Victoria Howells


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United Kingdom



By Victoria Howells

Strategy and Innovation – What do I wish I had known before I started the course?

I thought a lot about attending this course before I applied and mostly I thought about all the barriers and concerns, of how little free time I already had, and how selfish would it be to spend less time with my young son; how would I juggle my work commitments and still be able to go the extra mile when needed?

My biggest and most persistent concern was: If the course was as good as I hoped it would be would I be able to keep up?

Victoria Howells with her sonEventually the itch to test myself and curiosity about the type of experience I might have at Oxford became overwhelming and I conquered my concerns sufficiently to begin the application process. I began to find myself in airports, in parked cars and during my son’s gymnastics lessons crafting answers to the application questions. I found this a surprisingly motivating process, it allowed me to really observe the trajectory of my career, my reasons for applying and the areas I wanted to focus on in the future.

It also required that I had conversations with my employers, mentors and sponsors about why I needed references from them, what I hoped to achieve in the future and in some instances why I felt the course was sufficiently important to complicate my life for 12 months.

But through that experience my resolve became stronger, my commitment greater and my excitement heightened. When I heard that I had been accepted it took all my self-control not to tell everyone I knew.

Even before the course began I felt an impact, a side effect of the application process and these conversations with my sponsors was that my company took note of my level of interest and engagement. I began to get included in higher level strategic conversations, offered interviews for interesting roles and my opinion sought by others and I in turn found myself better able to articulate the specifics of what I felt were the urgent issues facing my Industry.

Desk of Victoriaa HowellsMy first day at Oxford should have been daunting but it wasn’t, finding my allocated desk front and centre in the lecture theatre would usually have made me look for a spot on the back row but I didn’t. The first introductions and lectures were inspiring and challenging in the best way. Teppo Felin the DipSI course Director told us ‘The Oxford experience is addictive’ and whilst it sounds like hyperbole it isn’t. I have lost count of how many conversations I have had with cohort colleagues, who are looking to just eke out a few more days at the end of each module in the ‘Oxford bubble’ before returning to normal life.

On the day that I received my first set of exams results, I knew that not only was Oxford everything I had hoped for but that I had been able to keep up.

Selfie of two DipSI students

Since then the Oxford experience has just kept delivering. When people ask how I find the time to study amongst all the complications of daily life I ask them to imagine choosing a topic which you are fascinated by, then having some of the foremost thinkers and practitioners in that domain curate a reading list for you giving you access to content and research you would never have known existed. The luxury of that experience is extraordinary and where prior to beginning the course my brain felt hungry and I would spend hours searching for interesting material, I now have access to an endless source of brain food. I am genuinely excited to receive each modules reading list and impatient to begin reading each time.

In my career Oxford’s teaching and academic rigour has provided me with the foundations to give my instincts and creativity credibility, it has given me the vocabulary to discuss at the most senior level complex issues and it has resulted in significant, meaningful career progression even before I have finished the course.

I find myself already mourning the end of an experience which has not yet ended, once January 2020 comes I will have to find something else to feed my hungry brain but I will go forwards more confident, better equipped and more driven than I have ever been and will no doubt be just like everyone else looking for any opportunity to extend that Oxford experience just one day more.

Backpack on cycle College dinner

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