Philomena Chen - Head of Asia Pacific Development, UK Trade and Investment
About my career
I came to the UK having been in the hospitality sector where I worked for eight years. I was a mature student at Manchester Met - I first studied hotel management in 1985, followed by a PG Dip in HR management. You could say I am an MMU student through and through.
Later, I worked as a business services manager before the role with UKTI. I wanted to become more strategic, to plan and prioritise, and to manage people. I wanted to ‘think outside the box’ for my job and that’s what drove me to the MBA.
In my current role as Head of Asia Pacific Development at UK Trade and Investment North West, my job is to help businesses from the North West succeed on the global stage. I look at what they can do and what opportunities there are overseas. The MBA has definitely helped me to think more strategically. I now look at the bigger picture of the business.
Since I finished the MBA there has been a lot of change - in my industry, in government and the economic climate. The MBA teaches you to adapt and build up your experience and knowledge for the future. It allows you to keep up with change.
My top tip for students is...
One of the most important things I learned was how to build relationships with people - establishing rapport with people is a huge part of my job now.
Why I love Manchester Met...
The multi-disciplinary modules and the chance to link the project to industry stood me in good stead for the shifting global business landscape.
Mike Halley - Vice President (Sales, EMEA), TOA Technologies
After building up his career experience for many years, he decided that completing an MBA would allow him to ‘fast track’ his progression into general management, which began at Hewlett Packard. He was head hunted by TOA after completing his MBA, and believes it was the main reason for his career success.
Mike was always curious about what completing an MBA meant for those who had done so “I’d always wondered if people with an MBA really felt more enabled to progress at work, or whether it was merely a box ticking exercise to show that they had reached a higher level of competency in management.”
His curiosity got the better of him and he completed his MBA in 2010. “I wanted to discover more about the constructs of business and understand aspects I’d never fully comprehended, and the MBA was a way for me to do this, and to demonstrate my ability to compete at the highest level.
“General management demands more than a working knowledge of the key areas of a business, and rather than spend ten years working my way through the key areas I wanted to ‘fast track’ my progress. After researching my options I decided to complete my MBA at MMU; it has a great reputation for delivering MBAs that progress into world leading companies, and I felt so comfortable after meeting some of the key staff so knew I’d made the right choice.”
Completing the MBA has given Mike a whole new approach to working, and the strategy he learnt has underpinned this new way of working. As he explains “I honestly use every aspect of my MBA learning. Business strategy was a key element of the MBA and one which I was keen to deepening my knowledge. It’s furthered my understanding of the importance of building clear strategies in every aspect of a business. The MBA had given me the confidence to hold my own with senior staff within finance, HR, marketing- the list goes on, because I can now underpin my decisions with knowledge.
Mike continues “I was particularly challenged by Peter Saniford during our HR modules. We worked on motivation, particularly why others feel motivated or not. Part of my role is to make sure staff do feel motivated, and Peter taught me that the term ‘demotivated’ does not exist; one can only motivate people to act in a certain way. That has stayed with me, and when people are under performing I ask myself what I can do to motivate them to perform”.
Mike was head hunted, and puts this down to his MBA qualification “As soon as you add MBA to your CV it puts you in another league. I didn’t know at the time but a pre requisite for my current role was an MBA, so wouldn’t be where I am today without it”.
To those who are considering completing an MBA Mike’s advice is to go for it “I wasn’t alone in spending a long time asking myself “Can I do it? Do I deserve it?” The answer was yes; it’s hard work but the rewards are demonstrable”.
Marium Ali - Marketing Director, Tetrosyl
Marium graduated with an MBA from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School in June 2010. When she began her studies she was Group Commercial Manager for Tetrosyl, the largest manufacturer and supplier of car care products in the UK, and has since been promoted to Marketing Director. She believes her MBA played a part in securing her promotion.
Deciding to study for an MBA can be daunting, even before you’ve worked out where you’d like to apply. Marium Ali spent five years weighing up her options. “I’d thought about an MBA for several years, and one of my first tasks was to think about which method of delivery was best for me. I looked into studying online, or taking a home-based course, but decided that face-to-face time with lecturers, staff and fellow students was a priority for me.
“I work in Bury, and live in Manchester so the proximity of the Business School to my work and home meant it would work for me and my employer, which was important as they funded my studies. I could take an afternoon off work to study, and stay on campus to use the great facilities. The reasonable costs were also a deciding factor.”
