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Justin Saia

Degree:

Diploma in Strategy and Innovation

Location:

United States

Industry:

Cyber Security

Year:

2016

By Justin Saia

An enthralling adventure in the land of tea and scones

Here I am, revising for my final examination at Oxford on an asphalt covered rooftop amidst the skyscrapers of upper Manhattan, enjoying the waning days of the summer heat wave before winter casts its dark veil of frost over us. As I churn through Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage, my mind wanders to another place and time. I try to recall what life was like before I began this enthralling adventure in the land of tea and scones. In such a short time, my intellectual curiosity has run free, unshackled from conventional malaise and the inertia of navel-gazing. My personal and professional network has been thoughtfully enhanced and enriched by a fascinating and diverse assemblage of overachievers, one would expect to find at an venerable institution like Oxford, from literally every corner of the the globe.

Poets from Switzerland. Strategists from United Arab Emirates. Bankers from Nigeria. Youth advocates from Jordan. Innovators from Barbados. Marketers from Luxembourg. Brand Managers from Poland. Operations executives from Sweden. Academics from Azerbaijan. Security experts from America. Consultants from Kazakhstan.

What a mix, right?

Poet Susan Polis Schutz writes, “There are many people that we meet in our lives but only a very few will make a lasting impression on our minds and hearts. It is these people that we will think of often and who will always remain important to us as true friends.”

No truer words have ever been spoken. Despite the relatively short time period we’ve known each other, I think of my classmates often and admire their unique intricacies. Their 3 a.m. group text messages soliciting support and input constantly stirs me from my sleep but serves as a refreshing and comforting reminder that my classmates are indeed human and not Marvel superheroes visiting from another planet. Although, I’m convinced several of them are actually faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

We talk to each other all the time. Lively and spirited debates over WhatsApp , colorful video chats on Skype, and the occasional impromptu international pop-ins mark the time between our visits back and forth to Oxford; however, I’m yet to have any of my classmates take me up on a visit to the Big Apple. I can’t exactly say I blame them, with half my country’s full throated endorsement of Donald Trump for president. Perhaps I should be the one scouting a new domicile.

Though we all arrived at Oxford as strangers from different walks of life with different hopes and different dreams, we’ve morphed into so much more – everlasting friends, colleagues, business partners, investors…and family. One of my classmates pulled me in on a business pitch for a multimillion dollar rebranding effort in the Middle East. Another classmate offered to set up a meeting with a group of angel investors for me and a group of business partners around a business idea we’ve been considering but lacked the financial means to make a reality. And yet another classmate gauged my interest in joining the advisory team for a group of promising young entrepreneurs. As you can surely tell, the spoils of the program go well beyond lectures and textbooks.  It is a bit sad though, knowing that this will be the last time this group will assemble in Oxford together. Moving forward, we’ll have to rely on the allure of exotic, international travel destinations to keep us connected. There is no question my wife will make sure we take full advantage of that.

At the present time, like many of my classmates, I’m whizzing around trying to finalize my research topic for our thesis that is due in March. It’s a huge undertaking by itself. Compound that with the bevy of other personal, professional and academic commitments swirling around us at any given time and it becomes quite overwhelming to think about. While March seems forever and a day away from now, I’m sure it will arrive sooner than I’m ready to admit. For the time being, I have a pretty good sense of the topic I’m interested in exploring and for my own sanity, I’m trying to remain focused on the immediate.

The immediate is revising for a third and final examination; this one on globalization. I was quite pleased with the marks of a “strong pass” I received on our strategy examination. I should be receiving marks back on our innovation examination any day now. Here’s to open they come in the form of an early birthday present. I’m not sure you ever really get accustomed to the 2-3 month return time for exam grades, but it’s just part of the historical and often archaic process that is uniquely Oxonian.

The immediate is also gearing up for another rousing semester of educating young minds at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. My contract was renewed for the October to December semester. And while I’ve enjoyed teaching immensely, there is the occasional overlap with my Oxford exam and assignment schedule that can be rather daunting. Fortunately, by the time I teach again in April 2017, Oxford will be in the rear view mirror. I’m starting to see a faint hint of light at the end of the tunnel and feeling a few raindrops on my head from the storm that’s beginning to roll in. Time to go, as the sunburn is beginning to set in. Until next time…

Picture of group at breakfast

Breakfast at Oriel College

Group of people at dinner

Dinner at Balliol College

Photo of people punting

Punting on the Cherwell

Picture of people punting

Punting on the Cherwell

 

People looking at map

Midsummer Night’s Dream production with Creation Theatre Company

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