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Alanna Petroff is studying for her MBA at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. She has a degree in journalism and art history from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. After graduation, she focused on business journalism, spending three years working as a writer, producer, reporter and business radio host in Canada’s broadcasting industry. She expects Oxford’s 12-month MBA programme will deepen her understanding of international business and economics and help build her managerial experience.

1. When did you know you wanted to study for an MBA?

I began thinking about studying for an MBA when I was hosting a business radio show in Ottawa, Canada. Every day I interviewed analysts, chief executive officers, economists and fund managers: the more interviews I did, the more I wished I had a formal business education under my belt. I realised I was no longer satisfied learning about business through other people. I believed an MBA would give me the critical insight to understand a full range of business issues and trends.

2. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when studying?

I like to sing my study notes. This involves turning on a catchy song like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and replacing the lyrics of the song with the words in my study notes. I belt out my study notes as loud as I can and it is a great technique to help me memorise my studies. Unfortunately, my former roommates never really appreciated this unique study system.

3. What is the best advice a teacher or fellow student ever gave you?

During my university studies, there was a woman in one of my classes who would publicly criticise other people’s work. Although she was difficult to get along with, my friend Katie would often spend time with her. I could never understand Katie’s motivation since I was under the impression she did not like this woman. When I asked her about it, Katie said, “When you make an extra effort to get to know someone, even if you don’t like them at first, you will always find their redeeming qualities. You will eventually come to like them.” I have taken Katie’s message to heart. Now, whenever I meet someone, I try to make an extra effort to get to know them. Even if they give a bad first impression, I will do my best to learn more about them.

4. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

I received over $40,000 in scholarships during my undergraduate degree. I had to study non-stop to renew and maintain these scholarships every year, but it was worth it. That money kept me out of debt and ultimately allowed me to pursue an MBA.

5. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would have tried to learn more from my father while he was alive.

6. What would you do if you were the dean of a business school for the day?

I would lower MBA tuition fees! (Of course, that is something that could not be achieved in just one day… but I can dream.)

7. How do you deal with pressure?

I am a list maker. If I have a million things to do, I will write down a list (usually sorting my tasks into categories) and then I will systematically work through that list. I often have multiple lists on the go and I love taking a pen and crossing an item off my list after finishing the task.

8. Who are your business influences / heroes?

Amanda Lang and Jeff Ansell are two of my business role models. Amanda Lang is a well-known Canadian broadcaster who is currently hosting a national business television show on the CBC. I first met her when I was studying journalism during my undergrad. On the air and in life she is very self-assured, confident and smart. When I met her, I thought “One day, I’d like to be like her.” She has succeeded in a male-dominated industry and TV viewers love her. She is my ideal role model in business journalism.

I also admire and respect Jeff Ansell, a Canadian author and former journalist who now works as a media trainer and public speaking coach. Jeff teaches people how to perform effective media interviews. I had the privilege of sitting in on a session where he taught business professionals how to deal with difficult media questions. It is inspiring for me to see how Jeff has leveraged his media background and achieved success in a parallel industry.

9. What advice would you give to women in business?

Always ask for more: more money, more responsibility and more power. No one will ever give you what want unless you ask. Even if you ask and you do not get what you want, at least your employer will know you have drive and ambition.

10. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

It is important to be kind to yourself. You can’t be too hard on yourself or you just get worn down.

Charlotte Clarke

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