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Why MBA: Durham University Business School – UK

Dianne Sharp used an MBA to broaden her finance career. Now a regional director for business lobby group the CBI, she is still profiting from business school more than 10 years after graduating.

Wed Dec 10 2014

Dianne Sharp graduated from an MBA in the UK at Durham University Business School in 2001. Since then, she has enjoyed careers at Mechetronics Limited, a manufacturing company, business services firm BE Group and more recently at the CBI, Britain’s leading business lobby, where she works as a regional director for the northeast of England.

This includes a chairpersonship of Durham Students Union, and of Keyfund, a non-profit that helps young people develop practical skills and identify their passions.

An accountant by qualification, she wanted to broaden her horizons to include management roles outside of finance. The global economy has changed much since her graduation but she thinks an MBA is still as relevant today as it was a decade ago.

She is still able to utilize her alumni network and says that she continues to learn from her peer group. For Dianne, the Durham MBA has been “life changing”.

Why did you decide to begin an MBA at the University of Durham?

Having completed my accountancy qualifications, I felt I needed a wider business qualification in order to develop into wider management roles outside of finance. My goal was to become a CEO and I wanted to ensure that I had robust knowledge and qualifications to underpin my experience.

How would you sum up your experience?

Life changing. I am certain that I would not have had the career that I have enjoyed without the MBA experience.

You graduated in 2001. The global economy has faced much turmoil since then, and the jobs market has changed. Are MBA degrees as valuable today?

I believe that a good quality MBA is as valuable today, potentially even more so. In times of turmoil, when you are facing new business situations, being able to call on your MBA knowledge, experience and network helps inform decision making and strategy formation. It gives you tools and inspiration rooted in the highest quality research.

Do you feel your MBA skills are still relevant, more than ten years down the line?

Yes, though the opportunity to “top-up” is vital. It is important that you don’t see it as an immoveable set of facts. Research is going on all the time and ideas [are] moving forward.

It is important to try and keep abreast of these changes. I still subscribe to [the] Harvard Business Review and am an avid reader of business books.

Are you still in contact with, and able to utilize, your alumni network?

Absolutely – and I would say that I learnt, and continue to learn, as much from them as I did from the course.

What are your career goals?

In the early part of my career I set very clear goals relating to specific roles. I have been lucky enough to achieve those and now my career is much more about experiences and making a difference.

I am no less ambitious for the organisations that I work for and with, be that in an executive or non-executive setting. In fact, that is the biggest difference now – I am entirely focused on making a difference in the role I am in right now and far less focused on what/where/how I will go next.

I have found that at the right time the right opportunities present themselves.

What influence has an MBA had on your career in the years since graduating?

I believe that without the MBA experience I would not be where I am now.

Have your employers valued your MBA?

Some have and some haven’t. I think this is where the problem around MBAs sits. If you approach this purely as a badge that gets you a better salary or promotion, you miss the point. An investment in an MBA should be to make you a better business person – and that is what will deliver better salaries and jobs.

It is performance that should be rewarded, not badges.