Aqila  Choudhry (EMBA 2017)

Aqila Choudhry

Aqila Choudhry completed the Leeds Executive MBA in 2017. In June 2017, she was awarded an MBE for Public and Political Service. 

Aqila has been very active in her local community, working in the social care sector for over 25 years. Her roles have included Chief Executive Officer, Non-Executive Director for a mental health and learning disability service Foundation Trust, Volunteers Manager, Trainer and many volunteering roles as Chair and Trustee of charities. She founded Love in Care in 2016, a care and support service for diverse communities with a variety of needs. 

Briefly describe your role and organisation, and why you decided to study for an EMBA?

My desire to study at the University dated back to over 10 years but time capacity due to professional and personal reasons prevented it from materialising. In 2012 I had been in my role for 12 years as Chief Executive at People In Action, a charity in Leeds supporting people with learning disabilities.  My role and responsibilities included overall leadership and development of the charity with a turnover of £800,000; over 100 employees; 70 volunteers; and over 400 customers supported in any given week.  Over my tenure I represented the Third Sector at various strategic meetings/Boards of Leeds City Council; coordinated Regional Networks on behalf of national strategic projects.  I also held the role of non-executive director at a Leeds Foundation Trust and lead NED for learning disabilities/diversity.

Although I was a confident leader and a representative I did not have a recognised qualification to confirm my abilities and experiences.  I was at a stage in my career where a change was desirable but I did not have the necessary tools to compete with peers with degrees. I felt a major gap in my professional development hence the exploration process started to identify the right degree.  Initially I had applied and was offered an unconditional place to study HR Masters. My rationale for that choice was that I had 25 years expertise of managing people.  Conversations with a HR specialist I realised that I had not made the right choice as I wanted to utilise all my skills and expertise and an internationally recognisable and transferable degree.

In order to assure myself that the time and financial investment into the degree I was to embark on was the right one for me.  I attended an introductory evening for the EMBA as I had serious concerns on my limited time availability and needed to hear how others created time and space to enjoy and complete their masters.  Hearing former students and the tutors strengthened my decision to pursue 

What has been the best part of your studies?  

My total career has been within the voluntary sector and with two employers.  I therefore enjoyed the opportunity to be amongst students from other sectors and positions within their organisations.  This was a totally invaluable aspect of the programme, it also created a platform to  network and develop lasting friendships in particular with an international student that has led to a wonderful friendship and visit to Jordan.

What have you enjoyed the most? 

I enjoyed the Live Challenges, and the opportunity to work in teams was a breath of fresh air, as until then I had led teams as part of my role and not been an equal contributor to a task. Visits related to the challenges were also a great opportunity to have insight into large corporate businesses that do not give access to their teams or premises to a lay person.  Therefore it was a humbling experience.

What has been your proudest achievement?  

The fact I have completed the EMBA. I am fulfilled and vastly more confident of my abilities than I was at the outset.  It is the increase in my confidence and self-assurance that led me to move from my role of Chief Executive and establish my own business, Love In Care, which is developing at an incredible pace.

How would describe your experience of the teaching and facilities?  

I have found the level of support and empathy from all the staff at the Business School to be incredibly empowering and assuring.  I was constantly reminded of my achievements to date and being given the opportunities to overcome some serious challenges in my personal and professional roles and not being written off.  

How do you think your MBA experience will impact your career and your organisation?

The impact is multi-fold.  The most fulfilling change is that my children and extended family have expressed their appreciation of my endeavour to complete the EMBA and that I have overcome the limitations of time capacity.

The MBA experience will last a lifetime, as it gave me the opportunity to consolidate my skills and experiences and learn others. It gave me drive to follow my heart and to establish my own business.  The impact on my former organisation is also positive as my departure created an opportunity for progression of a senior manager to fulfil the post of Chief Executive.  I only wish I had studied the MBA earlier in my career and followed the path that I am now pursuing of self-employment.