Victoria Richardson-Burton has worked in the creative space for her entire professional life. She’s always wanted to do an MBA. But none of the MBA programs she’s ever come across have been directly applicable to her work.
Until June last year. Just hours after packing up a mud-soaked tent at Glastonbury Festival, she jumped on a train to London to attend an introductory session on Ashridge Executive Education’s new Executive MBA for the Creative Industries.
“That was one of the most bizarre contrasts I’ve ever experienced!” she laughs. “All the MBAs I’ve ever looked at have been very much focused on the business and finance-side,” she explains. “The Ashridge EMBA was the first one that that was specifically tailored to what I do.”
Endorsed by leading creative organizations such as Channel 4 and digital studio, The Imaginarium, Ashridge’s EMBA for the Creative Industries is helping media executives deal with the rise of disruptive new technologies.
The two-year, blended learning program covers all aspects of a traditional EMBA – strategy, economics, finance, marketing, and leadership – but with a consistent focus on the creative space. It combines online learning with four residential weeks focusing on personal and leadership development.
Victoria, who works as digital development manager for a leading UK gas distributor, joined the EMBA’s first intake in October 2016.
“At executive level, the creative side of things is often regarded as a very soft subject, not integral to the way an organization operates,” she says.
“But it is increasingly integral, and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. Ashridge’s EMBA is good for the whole credibility of the sector.”
Ashridge’s Executive MBA for the Creative Industries also marks a trend away from the generalist MBA programs of the past. In GMAC’s latest applicant trends report, the growth of applications to specialized Master’s programs outstrips that of more traditional generalist courses.
Only three months in to her specialized EMBA, Victoria already feels more confident in her job.
“The EMBA has given me the tools to help justify the decisions we want to make, and to demonstrate the value of what we’re doing,” she says. “It’s equipped me very well. It’s given me a new language to talk to people in, and it’s helping me develop new strategies and do better long-term planning.
“It’s also given me the opportunity to look at what different companies are doing outside the utilities sector, and get inspiration,” she continues. “That only benefits the company I work for.”
The new EMBA is for experienced professionals – including freelancers, business owners, or entrepreneurs - working in the creative sector. Applicants require a minimum of three years’ work experience plus a bachelor’s degree, or a minimum of five years’ work experience without a degree. The course costs £32,500 ($40,000) plus VAT. Ashridge offers a variety of scholarships to self-funded candidates.
“When I first arrived, I thought I’d be ending up with all these frightening millennials on skateboards!” Victoria smiles. “That’s not the case. There’s a real diverse mix of people - from TV and film, music, animation, advertising, from the US and mainland Europe – and we spark off each other.”
Victoria ran her own online marketing company before 2008’s financial crisis. She’s seen how digital disruption has swept the creative industries, bringing about greater diversity and inclusion. Now, even executives in the least creative industries are having to adapt.
“Ten years ago, if the gas was off in your street you’d get a card through the door, go to a friend’s house, and cross your fingers,” she says. “Now, people expect to be updated regularly on their smartphones. Everybody demands to have information at their fingertips. And the bar is getting set higher and higher.”
“Ashridge’s EMBA gives you the confidence to stand up and make a case for the creative side,” she continues. “It enables you to engage at the top levels of business on an equal ground.”
Visit the program page to find out more.