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Programme: Executive MBA 2016
Nationality: Irish
Pre-MBA position: Associate Director, Business Management
Current position: Head of Business Development, CPRD

What motivated you to do an Executive MBA and why did you choose Cass Business School?

My career to date has been open to opportunity. From an academic beginning I have explored my passion for life science research and its application to delivering patient benefit through international roles in academic, industry, not-for-profit and government sectors. My current role requires a strong ability to decipher information; a creative drive to identify opportunities of tomorrow; a pragmatic and innovative attitude; people management skills to deal with a multitude of stakeholders; an understanding of the life science industry, its drivers and how global economics affects all sectors. These are all skills I wished to build on and believed that enrolling in an MBA course would expose me to alternative approaches to achieve this, which would otherwise be limited within my current network. I believed that the financial environment in which Cass is embedded would most effectively address the skills gaps I was eager to fill.

What are your career goals and what do you hope to achieve after you have graduated?

A future role I am keen to explore is leadership in the not-for-profit or other healthcare sector roles and I believe the knowledge and skills I am gaining from studying for an MBA will be advantageous in this regard. As my experience to date has demonstrated, one should be open to any opportunity and the formal teaching on the Cass EMBA course has already exposed me to new interests and potential areas for future career directions that I would never have considered prior to this course of study. In the future, I hope to use my past experiences, strengthened with a fresh perspective and stronger understanding of the business environment, to deliver significant impact within the healthcare sector.

How would you describe your overall experience of the Executive MBA so far?

Overall my experience of the MBA has been positive. I have realised that it is possible to successfully sit exams after a 20 year break and to gain a solid appreciation of a broad range of subjects in a short period of time. I am regularly astounded at how much content can be covered in a 15 hour taught module. The EMBA course at Cass is well planned and academics bring a fresh and business relevant perspective to their courses. The first year has been a whirlwind of core modules, and as I start my second year, I am looking forward to working on my chosen electives.

How do you balance your work and personal life with academic studies?

You quickly learn that you can manage on much less sleep than you previously thought necessary. There is no denying that balancing an already busy professional and personal life with the commitment to study is a huge challenge. Begin the course with the realisation that your existing life cannot stop (no matter how seemingly generous your employer or partner is) and that you build time to study around your existing commitments.  It is important to put this two year commitment in perspective, accept the sacrifices you are making are temporary and within those sacrifices you will have fun along the way with a great bunch of new friends. I set myself a personal non-study challenge of running a half-marathon at the end of year 1 as a healthy distraction - I have a feeling to get through year 2 I may have to focus on the full 26 miles.

What has been the most rewarding experience for you so far?

The fact that I have come through year 1 with enough energy to continue has been an encouraging experience! Being at the midway point and knowing how much I have learned in a relatively short period of time, is a great confidence boost. I certainly apply what I can to my current role, bringing new insights from my studies and this I hope will only increase with time. If I was to single out one single rewarding experience it would be the international consultancy week in Chile. Being able to work with a local company who trusted your expertise and knowledge, and accepted our advice on their business strategy, put the importance of what we learned in the first year in to perspective. Their gratitude and appreciation was humbling and hopefully our advice to them will support the growth of their business.

What has been the most challenging aspect?

For me the most challenging aspect has been time management and the realisation that I cannot spend as much time as I would like studying. Life doesn’t stop when conflicting work and study deadlines have arisen during the year, where there is no option other than to meet those deadlines, with a continuing high standard of delivery. Having a young family has also meant sacrificing a significant amount of time with them - but it is temporary and being able to attend lectures mostly in the evening cohort has minimised that sacrifice.

How would you describe your fellow cohort?

My cohort is an ideal size. There is broad diversity in terms of nationality, professional background and experiences. I deliberately chose Cass for this reason as I wanted to benefit from a cohort that did not come from a similar background to me. Cass organises the cohort into mentoring teams on your first day and at different times throughout the year other working groups are created. This means you have the benefit of working with a number of different colleagues on defined coursework. The cohort works well together and is a fun and supportive group of individuals that carry you through many tough days and late night panicked phone calls.

What has the learning experience been like? How are classes taught and what sort of expertise do the academics bring?

The learning experience has been varied and teaching styles amongst staff has also varied significantly. From traditional lectures to running around playing board games and building oil rigs - no two modules have been the same! The academics come with real-life expertise in the business world, from an economist-turned-marketing professor to active business strategy consultants, you feel that what you are being taught is relevant for the business world as well as academic qualifications. I have found the staff to be supportive, not only in providing guidance during coursework and in the run-up to exams, but also in response to ad-hoc questions and willingness to advice.

What are your thoughts on living and studying in London and does Cass’s location bring any added benefit?

As I live and work in London, there was no option other than a London business school for me. Cass’s location in the City of London certainly was a plus when I was choosing the school to enrol for my MBA. Being situated in the City provided a financial environment unavailable in other London business schools and was one of my main drivers for choosing Cass. The school is also conveniently located for my workplace, which is a huge plus when facing 3hrs of lectures every Tuesday and Thursday evenings, after long days in the office.

What advice would you give to a prospective student thinking of doing an Executive MBA at Cass?

Accept it is a huge commitment and ensure you have the time to make the most of the opportunity. It is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime decision so ensure the time is right for you. Even better if you have an understanding employer. Cass provides a choice of teaching formats; running lectures either in the evenings or at weekends, so decide what best fits with your existing commitments.