Clive Phelps is the Head of Programmes at Virgin Media Business and is studying for his MBA at the Open University Business School. Clive discusses Virgin’s employee culture and how he manages to fit his MBA around a full-time job.
Clive has lived in Reading, England all his life. The 41 year-old “left school with not a lot and went and did an apprenticeship with the Ministry of Defence and became an engineer.” He started as an apprentice and ended up as Operations and Maintenance manager.
Having completed an undergraduate degree with the Open University in computing, management and communications, he found his career moving towards management in the telecommunications industry.
The realisation came that to progress in his career Clive would have to do an MBA. “I had done six years with the Open University before, I knew their study models, their online resources and quality of the texts.”
Virgin Media partially fund Clive’s MBA, “it is a very people-centred company which is supportive of our careers. There is a sponsorship policy in place at Virgin, you have to make a business case for yourself showing what you do, where your career is going and why doing the course would be useful. If you are successful you are put onto a study contract where you get extra study days and Virgin will pay for your books. They do expect you to pass your course though!”
After finishing his MBA Clive will be contractually obliged to stay at Virgin Media but Clive is happy with this. “Virgin are so people centred and there are lots of opportunities and initiatives. The talent pool offers additional opportunities. When Virgin see people doing an MBA in their free time developing themselves, I think they see that you are worth spending time and effort on developing.”
Last year Clive completed the diploma in management and is now half way through technology based courses working towards his specialist MBA in technology management.
In his role as Head of Programmes Clive is in charge of the delivery of capital investment projects, looking for new ways in which his department should be spending their “portion of the multi-million pound investment that Virgin makes in its products every year.” Recent successful deliveries which were significant investments included cloud computing and a range of security projects, which are vital for the government, public and private sectors.
With three kids and a full time job, Clive says that finding the time to get everything done can be difficult; “it takes a lot of tenacity. You have to come home at night, have dinner, put your kids to bed and then hit the books for a couple of hours a night, five nights a week. I always have my books on me and have downloaded my books in PDF form. Whether I am in the doctors waiting room, on the train, on my lunch-break or taking my daughter to the ballet, I grab every spare minute otherwise I wouldn’t be able to keep on top of it.”
The isolation of not being a full-time MBA student is broken up by the monthly tutorials which are “very intense but insightful”. And the online computer system allows students to connect.
A very busy man, Clive says that what he has learnt at Virgin is that Richard Branson’s motto to put the Virgin people first works. “It creates a skilled and motivated workforce who are happy and therefore you deliver the best possible service for customers.”