The intersection of business and human rights led to the Oxford Said EMBA [Show Summary]
Anthony Triolo is a champion of social justice with an impressive work history serving countries all over the globe. He’s currently earning his Executive MBA at Oxford Said and shares what led him to the program and how he intends to incorporate his learning in the next steps of his career journey.
Interview with Anthony Triolo, Oxford Said Executive MBA candidate [Show Notes]
Thanks for joining me for this, the 454th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Before I dive into today’s interview, I want to invite you to download Ace The EMBA, Expert Advice For The Rising Executive. This free guide will compliment today’s podcast and give you suggestions on how to choose the right EMBA program for you, how to differentiate yourself from your competition – in a positive way – and how to present yourself effectively as a business leader who will bring credit to any program that accepts you. Download Ace The EMBA.
I’d like to welcome to Admissions Straight Talk, Anthony Triolo. Anthony has an absolutely fascinating background. After graduating from Yale with a bachelor’s in history and political science in 2000, he went on to work on the Truth And Reconciliation Commission for Sierra Leone, where he worked from 2003-2009 in differing roles, all relating to justice.
He then worked as a Senior Associate for the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague. After serving in additional roles related to international law and justice, he became the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina in 2020. While all the above is extremely impressive and interesting, he has been invited to Admissions Straight Talk because he recently began his Executive MBA at the Oxford Said Business School as an Executive MBA Director Awardee, which earned him a sizable financial award.
Let’s get right to it. In preparing for the call, I saw the phrase “transitional justice”, several times in your bios and in your work. So I have to ask you, what is transitional justice? [2:35]
Transitional justice is a way to help societies who are grappling with the legacy of massive human rights abuses confront their past so they can move forward and have a more prosperous future. We usually talk about transitional justice in the post-conflict setting. I’ve worked on transitional justice initiatives on a global scale and usually what that means is prosecuting individuals who were responsible for war crimes that were committed during the conflict. It’s about truth telling, telling the story of what happened during the conflict and making recommendations for the way forward. It’s about reparative justice for the victims, and it’s about institutional reform. How do we repair what was broken and make it better so that the occurrence of violence doesn’t happen again? In reality, transitional justice is not only limited to post-conflict societies. It includes all societies across the board, including the U.S.
Given your career progress to date, why did you decide to even consider an Executive MBA? [3:51]
I’m 20 years into my professional career, and I’m sort of reading the tea leaves. I’m really interested in the intersection of business and human rights. I’ve worked a lot in the public sector, but I realize in order to really make an impact and have a transformative impact in the world, you need greater partnerships between the public and private sector. I was thinking that the MBA could help me get a better understanding of the private sector to help build those partnerships that are necessary to bring about change in our society. That’s what really led me to pursue the Executive MBA.
What was the most difficult part of the application process for you and how did you deal with it? [4:40]
I think it was trying to pick a program that was right for me. I knew that I wanted a program that was global in nature, given my background so I was trying to find the right program that really spoke to me and my needs. I would also add, the application process is pretty cumbersome. There are many different steps between essays and interviews and so forth so you do have to prepare yourself and really think about the questions that are being asked of you in the essays.
What criteria did you use in determining that Said was the right school for you? [5:34]
The program is very global in nature. I like the fact that the cohort is relatively small. There are about 70 of us in each class. In my class alone, there are 70 of us from 26 different countries, I believe. The fact I’m in a classroom with people from so many different countries was really appealing. Secondly, and probably the most important is that Oxford is one of the schools that really focuses on social impact. Very rarely do you have a business school that has such a focus on that. In their EMBA program, they list social impact as one of the areas where they report in terms of job placement. It was the only business school I could find that really did that. That’s what really spoke to me about Oxford.
How did you deal with the cumbersomeness of the application process? [6:32]
I worked obviously with Accepted, which really helped me with that process from beginning to end and thinking through which schools would be the right ones. Once I identified the school, I focused on thinking through the best ways to answer the questions to make sure that I really came forward in the application, that the people who were reading my application understood who I am and why I wanted to do that program and why their school was the best fit for me. Working with Accepted was so helpful in terms of trying to prepare for the interviews, because the interviews are a very important component of the application process. I worked with Christie St. John. She was amazing. Really one of the best, I highly recommend her.
