders was funded by District 7620 in the USA to study on the MBA programme at the University of Oxford in 2016/17 under the Economic Community Development Area of Focus.
Since graduating from Said Business School, University of Oxford, in September 2017, I have been working for Deloitte Digital Ventures in Munich, Germany. I must admit, it was not the path I had in mind when I enrolled in the M.B.A. program at Oxford as a Rotary Scholar. At the time, much in line with my career to that point, I expected to enter the social impact sector, perhaps at the same impact investing fund I interned with before the M.B.A. (LeapFrog Investments), or maybe at a philanthropic institution (LGT Venture Philanthropy, where I had strong contacts). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was also high on my list as ‘target’ employer, for their extensive reach and resources for tacking the world’s toughest problems. I found, however, during the course of my M.B.A., that these institutions were incredibly tough to get into for full-time roles. In hindsight, it makes some sense to me. Impact institutions are often investing in very difficult topics, for which business models are not readily identifiable, or necessarily always profitable. Hence, growth (and new hires) are conditional upon the seemingly unnatural, and very challenging pairing of capitalism with philanthropy, and / or on the good will of donors. Neither, however, will drive the same levels of sustainable growth as the private sector with commercial orientation. This is surely an oversimplification of my struggles to land at a prestigious impact institution, but does reflect some of my thinking.
The challenge for me, then, is in determining how to reconcile taking a commercial path post-M.B.A., with my promise to Rotary, and to myself, to create a positive impact in the world; to put Service Above Self. At Deloitte Digital Ventures, we do some pro bono projects, one of which helped an organization that places refugees into full-time jobs in Germany, and I look for opportunities to engage with such projects. These are infrequent, though, and with the pressure of proving our own innovative business model (venture building as a service), most of our attention at work is focused on commercial successes. I have, recently, been blessed with the opportunity to work on a blockchain project. Blockchain, at its essence, decentralizes transactions. This opens a world of possibilities. It is a technology that can bring transparency to supply chains, and facilitate the efficient delivery of range of environmental solutions, such as the connection and trading of national carbon accounts, among other uses. While my project does not at its core have a social impact bent, I am starting to develop expertise in a technology that can be used for good. Maybe this is a higher power’s way of helping me stay on a productive career path whilst enabling to me deliver social benefit down the line.
Life is a journey, and I am trying not overthink the process, but rather to trust in it. I will be forever grateful to Rotary for supporting me along the way.