- Course: Executive MBA
- Year of graduation: 2017
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Chair
- Company: Upper Calder Valley Renaissance
How did you hear about Leeds University Business School and why did you choose to study here?
I used internet research to inform my choice of applications. I chose to apply for Leeds University Business School because it has an excellent reputation. I also needed to be able to do a part-time MBA and Leeds was a convenient location for me to do so.
Tell us about your course – why did you choose it? What elements of the course inspired you to study here?
The course so far has provided opportunities to reflect on my management and leadership skills. My ‘mission statement’ to the cohort on day one was that “I believe you can still teach old dogs new tricks”. The most inspiring elements until now have been the Strategic Management and Organisational Behaviour modules for their practical insights as to how an organisation and its leadership can fail, survive, turnaround or grow in any given sector.
Having completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies over 25 year ago I had often considered returning to study for an MBA. But as I became self-employed running several small businesses since then, I saw no real advantage in, or need for that level of strategic thinking or skill sets in the type of businesses I ran. (I may have been wrong!) I have now come to do an MBA later in life, as I am the Chair of a social enterprise which has ambitions to grow and be totally self-sufficient rather than grant reliant.
I believe that whilst many third sector organisations have no shortage of willing trustees or directors, they run the risk of failure by not up-skilling their boards. I decided that I should practice what I preach and at least try to give my organisation with the best possible chance of success that I can provide. I think I was drawn to the course in Leeds as the structure seemed similar to my previous management studies, but also as much for the great opportunities to network locally (West Yorkshire) and build corporate to third sector relationships.
Did you receive a scholarship to study here? If yes, why did you apply for the scholarship and why do you think you were successful? What did it mean to you to receive it and how did it help you?
Unfortunately for me a previously available full scholarship for third sector applicants was no longer available. I did receive a part scholarship which I applied for simply because, unlike younger colleagues working in the corporate sector, it is unlikely that I will see a substantial increase in earnings over time to recoup the cost of the course. However, getting the part scholarship made the difference in being able to do the MBA for me, and will hopefully benefit my organisation too. In any case I believe that (except in cases of extreme hardship), where individuals can afford to pay something towards their studies, they will value the learning opportunity more and may well be better motivated to succeed.
I can’t be sure why I was successful in gaining part funding, I would hope the Business School still sees some merit in supporting more mature students to improve their ability to use their life skills more strategically.
What has been the best part of your studies – what have you enjoyed the most?
I enjoyed doing my first assignment and getting a reasonable mark was a confidence builder. Working in a team exercise was a challenge after self-employment for many years but it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
What are your career aspirations? Do you think the experience and skills you’ve gained here so far have helped you in your career plans? In what way?
As already mentioned I am at an age where personal career options are not the main motivator and in any case are limited by time! That said retirement age is not a barrier to third sector directorships. Many of my colleagues in community work are in their late 60s and 70s and providing excellent counsel and experience to boards.
My ‘career’ motivations are clearly different from most of the cohort but I think that’s OK, as doing an MBA doesn’t just have to be about financial and professional advancement. The knowledge and enhanced skillsets can be applied for community and social benefit, which is just as valid and can be equally rewarding. An MBA provides a skillset that is designed to help run an organisation better. Whether one gets paid more or not is not what motivates me at this stage of working life. I am motivated and still ambitious, but perhaps not for what might motivate a typical MBA student. An MBA is a learning opportunity but it can also be a consolidating experience for those who have many years of business experience.
How has your career progressed since joining the Business School? Have there been any notable highlights?
I am more actively making speeches and presentations representing my organisation.
Where are you currently working, and what is your role?
I currently still run my own ‘lifestyle’ business (a guesthouse). But I chair a board of directors running the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Company. A social enterprise which establishes task groups, supports community groups and businesses with project expertise. It links groups along a 14 mile valley in 4 towns to enable shared experiences in similar social and community projects.
Do you have any noteworthy achievements from your study at the Business School that you can tell us about? e.g. prizes, highest scores etc.
Not directly related to my studies, but I was very honoured to be a runner up in the Student Impact Awards for the Community Impact section. “For a student who has demonstrated outstanding impact on the community through volunteering for charitable causes, fund raising or engagement with sustainability issues”. This was related to my work setting up a business flood recovery team, establishing a longer-term strategic view to plan for the economic recovery from serious flooding affecting the Calder Valley in December 2015.
What has been your experience of the facilities, the staff, your peers, the city of Leeds and the Yorkshire region?
The venue for the Executive MBA tuition (Weetwood Hall) has been excellent. The Business School staff are extremely helpful and supportive, especially recognising that mature students, who have been away from studies for many years, can find the return to academic life a shock to the system.
There is a significant age gap between myself and many of my peers, and I might have expected some to wonder why Leeds University Business School would let this near pensioner on their Executive MBA. However, everyone has been understanding of my motives and accepted me as they would anyone else. Likewise I fully understand their personal and professional motivations and support them in their aims.
Are there any experiences outside of your studies that you have particularly enjoyed? e.g. participation in extra-curricular activities or groups, nightlife, the region’s historic places of interest.
I have been to a number of interesting Net Impact events which are a great place to network, learn about alumni progress and share ambitions. When I left school at 16 in Bedfordshire, I worked for Hepworths Tailoring, a Leeds based company and I was sent to Leeds on a Cadet Management course c.1974. So I was really pleased to recently discover the Leeds Gallery putting on a display of the city’s tailoring history. It was great reliving my early working experience and management training here.
Who would have thought I’d be back over 40 years later still trying to improve my management skills!
Would you recommend the Business School to others who are considering studying here?
I would certainly recommend Leeds University Business School to anyone involved in the third sector either in a career or as a trustee. The sector is growing rapidly, it needs MBA level up-skilling, but I fear there will still be few takers due to lack of financial support from the sector for willing individuals like myself. This might present an opportunity for our more enlightened corporates to partner an organisation and/or sponsor the third sector to up-skill as it plays a more important role in our economy?
That is something I may well take up as an ‘alternative MBA’ (Mission in Business Accord!).