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MBA Applicant Voice: Female Chief Executive Banks On Online MBA

Catherine Spencer wants to study an online MBA program while living abroad with her husband, who is an officer in the British Army, while potentially launching her own business.

Compiled by Alice Riley.
Catherine Spencer is the chief executive of the Army Families Federation (AFF), representing Army families across a range of sectors. She is also considering beginning an online MBA degree.
Catherine tells BusinessBecause how she managed to juggle her career, motherhood and being married to an Army Officer at the same time – and gives us an insight into her thought process when researching MBA programs. 
What did you study for your undergraduate degree, and where?
I studied a BA Hons in History and Anthropology proceeding onto a Post Grad Diploma in Research Methodology, both at Oxford Brookes University.
How has you career progressed since then?
I was an IPC Media graduate trainee, and gained an excellent background in publishing. After that I took a substantial eight-year career break to bring up our three daughters, during which time I did extensive voluntary work to keep my CV current. 
My situation was more complicated because I am married to an Army Officer – [we were] posted to various places around the world. I managed to get back on the career ladder during a posting to Cyprus where I became a publicity officer for an education centre. 
I have spent the last six years working for the Army Families Federation on their executive management team, starting off as a director in Germany and then moving back to the UK to be their director of communications before becoming chief executive. 
What made you consider beginning an MBA program?
I have a great deal of experience, but I am hoping that an MBA will consolidate all of that into a globally recognised qualification. I have a heavy schedule at present, and look forward to having time to study properly.
Do you plan to study full-time or part-time, and why? 
I will study full time – I am used to a very busy schedule, so will want to ensure that I am stretched. 
I may however consider starting a business while overseas. So if I can find a flexible course which allows you to pace the work that may suit me too. 
Which business schools you are considering?
I am considering Warwick, Durham, Bradford, Henley and the Open University. 
What are the main factors you will consider when choosing a business school?
How it performs in the league tables, salary percentage increase and course content. How a business perceives a school’s value is important too.
Why are you considering an online MBA?
Simple – I will be living overseas for two years accompanying my husband to an assignment in a developing nation. It's too good an opportunity to miss in terms of experiencing another culture, but the MBA will allow me to demonstrate that I have used my career break usefully. 
I will be doing some structured volunteering at the same time.
Are you concerned that you may miss out on face-to-face networking opportunities?
Yes – of course. But I may well choose a course with some face-to-face opportunities. However, I am fortunate that in my current role I have a pretty impressive network, and I will be able to extend my global network while overseas.
What methods are you using to research business schools?
Online methods, and I am using the FT league table. 


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