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Alastair Pike

Degree:

Diploma in Strategy and Innovation

Location:

United Kingdom

Industry:

Financial services

Year:

2020

By Alastair Pike

Transformational, energising and inspirational: my experience studying the Diploma in Strategy and Innovation

My journey with Saïd Business School began one autumnal evening in 2014 when I visited the School to attend an Executive Diplomas Open Evening.

Listening to the academics animatedly discussing the programme, the alumni sharing their own experiences and what they had gone on to achieve, I knew there was a place for me there. Out of the School’s five Executive Diplomas, it was the Oxford Diploma in Strategy and Innovation that stood out for me the most and directly matched my career aspirations.

If you’re looking to develop and enhance your digital, organisational transformation skills, then this is definitely for you. The programme also addresses the key trends that all organisations are encountering amidst accelerating changes in technology dynamics, market evolution and organisational capabilities – including processes and culture. These 3 interdependent foundations are vital for gaining a competitive advantage in a ‘High Tech’ world. The ‘T-M-O framework’ taught on the programme directly addresses all 3 foundations and the creation of a ‘virtuous cycle’ for transformation.

I applied to the programme as soon as I could accommodate the schedule alongside my professional and personal commitments.

My top four highlights

It’s fair to say that it is a challenge to condense the Diploma into a shortlist of highlights, but here are my top four in no particular order:

The programme cohort

My programme cohort were, and of course still are, a truly amazing group of individuals. They are all world-class and super sharp in their respective fields: they come from literally all walks of life all over the world. We were a group of equals who shared a commitment to development and a passion for lifelong learning. A group that consolidated and strengthened our close bonds into an unbreakable spirit, despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. The mutual support during that time is something I’ll never forget.

The Oxford experience

Of course, I must give a mention to the inspirational backdrop that is the University of Oxford. You hear students and alumni talking about this ‘Oxford experience’ but that really does encapsulate what it’s like and the feeling you get when studying there. Oxford is a magical and inspirational setting for studying the Diploma and not something you could match anywhere else.

The ability to experience the colleges and the unique culture of Oxford University has been a privilege and an honour that will stay with me forever. Highlights include the ability to debate a motion in the Oxford Union, facilitated by the Oxford Union President and with an audience of around 150 people, and the opportunity to experience a college dinner.

The study experience

One of the truly unique aspects about studying at Oxford Saïd is the blend of academic rigour, commercial acuity and entrepreneurial spirit. Yes, it’s Oxford and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is just all about 800 years of educational excellence. But the Business School itself is cutting-edge, contemporary, and entrepreneurial. If Oxford is rooted in tradition, then its business school is rooted in the modern day. This winning combination of traditional academic focus with an energetic, current business focus permeates throughout the whole study experience, from the fascinating pre-reading to lively class discussions and animated teaching style.

Research, rigour and real-life resonance

Saïd Business School, and the University of Oxford more broadly, is a unique melting pot of academic research, intellectual rigour and ideas with real-life resonance. The whole experience is carefully curated to nurture and cross-fertilise different perspectives from a range of backgrounds, enabling you to distill best practices from other industries and apply them in your own organisation. That creativity is innovation in action.

Achieving my ambitions

During the programme, I became increasingly convinced that I needed to change job and reinvigorate my career. The Diploma was a driving force for me, and the business vision and career plans that I had begun to form in my mind really started firming up through my interactions with my cohort peers, the Saïd team and the learnings that I was gaining from the modules. This ended up being the impetus for my Final Integrative Assignment (FIA), and I decided to specifically focus on a FinTech Innovation Ecosystem for my employer at the time. Fast forward to December 2021 and I secured a new job with a scaling FinTech – a career move that I have been targeting for seven years. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for so long – to join a FinTech company and help scale it – and achieving this ambition can be directly attributed to my experiences and learnings from the Diploma in Strategy and Innovation and my cohort.

The programme has enabled me to develop the ability to identify and translate nascent technical ideas and innovations into commercially viable breakthroughs, whilst also driving the necessary organisational and cultural changes. It has helped me to fully appreciate and model a visionary ‘ecosystem’ for my organisation, then deliver it in a way that wins the hearts and minds of my stakeholders and benefits all participants – the ultimate ‘Win-Win’ model for any scaling organisation.

In my previous organisation, I could only gain traction with the Mergers & Acquisitions and Innovation teams as the company wasn’t ready to take the leap of faith required to transform its market and competitive position. In my new organisation, I will be able to pragmatically apply all the skills and knowledge picked up through the Diploma to effect meaningful change, drive growth and make a real difference.

The journey continues

So, what’s next?

On a personal level, the cohort peers that I met, studied, and networked with during the Diploma in Strategy and Innovation will remain lifelong friends and sources of inspiration. It’s also been immensely gratifying to see my peers continuing to build on their very successful careers, whilst balancing this with their family and personal life. From a professional perspective, the close-knit network that we’ve established is already producing countless opportunities to collaborate on innovation initiatives, business partnerships and new start-ups in the future. I am certain that we will continue to keep in touch, use each other as a sounding board for ideas and meet up at every opportunity. The network is priceless from a personal and professional perspective.

If you’re reading my story and thinking about whether to study the Diploma in Strategy and Innovation, then definitely do it! I hope that by sharing my experience, other people will feel encouraged to set their sights and heart on something and to go for it, just like I did. It is one of the best investments you could ever make.

Find out more about the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation.

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