As part of our graduation ceremonies at the end of 2022, we caught up with a number of our incredible award-winning students, reflecting some of Arden University’s high achievers.
One of those is Michelle who has been working in human resources at a Premier League Football club.
Reflecting her hard-work and dedication to her studies, Michelle won the Vice Chancellor's award.
On a day of celebration, Michelle spoke to us about what she enjoyed about her time with Arden, what drew her to apply here. and her hopes for the future. Read more below.
Hi Michelle, what did you study with us?
A Senior Leaders Masters Degree (MBA) apprenticeship. I learned about leadership theory, strategy, also about finance as well, which for me, was really good because I work in human resources and so you don't get a lot of interaction with the finance team, marketing team, and sales.
It was really about putting the theory against the practice and beginning to understand the organisation you're working with.
Why did you want to do it?
It's been a decade since I was last studying, so I went back to it for two reasons mainly.
One was for my own personal ambition. I wanted to do an MBA and go further in my career.
And secondly, it was to gain a better understanding of an organisation, which would then allow me to perform better work with my colleagues.
What were the three most important things for you when choosing a university?
Something that didn't have exams and was 100% assessment based. I haven't done an exam since I was at school and finding that time to really to revise when you're in the throes of life with a full-time demanding job and a family to look after.
One that was very flexible, in terms of the studying hours.
And really one that that I felt was going to give me the I was going to get the most out of it in terms of my career and my learning.
What was it about Arden that convinced you?
When I spoke to Arden it was about understanding the modules, how frequent the assessments would be, how long the assessments would be. With my plan, it was about working out what could be offered and when it could be offered. So how often the intakes were, and how quickly I could sign up. It just ticked every box really.
And are you balancing this with a full-time job?
I'm an HR director for West Ham football club. So, I look after all the non-playing staff at the club. I’ve been there for eight years. I kind of fell into football really. I was in the public sector. I did all my CIPD learning. But the way things were transforming within the public sector meant that I was being pushed down the route that I didn't want to go down.
So, at the time I just saw a job advertised at my local football club, which was Charlton Athletic and there was a lot of synergy between what I was doing and what they wanted me to do. It was a promotion, and it was at a blue-chip company, which is what I wanted to make that leap.
It happened very quickly. I applied for the job interview, three days later I got the role and handed in my notice, so it was very quick. Then I worked there for just over a year and got headhunted for the role at West Ham.
These positions don't come up very often, particularly for a London club or a Premier League club. The main reason I took it was to gain the experience of the move to the new stadium.
What's been your highlight working in football?
I think it was qualifying to play in a European competition.
The last couple of seasons have been affected by COVID which has been really bittersweet in the sense that, for the first kind of six months, there was literally a crises every other day, which really meant that I had to think on my feet. That was a really big challenge about what needed to be done. But also, it gave the club a lot of opportunities.
I think in terms of new ways of working, we were able to look at hybrid working. And for me, that meant that I could do a lot more in the role that I'm in.
How have you found balancing studying with your other commitments?
I'm quite an organised person. I have timetables out in front of me, which makes it easy to plan my time. There's peaks and troughs in the football world, so it was about looking at what was going on in my social life and my personal life. So, it was about planning and having those milestones and those deadlines and knowing that this is what I'm going to do by this day. And then going back and reviewing that a lot. But that's how I got through it.
So, the course you're doing is a degree apprenticeship, which means that the assessments are related to your own workplace right?
So yeah, there wasn't just the assessments on the modules to do, there was then the apprenticeship piece to do as well.
For the second part of that I was very much guided by Francisco, who worked really closely as the coach with the cohort that was about putting together bundles of evidence to do with the knowledge, skills and abilities that I've learned on the course with the CMI.
So, you're learning about the theory, you're applying it to practice, you’re showing the success at the end of that, and demonstrating what you actually achieved.
Have you found you’ve been able to apply your learnings?
Absolutely. When I look back over the last couple of years, at the time, you kind of think all this is coming together, and then when you realise it's actually coming together by design, that is what the course has done for me – I look at things more strategically and I understand things a lot better.
You're not just stumbling over things and going, ‘Oh, I did that wrong,’ because now there's a lot of reflection in it.
As I said, you're learning the theory and you're applying it. I think subconsciously, although you don't realise it at the time, it's actually having a really big impact on your job.
What's been your highlight whilst studying with us?
I think being the age that I am, and not having been in formal education for at least a decade, the highlight is just proving to myself that I can do it again; that I can get some good marks; and that I've still got that determination and ambition.
They reignited for me and really gave me a purpose and showed me what I want to do next. The MBA is going to be something that really helps me get there.
And how does it feel to be here today to be graduating and celebrating?
Really, really nice. Studying in COVID was different. At times, I didn't think I'd get here but I knew that I couldn't give up because, if I deferred, I knew I'd never finish it.
I dug my heels in and said ‘I'm going to get through it. It's going to be painful, but it's going to be worth it.’
I'm a single working mom and my daughter is here today. She's only 12 and I really want her to aspire and think she can achieve and take all the opportunities that studying opens up for you.
How does it feel as well to be winning a prize today?
Yeah, that was a really nice surprise. I wasn't expecting it, but it’s nice to be recognised for studying at such a level when you are trying to spin lots of plates, especially with COVID on top of it.
What do you hope will come next?
So for me, I want to go on to the next thing. My MBA has helped me get a non-executive director role at another organisation at board level. So, I’m able to understand how an organization works, and then impart my knowledge and share that with an organisation.
But my own career aspirations are to go to that next level, which for me is to be a Chief People Officer. It's definitely given me that confidence and that knowledge base to to go out there and seek it.
So, a degree is a big investment of time, money, and emotional effort. Why do you think it's worth it?
Definitely for the chances it gives you and the opportunities. So when I'm looking at what I want to do next in my career, an MBA definitely helps me along that route. Also I love learning. So I, I find it really interesting. It helps you understand things better, which means you can perform better, which means you can have bigger input and that you're more respected. For me and my career, that's absolutely what the degree has done for me.