MBA: Mastering the Balancing Act
14 September 2021
"I would say that whilst it is hard work, balancing a family whilst studying and working is achievable." Starting her MBA at eight weeks pregnant, discover how Executive MBA participant Rebecca Thilaganathan, balanced family, work and study to realise her dream.
I was eight weeks pregnant when I started my Executive MBA in London. My husband (who was starting the programme at the same time) and I decided to move up our start date from March 2020 to September 2019, so that we could complete as much of the programme as we could before I gave birth.
We decided to join different cohorts (me on the weekday evening course, and my husband on the weekend course), to widen our networks and to also ensure that when the baby arrived, we wouldn’t both be in lectures at the same time! I was lucky that I had a relatively straightforward pregnancy, but managing increased tiredness with studying and working was challenging at times. I found it useful to take each day/week as they came, and reset my priorities for each period depending on work or MBA deadlines, as well as my energy levels at the time.
Completing the MBA was made easier by the team at The Shard, and the overall flexibility of the programme. Both my husband and I were able to move some of our modules around, as well as do our international module early (as I would not have been able to fly in my third trimester, when we were due to do it). This not only gave us the opportunity to visit Boston, but to also be in the minority of students in our cohorts to complete an international module before Covid hit.
I had planned to postpone my first module after giving birth in April 2020, but when everything was moved online, I decided to do it as scheduled, six weeks after giving birth – our daughter learnt a lot about leadership in her first few months! Whilst on maternity leave I used my daughter’s nap times to focus on my assignments and to get a head start on my dissertation – an unexpectedly welcomed distraction as lockdown meant there was nowhere to go. When I returned to work full-time, my husband and I split our time outside of working hours to allow us to spend quality time with our daughter whilst also focusing on our MBAs. After we had completed our modules, we were lucky that our parents stepped in to look after our daughter on the weekends, allowing us to focus on our dissertations.
I’ve always thought of myself as a very organised person, but the last two years have required me to improve my time management skills even further, something that I am sure will benefit me in the future. Completing the MBA and being an active member of the WBS Staff Student Liaison Committee has given me so much, including increased confidence and a growing network. I was able to use my learnings from the programme to establish a scholarship programme at my organisation for colleagues involved with its Diversity and Inclusion agenda, as well as to secure a job at a new company. One of my peers on the programme has also nominated me for a Baton Award and a Women of the Future Award, reflecting how I have developed over the last two years and used my skills and experience to improve performance across my team and the wider department, as well as increasing opportunities for people from underrepresented backgrounds.
For anybody considering whether to do the Executive MBA at WBS, but worrying about how it might impact their family life or future family plans, I would say that whilst it is hard work, balancing a family whilst studying and working is achievable. As well as giving you a recognised qualification from one of the top business schools in the world, the chance to network with people from a variety of industries and to learn from experts, it can open doors and lead to opportunities that otherwise may not have come your way, making the balancing act well worth it.