Marium started out as a chemist after graduating from the University of Salford. “I began at Tetrosyl as a graduate trainee, but soon decided I didn’t want to take a scientific path. I stayed with the company, and worked my way up in business administration, before becoming Group Operations Director.
“I enjoyed my chosen career path, but always felt something was missing. I knew the business well, but there were gaps in my knowledge, and areas of business that I didn’t understand. I knew that an MBA would help me to ‘fill in the gaps’ and allow me to do my job better.”
What were Marium’s expectations for the MBA? “I hoped it would give me a broader understanding of how to run a business, and I was keen to get back into uni life and have a forum of like-minded people.
“I have to say that my expectations were exceeded! I was surprised at the diverse range of people on the course; from council workers and school staff through to IT specialist and business owners. The breadth of experience made for useful discussions and allowed me to tap into great business minds.”
Marium particularly enjoyed the ‘strategy’ module. “It was the hardest module, but strategy is integral to my role at work, so the ability to learn ‘textbook’ strategy and link it to my experience gave me new ways to work, and improved outcomes for my employer.
Finally, Marium achieved a distinction for her dissertation, which she applied to a real life business scenario at work. “Tetrosyl bought one of its largest customers whilst I was studying, so I used this real scenario for my dissertation. I worked on merging the two brands through research and analysis and focus groups with consumers. Tetrosyl was then able to see which brands were most commercially viable, and rationalise its products whilst strengthening its brand. My work still informs its marketing strategy”.
Marium believes that anyone thinking about starting an MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University should go for it. “The MBA has given me the confidence to believe in my abilities, as well as the business acumen to hold my own. If you are not shy of hard work and commitment, and are happy to finish work and start course work, you should think about starting an MBA. As well as giving you business skills, it provides a great network of similar people, and although it’s tough, it’s so rewarding and is a great qualification.”
Ros Hodges- Business Development Manager, Citibank
Ros Hodges works as a Business Development Manager for Global Transaction Services within Citibank, N.A., London Branch’s Institutional Client Group
She studied full-time, as she believed this would have the quickest impact on her career, and completed her MBA in 2006
Ros wasn’t able to go to university when she finished school so went straight into work. “Years later, as a middle manager, I wanted to better my career prospects, and build on the knowledge and experience I’d gained, rather than start from scratch in a new discipline. I wanted to broaden my skills across the functions of an organisation, to learn more about their impact on each other and on the bottom line of the business.”
“The MBA is an excellent means to do this as I didn’t need a bachelor’s degree - just the ability and commitment to study at this level and my existing work experience.”
Ros chose Manchester Metropolitan University for a number of reasons. “The Business School is a high ranking, AMBA-accredited university, which was important for me, as were its location and pricing.”
When asked about the most useful transferable skill she learned on the MBA, Ros said: “Learning about so many different disciplines enabled me to look at business from a bird’s eye view, to see the whole picture of how the different functions interact and where and how they contribute. It enabled me to simultaneously see the horizon and navigate the path towards business goals.”
What aspects of the course stand out? “The MBA is a hugely practical course and, with careful choice of your modules, you can mould your learning to your career. As a manager who needs to achieve business goals through people, I found the work on the employee psychological contract in the Human Resource and Organisation Development modules important and useful. I also have to deliver and measure revenues and benefits, and the theories learned from the Balance Scorecard within the Finance module have helped me to be more effective in driving the leading performance measures within a project or business unit.”
Ros also learned skills she didn’t expect to learn. “I was able to grow from the overall experience. I observed how students from different countries and cultures approached a problem, how cultures work together, and how the perspective on the objective could differ as much as the result. I didn’t identify how useful this really was until I was faced with a role in a global environment with competing interests. This experience then came into practical use.”
The Business Schools offers a wealth of extra curricular support and resources, which Ros made full use of. “I attended many of the guest lectures, particularly the industry speaker sessions. They were an excellent way to gain valuable insight into other industries and businesses outside my own experience. This aspect of the MBA can open up your career paths, and help students to identify other sectors into which they can transfer their skills and knowledge.”
Finally, would Ros recommend the MBA? “Yes. It offers first class lecturers, support and guidance for students to work their own way to achieving their business masters degree at an affordable price. The Business School was active in ensuring that the needs of all members our study cohort were met, from providing personal tutors to guide each of us through our dissertation to offering us individual, constructive feedback on our work.”
