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How An Online MBA Helped Me Swap The Army For A Career With The UK’s Leading Rail Network

Pete Donovan used the 100%-Online MBA from Birmingham Business School to transition back into civilian life


Mon Mar 19 2018

Transitioning from the Army into civilian life has its challenges. For Pete Donovan, who spent nine years as a British Army officer in the Corps of Royal Engineers—where he served on operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan—it meant seeking out a different set of skills to kick-start his new career.

After leaving the Army, he landed a role as a program manager as part of an apprenticeship scheme for the UK’s leading rail network, before working his way up to his current role as an area services manager.

Working his way up the career ladder required the augmentation of a specific set of skills; skills he went in search of on the Online MBA at the University of Birmingham’s Business School—the world’s first 100%-Online MBA to receive accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

“Several of my colleagues and friends had either completed an MSc or an MBA and, following various discussions and some advice, I felt that an MBA would be beneficial for both personal development and my career,” says Pete.


He adds that his experience in the Army taught him the fundamentals of leadership, emotional intelligence, and operational planning.

But, as he began his career outside of the armed forces, he quickly realized that his business skills were lagging, especially in areas like finance and marketing. “The MBA syllabus and the course learning outcomes were exactly what I was looking for to bridge the gap,” he explains.

Looking to progress within the rail industry, Pete knew that the Online MBA from the University of Birmingham’s Business School—awarded the Queens Anniversary Prize for outstanding work in rail for public benefit, and the 12th largest railway and education center in Europe—was well placed to ensure that happened.

Through the fortnightly live sessions on the Online MBA from Birmingham Business School, Pete connected with tutors, lecturers, and groups of other students from all around the globe in an interactive learning environment—by studying online students can translate their learning directly into their quotidian work.

The company Pete works for has been reclassified as a public-sector company, resulting in an increase in pressure to deliver value for money, increase productivity, and deliver to customers.

“An MBA is useful within this context,” he explains, “as the theoretical learning can be applied to rail maintenance activity, delivering operational efficiencies and increased output.”

He cites the case study work on the Operations Management module as particularly useful, being able to apply the theoretical knowledge in a practical setting immediately. “I have utilized the learning from this module to great effect, [by] analyzing the capacity of our remote conditioning monitoring system,” he says.

Working within an industry that is “experiencing an exponential rise” in customers correlates to less time for routine maintenance, thus making it imperative that jobs are done right the first time—Pete adds that “technological innovation [also] features heavily as the mechanism for delivering improved rail performance.”

The quick-fire change in nature of the rail industry, and others like it, means having the knowledge of the Online MBA from Birmingham Business School on hand to apply directly is vital.

Constantly innovating as a workforce prevails as the key to prosperity. “We must improve the productivity and skills of our people to deliver a truly world class service,” Pete says.

For anyone considering the Online MBA from Birmingham Business School, Pete has some simple advice.

“Think about how the learning can be applied to your business as it makes the subjects more relevant and enjoyable,” he says.

“Work hard and engage with your peers, especially during group projects—you can use the subject matter to benefit your business if it is applied carefully.”

Student Reviews

Birmingham Business School - University of Birmingham




On Campus

An amazing experience

Great, knowledgeable faculty with a beautiful campus. Lots of societies and clubs to choose from in accordance with your interest. One can also discover scholarship opportunities here. The course is perfectly designed and the career services at the uni are very helpful




On Campus

The beautiful campus and teaching expertise.