How did it feel when you were notified of the Director’s Award? [7:29]
I was thrilled. Honestly, I didn’t know how many people were given the offer. I later found out it was only seven of us amongst 70 in the class. I felt recognized for all the work that I had done, and I felt recognized for the fact that I would be a valuable member of the class and that I would have something different to contribute. I’m in a class with a lot of CEOs and business executives, not many people with my background. I think the admissions committee felt that I reflected a certain background that could be unique and really would be rewarding to my classmates. It was an honor. Honestly, the minute I found out that I was given the award, I knew that Oxford was the right place for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about your EMBA studies and how they’re structured? You’re in the United States right now, right? [8:26]
I am. The great thing about the Oxford program is that we meet every five to six weeks in person, and we’re meeting for a full week. Most EMBA programs are on the weekend. Oxford really values the time that we spend with each other. I just completed my third module, there are about 21 modules over two years, and I’ve gone to the UK twice in that time period. It’s been an amazing experience to be able to spend a week with my classmates each time. They say that the most valuable part of an EMBA program is the networking and I think it’s really given us a chance to get to know each other and spend that time together.
Do you have a week of classes at that point when you’re together? [9:27]
Yes, a full week.
Do you have assignments in between? [9:30]
We do, we have assignments and assessments. We’re each assigned a small group or team to work with so I’m in regular contact with my team, and I have to say that’s been one of the best experiences so far. They really did a great job in matching us in terms of the teams that we’re in. I have five other members that are part of my team from all over the globe, in the US, Europe, Africa, and we meet on a regular basis and we really support each other.
Is it a lockstep program where everybody goes through the same time taking the same classes? [9:59]
Correct. It’s a lockstep program. I’m with this group, this team for the entire duration of the program, which is over a two year period.
Is it difficult residing in the United States and being part of an international cohort with this kind of base in the UK? You mentioned you got together three times and you were twice in the UK. Where were you the third time? [10:15]
Well, the first time was virtual because of the pandemic. Not everyone was able to travel, and they wanted to make it equal for everyone. So the first module was online and the following two modules were hybrid. Most of us were in person, but a few people, because of COVID restrictions, were remote.
Are you meeting regularly with your teammates via Zoom? [10:49]
Yes. On a weekly basis, regular WhatsApp chats, emails, telephone calls, we’re regularly in touch. There’s quite a bit of reading that has to be done between modules. Once we complete a module, usually we’re completing a class. So for example, in the three modules that I’ve had so far, I’ve had Analytics, I’ve had Leadership and I’ve had Firms and Markets. I’ve already completed an assessment for Analytics and I’m working on two other assessments that are due in January.
So far, do you think that the program is serving your goals and meeting your expectations? [11:25]
Absolutely. The one thing I would say about Oxford, which really impresses me is their Career Services Department. I feel that many in my class are really looking to transition career paths and the Career Services Department is really strong. They’ve been very active from day one. We have different industry advisors. We can work with different career counselors and I regularly make use of those services that are available to us. I think Oxford is very strong on this and really trying to help build the network and make you feel that you’re part of that network. I’ve reached out to many alums who have already been so helpful.
What have you most enjoyed about your EMBA studies at Oxford so far and how many modules are there total? You mentioned you’ve completed three. [12:25]
There are 21 modules in total. Not all of them will be at Oxford. Some will be in international locations to be determined. Some may be in South Africa depending on the elective that you take. The best part for me is the global nature of the program and being in a classroom with people from so many different countries, such rich experiences, different industries. I think Oxford did an amazing job of bringing together a diverse group of people to the class. We’re already learning from each other. I would say that I’m learning just as much from my classmates as I am from my professors. The networking opportunities that have already been available to me are outstanding. I highly recommend the program to anyone who’s considering it.
Has there been anything that really surprised you in the program? [13:20]
Well, I’m surprised at how well I’m doing at the mathematical stuff. It’s been quite a bit of time since I took a math class. Analytics was the first class, and I was surprised at how well I was doing in the class.
What do you think could be improved or done differently? [13:48]
That’s a good question. I think they need to have a better ratio of male to female students in the class. Right now the ratio is 70:30 male:female. They could do a better job of recruiting more female candidates which would increase the diversity of the class. They could offer additional overseas opportunities, since we are a global program. Having classes in other countries would be really interesting, but otherwise, I have to be honest, Linda, I’m pretty satisfied. I’m really happy with the program.