Sue Sutton - Managing Director, S26 Management Consultancy
Amanda studied for a part time Executive MBA in 2010, after which she took part in the Manchester Metropolitan University and Goldmann Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses joint programme. She is Managing Director at AD Sprinklers, a fire protection business in Manchester.
I've spent more than 20 years in the fire protection industry and I have to admit that I became a little bored with my job. I undertook the Executive MBA as I wanted to push myself a bit further and tax myself. The decision to embark on an MBA was relatively easy on a personal level as I was very much in need of a challenge, and I had the time to do it too.
My previous qualification was an ONS in Business Services, and to do an MBA without a degree was a little bit daunting, especially when it comes to English as I felt I wasn't very good, so that was a bit tricky!
The staff at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School were incredibly welcoming and very supportive; the fact that I had over 10 years' management experience counted for more than my lack of formal education. The other students were also very supportive, and welcomed me as someone with a wealth of business experience. I think that having business owners on an MBA brought a different dynamic to the group, and I felt I could personally give a different slant on the challenges faced in business.
The academic and the business aspects of the course gelled very well together; sometimes as a business leader without an academic background you do things that you know are right, but it's a great experience to find out that, academically, you are doing the right thing.
One of the most important impacts of the MBA for me was the grasp on English, which I had always felt had let me down. The MBA gave me the confidence in essay writing, business communications and composing tenders and bids.
A great learning experience came from researching and writing my dissertation, which was about why business do or don't grow. To be involved in that process for six months, to read journals when I myself was on a personal growth journey, and to be so absorbed and understand academic and industry reasons for the lack of business growth was a great experience.
The Goldmann Sachs programme came to me as an email – and I would like to thank whoever put me forward for it as I have no idea who it was! Goldmann Sachs runs the programme in partnership with four UK-based universities, including Manchester Met. When I went to the interview I thought, “Wow, I need to be in this programme!” It was fantastic! It was delivered in 10 modules that covered all aspects of business. When I explain this to others to try to encourage them to join the programme, I explain it as a mini MBA for business owners.
As soon as I had finished most of the modules I went back to the office and implemented what I had learnt, and got my staff to buy into the changes. I definitely think that programme helped me to grow my business to where it is today; from £1.5m turnover two years ago to £3.2m in 2014. The programme gave me confidence and built on my MBA learning experience; it was a fantastic programme to be involved with.
I had fallen out of love with my business, but the MBA allowed me to go into a room full of people who wanted to be in my position, and I woke up and realised that I had taken a lot for granted. The MBA encouraged me to get on with it, stop messing about, and appreciate what I had.
I would encourage any business owner or anyone else to complete an MBA. It opens up your world so vastly about different aspects of business. Even when you are running your own business you are not aware of all the facets of business, and the MBA not only teaches you about that, it gives you the confidence to know that your business practices are the right thing. The staff are so helpful, friendly and approachable that I couldn’t recommend it more highly. In fact I have encouraged my general manager to study for an MBA at Manchester Met, who is currently on the programme.
Dominic is a senior metallurgist for a local manufacturing company and he began his part time MBA in January 2013. A scientist by trade, he studied for a BEng in Material Sciences at the University of Birmingham. He then studied for an MSc and a PhD at The University of Manchester.
I've been working as a senior metallurgist since 2008, and have held ambitions to grow in a more commercially orientated way, so the Executive MBA offered me a broader experience than my technical background. MMU Business School also gives me a fantastic local facility at which to study.
In terms of the decision to study for the MBA, I had to think hard about whether I could take on an MBA with the amount of work I was already doing, as well as considering my family commitments. My career ambitions meant I had to do it and I was prepared to make changes. I was nervous about the impact it would have and how I would cope with a more business-orientated field compared to my scientific background. I have to say it's been a fantastic experience in terms of adapting to a more business study focus. As far as family life goes, I might miss the odd weekend but I've been able to fit in my MBA work very well.
Coming into this environment from my background was daunting, but it has been a very positive experience. The staff and other students have been incredibly welcoming and easy to question and debate with, and I've enjoyed bringing a scientific background to a business degree. Other students on the MBA programme were from a diverse mix of industries, so this really enriched the experienced and helped me to consider other perspectives and approaches to the course content.
I have been impressed with the teaching on the course. There's a huge range of staff, knowledge and experience; some are more academic and others aren’t, for example, qualified chartered accountants with their own businesses, so there's a nice spread which complements the programme very well.
