Joana Lenkova


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United Kingdom





By Joana Lenkova

The Big Race

It’s a gorgeous sunny afternoon in London! Perfect weather to watch the famous Oxford v Cambridge Boat race. The very first race was held in 1829 and since 1856, it has been an annual tradition.

The spirits are high, we are excited and impatiently waiting for the women’s and men’s rowing teams to pass, so we can give them a good cheer and show the support for our Oxford team.

Boat race

Boat Race – photo courtesy of Simona Pigulea

As I stand on the riverbank, with a few people from my Oxford course, I can’t help but smile with pride when I think about the journey we are on. It somehow resembles the race we are there to see.

We all juggle careers, travel, and family time, but we also have that extra ambition and curiosity to learn something new, grow and conquer higher peaks. We already won the first part of the race – in February, we stepped through the doors of Said Business School, as strangers from all corners of the world, each with their own extraordinary life story and a great history of achievements. We left 4 days later bound by a common goal and a great sense of belonging to a team! A team with the ambition to be the best it can be!

Boat race

Boat Race – photo courtesy of Simona Pigulea

In these first days, I was enchanted by the thought of being part of an experience like no other. From the centuries of wisdom collected between the walls of the many colleges, libraries and museums, to the complex, real life cases we passionately discussed in our first Module on Strategy, and the questions we face as current and future strategists. But one of the things I loved the most is the people I have the privilege to share this experience with. We represent 33 nationalities and come from different professional backgrounds. What better environment to be inspired by?

Having lived in different countries since I was a child has made me very passionate and curious about discovering other cultures and always keeping an open mind about what the new environment has to offer. On my journey so far, I have learned a lot about independence and discipline, but also a lot about myself and the fact that I can only be content if I know there is progress and change and I am working on becoming the best version of myself. And this is how my race began!

On the train back to London, after the first module, I already knew that what I have gained in these 4 days was not only additional knowledge in a field I am passionate about, but also a special relationship with my cohort. All of them excellent professionals from incredibly interesting backgrounds and with great personalities!

Time zones, busy schedules, and continents haven’t stopped us from keeping in touch every single day since we left Oxford. We are sharing thoughts and articles, discussing subjects, connected to what we have learned, and we already organized a few social gatherings and study groups in preparation for the first exam!


Left to right: Simona, me, Daniel Garcia. Photo courtesy of Simona Pigulea

This unconditional support is an example of a great team spirit! An environment where the competitiveness is healthy and only there to stimulate everyone to do better, where there is no holding back of information or any judgment, only constructive discussions, well-argumented critique of topics and willingness to contribute to the common and individual success!

And as we enter the first exam in our subfuscs, together, as a team, we give each other a reassuring nod. When the clock strikes 9:30, we start racing time and writing our essays.

At the end of the day, the only real competition is with ourselves. And we are already winning that race! We are Oxford alumni and I could not have chosen a better team to be on the same boat with!


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