To expand her professional horizons without having to sacrifice her family commitments, she turned toward an online MBA—enrolling in the Distance Learning MBA program at Warwick Business School (WBS).
The flexibility of the program facilitated her entrepreneurial ambitions, and she’s now heading two successful companies in consulting and cybersecurity.
Choosing a flexible program
Although she loved her senior manager role at oil and gas services company Schlumberger, which allowed her to travel all around the world, Alison eventually arrived at a stage in her career where she felt she needed something new.
But she was worried that after almost 20 years at the same company in a specialized sector, her profile wouldn’t be particularly interesting. “I was at a crossroads, because I wasn't really sure how marketable I was in the mainstream and outside of the organization,” she recalls.
An MBA seemed like the perfect solution. It would allow Alison to learn new skills, consolidate her existing expertise, and explore different aspects of business.
But she knew she wouldn’t be able to commit to a face-to-face program, as she was still working full-time and had to look after her two kids when her husband was working overseas.
While looking into online programs, a friend of hers recommended the Distance Learning MBA at Warwick Business School, which is ranked first in the world by the Financial Times’ Online MBA Ranking 2021.
“I just thought, ‘Right, let’s do it, let's just put in the application form. If it's meant to be, it will,” Alison says. She got accepted, and started the program in 2019.
Building a global network online
At first, Alison was apprehensive about how isolating the experience of online study might be. But she was pleasantly surprised by how virtual connections were built into the program.
Through immersive group projects and interactive lectures, the Warwick online MBA connects students from all over the world, allowing them to meet people that they would have probably never crossed paths with.
The online MBA cohort not only interacts on the WBS online learning platform, but also has a variety of WhatsApp groups on different topics, where members can share job opportunities and ask questions.
Sometimes, Alison even gets to meet her classmates in real life when traveling. “You can say, ‘Hey, I'm going to be in Doha over the weekend, does anyone there want to catch up? ‘“ she says. “It's just really nice to have this big global network of people that you have this commonality with, and everyone's so helpful and supportive.”
Launching an entrepreneurial career
Alison also became much more confident in her business acumen over the course of the MBA.
She was able to refine the management skills she already had and expand her knowledge on strategy, for which she discovered a real knack.
It became clear to her that her 18-year experience with a multinational firm in roles including HR, operations, sales, and technology management, combined with the new strategic thinking and technical skills she was learning during the MBA, would be valuable to businesses.
“While I was doing the MBA, I kind of realized that, yes, I am saleable, and I do have credentials that are of interest outside of oil and gas and district,” she says.
So, she decided to create her own management consulting company to use this expertise to help others.
The flexibility of the program—which allows students to watch archived sessions and access teaching materials whenever suits them—enabled Alison to carve out the time it took to turn this project into a reality.
She used her MBA dissertation, which analyzed the impact of the Brexit negotiation period on the startup ecosystem in Ireland, as an opportunity to do market research.
She found that small to medium-sized businesses in Ireland don’t get enough support and guidance, which forces them to move to the US or elsewhere in Europe.
“I really want Ireland to be an ecosystem where startups can grow and develop, because we have such an amazing talent pool here,” Alison says. “I felt that my analysis showed that we could really bolster the economy by keeping the companies here.”
In July 2020, she founded Idunn Consulting, which focuses on helping Irish SMEs and startups digitize their processes and scale up.
But Alison didn’t stop there. In August 2021, she co-founded Cyberpie, a cybersecurity startup that provides subscription-based educational content to businesses with fewer than 10 employees about how to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.
“It's really a one-stop shop for the SME community and specifically the micro-business community, so that every month they can build up resilience,” she says.
Both ventures are passion projects for Alison, and she’s looking forward to building up the companies’ capacity to help the small business community in her home country.
By providing high-quality business education in a flexible format, Alison’s online MBA enabled her to channel her entrepreneurial spirit into these two successful companies.
Warwick Business School
BSc Management with Marketing
I loved Warwick business school. The staff is supportive, my academic tutor was key in my development throughout the 3 years and you have to meet with her/him every term. Most professors are helpful and would happily offer support if needed. You also have office hours and can contact professors by email and through the forum. In general, WBS instills in you the willingness to learn and the resilience needed for you for whatever career you choose. Very international community which broadens your horizon and makes you more open minded and self aware. You will most certainly make friends and memories for life. I recommend that you get outside of your comfort zone and try new activities with your friends! WBS also has a great reputation and offers careers opportunities, and careers support throughout the degree. There is the opportunity to do a year abroad to further develop on a personal level. I wasn’t able to do this due to Covid but I would have loved to do it during normal circumstances! Would definitely recommend this. Although Warwick is not a city university, the campus vibe has a lot of advantages, especially at an undergraduate level. You are always around familiar faces, and in a student environment. Moreover, Birmingham is only 20 mins away from Leamington spa and London is only one hour away! Perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway!
Life at Warwick Business School
Pursuing my master's degree at WBS has been a game-changer in my life. With high-quality education, interaction with students from across the world, amazing campus life and much more. I was able to learn about business, finance, project management and strategy all in one course: MSc in Management at WBS. Besides the top-notch education from the best professors, I also enjoyed being a part of fun societies and participating in fun activities such as scavenger hunts and so much more. The school also organises many company visits and interactions which help students get a head start at finding a job. As my course came to an end, I also have a good full-time job placement in my hands. Overall, my experience at WBS was a great one.
The Warwick Business School was like a dream come to life for me. The University ranking speaks for itself, from top-tier facilities to some of the best professors I had to honour to study with I fell in love with my course. Interactions with people from all over the world gave me a newfound confidence in myself. Career prospects after graduating are endless due to the contacts of the universities and the success rate for previous students, it does open a lot of doors for students in various career fields. The campus life is quite good as well with a lot of student groups and clubs, and extra circular activities to engage students at all times. Loved my experience.
A good business school
It is a very cutting-edge, career-oriented business school, all courses are very practical, and the college does a very good job of career service. From the hardware and facilities to the staff, the student experience is at the core of the school and student satisfaction is taken very seriously. I understand that many universities in the UK are relatively traditional and can occasionally be rigid in terms of rules and regulations, and although WBS has a relatively short history, this makes it more innovative and dynamic, which is essential for a business school. The downside is that because it is on the outskirts of Coventry, it is a long bus ride to the city centre, not to mention the difference in experience from a big city like London.
The people, campus, staff. It’s a very enjoyable environment and it’s particularly good for learning and playing sports. The people there are extremely friendly and welcoming and it’s very easy to make friends
What I Like About Warwick
I’ve personally liked my experience at Warwick so far because of the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet and how many opportunities we students are provided with to learn and grow. Within Warwick, I’m part of the Business School, a learning haven comprised of well-structured modules and extremely helpful people All in all, a great place to be :)
One thing that stood out for me was the campus life, you felt like part of a community. The social aspects of the student union and on-campus accommodation meant you can easily get together and enjoy with friends. Additionally, I felt the course provided a variety of subjects allowing me to enhance my knowledge, from Marketing to Law and Finance. Overall I would most definitely recommend this university to friends and family.
Excellence self catered
The campus is very welcoming and Modern. There are many opportunities at Warwick but it is up to the student how do they want to make the most out of it and the staff at the school will definitely helo as much as possible. The location and the ranking have been amazing.
Warwick business school
Warwick business school is one of the best universities around the globe with a solid base of economic and business studies. Moreover, students get a chance to study in a diverse and warm environment with professional stuff which tries to provide the best opportunities for career development. One of the memorable features of the university are great events which sometimes take a place in one of the landmarks of the London city, the Shard building.