Fay Davies

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Business & Development Director, Rednock School, Dursley

Fay undertook the EMBA programme while working for Cumbria Business Education Consortium, and writing at that time describes how she managed her work and study. In May 2012 she moved to a new role in Gloucestershire.

I am the CEO of a small not-for-profit company which helps link companies and schools to work together for mutual benefit. Suffice to say, I am not an academic but a practical, hands-on learner, and my learning style is to do, rather than to listen.

In 2002 I had a fairly serious car crash. It took me around three years to recover, but even then my professional and personal confidence had taken a knock and my enthusiasm and motivation levels were extremely low. Some of my Board Directors encouraged me to embark on professional development and suggested an MBA.

That was a bit of a daunting suggestion, not least because of the work involved. But the fact that the company were willing to support me was motivation in itself. I chose the Lancaster EMBA because of personal recommendations and reputation, and I also liked the way the course was organised in blocks of study. As I was working in a small business, rather than a blue-chip organisation, I wasn’t sure whether I would be accepted. I believe I did have to prove myself to get accepted and, yes, I was excited – after all, it was an MBA!

At first it was quite daunting as well as exciting. You mix with a very broad spectrum of people, knowledge, expertise and organisations, all of which is extremely valuable in terms building your own confidence, knowledge base and support networks.

I found the workload reasonable because I planned ahead and fitted the assignments around the company, which worked brilliantly. For each one I took a particular aspect of the business which I then reviewed or developed in a way which gave the company a push to move forward on business matters that may have been left as other priorities came in – as they always do.

I’m not a researcher or academic, so the research and preparation, albeit necessary, was the most taxing aspect for me. That said, I did learn from the work, particularly from modules and assignments that enthused me. In every aspect of the work, I found a particular way of working that suited me (time, research, practical activity) and enabled me to get the job done.

Whilst on the programme I took part in the overseas business challenge, for which I travelled to India with other EMBA colleagues. Our challenge was to help to improve team performance on projects in an IT centre – which involved project management issues and also a range of HR and team considerations. This particular assignment was by far my best as I was able to translate academia into the real world and demonstrate my practical knowledge. I was paired up with an individual whom I had rarely worked with but on this challenge our skills and knowledge complemented each other. What I didn’t know, she did, and vice-versa – and we did a great job on the challenge itself.

There’s real satisfaction in knowing that I’ve completed the MBA and got the letters after my name. And while it’s hard to pinpoint the benefits precisely, I’m very aware that those two years of learning come through in my day-to-day approach to business. On the occasions when I apply models from the programme to work situations, I find this can sometimes really help to draw together more detail which ultimately provides a better information base for the conclusions drawn.

And last but not least, on a personal note, the mere fact of being in a stimulating learning environment helped me to refocus and rebuild my motivation and confidence levels after the crash. I am also fortunate enough to still be in the role but the company’s support has not gone unrewarded – as difficult times come and go, I have given my loyalty to see the business through to its next phase, a stance that maybe not everyone would consider.