Rufat Azizov






Steel Manufacturing


Jan 2019 - Sept 2020

By Rufat Azizov

Cutting-edge entrepreneurial school in a castle of science

I prefer ancient universities with traditions, values and buildings with thick walls. But sometimes it is difficult to imagine the modern skills of a rapidly changing world in old castles.

Before going to study the EMBA program at Saïd Business School, Oxford University, I imagined high profile teachers, real networking, learning and sharing opportunities. The first week exceeded all my expectations and besides that, I attended a lot of unexpected inspirational events. The first week in Oxford was full of fresh information and awareness related to networking, leadership, entrepreneurship, colleges, libraries, the careers centre, unions, clubs and great peer communications.

High profile teachers. Sessions by world-class faculty were very interactive, dynamic, funny and exploratory. Using their massive practitioner experience and knowledge they have managed to devise highly energetic lectures, engaging all participants to contribute and share their point of view. Design of case study games was very similar to real crisis management situations. It is hard to refresh knowledge in analytics with all those dispersions, regressions, formulas, extrapolations and many deep math and algebra elements, but the traditional and real mathematician made that class easily and amazingly understandable.

Networking opportunities. Nowadays, a lot of events, books, articles, postcards and social media resources exist regarding networking. It is popular to talk and write about networking. I also read some books about that, even tried to set up my own networking events. But networking during the one week in Oxford with 69 professionals from more than 30 different nationalities around the world was unparalleled, having no equal and the best in terms of quality. It was great to meet people with different backgrounds, life and careers, with different strengths and competencies, various points of view and from diversified environments.

Learning and sharing. Individual and teamwork contributions and supportiveness to each other has established a very friendly group environment from the first week and I guess it will bring lifelong connections. Some of them were good at project management, some in drawing pictures, some in finance, some in engineering, some in speaking, some in reading, and some in listening, some of them were specialists and some generalists, and some even feminists; all these variations created a very diversified group in terms of expertise and personalities. All of us were keen to share and learn from each other.

It is good when events exceed your expectations, but it is amazing when you also get surprising events. I thought the EMBA course was likely to be sessions of lectures and seminars, high quality teachers and networking with peers from different industries. But I hadn’t really supposed the program would push me into full Oxford life, including the traditional matriculation ceremony, high table dinners in an ancient building with Oxford-style dressing, College parties, the Careers Center, Oxford Union and many entrepreneurship centers.

Oxford Experience. The first week was full of this expression. But it is not easy to define what the Oxford experience is, it is not easy to understand by reading or listening about it, you need to live it to fulfil its real definition emotionally. For me, the Oxford experience is where traditions integrate with modern knowledge. Where students meet and network in traditional ceremonies, events and high table dinners in ancient buildings in black suits. It is not only about style or good-looking attire, but it is about traditions, values and respect. To be a member of one of the Oxford Colleges is also part of the Oxford tradition. Each college again has its own traditions and history. Colleges create opportunity to meet students from different backgrounds and discuss innovative ideas. For example, finance and chemistry students can share, discuss and even start a new project together. Colleges are an amazing environment for interdisciplinary start-ups or joint projects. It was also interesting to hear that the college defends you against the business school when you are in trouble regarding discipline, academic results or any other issue related to your education.

Career and Entrepreneurship Centres. The real importance of these two was also unexpected during the application to the EMBA at Oxford. But having them creates real opportunities for career progress and improving entrepreneurship skills. The career centre’s general and individual approach was appreciated. You can choose a professional from an area of your expertise and the center will organise a face-to-face mentorship interview for you. The list of professional coaches was very attractive, full of various industry specialists, entrepreneurs and social media stars. Being an entrepreneur it was amazing to have access to many entrepreneur centers and clubs offered by the Entrepreneur Centre at SBS. Here are some of them: Skoll Centre for social entrepreneurship, Oxford Foundry, Oxford University Innovation Centre, Oxford Science Innovation and Oxford Entrepreneurship Forum. Oxford creates many opportunities for its students, but how to effectively use them depends on the students.

Excellency in student services. Actually, one of the reasons for choosing Oxford EMBA was the friendly response of SBS staff to all emails and information requests. It was nice to see the same approach during the first week. I am very busy with all my daily routines and projects in work life, beside that I need to spend time with family, so it is impossible to pay my whole attention to the technical preparation details of the program. The SBS staff made life easy for me, all questions regarding IT, books, libraries, unions and more were resolved before even asking. For example, in the preparation list I could not find the book for the analytics session, it was not available online and I wondered how I could get it. But when that book was required, it was on my table before the analytics course, so I had not even had a chance to ask. It was the same thing with IT staff, lockers, rooms and other resources. The friendly EMBA services and SBS staff were very sensitive to any request from students and you will always get a satisfactory response.

It was only my first week and we are already looking forward to another 15 upcoming valuable modules to study, to network and to enjoy life.

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