The facilities and the experience of being here is fantastically professional and positive, and I can come away from my office and industry into the Business School. It doesn't feel like going back to school or university; it feels like an environment in which you can interact with other professionals in a professional space, surrounded by all of the facilities you need.
A great aspect of the MBA is a series of residential activities, and they are one of the most fantastic parts. During the course, we've been to Buxton for a team building event, where we were really thrown into debate and discussion, and experienced something more challenging. We also travelled to China for an intense week of visiting top class industry and attending lectures at Peking University. Mixed with that was some great interaction with my fellow students and visits to the Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City. It was definitely a highlight of the programme.
Although I have yet to complete my MBA, I am already able to apply my learning to my job and industry. The programme allows me to tailor my coursework towards my business needs; I am able to get involved with other aspects of the business such as marketing and financial planning, and can hold my own with senior managers. Quality systems are important in my area of work and my current MBA mini project focusses on the use of product service errors and customer complaints and their impact on time deliveries. The MBA has allowed me to make a difference in real time, rather than waiting for a future date when it might be useful.
I still have one more module and my dissertation to complete, but I've already gleaned great information and advice from every single module of study.
I would really encourage anyone who is thinking about studying for an MBA to take the plunge and just get on with it. It is academically rigorous. I've spent my undergraduate and postgraduate career at Redbrick universities, and I was unsure of what I would get at MMU. The experience has been amazing; this university has high academic standards, fantastic networking opportunities, and my personal growth experience has been huge.
Paul Davenport - Assistant Director of Finance, MMU
Paul Davenport completed his part-time Executive MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School in 2011. He believes the MBA gave him greater understanding of business as a whole, and allowed him to think past his area of expertise to bring more balance to his business decisions. The MBA was his first taste of higher education.
Why did you decide to study for a part-time Executive MBA?
Did you already have an undergraduate degree?
I didn’t have an undergraduate degree, and the MBA was my first experience of higher education. I was concerned that I might be the only person without a degree, but the students I was with came from such different backgrounds- both educationally and professionally- so my worries were unfounded.
What appealed to you about the MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School?
I looked into other providers, but taking half a day here and there for studying didn’t appeal to me. As this course is delivered in blocks I was able structure my work and study well in advance, which ensured my employer was aware of the time I would need, and allowed me to schedule my time in a structured way.
Did you talk to the Business School’s staff before you made a decision to study at Manchester Metropolitan University?
I talked to the then Dean of the Business School, as well as Professor Patricia Rees, Director of MBA Programmes. I was able to discuss what was involved, as well as what would be expected of me, and what I could expect from the Business School in terms of workload and support.
What were your expectations before you began the MBA, and were they altered by taking part in the MBA?
I have to admit that I went into the course with a bit of chip on my shoulder. My way of working was always to put my area of expertise at the forefront of everything I did, so I had preconceived ideas about how businesses should run and be run, as well as business outcomes. I was wrong! The MBA gave me insights into different aspects of business: I went in thinking that finance was the ‘be all and end all’ of success in the workplace, but came out with a very different view.
Studying allowed me to understand the theory behind successful business practices, and the other professionals I met on the course opened my eyes to different business approaches. The interaction with peers, from across the business spectrum, was as important as the theoretical discussions and learning.
How has your learning on the MBA enriched your current role?
I no longer take a singular view when it comes to making business decisions. I feel I’m much more rounded when it comes to carrying out my work, and am more aware of, and able to assimilate, different business approaches to problems. I’ve taken on more responsibility too, and the MBA gave me the confidence to do so, and to believe in my abilities.
You gained a distinction for your dissertation. Why do you think you did so well?
I posed a question which was based on a real business issue for my employer, and looked at the financial viability of a current aspect of the business. Interestingly, I began my dissertation with preconceived ideas about what I thought the outcome should be, but what I learned on the MBA allowed me to step back from the problem and to come up with a strategy that I had not expected. Finance is important in business, but for the first time I began to prioritise other business functions, which allowed me to come to a more balanced conclusion.
Did you have any barriers to overcome when completing the MBA?
The work/ life balance does get skewed! It’s a big commitment, and I did find myself hiding away from my family in order to complete my workload, particularly my dissertation.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about an MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University?
Most importantly, know why you want to do it, and what you want to get out of it. If you decide it’s for you, throw yourself at it 100%. It’s hard work, but the sense of achievement is amazing. You’ll make friends for life, as you all share the same experiences- good and bad.