Now you’re working full time, right? [14:38]
I am working full time.
How are you handling the juggling necessary to work full time and go to school part-time and take off weeks here and there to go to modules? [14:41]
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not easy, but I’m managing. I think I’m just so excited to be part of the program that I don’t view it as a hindrance. The other interesting thing, which I think would sort of be different at another school where there were only weekend classes is the fact that none of my weekends are really consumed by this. Because I go to class for one full week, I can do my classwork at my own pace the other weeks until the next module. If I time myself and really allocate my time efficiently, it’s really manageable. I will admit one thing, and I hear it’s common for other people in my situation, is that since starting the program, I feel I’m more invested in the Oxford program than I am in my actual work. I think that’s partially because I’m interested in transitioning a bit and I invest a lot of time in the Oxford program. I’m still getting my work done of course, and I’m doing a great job, but I’m prioritizing the Oxford program.
Do you see yourself changing your career direction as a result of your Oxford experience? [16:00]
I’m still passionate about human rights issues, sustainability issues, and social impact. I just think it’s probably from a different angle. I haven’t ruled out sustainability positions within private corporations. In general, I feel like times are changing and the business sector and the private sector is more attuned to issues of justice and human rights. They have to be because the consumers demand it, in a way. Oxford has created a niche for itself in terms of being that business school that really does focus on social impact issues. The number of classmates I have that are interested in climate change issues is quite high. I’m still committed to the principles that have guided me throughout my career, but I just may approach it a bit differently moving forward.
What advice would you have for those interested in pursuing the Executive MBA and specifically the Oxford Said EMBA? [17:04]
I would say, really think about why you want to do a program. It is a big investment in terms of resources and time. So be clear about why you want to do this and think about the program that would best address your needs and think carefully and talk to alums. Before I took the decision of going to Oxford, I reached out to many alums, not only at Oxford, but at other schools that I was accepted to, to get a better sense of what’s the best fit for me. In terms of Oxford, if you’re looking for a global program, Oxford’s one of the best. The thing about the Said School, is that it’s embedded in the university so you really do have the resources of the university as a whole to work with you and other schools.
At Oxford, it’s a collegiate system so there are many different colleges that make up the university and each of us in the EMBA program is assigned to a specific college. In fact, when I’m there for the week, I actually live in the college that I’m assigned to. So I’m embedded into that program. I’m in Lady Margaret Hall and I actually live there with other graduate students during that week. So that really enriches the experience as well. The other interesting thing is that when you’re a student, you’re also a member of the Oxford Political Union so you can go listen to the debates, go listen to the speakers that are coming on campus. You really are embedded in the university in a way that I think other EMBA programs don’t allow you to do so. So I think that’s what really makes Oxford unique.
What about specifically the Oxford Said Executive MBA Program? If somebody determines that they are interested in that, what advice would you have for them? [19:39]
Just make sure that you’re able to take the time off to do the program. If you’re really interested in getting to know your classmates, this is the program for you. The fact that you get to spend so much time with them and you’re not just running in on a Friday and leaving on a Saturday. You’re really spending a full week with your classmates, and it gives you that opportunity to connect. I would reach out to other alum in the program. I’m always happy to speak to others who are interested in it. I think the fact that it’s focused on social impact, it’s focused on being as global as possible, it’s focused on bringing together a cohort from so many different countries – if that’s what’s interesting to you, I think that you would find it valuable.
Lastly, if you are looking to transition, I can’t think of a better school. Oxford is really aware of the fact that many of its EMBA students are interested in transitioning. I kind of got that when I was speaking to other schools but I didn’t get a sense of that as much as I did with Oxford. They really do work with you in helping you through that process. If you’re a student who’s looking for that, Oxford should be at the top of your list.
Is there anything you would’ve liked me to ask you? [21:08]
I think you did it, you hit every point.
- Anthony Triolo (Linked In)
- Oxford Said Executive MBA
- Oxford Said Director Awardees
- Accepted’s Oxford Said MBA Essay Tips
- Ace The EMBA, Expert Advice For The Rising Executive
- Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting Services
- Work with Christie St. John
- Get Accepted to Oxford Said, Interview with the MBA Recruitment & Admissions Manager
- How to Get Accepted to a Top EMBA Program: The Experts Speak
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