Stanford: Beyond the Brand

I was embarrassed by the undergraduate institution I went to. I wanted to prove that I was better than the brand of my school: smarter, more able. I worked on side projects instead of going to class, and then enrolled at Oxford & then Cambridge. I did two Masters in two very different fields in the space of two years. But it wasn’t enough.

I was still obsessed by the idea of studying at a phenomenal US university; of having the freedom to choose what I studied. I chose to do an MBA at Stanford because I loved the flexibility of the curriculum. You could take classes in finance and economics, and also design thinking and machine learning, at the same time. I wanted to learn as much as I could in these two years; make up for lost time.

My first year was transformative: but not in the ways I had anticipated. Having world class professors cover cutting- edge content in a classroom doesn’t change the way you learn. The brand of your school is absolutely meaningless. As in any institution, you only get out what you put in. You can take the most phenomenal classes and be left feeling uninspired, unless you make the time to really immerse yourself.

The real magic of being here is being given the opportunity to both rediscover and create yourself. You’re quickly forced out of your comfort zone. The pace at which the community moves is overwhelming. It’s not just that anything is possible here: you quickly realise that your wildest ideas are already being translated into reality.

And then you learn the real secret: there are no secrets, rules or right answers. You haven’t missed out if you didn’t go to a great school, or don’t have a fancy brand on your resume. External validation only leaves you with a sense of emptiness. You already have and know everything you need. The only constraint is your own mindset.

Manage yourself. Use your time and energy well. Build.