"A careful balancing act" - What is it really like to study the Executive MBA?

27 October 2021

Explore how Sofy Richards, Executive MBA participant, balanced the programme, work and family life whilst studying at WBS. 

So what’s it really like to study an Executive MBA?

It would be fair to say it’s a careful balancing act. I’m just over halfway through my core modules at this point and juggling study time, work, and a one year old requires focus and planning.

So, why do it and how do you manage it?

My career has been what I would call “squiggly”; I’ve moved between disciplines (always with a technology/digital focus) but have not specialised in a particular industry or function. I’d reached a point in my career where I was really clear on my end goal, but with no obvious path to it.

With that in mind, I decided to take a career break so I could step back and reassess. Within six weeks I’d joined the Executive MBA at Warwick Business School (WBS) to provide me with the learning I needed to really uncover my full potential. It was a scary step, a big commitment, and I wasn’t the most dedicated of students at undergraduate level, so my hope was that by studying something I was passionate about I would both improve myself and whatever work situation I found myself in post-career-break.


One of the really attractive things about the Executive MBA for me is the commitment WBS makes to flexing with your out of work commitments. I paused my MBA for a year during the pandemic and my pregnancy, returning when my son was six months old and WBS could not have been more supportive, from ensuring I understood all my attendance options to organising rooms and fridge space so I could express breast milk whilst on-campus.

In a different dimension of flexibility, I’m also tailoring my MBA to fit my career aspirations. I’m specialising in Strategic Leadership and have selected elective modules that will enable me to hone my skills in this area. I am also planning to do a dissertation around leading sustainable transformation although I’m still very early days in my thinking.

Practical learning

To add to the challenge, I stepped up into a C-level role at a start-up straight out of maternity leave, and my need to rapidly extend my knowledge base beyond learnt “on the job” became an absolute priority. The MBA is very practically focused which means after every module you return to work with fresh ideas and different perspectives on existing challenges. As a COO at a start-up, it’s not just about expertise in one area, it’s about being able to take your skills and strengths and apply them wherever they are needed.

The group work has been fundamental to this learning. 18-year-old me would never have guessed I’d be happy sitting in a room with four other students at nine pm on a Friday night quite happily making final tweaks to a presentation to be delivered to the rest of the cohort on a Saturday (shock horror). But that’s what I was doing last Friday night and it was great fun. The post-submission glass of wine with my group was definitely well deserved!


I’m lucky enough to be a member of two cohorts, my starting cohort and my adoptive cohort who I joined on my return from maternity. Both of my cohorts are awesome; it’s great that we have such a diverse mix of skills and expertise and it’s very much a supportive and safe place. Whilst the people between the cohorts differ, the culture is very similar, and I can genuinely say I have made friends in both.

To find out more about our Executive MBA programmes see here