Portrait photograph of: Deborah Lester

Deborah Lester

Country Of Origin: United Kingdom

Degree: Executive MBA, 2016

Business Director and HR Consultant , Cloud Eleven Human Resources Limited

What did you do prior to joining the MBA?
I worked as a senior executive for a large retailer leading finance, retail operations, human resources, e-commerce and IT functions. I had a wide remit responsible for developing the back office infrastructure and resourcing for a growing fashion retailer alongside creating a transactional website and generating e-commerce sales through digital marketing. A significant part of my role was to work with venture capitalists and executives on due diligence processes to secure investment for growth during the course of a 6 year period.

Why did you decide to do an MBA?
My main discipline is Finance (FCMA qualified) and I had a growing awareness that I was stuck in a mechanistic mind-set which was leading me to make similar conclusions to different business problems. For example, my comfort blanket was always to believe that creating efficiency and making cost savings was the route to business success. I wanted to explore thinking outside the box because I felt that my single view of the world was restricting my ability to manage and negotiate stakeholders at a senior level who need more from a business leader than purely financial acumen.

Why did you choose Lancaster University?
I applied to Lancaster because I had seen an advert in CIMA’s Financial Management magazine many years ago and liked the look of both the campus and the course and I have not been disappointed. I wanted a Campus environment to reincarnate the student lifestyle for a period that I left many years ago.

What did you enjoy most about the Lancaster MBA?
For me, the subjects I have most enjoyed are operations management, mindfulness, change management, strategy and global society and responsible management (GSRM). For example, operations management has helped me realise the importance of solving customer problems by developing the right operation to do so, opposed to developing operations that work internally but fall short of customer expectations, the type of operation I might have developed with my old mind-set.

GSRM has been life changing, demonstrating the necessity of innovation to produce environmentally safe products and understanding how world powers and businesses are dealing with the problems of a rapidly growing global population, depleted natural resources and over-consumption in developed countries. This is a far cry from simply developing systems and processes to make cost savings which were aligned to my old mind-set.

I have enjoyed the other subjects mentioned because of new knowledge I have gained from lecturers who have demonstrated experience and knowhow to bring these subjects to life in practical business contexts.

What do you need to consider before applying?
If your reason to study a MBA is to tick it off your academic list then I would suggest you think again because the course is challenging in terms of time out of work, researching each topic, assignments, general study and family commitments. I would suggest that you ruthlessly analyse your strengths and weaknesses and ask colleagues you trust to provide objective feedback on their perception of how you operate and lead situations at work.

Armed with this knowledge use it as a guideline to think about how you might want to change and be mindful that even your strengths can be re-evaluated!

Then look at the course modules and consider what you need from each to help you achieve your goals. If you cannot see how the topics covered can support you then speak to the course director or a tutor who, in my experience, have offered invaluable help to guide me in the right direction.

How do you think the Lancaster MBA benefitted you?
Without a doubt the MBA has opened my mind in terms of listening and empathising with other arguments and has provided me with the knowledge and confidence to offer a more considered and broader outlook to help overcome business challenges. I feel I now have more to offer in terms of leadership, teamwork and all round business knowledge than in the past.

What is your next step now you have completed your Lancaster MBA?
I am currently looking for a Managing Director role for a large SME or growing organisation.