In April 2021, my partner and I visited Oxford for the first time, just a month after moving to the UK.
At that point, I had been considering going back to school for a few years, inspired by my sister completing her CPA and seeing some of my colleagues pursuing various academic designations.
Working in one of the most dynamic e-commerce companies of our time, I wanted to find a programme that allowed for my career progression while undertaking new studies. At the same time, I wanted to be challenged intellectually, learn practical concepts relevant to my work, and have a rewarding college experience.
After reviewing the options available to me, I applied for the Oxford Executive Diploma in Global Business at Saïd Business School. To my excitement, I was accepted onto the programme, commencing in January 2022.
Reflecting on the first module, Global Strategy, I can confidently say that the experience has exceeded my expectations.
Here’s what made my week at Oxford:
1. The Oxford staff should get an award for operational efficiency
The coordinating team has been doing a stellar job, from initial interviews and the recruiting process to ongoing check-ins. They managed to pull together a class representation that really reflects the nature of our subject. The class is diverse in experience and background, which creates an environment of stimulating debate, where everyone can bring forward their opinions. The faculty reacted quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic, adapting a hybrid teaching experience because two-thirds of the class could not join in person.
The professors masterfully manoeuvred the hybrid experience, ensuring ‘Zoomies’ (an endearing term for folks on Zoom) and ‘Roomies’ (people in class) communicated effectively. Beyond the class, they arranged a historic walking tour on one of the mornings, and we were fortunate to have dinner (‘Harry Potter style’) at Exeter College.
2. Quality module delivery and engaging sessions
As expected, Oxford maintains a high academic standard – most of the course material is built upon relevant, contemporary topics and recent events. One of the highlights was to have a protagonist of a case study join our class in person and facilitate the discussion. It was fascinating to hear from a professional whose experience is worthy of a classic Harvard Business Review case.
Every day, we were advised to prepare one or two case studies and read an additional five-ten articles to understand the subject in depth. All pre-reads are available ahead of time, and I found the materials well-curated.
As an Oxford student, you gain access to numerous library resources and digital subscriptions, which is a fantastic benefit. For me, reading through the specified lists was a welcome change from the mindless scrolling of my daily news feed. A habit I established for myself was to pre-read in advance and then scan on the evening or the day of the class to refresh my memory and take notes.
3. The importance of a support network
I find it incredible when people with so much responsibility find the time to invest in their education. Balancing family and work commitments, and navigating pandemic-related matters, is a lot, and I admire those who persevere, despite the challenges. It made me appreciate the thriving environment I am in personally and professionally because my family, friends, and employer have enabled me to grow. The full trust of my team, their understanding and acceptance of the flexibility I will require this year has certainly helped me to manage and maintain my commitments so far. Before my studies, I took some of these things for granted, and I want to take a moment to be grateful for the opportunities I have.
4. Useful learnings to share with my team
As a tenured employee, I strive not to fall into the routine and instead look for different views that challenge my preconceptions to avoid confirmation bias. At my company, one of the mantras is Do Things, Tell People, which I like to paraphrase to Learn Things, Tell People. One of the sessions in our first module was dedicated to the analysis of international development strategies. I knew that sharing the professor’s approach with my team would be valuable and, as a result, we are now exploring a tailored workshop that would fit my organisation’s context.
5. Oxford city charm
Being in Oxford is genuinely magical; spending time visiting a city with so much history, places to discover, and elaborate architecture is well worth it. There are several options for students to stay at: hotels, student residences or B&Bs. I stayed at one of the hotels close to Oxford Castle and Prison. In the morning before the class, I would take a walk to the society coffee shop for a delicious flat white and read a few articles recommended for the session that day. Pro-tip: students can get corporate rates for accommodation – during the onboarding, relevant housing information is provided.
The memory of walking down the cobbled stone paths, seeing a crowd of determined students sprinting to their classes, and the feeling of morning dew on my face makes me want to go back.
Luckily, the next module is just one month away, and I am really looking forward to it!
Photo credit: Oxford city centre, Christian Mackie, 2021