Ayesha Mahwish


Diploma in Financial Strategy


United Arab Emirates





By Ayesha Mahwish

Thoughtful Reflections – Module 1

While knocking away letters on my laptop seated on the upper deck of this A380 aircraft bound towards Abu Dhabi, it is very easy to loose sense of time. My flow is interrupted and I am asked to switch off my laptop and mobile device in preparation for take-off.

It is now that I have some time to disconnect and truly reflect on my week at Oxford. It is said that the human mind is privy to the “Recency Effect”. There is a beginning, a very long middle and an end which is what you remember the best. I relate my Oxford experience with this effect. My journey started when I reflected upon developing my areas of interest and finding a course that met my exaggerated expectations of post graduate education. I met with an admissions recruiter, who provided me with insight on the four Diplomas available at Saïd Business School. A long conversation and several email exchanges later I put forward my application to study the Diploma in Financial Strategy. And then came a period of waiting which I would like to call the middle of my journey perhaps blurred out and willing to be forgotten. In retrospect, was the wait worth it?

Eventually, I found myself seated in a classroom full of bright and ambitious professionals, each one handpicked to contribute to this cohort, anchored by Professor Richard Whittington who steered the sail of our very first Module – Strategy.

I distinctly remember the class started with mention of path dependencies and how this idea explains continued use of a product/convention based on historical preference. I could sense how with some initiation the class immediately created their ‘eureka’ moments by linking these path dependencies to their businesses. For me, being a part of the aviation industry my immediate thoughts went to historic dependencies set within commercial flying and how they are till today followed religiously (read: boarding passes). I found myself asking questions like where do airlines and related businesses truly create value following a new path, how do these paths evolve? What is the link between value creation, growth and strategy? Is strategy really emergent or deliberate? And so on. These questions were answered over the course of our interactions, it is key to highlight here that the bulk of this module stresses on knowing your business and pushing your limits to think about the implications of strategic decisions over time. It opened my mind to several possibilities and got me questioning basic decisions in a “if not, then why not” fashion.

The strategy module then went in the direction to explore cognitive biases that every individual is subconsciously subjected to, there were some very surprising reveals that came out of a short questionnaire that the class was asked to complete. A key take away of this session was most definitely the fact that biases do exist, and there are many tools available to over-come them, it is up to us whether we recognize these biases and choose to overcome them and reach an effective decision.

There were truly many such manifestations for the entire cohort and by listening, contributing and many times debating on viewpoints of so many others made this module what it is. During one of the many evenings planned by the administrators and course representatives we had the opportunity to mingle with professors, philanthropists and research students from other departments of the University. I was quick to learn that the pace of this module is going to be extremely fast and there are only such limited interactions that would take place, my advice would be to build on these opportunities within the university and share experiences as much as possible.

I now have three modules yet to be examined and hopefully, after successfully completing all requirements of this course, would be granted the privilege to be referred to as an Oxford graduate. Bringing me back to the Recency Effect, I would not hesitate to say my experience at University of Oxford thus far, does follow the same convention, however I would defer to say there is no end to this journey. There is only a before and after.

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