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Tatyana Teplova

Degree:

Diploma in Strategy and Innovation

Industry:

International organisation (public sector)

Year:

2017

By Tatyana Teplova

Certainly worth it – reflections at the middle point of the journey

While looking across the world at the programmes that allow mid-career professionals to hone their understanding of how to manage change and promote innovation in public and international institutions, I came across this programme at the Saïd Business School at Oxford. This programme promised to combine organisational strategy and innovation as its core components and offer tailored and highly qualified guidance for individual projects, which was exactly what I was looking for.  I was also impressed by the School being embedded in one of the world’s top universities, providing access to the centuries of multidisciplinary wisdom and the outstanding Oxford faculty from across the entire university, bringing excitement both from the personal and professional points of view.

So, why did I decide to go back to school?  My mentor has always advised me to prepare myself for what is ahead in my career, especially in acquiring tools for effective management and leadership.  And I also found that international institutions, like most other 21st Century institutions, are affected by global trends (such as the tension between globalisation and anti-globalism movements, national and international migration, fiscal and economic crises, and the emergence of new and faster forms of communication), which bring both new challenges and new opportunities to all organisations and sectors of society. As such, international institutions are often faced with the similar types of challenges as any other organisation: How to set the strategy to remain relevant for the global community, individual countries and their citizens? How to create the greatest value?  How to anticipate risks and future challenges and start preparing today for the unknowns, uncertainties and demands of tomorrow? How to organise themselves in a global environment to achieve maximum value for the global community and promote innovative thinking on the increasingly complex challenges facing today’s world? How to attract, retain and motivate the best international talent while delivering value for money? While admittedly there are notable differences between private, public and international institutions, I found that the core concepts in this programme dovetailed with my own observations, challenges and experience in both the public and international sectors.

I am making these reflections about my Oxford Saïd Business School experience to date as I cross the Mediterranean on a ferry to Italy from Greece. Upon reflection, I realise that, despite some initial struggles with the private sector terminology and private sector concepts in the programme (as most of my career so far has been in a different context!) at Oxford, I quickly found myself immersed in the debates about strategy setting, innovation, organisational design and change, the universal and essential concepts that are preparing one to deal with the complexities, uncertainties and fast evolution of today’s world, irrespective of the context. One of the biggest takeaways for me so far has been that organisational strategy should be very simple so that to be summarised in 2-3 words and that innovation is not necessarily about brilliant minds and ideas but about the way organisations are structured and run to stimulate innovative thinking and creativity. It is about combining ideas from different disciplines, applying old ideas to new concepts and challenges, and about taking calculated risks.

The programme itself turned out to be very dynamic and well-suited for a mid-career professional with a highly demanding work schedule and family life. While it featured a very rigorous academic approach and a demanding workload (which comes with the reputation of one of the world’s leading universities), it allowed for plenty of flexibility and adaptation in learning methods, and is certainly worth it.

The student experience has been striking. A combination of intense learning, the exchange of ideas across different fields, institutions and countries, in-depth examinations in our full academic dresses (including fuscs and academic gowns!), coupled with very active social life after classes certainly has made it an experience to remember.  Academically, while admittedly challenging for someone who has been out of school for over a decade, the programme was structured for the knowledge to “stick”, through the combination of theory and practical exercise, case studies and group work. Combined with fully anonymous grading of exams, and complex real-life cases debated both in class and through social media, it was a true Oxford experience.

There is something important to be said about being at Oxford. The true spirit of scholarship that permeates across the libraries, academic buildings, museums and city spires makes you feel both privileged and humbled at the same time.   Privileged for having an opportunity to study with some of academia’s world leaders, and humbled for having had this rare opportunity for a girl who was born in a developing country. Importantly, it also made me feel the strongest sense of responsibility for those who may not have had a similar chance in life to further deepen our efforts to promote equal opportunities for all.

And of course, what has been one of the most exciting features of the programme is the people. Both my fellow students and the faculty members. The programme and the School more broadly boasts a vibrant student community, with highly diverse backgrounds, both professionally and personally, coming from across the world.  For someone who has lived in different countries around the world and is now working in an international setting, this diversity immediately felt like home. And I must add that what was also striking is the dedication to gender balance and country diversity in the composition of the group. Women do constitute 50% of the group and here the rule of critical mass works – their voices are as loud as those of their male colleagues during the academic debates and discussions. Something that many parliaments, governments and company boards can get inspired by!  I was deeply impressed by the supportive atmosphere in the programme, from the extensive knowledge sharing during the preparations for the exams to real life support (finding an apartment or employment opportunities!).  The internationally renowned faculty, with a diverse range of experiences and both practical and academic expertise, also reflects the values of the School in promoting diversity, excellence and multidisciplinary approaches.  I learned a whole lot from each and every one of them in different ways.

Now we have reached a middle point in our academic journey.  I am now looking forward to another exciting and challenging semester ahead, full of learning, exploring and trying to make a difference in this world. Both a tremendous honour and a great responsibility.

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