Portrait photograph of: Sarah O'Rourke

Sarah O'Rourke

Country Of Origin: United Kingdom

Degree: Executive MBA, 2018

Global Process Manager, Hilti



What did you do prior to joining the MBA?

Prior to the MBA, I was a commercial Finance Manager leading a small team within a UK based cash-management company. The role was focused around demand analysis, pricing & costing, and new contract bids.

Why did you decide to do an MBA?

I had worked in accountancy and finance for a decade and wanted to expand my knowledge of business more widely. My aim was to develop my leadership and business skills in general. I also wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of achieving a Master's degree as I hadn't performed as well as expected in my undergraduate degree.

Why did you choose Lancaster University?

Lancaster became my first choice as soon as I attended the open day. After speaking to the programme director Chris Saunders, and attending the sample strategy lecture by Martin Friesl, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It ticked all the standard boxes - triple accredited, highly ranked, a great reputation, good location - but it was more than that. Compared to some of the other schools I looked at, there was a strong community feel and the class sizes were small enough that I didn't worry I would get lost in the "impersonal machine" of the MBA. The focus of the Mindful Manager programme also gave me the holistic, ethical, and inclusive approach to leadership that I was after. 

What did you enjoy most about the Lancaster MBA?

The people! The cohort were amazing and we quickly became close. Although everyone wanted to excel individually, there wasn't the "everyone out for themselves" mentality that you might expect from a steroetypical group of MBA high-performers. We worked together and helped each other through difficult times. The staff were also great. The lecturers and the support staff go out of their way to help you get through what is, undeniably, a challenging experience.

What do you need to consider before applying?

To do well, you need to put in a lot of time and effort. You'll be surprised at how much time you can find when you need to, but some things (like keeping up with the latest TV series!) will need to take a back seat until you're done. Be conscious about where and how you spend your time and you'll be fine. You also can't do this without the support of the people around you. Whether that's your partner, your family or your friends. Helping them to understand how important this is to you, and how it might impact your life for the next two years, will make life a lot easier for everyone. The process can be tough on you and your family but if you set expectations up front it can make things a little smoother.

How do you think the Lancaster MBA benefitted you?

It gave me a broad toolkit of knowledge and increased my skills-base in a way that complemented my existing financial experience. The MBA also took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to challenge the internal beliefs I held about what I'm capable of and can achieve. The programmes gave me access to a wonderful group of people, who are still supporting each other's careers. We look out for opportunities, offer networking opportunities and support each other through career issues, even though the EMBA had officially finished.

What is your next step now you have completed your Lancaster MBA?

Since finishing the MBA I have moved into a role that combines my financial skills, my process knowledge, and my project management experience. I am now in a position that has a global reach and is allowing me to develop outside of a pure finance role. Something that would not have been possible had it not been for the Lancaster MBA. Since finishing the MBA I've also become more active with causes that mean a lot to me. The MBA helped me to realise I have experience and knowledge that could benefit other people, so I'm finding ways to use everything I've learned about leadership, learning, and development to support and mentor young people just starting out.