Taking time off work to do an MBA can be a real adventure.
Stepping out of your usual life and back into full-time education can be an exciting way to fast-track your career—but it’s not the best option for everyone.
Women in particular can be more reluctant than men to enrol on MBA courses.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), in 2016 women took 45% of MBA entrance exams administered worldwide, but many didn’t take the next step, as women were responsible for only 37% of full-time MBA applications.
This can be attributed to a number of factors. One is that women still do the majority of housekeeping and childcare; for working mothers, uprooting their lives to pursue education is not always possible.
For women who aren’t parents, there could be any number of reasons to be reluctant to take on the time-consuming full-time MBA—but that doesn’t mean that they’re barred from the benefits of business education entirely.
Peace Joseph is a chartered accountant and business adviser based in London. She knew she wanted to pursue business education, but she didn’t want to put her career on hold to do it.
She decided to upskill while still working, by starting her online MBA with Edinburgh Business School (EBS) at Heriot-Watt University.
“A couple of my friends suggested Edinburgh Business School to me, and one of them was actually on the MBA program at the time,” Peace recalls of the decision to enrol on to the school’s MBA.
“I decided to go ahead with it because of the ease of access and its ranking. If I could gain a degree from a reputable school, while still living and working in London, and without having to worry about relocation and all the associated costs, why not?”
Edinburgh Business School offers a number of options for students like Peace looking to pursue their studies on their own terms.
The whole program can be completed independently online, with one of the school’s learning partners, part-time at one of the Heriot-Watt’s international campuses in Edinburgh, Dubai, or Malaysia, or full-time at the university’s campus in Dubai.
Not to mention the school are actively engaged in making sure that women also get to feel the benefits of business education.
From a highly visible female figurehead in their dean, Professor Heather McGregor, to their support of the 30% Club—the campaign aiming to get more women into senior leadership positions in top companies—the school have made efforts to craft an encouraging environment for women business leaders, whether they’re studying on campus or not.
This supportive environment and suite of learning options worked well for Peace, who chose to study at one of the school’s learning partners in London. She says that it made the process of upskilling in her career much more convenient.
“I would have gone on with my MBA [even without flexible learning options],” she says, “but it would have required some sacrifice in another area—for example, I may have chosen another school, or put my career on hold.”
“It taught me to think strategically”
Instead of pressing pause on the other aspects of her life, Peace was able to learn new skills while still working, particularly in the area of strategy.
Project management, strategic planning and organizational behavior are all built into the school’s MBA core courses, with the option for students to expand their skills with electives on topics like ‘competitive strategy’ and ‘influence’.
In Peace’s mind, these skills have been an invaluable part of her career progression since graduating.
“The MBA taught me to think strategically, to focus on sustainability and longevity of the organization,” she says.
“It also taught me the ways to approach sustainability through leadership. I understand that people management, be it with consumers or employees, is essential to making the organization’s vision a reality.”
"It will shape your relationship with any business you associate with"
From successfully establishing a revenue-maximizing service within her accountancy practice, to improving productivity through training and development schemes, Peace has been proactive in applying what she’s learned to the company she’s working for—and her efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“Since the MBA, I have been promoted to a managerial role at my firm and I have been approached on several occasions for director-level roles externally,” Peace reports.
Far from putting her career on hold like a traditional MBA, the online-learning option has acted as an accelerator.
“The MBA has equipped me with strategic thinking and planning, adaptability, communication, and leadership skills, to name a few,” Peace asserts. “I have been empowered to achieve more at work.”
To other women considering distance learning as a means to kick their careers into high-gear without having to make a pit-stop on the way, she is enthusiastically encouraging.
“I say to any and every woman in the professional world looking to keep achieving, an MBA will add to your skills arsenal,” she says.
“Seize the available learning options at your disposal—it will set you apart and shape your relationship with any business you associate with.”