Ashleigh Dueker

Country of origin: United States

Operational Deal Services Executive, Grant Thornton

My background is in international development – ranging from being a health volunteer in a remote West African village for a few years to coordinating the business development unit of a large international development NGO at Johns Hopkins in the United States. I’ve also volunteered as the development director of a small volunteer charity, African Sky, for a two-year position. Over the past seven years, my purpose has been to better understand global poverty and inequality – its causes, the current wicked situation, and theories and actions that can be implemented to ameliorate the issues from local and regional perspectives. My experiences eventually led me to a position where I can best contribute to improving the well-being of people in the poorest communities by promoting local business, domestically and abroad.

Prior to joining the MBA, I had a science and health background with some business infused therein, yet I felt that my knowledge of business overall was sub-par. I was fortunate enough to have gained a plethora of experience within the softer skills of business and management. Yet while I had a great breadth of experiences, I also had gaps in my knowledge that an MBA could fill and even deepen so that I could be more effective and better enact change.

I chose the Lancaster MBA based on the strong rankings of the programme and strategy course, and the practical, hands-on courses highlighted below. The international location was also beneficial, as I needed this to further my career and international goals. My MBA cohort comprised 22 different nationalities from different sectors, making each class full of rich and diverse experiences and perspectives. From my peers I learned numerous ways to approach a situation or problem, and that there were usually no single right answers, but numerous good versus poor judgement calls that had to be made.

The atmosphere of the classroom was one of collaboration instead of competition, making the Lancaster MBA a truly unique and rewarding experience. Furthermore, the Mindful Manager module, threaded into most classes throughout the year, enriched the entire learning experience in a way that cannot be found in other MBA programmes.

My highlights of the programme for me include:

  • The international module – my cohort travelled to Prague to understand business in context. This was my first experience in Eastern Europe, and helped me uncover some unconscious and incorrect assumptions I held about the region, and deepened my understanding of how economies emerge and evolve.
  • The strategy module – this is ranked number one in the world and pushed me beyond the limits of what I thought I was capable of, academically and intellectually.
  • The consulting challenge – provided my first exposure to the world of consulting for the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. The project was challenging and an incredibly rewarding first-hand experience as a consultant.

The MBA programme is demanding and leaves you with limited free time. Yet you will walk away with a comprehensive understanding of global business, a deeper appreciation and valuation of your skill set, and a clearer path on how to grow your footprint in the world. The MBA will push you beyond what you think you’re capable of, and you will finish the programme feeling strong, confident, and knowledgeable.

Lancaster’s career programme is also incredibly valuable to help you identify your goals and structure how to reach them. A careers programme networking event introduced me to my current employer – Grant Thornton. I am now working as an executive on the business consulting deals team based out of London. The Lancaster MBA helped equip me with the tools necessary to succeed in this new role and reach the next step of my career aspirations.