From war's ashes to Oxford's wisdom: A journey of transformation

4 minute read
aerial image of war-torn Aleppo in Syria

Between 2012 and 2018, amid the chaos in my beloved war-torn city of Aleppo, my life underwent a profound transformation. I evolved from a refugee who had lost everything and depended on NGO aid, to being recognised as the 'Hope maker of the Arab world'. This recognition was the result of my work in establishing four purpose-driven start-ups in various sectors. These businesses not only generated sustainable profits, but also ignited hope and brought positive change to my community during tough times. These stories are outlined in the articles 'From Street to Entrepreneur: My Journey of Running a Purpose-Driven Business in Wartime' and 'Beyond the Notebooks: How I Built a Business to Empower Hundreds of Students in Difficult Times'.

In 2019, I embarked on a new chapter by moving to Italy for a fresh start. I joined Unilever (reported in their LinkedIn post The Remarkable Story Of Our Newest Recruit In Italy 2019) as a business developer, stepping into a different world filled with new perspectives and unique contributions.

Finding the missing piece

Throughout this transition, one constant remained by my side: the hunger for learning. Even during the challenges of war, I sought ways to improve myself with limited resources. In Italy, facing a new country and a different business environment, I continued my journey of growth, improving my language skills and deepening my business knowledge.

But despite all my efforts, I still felt that something important was missing; a piece of the puzzle. What I lacked was not only fresh knowledge, but also solid wisdom to navigate the fast-changing business world. The solution to my quest for personal and professional growth came through the Oxford executive education programmes at Saïd Business School, with financial support from Unilever.

Mastering business with Oxford

Having successfully completed the four intensive executive training programmes – Oxford Executive Strategy, Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations, Oxford Enterprise Leadership and Oxford Artificial Intelligence – I have come to appreciate the profound importance of this experience. This educational journey was no ordinary path, it was marked by its demanding assignments, and active classroom engagement, setting it apart from the traditional route.

However, the rewards were truly transformative. Let me highlight the substantial benefits I have gained from this remarkable adventure:

Benefit 1: Global perspective

Oxford’s programmes did not just provide knowledge; they opened up the world to me. The professors pushed me to rethink the complexities of the global economic landscape. I have gained insights that go beyond borders, enriching my ability to thrive in our interconnected world.

It also provided a roadmap for understanding our ever-evolving business landscape. The programmes explored the intricacies of market dynamics, innovation trends and how to achieve sustainable growth.

Benefit 2: Skillset excellence

The dynamic learning methods, including quizzes, submissions and coursework, honed my prowess in critical areas such as strategic thinking, analytical problem-solving, time management, effective communication, research acumen and creativity. These skills aren't merely impressive; they serve as a launching pad for a thriving career, as reported in the future of jobs’ report, WEF 2023.

Benefit 3: Practical learning

Oxford's programmes took education beyond the classroom. They required us to apply everything we learned directly to our workplace, using our business as a case study. It's like having a superpower – you learn, adapt and conquer challenges within your own professional realm. This immersive experience not only teaches but also inspires you to explore your organisation in magical ways.

Benefit 4: ROI-driven investment

This journey was not a passing enrichment; it triggered a profound transformation in my path. As I honed my leadership skills and expanded my knowledge, I began to shape ideas with the potential for immediate impact at Unilever where I work. This is not just an expense, but a purposeful strategic choice, a catalyst for exponential returns in both my personal and professional spheres, fostering a brighter and more promising future.

Benefit 5: Powerful connections

The unexpected gem of this journey? The people. These programmes introduced me to influential networking, connecting me with leaders who share my passion for improving business and the planet. These diverse connections are invaluable assets that can give your life and approach to business an edge.


In conclusion, this journey from humble beginnings to Oxford underscores the notion that continuous learning, whether formal or self-directed, drives us to reach greater heights. Regardless of the challenges you face or how busy life becomes, always remember, when you’re in a constantly evolving world, it requires you to level up or you get left behind.

And to embark on this journey, I firmly believe that choosing the world's number one university, Oxford University, will not only make a difference in your business, but also in your life.

Oxford Executive Strategy Programme

Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme

Oxford Enterprise Leadership Programme

Oxford Artificial Intelligence Programme