Life-changing MSc

7 minute read

Pathway into the programme

I was first introduced to the MSc in Major Programme Management while attending a week-long Executive Education Leadership Development programme at Oxford Saïd, an opportunity presented to top performers within my company each year. While attending my week-long programme, cohort 11 was starting their first week. I had the opportunity to hear a little bit about the programme through one of the individuals leading us and was inspired to pick up a brochure. I didn’t realize at the time what a pivotal moment that would be in my career.

When I returned home to Canada, I flipped through the brochure asking myself what I now know as a very naïve question: after 20 years of working on prominent major programmes, is there really anything else to learn? Despite believing the answer was a firm ‘no’ the appeal of Oxford’s reputation persuaded me to apply.

It took merely hours in the programme for me to realize that my low expectations were uncalled for - the content of the MSc shook my belief system, leading me to question how I have approached major programmes for the past two decades. I began to see my industry through a completely different lens, which never occurred to me. It ended up being life-changing. 

What the Oxford experience means to me

Being in the Covid cohort definitely heightened my Oxford experience. With our first four modules online, our cohort made a point to create our own experiences and opportunity for connection (even if it was virtual). Each Saturday, despite whatever Covid challenges were going on at the time, my peers and I would meet online and in hindsight, I feel like it helped us create a strong bond, probably stronger than other cohorts. And when the opportunity to finally meet in person at Oxford presented itself, our cohort didn’t take a moment all up for granted.

There is something in the air at Oxford that instantly makes you feel inspired. The legacy that the institution holds, the college dinners, the academic history and the environment; I felt inspired to do something different and new. So for me, the Oxford experience is not just feeling like you’re in a Harry Potter movie, but it’s feeling inspired because of the environment and the legacy the University holds.

And I can confirm that feeling remains beyond graduation. I am extremely honoured to belong to a community of individuals who are committed to reaching their full potential. Recently, I enjoyed an alumni dinner to celebrate 15 years of the MSc, and there’s an unsaid connection between all the cohorts because of our collective experience. 

A family affair

My wife is in cohort 15 of the MSc in Major Programme Management, so now it’s a family affair! After listening to me rave about the programme for two years and being in a similar industry as myself, she was inspired to apply and, to no surprise to me, was accepted. It was a full circle moment when I was able to return to Oxford to support her during her first module, the same way she supported me during my first module in Oxford.

There was also an alumni event at Saïd Business School in September, so I was able to attend all of the events over that weekend whilst she was attending her first module - so, I ended up soaking up all of the Oxford experience again. In fact, I had such a great experience and truly enjoyed it that I am actually coming back to the School to study in March for the Executive Diploma in Artificial Intelligence, which should, in itself, speak to how life-changing my Oxford experience has been.

Oxford teaching

My undergraduate at Cardiff provided me a base understanding of the system, but Oxford’s unique approach to critical thinking, I totally underestimated. The programme is designed to force you to look at major programmes through different lenses, lenses that are not well-known by even the most experienced practitioners.

I always like to quote Paolo Quattrone’s dashboards thinking of accounting visualisations through the Jesuits lens or thinking of risk through the biases lens. As a practitioner, you aren’t often exposed to this completely different perspective, which is vital in bettering yourself and the industry. Oxford takes critical thinking a step further, exposing you to learn from individuals with alternative views and then forcing you to test your own views by applying them onto other people's views.

During my undergraduate in engineering, I learned math, physics and it's all qualifying. When I completed my MBA in North America, I learned generic business. Oxford teaches in a different way - the learnings focused on how you think rather than what you think.

How I am implementing my learnings at work

The critical thinking skills I gained from my Oxford education have changed the way I approach my day-to-day life, the way I interact with people, and the confidence I bring to a discussion. Furthermore, my refined critical thinking has opened up a new world of understanding, as I am now equipped with the ability to question and critique ideas in a productive way. Each essay I wrote throughout my time at Oxford prepared me to not only have confidence in my own views, but understand how to question my own ideas through thorough research so that confidence was properly placed.

Why I chose this programme

Oxford’s MSc in Major Programme Management programme filled a gap in my professional experience: the delivery. I'm an investor in major programmes, so I invest in infrastructure and have always felt that I was lacking the day-to-day knowledge of delivering major programmes. Before my time at Oxford, I thought the programme would provide me with the tools and techniques to do so, however it turned out to provide me with so much more.

I felt Oxford had an intricate understanding of leadership in major programmes that I haven’t seen any other institution in the world provide. For example, during the risk module of the programme, I was expecting a Monte Carlo analysis: a lot of risk registers. How do you build the best risk register? How do you measure risk? How do you quantify risk? Yet, when I started the module, I realized the true learnings are actually about personal biases, strategy, the representation and the many insightful findings. This programme provides you an unmatched, high-level understanding of major programme leadership not found anywhere else.

Application advice

For prospective students, my advice is to establish a strong support system, particularly when it comes to your recommendation letters. When seeking individuals to provide your recommendation, ensure they know you well and you work together regularly. Fortunately, my company supported my Oxford journey from the beginning so my recommendation letters came from my company’s CEO, CFO and my direct boss.

Impacts of the programme

I will tell anyone that the programme is a life-altering experience. The professional growth was significant, but the personal growth was even bigger. I left the programme with a new level of confidence that opened up opportunities that I would not have seen as a possibility prior to the programme. Since graduating from Oxford, I have embraced new personal and professional projects, including starting a podcast titled, Navigating Major Programmes.

The podcast, which aims to elevate the conversation surrounding major programmes, was largely inspired by my time at Oxford. I am using the platform to share my ideas and to support my advocacy of a more balanced industry conversation - a space where the views of both academics and practitioners can be heard. I believe there is not enough interconnection of these two views and that by creating the opportunity for different perspectives to connect, we will only progress the industry.

If you would have told me that I would be a podcaster prior to attending Oxford, I likely would have laughed in your face. But that’s why this programme is so unique, it builds the foundations and confidence for individuals to broadly share their ideas. I am now confident that I have something to add to the conversation and I have the skills of critical thinking and being an independent thinker obtained from this programme to thank.

How I would describe the programme

It's the MBA for major programmes. If you're interested in delving into business, or if you aim to understand the business side of things, an MBA is suitable for you. However, if you're looking to fast-track your career in major programmes and lead with impact - for instance, as an engineer or project manager - then this programme is specifically designed for you.

Oxford MSc in Major Programme Management