Naiole Cohen Dos Santos


Diploma in Financial Strategy







By Naiole Cohen Dos Santos

A Renewal Opportunity

The application process was long and in the middle of it I ended up losing my password for the application, but long story short, I applied, and got accepted. Uff!

A year ago, not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I was going through a formal exam in one of the most traditional and reputable universities of the world, the Oxford Said Business School.

Yes! Here I am back to university, a decade after the last time I saw a classroom. This time older, scared but very much excited.

It has been a daunting experience since it all started in the cold British weather of January. Coming from Angola with 30 degrees Celsius, the cold weather was a good wake up call. In fact, I said to myself …”Go girl, fresh air to your head is a good start. Be ready for new fresh ideas.”

Indeed! Joining a fantastic executive group handpicked for the Diploma in Financial strategy is a dream come true. The first module Strategy was not only about the structured and brilliant way that Oxford Professor of Strategy, Richard Whittington, presented the subject but also the chance to have human interaction and get to know people from each continent that gave a “flavor” to each single class discussion.

I wish I could have prolonged it, but this renewal “going back to school” experience involves another level of responsibility such as family and professional deadlines.  The first week of the module was magical. Going back to “my world” completely “numbed” (in a positive way) pushed for the need to implement a “strategy” to organize my 24 hours. This time the concept of time management was not just a concept. It was and is a real a surviving tool in squeezing my study time.

Six weeks gone like a blink of an eye.  During that time Angola Cables, the company that I am Chairperson for completed the first Southern Atlantic Sea Cable in the world.  Between celebrations I had to study, finish and submit my exam notes. I do not know how I survived.

The good part was that being in contact with members of the class through the WhatsApp group “DIPFS18” (the group I created) gave a sense that we were not away from each other.

When we all met again in March for the first exam related with Module I, the emotions were a mix of stress and genuine happiness to be together again.

As I started this message, a year ago I would have never imagined that I would have to face a formal exam, nevertheless, I had to wear a full academic dress skirt, dark socks, plain white collared shirt, black ribbon, (a white bow tie for men) plus the best part (impossible not to mention it) a  full length gown that needed to be below your knees and mortar… Uaaauu! All that on top of the “stress flavor”.

Module II was another great week, full of excitement and camaraderie. Another brilliant Oxford Professor Ilaria Piatti, a lady of Business Finance.

The hidden side of this journey are the long travel hours for many of us, the jetlag, and the pressure of doing well. It is not only about the Financial Strategy journey but also a human drive of the XXI century professionals that keeps each of us investing on knowledge, while balancing our social and family lives. It is about friendship and solidarity that is so necessary for us to be successful on each step of our career. It may sound cliché but the possibilities of Oxford University are endless, and getting to know the stories, the associations, the individual Ph.D. researchers and statistics, gave me the true sense of the opportunity but also the heavier responsibility.

I keep using the adjective daunting, because the cold of January is now warming up with study for the next exam (mainly math). I do my preparation but I have to admit that I’m shaking.  Going back to university in a more mature stage of life has a different taste, but no matter what kind adjectives I use. It is formidable, because we gave ourselves a chance to be “back to the future” a quote from David Halliwell a fellow student on the Oxford Diploma in Strategy and Innovation.

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