Overall the University of birmingham is just an incredible institution. From the array of expertise teachings and how phenomenal the campus is definitely enhances its beauty and is enriched with the amazing resources and incredible people that are always willing to help and make you feel welcomed everywhere you go. I would 100% recommend the University of Birmingham to be one of the best universities out there and through not only the various courses that they offer but all the social societies definitely adds to the fun and great opportunities that it provides




On Campus

Exceptional Support for international Students

Exceptional Support for International Students As an international student, my experience at the University of Birmingham has been nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to the outstanding support provided for international students. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the exceptional support I've received during my time here. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that UoB prioritizes the well-being and success of its international students. Here are some key aspects of the support I've received: 1. Orientation Programs: The university's comprehensive orientation programs helped me acclimate to campus life, navigate administrative processes, and understand the academic system. I never felt lost or overwhelmed, thanks to the informative sessions and friendly staff. 2. Academic Advising: The academic advisors for international students are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable. They assisted me in creating a personalized academic plan, selecting courses, and understanding degree requirements. Their guidance ensured that I stayed on the right track academically. 3. Language Support: UoB offers exceptional language support services, including English language courses and conversation partners. These resources were invaluable in improving my language skills and building confidence in my communication abilities. 4. Cultural Integration: The university fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, making it easy for international students to feel like part of the community. There are numerous cultural clubs, events, and workshops that allow us to connect with fellow students and celebrate our diverse backgrounds. 5. Mental Health and Counseling Services: Recognizing the challenges that international students may face, the university provides excellent mental health and counseling services. It's comforting to know that support is available when needed, and these services are respectful of cultural differences. 6. Career Services: UoB offers exceptional career services tailored to international students. From resume workshops to job fairs, they've been instrumental in helping me prepare for my career post-graduation. The university's strong network of alumni has also been a valuable resource. 7. Visa and Immigration Assistance: Navigating the complexities of visa and immigration regulations can be daunting, but the university's dedicated staff provided guidance and assistance throughout the process. Their expertise made the experience seamless. 8. Housing Support: Securing suitable housing can be a challenge for international students, but the university offers assistance in finding on-campus housing options with flexible payments. This support ensured that I had a safe and comfortable place to live. 9. Financial Aid and Scholarships: UoB offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students. Their commitment to making education accessible is commendable, they also provide financial support for graduation through the guild of students.




On Campus

student experience

I highly recommend the University of Birmingham. I think the school environment is very friendly to international students. I was able to get guidance and help from students in the school. I was also able to get support and guidance from the professional team on my career path. I would recommend the University of Birmingham to first-time international students and Masters students.




On Campus

There is always somebody to help!

The university respects the culture and background of their highly diverse student. It carters to everybody's need and puts its student first. It tries to the make the student feel at home and helps them deal with the university life.




On Campus


I love studying Pharmacy at Birmingham and would absolutely recommend it, especially because of the variety in every aspect of the course. Firstly, the variety of people you meet from all areas around the country, and even countless others from outside the country. Each person has a different background and experiences creating a melting pot of personalities to interact with. Next, the lessons - there are numerous types of lessons we encounter on a weekly basis from lectures to dissections to a computer workshops. Additionally, specific to medical degrees, I have 7 placements annually in hospital, community, and GP pharmacies. The only lack of variety in the pharmacy course is the classrooms since there are limited number we can use and the medical school is separate from the main campus. The only part I don't enjoy about pharmacy is the distances and unreliability of public transport in Birmingham. Living in the vale, the university is a long 25-minute walk away and my closest shop is over 10-20 minutes to walk. Although there are closer accommodations, I really love my flat with its modern decor, large room, and social aspect of the shared kitchen.




On Campus

Experience at University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham has been an outstanding university. They have provided complete support during COVID-19. The university is incredible when accessing support with mental health. I currently study criminology at the university of Birmingham. The course has been brilliant, with constant support from lectures and tutors to ensure that you achieve the best grade possible. I could not recommend University of Birmingham more!




On Campus


Great campus for studying with kind and professional staff and the campus is very well connected to the city center. There were so many people who wanted to enroll in the course that they had to queue for a new course for six months in advance. The classes were always crowded, but the professors never let anyone through. I love this uni




On Campus

A very welcoming uni

This university is regarded as one of the best in the world. They provide a welcoming environment that enhances the lives of the students because each one of them has a sense of community and a desire to study.

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