Becoming an Oxonian: The Oxford Executive Diploma experience

4 minute read

It’s been a few months now since the Oxford Executive Diploma in Global Business commenced.

Little did I know back then, when Kate and I started to discuss the programme, that I would soon become an Oxonian – a proud member of the extended Oxford community and Saïd Business School.

It is even harder to explain how it feels to belong to a well-established institution with such a rich history. Every sandstone brick of Oxford’s buildings tells its own story of a long-lasting history and diverse experiences.

My name is Tamim Saad, and I’m 42 years old. To be part of that history also marks a pillar in my life story as a young Druze man who grew up in a remote social and geographic periphery and is now leading as CFO or Board Member in prominent organisations in the economy. I also feel lucky and grateful for this unique opportunity here in Oxford. I hope it becomes a platform for helping me to achieve my long-term goals of leading with passion and compassion locally and globally and better serving humanity. But for now, I’d like to share some of my insights thus far.

Away from the classroom

Aside from the academic scene, one cannot fully embrace the Oxford experience if no punting, socialising, dining at the college halls, or visiting the famous pubs were on the agenda. And pubs – there are too many to choose from! Some cosy and densely organised with barely any seats to offer, and others modern and spacious. I reckon it’s the mood on the day that determines which to visit.

This enchanting experience does not end with the sheer beauty of the city of Oxford nor its abovementioned attractions, it only starts there. After a long night of socialising, a morning consuming the mounting reading material is your next mission and perhaps your best chance to make the most of the upcoming sessions. Preparing for class individually or as part of a group, preferably in one of the many libraries or cafes in the historic city centre, is an essential part of the learning experience, and it helps to exchange views and perspectives with classmates. Once the reading is complete, it’s time to start walking to the distinctive and modern Saïd Business School.

We can’t forget the savoury part, can we? to ensure you get the delicacy of the university’s history, you can’t miss a first-hand experience of formal dining or just enjoying a cocktail reception in the magnificent Oxford colleges – some of which even date back to the 13th century.

A snapshot of the learning experience

Upon stepping into the contemporary and sleek classroom, you may finally begin to feel what it means to be an Oxonian. It’s essential to manage your expectations. As someone who has lived and studied abroad in other conspicuous universities, I feel that I’m now digging even deeper into the rabbit hole of learning and knowledge. The School is clear about the academic standards in terms of preparedness and the level of engagement, socially and intellectually, so you better keep up the pace, otherwise, you’ll miss the fun!

Our constantly evolving reality is creating ambiguity and uncertainty in myriad of different ways. Change and its implications are at the heart of the discussions in class. Through them, my understanding of reality and perspective has evolved and modified. Covid-19,  along with other rising global crises, are constantly inviting inconsistencies and discrepancies within almost any system, be it economic, social, political, or otherwise. The diverse arguments and perspectives in class are invaluable, equipping us with deeper insights into such global issues being discussed and addressed in the inner circles of the business and public spheres. I firmly believe that, as my peers and I seek to become global C-suite executives, we must face the entailed complexities and learn how businesses need to adapt, reimagine, and even redefine their role in shaping our society and stipulating the unwritten contract.

Indeed, the Oxford experience is hard to sum up. Still, due to the short duration of the modules on campus (roughly one week each quarter), you would expect this experience to be enriching and educating only as much as you make of it. I’m grateful to say that I feel this experience is helping me to grow professionally and personally while sharpening my view of our world and honing my skills. I’ve learnt that we must aspire to seek the elusive and delicate balance of paying respect to tradition, history and our past while keeping sight of what matters now and is waiting behind the curve.