It is both pleasant and shocking news to me that, along with the upcoming publishing of my first book, one of the most mysterious postmodernism artists will be illustrating its cover! I am extremely excited about where this journey will take me, especially when working alongside such remarkable creators.
My debut novel, Dragon Master, is a real story about a self-made heroine coming from a modest, post-soviet era social background, who is building her way towards a life and career in Singapore, where she finds herself in a profession with a very few women.
It’s true that my personal professional experience became a source of inspiration and observation for this book. As a maritime brokerage consultant, my female colleagues and I make up less than 2% of the sector. The book therefore explores the career journey of a female professional climbing the corporate ladder, including the challenges that women face when trying to balance work and life in a highly competitive environment. It offers a glimpse into the unglamorous reality of the corporate world and the male-built industry.
The central protagonist finds herself caught in the clutches of ‘business dragons’, exercising their power and going far to achieve their goals, but accepts the reality and the challenge and forms a new self, both as a professional and an individual, and succeeds in the industry where family continuity and established ties determine success. The book talks openly about the skills that the heroine is developing, and how these are needed to not only gain a foothold, but to eventually climb to a leading role in the corporate environment.
While working on the book with the publisher and undertaking the Oxford Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership programme at Saïd Business School, I found myself deeply reflecting upon every aspect of my life. I was highly affected by in-class session delivered by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and philosopher, who taught us about responsible leadership. When carving our professional paths, especially when it comes to young women, we may get lost in complicated career labyrinths. I therefore wanted to make sure this book would become an inspiration for those young women who were looking for guidance – perhaps from successful senior female role models who were true leaders of their own lives.
Another central figure of the book is an eccentric male leading character, with whom the main heroine constantly interacts and gains business and life wisdom. It truly provides a balanced intergender approach, as well as a more complete, unfiltered view of a male-dominated world. I believe this bold, and to a certain extent, entertaining story is a great reminder of how we should be more loyal to our own desires, especially women, who struggle in not giving up their professional ambitions.
Despite its fast pace and edgy style, Dragon Master touches on deep philosophical questions of happiness and the correctness of the chosen path. Even though the book doesn't provide answers - it seeks to provoke deep self-reflection - each reader can decide for themselves what they should do in a given situation. Isn’t it true that our life choices define who we are and what kind of leaders we become? I don’t see it as abstract reading.
Similar to how the Oxford Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership practically guides its students on the subjects of resilience, or leading in ambiguity and limited resources, this book guides its readers on complicated career considerations. How to get a job in a company that only hires men? How to turn from a pawn into a queen in a ‘Game of Thrones’ corporate setting? How to interact and do business with powerful men who tend to blur professional-personal boundaries? In one sentence, I’d describe this story as: ‘how to be successful in a man’s world while remaining true to yourself.’ This book is my thank you to men as they taught me a lot!
To make sure the topic would be accessible to women, and senior male leaders who manage women, around the world, I chose to present a variety of life scenarios set in Singapore, China or Russia to make sure it would resonate with them. This book is also my personal and adventurous love letter to Asia where I have lived for many years (Singapore and Shanghai remain my favourite cities) and its unique circumstances, a distinctive corporate environment giving the reader a chance to immerse himself in it. It truly provides a roadmap of how to travel and be open-minded, transform from being a person of one culture to a citizen of the world, as well as absorb effective practices from people you meet.
Written in 2021, it is dedicated to my mentor, superior and friend who helped me grow throughout my career. It is a true blessing to have met him in my life.
Oxford, art and business – it is all connected
I am convinced that my Oxford studies, my developing career, and an entrance to the world of art and authorship are all intertwined. I consider it a lucky sign (living in Asia made me superstitious) that a publisher called me while I was living at Pembroke College – where I am an associate member. It immediately became clear to me that I was writing one beautiful and exciting chapter of my life. I certainly have been able to navigate my life more successfully because of the Diploma in Organisational Leadership. It has made me a more complete version of myself, not least because of the people around me, but because I felt I could really make the most of every opportunity and learning it offered to support my career.
Saïd Business School and the University of Oxford helped me to achieve my ‘Yin and Yang’ – the right balance between my personal and professional identities, to find my place in the world and to boost my confidence in that position. Writing this blog now, with a decade of experience in the shipping industry, proudly working under Fortune 500 management while consulting shipping and energy companies, financial institutions and governments, having developed a unique skillset and nurtured my passion for self-improvements, I can safely say: I am confident I can contribute to any organisation's success, make a more impactful difference, lead with purpose and have a positive influence both on the business and on the community that I serve.
Tatiana Fefelova is currently studying the Executive Diploma in Organisational Leadership. Her debut non-fiction book, Dragon Master, written under the pen name Lizzy Blue, has been selected by one of the biggest publishing houses in Russia, AST Publishing Group, for release in a couple of months’ time.