Shamini Murugesh


Diploma in Organisational Leadership







By Shamini Murugesh

My journey to Oxford University.

My journey to Oxford University seemed to have begun even before I knew it!! A couple of summers ago, I was visiting Oxford, it was a Sunday and as we walked along I saw a college with a huge courtyard. When I attempted to go in I was stopped and told no one can enter as it was a Sunday. I remember thinking somewhere at the back of my mind, wouldn’t it be lovely to study here and enter whenever I wanted to. Little did I know it would soon be a reality.

Education is a cornerstone of my life, whether it is encouraging my children to study in the best of universities, or in my work as Chief Mentor of a ‘not for profit.’

I have had my eyes on a PhD for several years and when my children left for university I thought this would be a good time to enter academics. However, when I started researching this possibility, it looked impractical as I had moved so far away from academic life and was now a leader of a rapidly growing organisation. I realised my craving for study would have to be tied to my present position in order to create value for me and my organisation. Looking at a place to study, my first and only choice was Oxford… I needed to study at the ultimate temple of learning!! Luckily for me, the Saïd Business School had the exact program I was looking for, the Diploma in Organisational Leadership. A nudge from the recruitment team helped me make up my mind. The 13-month program suited my objective of challenging myself with the best intellectual minds from a globally diverse cohort at one of the oldest and most impactful universities in the world!

Only 4 people on this planet knew I had applied to Oxford, it was too precious and scary to share! A friends’ daughter from LSE who had recently applied, had been rejected and I thought what were my chances? The last time I wrote an essay was almost 20 years ago and here I was writing essays with varying limits 500 words, 5000 characters! It was a glimpse into the exacting rigour of the program, a highly intelligent club it was going to be. This was in August.

Cut to October 16th, I’m in a meeting and by chance pick up my phone and see, I’ve been accepted to Saïd Business School!! It took serious self-control to sit through the rest of the meeting as my mind was racing. I’m going to Oxford! It was like a neon light flashing in front of my eyes, as emotions filled my head, Blessed/ Lucky/ Energised/Fulfilment/Motivated/Grateful/

Achievement! My family was as over the moon as I was about getting accepted to Saïd Business School. The reactions from other people to this news was fascinating. “You’ve spoken it into existence, you’ve walked the talk, how can we top this”; “You want to study at this age” on seeing my reaction it changed to “at this stage!”; “You’re a true inspiration”; “How did you get in”; “ How brave of you to challenge yourself”; “You’re so successful in what you’re doing, what is there for you to learn”.

With these words ringing in my ears I looked at the modules/the pre-reading/sessions and suddenly I had doubts… Had I stretched myself too far? “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.

Gifts from friends

More reality checks 10 days before I left. I realised I wasn’t going to Oxford alone, a whole community was going with me, my family/friends/colleagues/a 75-year-old uncle giving study tips! I was invited to Scholars’ breakfasts… I being the scholar; given gifts of a laptop bag, multicoloured ink pens, a pencil case, the person who makes coffee in the office presents me with 2 pens, ‘best of luck’ cakes being cut, ‘send-off’ dinners … I was suddenly in the middle of a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” scenario!! Everybody is involved… I’m not going to Saïd Business School alone, my entire community is with me! Embarrassed I say to them, it’s not a big deal but I’m shouted down with “You are our experience at Oxford… We can never even hope to go there…You are our eyes, ears to the Oxford experience… We will live Saïd Business School through you!”

How sweet is that and how much pressure is that!

The first session has surpassed all expectations. My group is a fantastic bunch of human beings, leaders from 31 countries around the globe working in diverse industries. At the first informal meeting, that was so thoughtfully organised by the school, someone said: “the microcosm of the world is in this pub”. Teachers have beautifully taken us out of our comfort zone, challenged our perspectives, forcing new thinking. It’s an intellectually stimulating and charged atmosphere in the classroom. And the best part for me, the people are the finest you can find.

I, now, have a more pressing problem than the upcoming exam… How do I describe this recent Oxford experience to my community waiting back home!!

Pembroke College Dinner

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