Planning for MBA success outside of the military

15 May 2024

Dean Wilson, British Army Officer and Global Online MBA participant, talks through his journey to beginning his MBA with Warwick Business School in 2024, and offers advice on what to consider if you’re thinking of taking on the MBA challenge as a member of the military community.

With a diverse military career spanning multiple roles, nearly half of my professional journey has been overseas. Presently stationed with one of our international partners in the Middle East, this experience has instilled in me a profound global perspective. I am deeply fascinated by the intricacies of global dynamics and have actively pursued opportunities to immerse myself in diverse cultures.

Looking for a new challenge

With a continuous drive to learn, I was searching for the next challenge after my MSc in International Relations. I’ve always known that an MBA was an option as it would significantly improve the gaps in business knowledge that I knew I would carry as I came closer to my time to leave the military. I subsequently reached out to some ex-service personnel who were in the process of doing, or had completed, an MBA.

The veteran community on LinkedIn is fantastic and after several really helpful calls, I knew that the Global Online MBA from Warwick Business School was the one for me - it is highly-rated, fits with my global outlook, and has opportunities to specialise with overseas face-to-face modules. There was also an opportunity to apply for the Heropreneurs Scholarship, securing up to 100% funding through Warwick Business School’s collaboration with this great charity!

Whilst I wasn’t successful with Heropreneurs (though I did receive a separate scholarship from Warwick Business School), the process really helped me with my overall MBA application and opened my eyes to who I am, where I want to go career-wise, and how the MBA will fulfil my desire to be challenged.

Planning for success

As a serving member of the armed forces, undertaking an MBA can be both daunting and incredibly rewarding. Stepping outside our comfort zones can open up a world of new perspectives and learning opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise experienced. My fundamental piece of advice is that you should definitely take a look - whether you have one, five, or ten years left, the MBA will enhance all of your skills and be a great benefit, both whilst serving or transitioning to civilian industry.

If you do decide to take the plunge, there are a few things you should consider and plan for to ensure the greatest of success:

Time - "finding the time" is crucial. Balancing military responsibilities with MBA studies requires careful planning and dedication. We all have the same amount of time, just different commitments to achieve in it. I manage my time by planning out a typical week through time boxing; setting aside dedicated periods for MBA focus - crucial in effectively managing other commitments against the workload.

Reading - Reading is the single most important tool at your disposal for self-improvement. You might think it's easy, much like riding a bike; once you've mastered it, there's nothing left to learn, right? Wrong! Reading is a skill that requires nurturing, training, and constant practice! You need to know what to read, the discipline to stop when it isn't adding value, and ability to engage in a dialogue with the reading - challenge it and formulate your own (evidenced) point of view!

Thinking - In the military we tend to think in a certain way. Despite what our egos may lead us to believe, we're not always right, and the MBA will make you realise you're not the smartest person in the room. Which, in all honesty, is a fantastic place to be! The MBA will develop critical thinking skills that are invaluable both in and outside the military.

Writing - In my view, the pinnacle of critical skills is the ability to write convincingly and change someone's mind. It is the culmination of "reading - thinking - writing" that I try to embody to keep my brain challenged! Writing for an MBA is different and is the best way to develop your communication skills.

Diversity - You might assume that the military is a diverse organisation. Trust me, compared to an MBA cohort, it's not. While I've worked across multiple countries, with many different cultures and languages, working within an online group on this Global MBA has truly been the most diverse experience of my career. This is also the reason why I chose the WBS MBA - the sun never sets on the MBA classroom!

I have already used insights from my first module to influence change on my current project in the Middle East. I’m also hoping to attend the module on ‘Leading Global Businesses’ in Dubai, which will really fit with my post-Army career aspirations. I am genuinely excited to continue this journey, embracing new challenges and interacting with my international classmates.

Ultimately, hard work and dedication do pay off - if I can achieve a distinction in my first module, then so can anyone from the military community!

Ready to discuss whether a Warwick MBA is right for you? Book an informal 1-2-1 chat with our dedicated MBA Business Development Team for advice and support on your next steps.