I'm 29 years old, and live with my partner, Jono. I previously studied French and economics at the University of Sheffield. After graduating, I went and worked for a French gas and electricity company, then for a food manufacturer, before moving to the water industry.
I wanted to have a more applicable qualification to help improve my business understanding and hopefully improve my promotion opportunities. An MBA seemed like a really good way of doing this and would give me a bit of a challenge as well – an opportunity to see if my brain still worked!
The OU business school has a great reputation and a stream of awards but I really chose the OU because of the flexibility in study options. I'd been researching business qualifications for a while, and the OU website really clearly explained the options and how the courses worked. I’m not at a point in my career or home life where I could afford to take a year off work and study full time. I liked the fact that the OU offered so much 1-2-1 and group support as well as text books. And that the cost of the course included all these things. The flexible payment options such as the OUBSA monthly payments options were really attractive given I'm 50% self funded!
I’m currently in the last 6 months of B830 - the final module in the MBA course. It's been really interesting – it draws together the other modules covered and focuses it on a self selected project in your organisation. What is really good is the opportunity to see how other people are approaching their projects at the residential schools and tutorials – particularly those who have done different elective modules. I feel like I'm learning so much in this last year and I'm able to put it into practice in a long term project.
The low points of the MBA courses are nearly always around assignments and exam revision – it's when you are sitting in front of the computer, typing away, that you realise what a commitment the course is to your free time. I work full time and study most evenings, and there have been occasions when I've had to say no to doing something, or my partner has had to go to something on his own that have felt quite low and difficult. It does teach you to manage your time though – no more writing your homework the day before it's due in!
The high points have got to be the range of people you meet at residentials and tutorials – I've a wide range of contacts in industries that I would never have had opportunity to network in prior to the course! It's a real opportunity to meet new people – both as professional contacts and to make friends.
It's also been a real confidence boost to find my brain still works and that I can understand the course and do well – it's a great feeling learning something from an OU textbook one evening and applying it at work. It does make you feel like you can make a difference in your organisation and you can see the positive changes in your own approach to problems – both big and small.
I'm not sure as to whether I will progress onto another course straight after completing my MBA – I think I'll probably have a break for a little while first. However, I've really enjoyed stretching myself and using my brain in such a different way – I can't imagine I won't be back studying something new in 6 months time! I’d consider looking at some of the non-business courses the OU offers as well. I hadn't realised how diverse a range of courses they offered until I started studying with them!
The course has changed me – I think I'm a very different person to who I was three years ago when I started this journey. I'm more confident and feel that I've more skills now to be able to deal with difficult situations and stakeholders. I've approached situations differently to how I would have done before – I'm more considered in my approach, and that has proved to be beneficial in my role. I'm managing more high profile projects and my profile has been raised in the business.
I would say the most positive thing is how I feel about myself. My self confidence and self awareness has grown and I feel that I can tackle problems – I'm not afraid to say no now or to challenge something. I'm certainly playing a more active role in my work life. The other positive is the influencing and negotiating skills I've leaned – I get my own way more often at home as well!!
I suppose you could say I'm planning to use my learning from my course strategically – the overall aim is to go further and higher in my career. I'm finding that the skills I'm learning from the course are ones I want to apply – I want to see if trying something differently can change how something works. I think the key thing with the course is that it has motivated me to try and apply the learning in my day to day work.
The benefit of the OU course is that it is very project orientated – you're encouraged to apply your learning straight away and look at how you can relate or challenge theory with your organisational knowledge and experience. It's been something I've found really beneficial and I've found I've got so much more from the experience that I would have thought. I'm sure some of the benefit comes from the time it takes to complete the MBA – you really have additional time to reflect and apply the course as you're doing it alongside your work, which brings additional benefits to me as a professional as well as a student.
All my MBA tutors have been interesting and very good at bringing theory to life with real examples from their own professional experience. My current tutor for B830 has been exceptional. My project hit difficulties in January due to business restructuring, and John has been a great source of practical support. He's talked through issues and concerns on the phone, and emailed me with resources from the OU library. I think it really helps that he isn't just a lecturer – he's also been a manager and been in similar situations. He can understand the real life aspects of your discussion as he's been there himself. It just makes the learning so much more approachable – our tutorials and forums aren't just chalk and talk – it's about bringing the theory to life and challenging the validity of it from our own experience.
The tutors at the residential schools are a great resource as well – the residentials tend to be intensive, and they excel at bringing the theory to life with examples, suggestions for your own approaches and positively challenging you to view things differently. They're usually the fastest days and I always leave feeling really motivated to complete the next assignment.
I've been really pleased with the OU experience and the business school. There is a real open attitude - you just have to ring the enquiries line to realise this. The business school has been extremely professional. All my documentation has been provided in a timely manner and when I’ve spoken to people to enquire about the content of a module, the advice I’ve been given has been extremely practical, supportive and clear. The range of location and dates for the residential schools has been good and the exams are well organised. The OU and business school have been extremely professional; communication from them is clear and concise, support is available if you need it, and information is given to you in an extremely timely manner. As with all university courses, you need to be proactive and work off your own initiative, but the information and resources are there and are fully available to you.
I would recommend both the course and the business school – the experience I've had has been great. I'd recommend it, but I’d also say to people to be realistic about it. Working and studying is extremely hard work, and it consumes a vast amount of your life. You've got to consider whether it is something you are willing to make some sacrifices for. If you're willing to put in the effort, then I think the OU business school experience is an excellent opportunity. It's certainly provided me with an opportunity to gain qualifications and experience that wouldn't otherwise have been available to me.
The Open University, together with international partners, offers its MBA and many other programmes across the globe.