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Maximising your MBA: A graduate's perspective

By Gaelle Ciriego - Posted on 24 January 2013

Gaelle Ciriego, founding Director of HR consulting and executive coaching company, Ipso Facto, reflects on her time on the Strathclyde MBA programme to offer three top-tips for prospective MBA students.

Having worked in HR throughout my career I felt comfortable and competent in my position as HR Director for an IT Consultancy. I enjoyed my role, I just had one reservation - was I doing enough to broaden my business knowledge?

I knew if I could learn more about how HR fits within a wider operational context, I could develop a new model for measuring its return on investment.

It was at this point I began considering an MBA and got to work researching my options.  After a lot of reading, I decided on the Strathclyde MBA because of its international reputation and, importantly for me, the fact that the programme was also offered part-time.  Studying in the evening and at weekends gave me the opportunity to learn while continuing my day job.

Of course there were challenges to overcome, late nights and study-filled weekends, but these were far outweighed by what I gained. During my three years at Strathclyde Business School I learned how to ‘think big’, how to use best practice to develop my own business and how to communicate what I had to offer.

For anyone considering an MBA, the greatest advice I can offer is this: Think about what you want to achieve from it. An MBA gives you an opportunity to experience business in a safe environment. Ensure you maximise this opportunity by setting clear goals and establishing the key learning points you want to take away from it.

Here are my three tips to help you maximise your MBA studies. After all, it’s all about return on investment:

1. Get your priorities right

With a busy home life, a career and lectures twice a week, weekend group sessions and self study to contend with, for me, maintaining the right balance was critical.

To get the most from business education, especially while studying part-time, it’s important to prioritise. Obviously keeping on top of your reading and projects is a must, falling behind will only cause larger problems down the line, as is maintaining standards at work but what I think should be the highest priority is ensuring you give yourself enough time to enjoy a home life.

Working and studying at the same time can, at times, be very stressful so it is essential that you are able to enjoy your free time with friends and family. Failing to let off steam by doing this makes it almost a certainty that either your studies or work will suffer.

2. Use differences to expand your outlook

Working with people from such a diverse range of professional backgrounds and cultures, each with very different ways of organising their thoughts and work was one of the most challenging aspects of my MBA.

It’s important to be able to use these differences to your advantage, being able to gel quickly as a group will allow you to deliver good quality work in a short space of time.

Of course, at times you may ruffle each other’s feathers but using these differences will allow you to develop your own professional mindset and give you a new perspective when approaching problems.

In the end, working with such a diverse group of talented individuals was one of the most rewarding elements of my MBA studies.

3. Make connections

It might sound painfully obvious but networking is incredibly important.

Whether you already have your own business, are planning to start one, or you are looking to change career, meeting people and making as many new business connections as possible is essential.

Working closely with other professionals gives you an excellent opportunity to expand your professional network.

I’m still in regular contact with some of my fellow students, many of whom have helped me in one way or another to develop my own business.

If you understand what you are committing to and follow these simple steps, studying for an MBA, while challenging, can be so rewarding.

My MBA gave me the breathing space to think about what I wanted to achieve. In the end the knowledge I gained and the connections I made gave me the motivation to start my own business, Ipso Facto, a HR consultancy which supports fast growth SMEs with their strategic HR strategies.

For information on how to apply for the Strathclyde MBA please visit our admissions blog. Have you studied for an MBA? How has it helped your career? If so, let us know in the comments below.



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