Studying an Executive MBA while building a fledgling business
24 August 2021
Hear from participant Latha Parvataneni about how the flexibility of the Executive MBA allowed her to apply what she had learnt, while building a fledgling business.
As a senior leader in my industry, committing to further studies outside my area of expertise presented an opportunity to embrace lifelong learning and consolidate my management training. This comes as part of my professional development. Choosing the Executive MBA allowed me to apply what I had learnt, whilst still allowing me to build my fledgling business. That was the theory; however, creating the right environment, whilst enjoying the journey were just as important. In September 2020, I defined my goals as;
1. Creating the right environment
2. Maintaining motivation
Neither of these were fixed and I was prepared to adjust both over time. Creating the optimal environment included choosing the right roles. I had started my boutique consulting business in 2019 and whilst wanting to establish and expand, I made a conscious decision to pursue tightly defined contracts for multinationals based around smaller projects rather than the big start-up projects I would normally relish. This relieved some of the pressure, but also in the long-term, gave me a more diverse skillset, tapping into the expertise of a big company, making me more attractive to clients. I was also honest with potential clients about my MBA studies and how I would maintain my commitment to them; this included structuring into the contract two days a month towards study. Having this buy-in from the start has been a distinct advantage.
Being kind to myself was essential from a practical perspective, as the year has progressed the pre-reads, revision of lecture notes, modules and assignments came thick and fast, so ruthless prioritisation has been key (whilst not everything went according to plan), being comfortable with uncertainty was important for me. The Executive MBA is a considerable time commitment but not impossible for anyone to undertake. Initially, I would start my assignment as soon as the module had finished, but over time I realised that I needed a day of doing “nothing MBA-related” to help me relax and reflect. The importance of the environment is key, but also remembering that an MBA is not a sprint but a marathon and maintaining that motivation through the sprints, also takes a support network of many, for you to complete it.
I am a single mother to two boys, and whilst they are away at university or school for much of the term, when they were home for the holidays, they had my attention. I have always worked best in the small hours of the morning, so being able to spend time with them and then doing some assignment work at 2am was perfect, and it was when I got my best inspiration!
My support network extended to family and friends, and with this I include our tight-knit Cohort 11 who are undoubtedly the best. We have worked hard and played hard, and like every good team our celebrations included anything and everything; the end of each module, group assignments and individual assignments. In fact, anything we could celebrate we did, (much to the delight of our friends in Bar 31 of The Shard). Whilst we all experience dips in motivation when work and personal life gets complicated, this camaraderie is what has got me through. I have also carried on with the things which bring me joy such as running which helps me to unwind and think.
Finally, remembering that my own personal network has been expanded by the WBS alumnus network and the CareersPlus events, which I have made time for, has not only given me my own personal boardroom but also given me soft skills and practical help for that ruthless prioritisation. The presentation skills and running meetings session were particularly helpful and many of the guest speakers (whilst outside my industry) remind me of the need for thinking broadly and creating ecosystems. The MBA is as much as broadening your horizons as the classroom teaching. So far and one year completed it has certainly made me think differently and take advantage of the supportive and nurturing environment which WBS offers.