Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
I graduated from the Oxford Diploma in Strategy and Innovation in September 2016. A great deal has happened in the proceeding 2 years and I have had time to reflect on what led to me enrolling on the programme 4 years ago.
When I applied for the programme I was the CEO of Gilo Industries Group – an engineering technology business based in the heart of Britain’s South West countryside.
Like many things in my life, I fell into the role by luck. A chance meeting over 10 years ago with, my now great friend, Gilo Cardozo. Gilo is one of those alluring characters who has jumped off the beaten path to march to his own beat. Like many successful entrepreneurs and inventors, he wasn’t concerned about money, just passionate about making his vision a reality. The Gilo Group started with a company called Parajet which is the world leader in the design and manufacture of backpack aircraft. The year before we met, Gilo had completed his now famous ‘Mission Everest’ Documentary with adventurer Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel. This had two key effects that changed my life forever. Firstly, it allowed me to recognise Gilo on a Dorset station and strike up a conversation; and second, it highlighted to the world that it doesn’t take a giant company to create world-class engineering innovations, but more tiny agile companies based in the heart of the British countryside.
The engine that powered the Mission Everest flight for Bear and Gilo became the foundation technology which was to enable a small company to win contracts with Raytheon, Northrop, Boeing, Schiebel and Leonardo.
Fast forward 5 years and Gilo and I had created the Gilo Industries Group, a group of 5 engineering companies and a vehicle we could use to raise investment capital. We successfully completed 2 rounds of investment for over £5M, with funds from UK aviation engineering companies and a fund from Abu Dhabi.
It was at this point the board suggested that I should look at doing an executive education programme to develop my skills and allow me to help grow Gilo’s vision further. I was not completely enamoured by the idea. I had not enjoyed formal education and was not keen to jump back in the saddle, so I set about trying to find the most difficult courses to get onto and half-heartedly applying for them. At least this way I could show that I was trying to get on a course and then could spend my time actually focusing on the business.
However, my application to the University of Oxford’s Said Business School must have hit the right chord and before I knew it, the board had approved my place and I was going to Oxford.
The following 18 months were the most rewarding and hardest of my professional life. Don’t be fooled, the course is hard. The amount of reading, lecture schedules and exams are full on and time-consuming. This has to be fitted around your day job which, for me, was a full-on growth cycle at Gilo Industries Group and family commitments.
It was worth it. Going back to university later in life is extremely rewarding. I found my brain was far more adapted to learning and I was hungry for new information. Couple this with a cohort that was far beyond me both professionally and intellectually, and I found I was working harder than ever before.
I am sure this is the same for many who take part in these courses, but I found the interactions from class as rewarding and intellectually stimulating as the lectures themselves.
So, what has happened post-Oxford?
Gilo and I completed another funding round and we grew the business by launching a new subsidiary making water jet powered surfboards – Mako Boardsports. This business is going from strength to strength under the incredible team Gilo has surrounded himself with.
9 months ago, I sat down in my office with Gilo and broke the news that I wanted to start my own business. It had been an itch that I needed to scratch. In true form Gilo gave me a hug and wished me luck.
My new company DIVISION is a partnership with businessman and ex-SAS soldier Floyd Woodrow. We take businesses to the far right of leadership and teach communication, planning and strategy in immersive experiential courses based on the training that special forces learn to become elite leaders.
DIVISION is the culmination of both mine and Floyd’s North Star Visions, to help people become the very best they can be. As part of this vision DIVISION helps schools and charities with pro-bono courses paid for by the corporate work we do.
Please have a look here www.division.training
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