Can you please briefly introduce yourself to us?
Hi, I’m Ashley Petherick, a New Zealander living in the UK since 2009. I’m a project manager in a global cloud computing company, and have been in the industry for 15 years in both the UK and New Zealand. I’m excited how the dramatic changes in technology are opening up markets and opportunities for both customers and businesses, and how innovative thinking can lower barriers; like the graduate who recently won the James Dyson Award for his low cost blow-up incubator design, which would be ideal in third world, or disaster areas.
I’m enjoying the Rugby World Cup – and must be somewhat naturalised as I was sorry to see England leave the tournament early – but still a Kiwi through and through as I couldn’t stand watching Australia inflict the final blow to England!
Can you please tell us a bit about your MBA journey? How and when did you decide and how was the application process etc?
It took me a while to understand an MBA was the next step in my career. But reading the module overview at Westminster, I realised it was the right choice. As a part-time student working full time, I appreciated Westminster’s flexible timetable, and the approach to encourage students who wanted to grow, and explore new career paths.
How do you find studying MBA while you work full time? What are the main challenges of studying an MBA programme while working?
It’s certainly a challenging experience; flexibility, negotiation and compromise are important principles, with the school, with my employer, and my wife. It’s important to give back to those that support you, when opportunities arise. You definitely need their support. Time and energy are the main challenges; making sure you provide time to meet commitments at work, at home and at school, and ensuring you commit the right amount of energy – but save some time for yourself to have a break, with enough energy to able to enjoy it! Having said this, the process of education gives me energy, so I always put a lot into classes and learning – which then feeds back to replenish family, and work commitments.
What made you decide to do an MBA?
The development of cloud computing promised to shake things up, and I realised this was as much an economic, as well as technical change. I’d become more interested in strategic decision making, the “why” rather than the “how”, and believe an MBA can give me a holistic business perspective, to participate in this decision making. I wanted to open up new career opportunities, over the next 15 years of professional life, to learn and apply transferable skills while technology continues to innovate and change the jobs we do today.
You have currently been to Uganda as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Module, Can you please tell us a bit about this experience?
Going to Uganda was a really enriching experience, and an opportunity I didn’t think a Business School would provide. I learnt a lot about the process of Management Consulting, as we worked on the availability of clean water, in rural Uganda – an issue and environment far removed from my usual experience. In such an unusual setting, I also learnt a lot about myself, the way I perceive, and behave in the world, and the things I personally value. Not things I thought I’d learn when I first enrolled in a Business Studies course!
So far which module has been your favourite and why?
That is a tough one as we are constantly learning new things… Ask me next month, and I might have a new favourite! Creating Customer Value was enlightening, as it brought together a variety of different perspectives like marketing, economics, and operations into a singular focus on providing value to customers. It gave substance to the cliché of “adding value”. It really enhanced the way I view products and services, organisations and markets. The project was a lot of fun too, as our team worked on a really imaginative and creative project.
But my favourite perhaps oddly, is the introductory module, MBA Compass. There was the excitement and energy in starting the degree, and meeting new class mates and friends. Primarily it taught us methods to reflect on how we understand and perceive ourselves and the world, how we relate to others. I keep returning to the skills taught in this module, sometimes providing profound realisations, which I didn’t see previously. Those skills have had the biggest impact on my personal as well as professional life.
How do you balance your life at busy times like this where study and work take most of your time?
You learn to hone skills in time management and personal planning. Learning new skills like mindfulness and meditation definitely help. And there are a few things you might need to reprioritise. Subscribing to decent football highlights packages, rather than watching the whole match is money well spent.
How do you think MBA will change your career in the near future?
Studying the MBA part time allows me to practice learning straight away, in a real business setting. I think this immediate application is already having a positive impact at work, and the career choices open to me, and also embeds the learning more. I’m certain the MBA will open new options, as I develop new skills and thinking, horizons grow larger, and view and act in the industry with a wider perspective.
What are your plans after graduation?
A decent holiday is a pretty certain reward. But at this stage, I’m only half way there…. considering there’s another year to go, any plans made today are sure to change. Right now, I’m keen to make the most of the experience today.
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