What women cannot do?

16 July 2021

When Zarina Shakurova embarked on her Distance Learning MBA she had no idea what life was about to throw her way but she embraced her situation and with dedication and planning achieved her dreams.

The decision to do an MBA was a family deal. My husband and I decided to pursue our MBAs simultaneously. As a fan of British culture, the business focused Warwick Business School appealed to me, while he chose the prestigious Ecole de Hotelier school in Lausanne, due to its strength in the hospitality industry. Knowing it was going to be an intense period for the both of us, we worked out a daily agenda so that we could both keep up with balancing our studies and family responsibilities.

My busy two-year MBA journey required me to rethink my efficiency in terms of planning and time management in order to best manage the multiple tasks I had to handle, such as housework, family time, being present at lectures and meeting my assignment deadlines in order not to jeopardise the whole MBA cycle. I somehow had to expand the usual 24 hours in the day to 48 hours or more! Consistency, strict discipline and self-organisation played a critical role in the establishment of this new daily routine.

I have always liked to get up early to stretch my time and fit in the things I like to do; reading, catching up with the news, work emails and having a quiet cup of coffee. Once I started my MBA I decided to dedicate my early mornings to doing my lesson reading, revision and assignments. This meant I had two to three extra hours in the morning to spend focused on my studies. When the mind is so rested, open and fresh, it was a pleasure to be able to spend time on learning something new and enriching before the daily routine (preparing for the school run and going to the office) could interrupt this privacy of self-development and continuous growth.

I also committed my Saturday mornings to study, getting up at 4 am and going to the office where I could be alone to focus on more deep/immersive study and assignment writing. This way I had an extra eight hours of study time to work on my MBA commitments. At 1 pm every Saturday I would finish studying for the day and head back to my child to spend the remaining one and a half days of the weekend with him. That was my revised daily routine to achieve two years of intense study. And I quite enjoyed it!

But…

My limits of self-organisation were stretched far beyond my carefully planned routine when the pandemic hit in my second year. It was the pre-pandemic winter of 2019-2020 when I finally completed all my required and elective modules, and was ready to start working on my dissertation and research module. It was supposed to last for six months with a submission date of 8 June 2020. I was motivated to finish my studies on time so I could dedicate all my time to my family, work and finally live a less stressful and normal life.

So in my pre-pandemic plan, January to June 2020 were the months for working on my dissertation and as per our pre-pandemic perfect family plan our second baby was due to arrive in the second half of 2020. Planning would not be planning if unexpected factors and uninvited events do not crop up to test your EQ, soft skills, adaptability and flexibility to embed changes and adjust to it. February 2020 is when the Covid virus reached Kazakhstan and on 16 March, strict lockdown measures were introduced in the country. Office buildings closed, people were to stay at home, work remotely and the schools moved to distance learning. I was two months pregnant when I started working from home, our son Michael was home schooling, and I still had to somehow follow my early morning study routine in addition to all the other things that came my way in the Covid lockdown period. In addition to all this, again a pre-pandemic decision, my husband was to transfer for an assignment with his company from Kazakhstan to Armenia and by June 2020 we had to pack and move.  Everything (planned and unplanned) just landed on us in the middle of my planned dissertation period!

Combining home schooling and home working from 8 am until 6 pm whilst all being stuck at home since March 2020, I have been working on my dissertation and reading a lot of literature. Our son was following online lessons and homework after the lessons were over. He is a kid too, so wanted to play while we didn’t have much to do in the lockdown.

In June, my husband moved to Armenia and I was left behind to pack more than 170 boxes whilst pregnant. I finally packed our last luggage and moved countries in the first week of July. I must admit it was a great challenge. But keeping my emotions under control, organising the environment and people surrounding me, planning the day, positive drive, inner motivation and focus were my key supporters in this challenging time. It was a blessing when WBS, due to the pandemic, extended the deadline for final dissertation from June to September. Once in Armenia, I continued to work on my dissertation, while unpacking the boxes and arranging the new house in Yerevan, again utilising the magic of early morning, waking up at 5 am while during the day me and my family settled into our new life, learning about the new environment, country and people. My baby was due at the end of August, so my personal plan was to submit my dissertation before then. The night before I went to the hospital for a C-section operation, I submitted my dissertation! Despite all of the uncertainties and unexpected events, I had managed to win with my personal planning. The next morning, I was very happy, relieved and curious to meet my next life challenge, my second baby. A while later I received my results - I had been awarded a title of MBA with merit!

I like to solve problems, I like to push myself forward, I like to do extraordinary things and so just faced the reality and embraced it! Life is a continuous experiment! Stay positive and follow the flow always having a strong personal plan in place. Because whatever your situation, with dedication and planning it is possible to achieve your dreams!

Find out more about our Distance Learning MBA.

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