"With hard work and plenty of determination as a woman you can have it all" - Family, careers and the Executive MBA

03 May 2022

Executive MBA (Warwick) participant, Laura Gillini, shares how she family life, her career and is now taking on a new challenge of the MBA programme. 

In one of my most vivid childhood memories I recall me “negotiating” for receiving one of those doll heads for my birthday to play as a hairdresser. I was only seven or eight years old but I remember my mum's face when I explained to her that I needed the doll to train because as a grown up I wanted to be a hairdresser, have four children, and never travel abroad (my mum was about to travel to Brussels as she was an elected municipality administrator). She told me that she had something else in mind for my future but as I effectively leveraged her sense of guilt for having to leave for a week, ultimately I got my doll head. I obviously burned her plastic hair on the very first day I received it. To this day, I am still a total enemy of hair dryers. I ended up being a doctor, a clinician expert in infectious diseases and I have worked and lived abroad for various international organisations, including the UN. So much for not travelling abroad!

I managed to have two daughters between intercontinental moving, plus job and personal changes. Last year, for the first time since I remember, I was less busy at work and with my girls becoming teenagers I discussed with a couple of friends about my idea of getting into university again. My target this time was not to be a hairdresser but an Executive MBA student at Warwick Business School (WBS). Most of them told me I was a bit “old” for that, some also asked why I would want to challenge myself so much when I was finally slightly less busy than usual. As I am still the same seven year old strong-willed girl, I applied and surprisingly got in. I have always been interested in getting to know more about economics and as I have often worked on projects in Low-Middle Income Countries (LMICs), it made perfect sense to learn how to do my job more effectively, trying to save more lives.

So far my MBA has proved to be as hard as I imagined but it has lifted my spirit as I have always enjoyed intellectual stimuli. It is so refreshing to meet and discuss with a totally different crowd of people to my usual one. Don’t get me wrong, on the first day of the induction I was as scared as my first day of college. But I am taking up studying at a time in life when I have come out from medical school, survived a PhD, delivered two babies and overcome many “battles” which helps a lot to both feel confident but also manage studies from a different perspective.

The Executive MBA is reminding me that when I work hard I can accomplish many things. At times I feel tired and useless, but most of the time I enjoy learning new things, and I dream of the wonderful career opportunities my MBA will likely provide. The other day I asked my daughters about my strengths and when they told me “you are resilient, ambitious and hardworking”, even if I thought that “sweet” would have been perfect, I was super happy as I am really trying to be a role model for them.

I’ve been asked to contribute to the WBS blogs to share advice to other women, but of course each one of us is unique and special. I can only tell you what I do. Whenever somebody tells me that I cannot do something, my first reply is inevitably a loud “why not?”. Better to be safe than sorry? That doesn’t work for me when safe means not listening to my true aspirations. My life to date is a living proof that with a bit of luck, some family support, hard work and plenty of determination as a woman you can have it all; career, family, and even take up an Executive MBA at WBS just because you think it is the right thing for you to do.

Find out more about the MBA programmes here.

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