Ian Huggins

Country of origin: United Kingdom

General Manager, Unique System FZE

‘I came into it with my eyes open, as I knew from discussions beforehand with people who’d done an MBA that it would be demanding, but I still underestimated it,’ says Ian Huggins. A former Royal Marines Commando, Ian joined the Lancaster Executive MBA in Singapore whilst working as business development director for Hallin Marine, which manufactures sub-sea diving equipment used in the gas and oil industry.

Partway through the programme he moved on to a new base and a new role in Dubai, as General Manager of Unique System FZE, which also serves the maritime and offshore industries.

The demands of his job, which required frequent travel across the whole of South East Asia, meant that for Ian the Lancaster Executive MBA’s modular structure, with its four-day teaching blocks, was a star attraction:

‘The way I work, and the kind of person I am, I knew that trying to do a distance learning type course would have left me in the wilderness. I liked the way this programme is designed so that we came together every couple of months or so for a long weekend – it’s great timing for me, with the amount of travelling I have to do, and it’s also great to be able to question people face-to-face.’ 

Personal career investment

While friends questioned whether he, at 48 and already at director level, really needed an MBA, Ian was in no doubt of the benefits for him, both personally and professionally.

‘It was an investment in myself – admittedly a fairly sizeable one but one I could afford at this stage in my career. Having gone straight from school into the military, without stopping to get a degree, I had done well to get where I am without any formal education, but I wanted to go higher.

‘I’m an operational guy, and I’m highly experienced in project management. But I also knew there were other aspects of the business that I didn’t normally have exposure to. I had no formal training in areas such as economics, for example. So I wanted to fill some of those gaps – the MBA helped me to do that.

‘The programme is a continual eye-opener, as you see how the various functional elements each contribute to the business. Obviously I knew that before, but looking at those elements in depth really brings that into sharp focus.

‘Every time we moved on to another assignment – and I typically wrote about my own company – I found there was an area I had suddenly become aware of, and that would have an effect. I started questioning what was going on in our company. Normally we’re so busy managing and making decisions: what the MBA does is make you step back, look at other options.’