Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the Westminster Business School?
I have been with Westminster Business School for nearly four years now. I initially started working with the Business Development unit on a consultancy basis while I was studying full-time for an MBA. My background is predominantly in the corporate world and after having worked for Nokia and British American Tobacco in a number of roles (the last of which was Marketing Manager covering the North African region at Nokia), I decided it was time for change. Higher Education was a completely different ball game but I believe change is (almost) always a good thing so I decided I would make a career shift.
As Market Development Manager, my role focuses on identifying potential business development opportunities, working with academics to develop and deliver compelling offers and managing the overall marketing of all our offerings.
I am lucky to be working with a fantastic team with an immense amount of diversity which really does make work more enjoyable. The unit initially started with one person and now there are four of us working full-time and a number of people who work with us on a freelance basis.
You mostly work on executive education and bespoke management and leadership programmes. In what way do these offerings empower individuals to perform at their best?
Life changes fundamentally once we leave school/university and embark on our career paths. There is less structure and guidance and the workplace can be incredibly competitive (and even intimidating sometimes!). What often happens is confidence starts to dwindle – and this is true for individuals at any level within an organisation.
Going on a short course or executive education programme enables individuals to take some productive time-out, learn new skills and competencies and share experiences with people from a variety of sectors. It also enables them to go back to their organisations with a new perspective to problems/challenges.
One of the most frequent comments we get from our delegates is that they felt coming on one of our programmes made them feel more confident. We had one delegate from HP who signed up for our Management and Leadership Development programme. She had an interview for a promotion one week after the course and she did extraordinarily well and got the new role! It was confidence that made the difference.
What makes an executive education programme/short course successful?
There are a numerous factors that will contribute to a programme’s success – I would probably need to write a book to cover all of them! But in summary I think some of the key ones include:
– relevance to individual/organisation’s needs – delegates are more interested in developing ideas/approaches which can be used to tackle problems they are facing at work rather than the broad intellectual concerns or theory. The theory is what underpins the programme but it is a tool not the outcome.
- programme duration and mode of delivery and the provision of opportunities for delegates to have meaningful interaction with their peers.
- the experience of the academic delivering the programme and level of multidisciplinary knowledge
- the administration of the programme (everything from the registration and payment process to the comfort of the chairs to catering)
- the coherence of the individual sessions within the programme
In terms of bespoke programmes developed for specific clients, it is imperative that a thorough needs analysis is carried out. The solution must also be integrated and link to the organisation’s competency frameworks.
The importance of a good and very close working relationship with the academic developing the content is of utmost importance. For instance, with our Women for the Board programme, I worked very closely with Dr Ruth Sacks which was important as it enabled me to develop a marketing campaign that effectively articulated the features and benefits of the programme. When delegates showed up, their expectations were met – we delivered what we promised we would. Creating compelling marketing messages requires a strong degree of nearness to the product.
When do you think individuals need to support their careers with further training and education?
I am an avid believer in life-long learning and when you look at what most successful people have in common, one key element is a commitment to always learn new skills and acquire new competencies. In a Forbes article, Dan Schawbel says that over the course of six years he has spoken to 1,200 CEOs, celebrities, authors and politicians and he has found that one of their common reasons for success is that “they are life-long learners who push themselves out of their comfort zones. While most people think that when they graduate college, they are finished being a student, successful people remain students. They are constantly learning new things and have new experiences. They aren’t afraid to try new activities and to fail at them”. Training and formal education is of course only one way of acquiring new knowledge, skills and competencies but it is an important one.
What would you say are some of the main future trends in terms of executive education and short courses?
There are a number of key trends in both the corporate market and open short course market. In terms of the latter, there is an increasing demand for programmes that are customised and that cover multiple disciplines. This could indicate that there will be an increasing need for cross faculty collaboration.
The UK healthcare sector is a good example of this. Clinical staff who are moving into managerial roles (alongside their roles as doctors or nurses) need to acquire certain business skills. We have witnessed a substantial increase in the demand for our healthcare programmes such as the MSc in Leading and Managing Health and Social Care as well as our healthcare focused MBA and MA.
The open short course market is also changing. Accordingly to Della Bradshaw
in an article in the Financial Times, “the demand is for programmes on social media, big data and technology rather than general management. Coaching is increasingly required as an integral part of the programme”. These are key focus areas for Westminster Business School – this year we are launching a Diploma in Digital Marketing (accredited by the DMI) as well as a number of short courses ranging from social media to web analytics to SAP for instance.
The short course educational tourism market is also growing. More and more people are looking for ‘productive’ holidays where they can explore new cities but also learn something new. Many of the delegates from the Middle East and Africa who sign up for our Management and Leadership Development programme want to experience British Education and enjoy everything that Britain has to offer in terms of tourism.
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