Felicity Saunders - Senior National Account Manager, Kellogg’s
Felicity Saunders currently works as Senior National Account Manager for Kellogg’s, and has been promoted three times since she began her MBA. She completed her MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2011, and says it has given her a more complete understanding of a wide range of business processes, with the confidence to deal with new business practices.
What drew you to complete your MBA at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School?
The flexibility of the course meant I could attend lectures and study in a way that complemented my role. I looked at several local providers, and Manchester Metropolitan University was the most flexible. Also, the location was perfect as I lived in Preston and worked in Manchester.
Why did you want to study for a MBA?
I didn’t have an academic background, and wanted a better understanding of business. I was being asked to manage projects across several different departments and supply chains, and needed to develop my knowledge of a broad range of business issues and processes.
What skills have you gained from the MBA?
I had a good understanding of sales, having spent six years with my current employer within that department. As I won promotions I began to work on more complex projects across several functions that required broader business knowledge. The MBA gave me that wider understanding, and consequently I feel more confident when dealing with business areas that are outside of my function, such as supply chains, finance and economics.
I’d never studied economics before, and didn’t think it had much impact on my day-to-day work. Studying for my MBA has given me a fuller understanding of its relevance to, for example, the way we set our pricing. I’m also now able to hold my own when it comes to talking about economics!
Were there any surprises on the course?
My role encompasses marketing, so I thought I’d know all about it. A valuable aspect of the MBA is the diverse range of students, all with different learning needs. When that was applied to marketing we learnt about how to target specific customers and how to market ourselves to ensure we were able to influence customers. I learnt that it’s not all about marketing big brands, and that there are many different ways to use marketing to your advantage.
What useful, transferable skills did you gain from the MBA?
I’m much more analytical and have developed critical skills. I learnt to look past face value and this has enabled me to analyse other people’s agendas. Before, I would not have questioned other people’s opinion so readily.
It also gave me skills in pragmatism. Previously, I would get bogged down in the detail, whereas now I can take a step back and evaluate what I’m doing. The MBA taught me how to do that, and also gave me the confidence to know it’s OK to take time out to see the bigger picture, and to assess performance. For example, we renegotiate our major trading terms annually, and I would usually try to respond very quickly to the changes. I now take my time, think about it for a few days, and then make decisions. Having the confidence to work at less than 100 miles an hour- to look at long-term goals instead of short-term wins- is one of the greatest skills I learnt on the MBA.
What impact did your learning have on your role whilst you were studying?
My assignments were based on real work situations, and my coursework and research has fed into changes to the way we carry out forecasting and the implementation of new, lean manufacturing processes. My coursework also gave me a fuller understanding of work-related processes, so much so that I’m now a sustainability champion in my department; a direct result of my learning on the MBA.
Tirthankar Basu - Business Head, Mazaya Oman LLC
About my career
My first job after graduating was as an Executive Assistant to the Chairman for a Financial Service Firm.
Having an international degree and exposure from MMU helped me see a different outlook and approach from the conventional managers and it worked in my favour to help me reach my current position in senior management.
I experienced other work cultures from different nationalities and challenges. In the interactive group work, I learned very different cultural approaches. People with other nationalities, educational and work backgrounds exposed me to different perspectives and this has helped me immensely in my career progression.
Placements are extremely important as MBA students get to showcase the skills and understanding that they have acquired in the core functional areas of a business. This helps to start their career on the right note.
My top tip for students is...
In the information age, it’s very important for people to know how to gather information from multiple sources and from a variety of perspectives, and then make sound decisions based on what they discover. MBA graduates should be able to demonstrate this to their employer in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
It is all about acquiring and upgrading skills: "knowledge skills" of economics, finance, marketing, operations, management, and accounting, as well as the "soft skills" of leadership, teamwork, ethics, and communication are critical for effective administration. MBA students need to acquire these skills inside and outside the classroom environment.
I’m inspired by...
My peers, so many wonderful people full of enthusiasm and creativity. There was also so much inspiration and enthusiasm on campus and MMU gave us many opportunities to network and have fun in the city. Additionally, after the MBA even though we are scattered around the world, I have become closer to my peers: you know you can count on them and this makes it easier to achieve your goals.
Why I love Manchester Met
It taught me very different cultural approaches to learning, which I found very gratifying.