Carlos Filipe Duarte








Jan 2018 - Sep 2019

By Carlos Filipe Duarte

A single step

More than 2500 years ago, Laozi is reputed to have said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – this one started rather with a flurry of steps, akin to unsynchronised tap dancing.

The simple fact is that I did not plan or see this coming: when you start researching for an Executive MBA degree you read a lot of those who went before you, their year-long plans, their expectations and the overarching idea that this is the culmination of well-defined path. Not here – the year was going as it usually does, with its ups and downs and I was focused in doing the best engineering work possible, to meet my clients’ needs. I was also slowly taking over the management of the company (small family company, generational shift) when it struck me – I might be a pretty good engineer, but when it comes to management I am far from being on firm ground. The company is growing, the organisational problems growing with it and unless I wanted growth to stall, I needed to do something.

This was June and I just could not shake the idea out of my head. Research (a leftover habit from my PhD years) kicked in and I read and asked and discussed and after what seemed a long deliberation and was actually less than a month, decided I need to take a formally-structured course pertaining to management. This had to be a high quality course, fit into both my personal and professional schedule and had to be something that was both intellectually challenging and allow me to learn though interaction with peers.  This set of criteria narrowed it down to less than a dozen options and after going through the application and pre-acceptance processes (and one of the toughest decisions in my life), I decided on Oxford.

Why Oxford? Several reasons: I have lived in the UK, have family and friends there, am a bit of an anglophile but above all Oxford offers that which only of the eldest and most prestigious universities in the world can: a guarantee of excellence, grounded in a fertile past but always looking forward to the future.

So, back to the tap dancing – 6 months to get the company (and myself) ready for the planned absences and my extra work load. To get the last bureaucratic steps done, book the first trips and accommodation. And slowly getting to terms with the journey I am going to embark on, starting 2018. I am pretty sure Laozi’s thousand miles is an understatement – for me it will likely be the journey of a lifetime.

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