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Open University Business School Grad Says Ingenuity Key to MBA Success

Ekaterina Ershova wanted to move from operations to senior management, and the Open University MBA helped her do just that at pharma firm CRO

By  Harriet Murdoch

Fri Sep 16 2011

Ekaterina Ershova, a pharmaceutical eecutive based in Russia, turned to an Open University MBA to improve her managerial skills and support her career. We talked to her about why she chose the disctance-learning program and what she gained from it.

Working in pharmaceuticals, Ekaterina,38, soon discovered that an MBA was vital to working her way up the management ladder. Gaining expertise in managing financial resources, human resources and performance management could only compliment her job in operations. Ekaterina also felt that she needed to “upgrade [her] leadership and influencing skills”.

In 2003, Ekaterina graduated from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences with a PhD in chemotherapy and biotechnology. She started out in medical science but moved into pharmaceutical business. She now works for the International Contract Research Organisation (CRO).

When applying for business school Ekaterina considered a special programme at Rutgers Business School which focuses on the pharmaceutical business but a full-time MBA was constrained by both time and money. It had to be a European MBA as working for an international company, Ekaterina needed an internationally recognized diploma. The Open University has "solid accreditations", she says. However the OU is not well-known in Russia yet and to get more information about the school she contacted colleagues in the UK office of her company. "All of them have given positive references”.

Ekaterina most enjoyed the modules in Managing Financial Resources and Performance, Managing Marketing, and Managing Projects and Change. “The first two were interesting, because they were the areas of knowledge which I definitely need to improve and the last one was really actually for me and for my project”.

Ekaterina’s final project was based upon her company’s recent restructuring and its Study Start Up department where Ekaterina was promoted to Head. The project used the theories, ideas and frameworks of the course, to develop a plan for organizing and managing this new department.

For distance-learning MBA students Ekaterina says that the most crucial piece of advice would be good time management. You have to be self-disciplined especially as for many it is being fitted around a full time job.

To make the most out of the Open University program Ekaterina has five tips. Firstly always follow the recommendations of your tutor and analyse your tutor’s assessments summary.

Secondly, reflect on the materials you study and think critically.

Thirdly, do not think about the course modules separately but link them logically and look for overarching themes.

Fourthly plan your work carefully.

And finally, read all additional recommended study materials from the OU library.

For Ekaterina the highlight of the year was the residential school as it allowed for interaction with fellow students from all over the world. “It was interesting to share our experience and to compare our perceptions. We had a fantastic tutor. I am very grateful to him not only for useful hints, but also for a friendly, kind and supportive atmosphere”.

Ekaterina is sure that her MBA from the Open University Business School played a role in her recent promotion at the international Contract Research Organisation (CRO). She is now responsible for managing all clinical trials at start-up stage from the Moscow office of CRO.

The pharmaceutical business in Russia “is a real opportunity to work in a modern, world-class company with an adequate salary”, and Ekaterina gets to use her medical science knowledge at the same time. “Clinical trials are a step on the path of the drug from scientist’s laboratory to the shelf in a pharmacy”.

When asked how Ekaterina managed to fit an MBA around her already busy life she said that “the busier you are the more ingenious you become”. A model student for time-management!