As the final module of the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation drew to a close last week, the atmosphere in the classroom was bittersweet.
There was a great sense of pride that we’d completed the final classes and it was now just our 6,000-word Final Integrative Assignment (FIA) between us and graduating with a postgraduate qualification from the prestigious University of Oxford. There was a melancholy feeling, as we knew this would be the last time that we’d all be in this room together studying the diploma. But, most of all, there was an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and positive reflection, as we found ourselves looking back on the highlights of the past year and looking ahead to the future.
For me, one of the key highlights of the programme has been the Oxford experience. When I received my offer to study the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation, I knew I wanted to really seize the opportunity and fully immerse myself in the whole experience, so I moved to Oxford last year ahead of beginning my studies. You might think that by living here, the magic spell of Oxford would be broken. But I can assure you, that’s far from the case! Wandering down the winding cobbled streets steeped in history on my way to the business school, every day is just as special as the last.
Evidently, I love Oxford’s heritage. It’s why many people choose to study at Oxford Saïd of course, and I love how well the city, wider University and School are planned out to support each other. You can really feel the community and collective knowledge built over hundreds of years all around the city and University. The city nurtures the University, and the University nurtures the city. All the people are here for a reason, and you get the best of the best of everything! I love the city and the libraries. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to, and I still am so excited to study in the libraries!
Being part of the Oxford traditions, the college dinners, networking opportunities and friendships is amazing. To think that people were studying in this city over 700 years ago and you are walking in their footsteps in the streets, the buildings, and the libraries, is just incredible. To think that you get to put your name next to theirs in the history books is mind-blowing.
Sometimes it can be quite difficult to describe just how special the Oxford experience is, as it is different for everyone. You are given this opportunity to study a forward-thinking programme in a historic city and to expand your network, and it’s up to you how you’d like to engage with that and the other experiences that come with it. Ultimately, the Executive Diplomas are designed to be precious and unique in your own way. For me, one of the highlights of my Oxford experience has been the wider University ecosystem, not just the location and Executive Diploma network, but in terms of the wider initiatives like and other institutions that can support you along the way.
Another highlight would be the ease of accessing knowledge. People are so friendly here and are there to network; it’s very easy to reach out to people and they want to help. Interactions with other diploma participants, Executive MBA students, MBA students and other post-graduates, don’t always have to be formal. People are looking to connect no matter what you are searching for, and knowing you have that is liberating and relieving. It gives you more room to grow and play with ideas. At Oxford Saïd, there’s always someone to support you.
If I had to summarise my time studying the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation, I would say that I’ve had so much fun! The whole experience has been brilliant, and my classmates have become like an extended family. It’s a really special collective experience and one that I will miss incredibly.
So, what’s next for me? Well, the diploma has already equipped me with a much more advanced, holistic view of strategy and structured approach. It means that I can support my clients with a wider set of strategic tools and add greater value to projects by applying the learnings and innovations I have gained from my classmates. The programme has also helped to boost the creativity of what I do and how I do it, which in turn enables me to pivot between different ideas and into different directions.
In the long term, I hope to invest more time into my social impact side project; a mentoring initiative for refugee-led businesses which was born out of a desire to give back to the local community. There’s a real stigma around refugees, how we support them to set up a new business, a new life and how they make a living. Often, it’s other people making decisions or speaking on their behalf. I wanted to help them to disrupt the conversation and recreate it authentically, supporting them to use their own voice to shape their story and developing the skills to drive this forward. I pitched the idea to the Asian Women of Achievement earlier this year under the name ‘this is our land’ and was delighted to be shortlisted in their Technology and Digital category alongside many other amazing women.
I hope to establish this venture more in Oxford and to develop it into a business that can benefit others and give back to the community. The ambition is to grow the idea and design a framework that can be used to support ventures for other causes, such as climate change and women in the workforce. Everything I have learnt I am reflecting back into my current business and this side project.
I also hope to continue the lifelong connections and friendships I have made and to continue to pass on the knowledge I have gained to others who otherwise might not be able to benefit from an Oxford education. After all, what is knowledge if we keep it to ourselves? You need to share it with others.