Three months ago, I embarked on a journey that I wouldn’t have considered if not for COVID-19: go to Oxford.

Okay, not physically go to Oxford University but take their six-week intensive management course online called the Oxford Said Women’s Leadership Program. It’s designed for senior managers and C-suite female executives who want to take their leadership skills to the next level, mindful of the gender bias that persists in many organisations.

The course was a major expense but the pandemic had made me question whether I was adequately equipped to lead my team. It wasn’t so much the work-from-home situation but the mental anxiety that plagued all of us with a deadly virus at our doorsteps.

My little quibble was the cost. The course fee wasn’t cheap. But then to put it in context, a millennial with a couple of solid side-hustles can easily afford it. It would be like buying a Channel handbag or two.

And while it was available online through an education platform called 'Getsmarter', the standard of the reading material befits the university. It was as if you were attending the class because all the tutors and professors you would interact with are all from the university.

Two weeks on since I completed the programme, I can definitely say that it was worth every cent and I encourage any Aussie-Pinays who are keen to take on a senior management role at some point in their career to take this programme or something similar. Here are my key takeaways:

  • The programme was well thought out and had a strong focus on self-awareness and self-acceptance. As women and as migrants, I think we definitely need to have time to reflect on how we perceive ourselves versus how others perceive us. Be warned that you might not like some of the feedback but, on the upside, you’ll be surprised how much your cultural traits as a Filipino is appreciated in your organisation.

  • I thought I would need to allocate four to six hours each week to complete the weekly modules and the assignments. I was wrong. To get the most out of the course, expect to spend at least eight to 12 hours to go through the group discussions and optional reading. Like everything else in life, the more you put in, the more you get. My advice is to remove something from your weekly schedule to make space for this course if you plan to take it.

  • Leadership comes in many colours and intensity. It sounds obvious but up until I took this course, I didn’t realise that you can dial down or dial up your power and influence within an organisation. It’s not a static situation where you’re either a good leader or not. An effective leader knows when to be accommodating and flexible, and when to give decisive directions. This course will give you the foundational theory to explore this concept and one day acquire the skill to switch from being a ‘coach’ to being a ‘director’, if you like.

  • The networking opportunities are amazing. You will come across at least a handful of people who work outside your sector or maybe on the other side of the world. Treasure this new-found friendships.

  • By the end of the program, you’ll be able to carve out a career development plan. You’ll also find out if you need a career coach and the different types of coaching out there. You will also know more about mentor-mentee relationships and seek a career ‘sponsor’.

The most important take-away for me is that learning leadership ‘on the job’ is one thing but there are enormous benefits from taking a step back and finding out the latest thinking in this field.

So here I am, with no Channel or Yves Saint Laurent bag to my name, but a lot wiser since I took the course.

If you want to take your career a notch higher, consider taking a leadership program in 2022 as part of your new year’s resolution.

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