Celebrating the women on our MBA: Meet Kathryn Heppinstall

11 March 2020

Highly motivated and ambitious are distinguishing characteristics of our MBA candidates. Throughout March we're finding out more about the women on our MBA to discover what makes them tick. Our third blog of the series celebrates the achievements of Full-time MBA candidate Kathryn Heppinstall.

What makes Kathryn a stand-out MBA candidate?

Inspiring, energising and restless in her pursuit of a challenge, Kathryn is a natural leader with an impressive military career. With 22 years of experience leading soldiers and officers on operations across the globe, Kathryn has navigated some of the world’s most challenging, war-torn environments. Previously, Kathryn commanded the largest sub-unit in the British Army and served abroad with the UN, NATO, and Australian Defence Force; her latest venture sees her embark on the Full-time MBA, navigating from the battlefield to the boardroom. Kathryn has immersed herself in life at Warwick, becoming a course representative for Warwick Women’s Network Committee and offering her support as a trustee and director of The King’s Table, a local registered charity. We spoke to Kathryn to find out more.

What led you to pursue the Full-time MBA at WBS?

I loved the physical aspect of the Army but my body has decided enough is enough! I knew the time was right to transfer my skills to the boardroom, but to be a credible non-executive director you need to have excellent business acumen, so the logical decision was to undertake an MBA at Warwick Business School. I chose to study the MBA full-time as I wanted to completely immerse myself in the moment, with no distractions. WBS has a reputation that is simply unmatched by any other business school in the UK, and I wanted the best.

What is your proudest achievement?

The Army has given me so many opportunities and friendships that will last a lifetime. I think one of my proudest achievements was to transform the way that The Royal Logistic Corps recruited soldiers and officers. My undergraduate degree was in Food Manufacture, Marketing and Management, and I loved the fact that I could bring all my marketing creativity into play to make our events more interactive, exciting and fun. It was incredible to see my vision become a reality.

How have you found studying at WBS so far?

Returning to full-time study has been exciting, challenging and inspiring. It’s much more intense than I thought – I don’t have anywhere near the ‘spare time’ I thought I would, but the lecturers are first class and I’m so impressed with how they bring the real business world into the classroom. 

I’ve also found the CareersPlus team to be amazing. I don’t fit the normal portfolio of a Full-time MBA student, and they have found opportunities and given me advice tailored exactly to me.

What aspects of the course have you enjoyed so far?

I was not looking forward to the Accounting and Finance module – I knew that it was going to be my biggest weakness, but I have actually really enjoyed it! There were so many lightbulb moments and a balance sheet now makes sense to me. Jo Haigh, a personal friend, author and award-winning Non-Executive Director wrote, “Well frankly, if you cannot read a balance sheet, profit and loss account and cash flow, you have no right to be in the boardroom”. Wise words.

How has your military career helped you on your MBA journey?

The Army is all about inspiring people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise, be it a soldier driving through enemy territory to deliver supplies, or persuading an Afghan to trust you, everybody is motivated by different things. Working out what motivates someone is as important in the boardroom as it is on the battlefield. Are they a risk-taker? Do they rate profit over ethics? How can you earn their trust?

Have you had an opportunity to put your business skills into practice?

Yes, a great example would be The King’s Table. I became a trustee and director of the community cafe and fair trade shop when I first moved to Kenilworth to study at WBS. By chance, I had coffee with the chairman who persuaded me to stand for election and has mentored me on boardroom practice. In return, I am leading their regeneration project which aims to transform the cafe and shop. I used The King’s Table for my marketing assignment, the recommendations of which are being taken on with an investment of up to £30,000 – the most significant in the charity’s history since it started. It’s great to see one of my assignments being developed into a real deliverable, and quite daunting too!

What advice would you give to students embarking on the MBA?

Be prepared to rethink your goals – not just business, employment or career goals, but what defines you as a person, the leader you want to be, and how you want to be remembered. The Full-time MBA gives you time to be curious, to be open and to consider your impact.

I would also recommend taking as much time as you can to talk to other students. We have 40 different nationalities on our course, and experience ranging from business owners to doctors, lawyers, and highly successful entrepreneurs in the not-for-profit sector. I find each and every person has a story to tell, and there just isn’t enough days on a one-year course to reveal them all.

Find out more about the Full-time MBA.

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