Leaving a legacy post-MBA: 3 lessons I’ve learnt from my third graduation
On Thursday 13 January 2022 I graduated with a distinction in a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Manchester Metropolitan University. But it wasn’t just any graduation: I was celebrating the third one of my career.
A graduation in itself is already a monumental event, a proud milestone you want to acknowledge and share with the whole world. Which got me thinking: why not share with the world? I know when I first looked into studying for an MBA, it was helpful to hear from others about their experiences. And maybe by sharing my own, someone else will be inspired and decide to follow the same path too. I’ve previously written an MBA mid-point reflections blog post to give you a flavour of what I’d learned back in 2020.
When we say ‘graduation’, what do we even mean by this? According to the Cambridge English dictionary, the definition of graduation could be explained as:
Self-explanatory, I think you’ll agree. But what this definition misses out for me is a recognition of how we got to the finish line, not to mention who helped us get started on the journey to even graduate in the first place.
I’m fortunate to have studied at university twice before and graduated from the UpFront female confidence course last summer.
I recognise how lucky I am as a woman to have had the educational opportunities I’ve had, as well as the support I’ve received along the way.
But there have also been times where I haven’t been so fortunate and where luck hasn’t been on my side. Which is why I’m using this opportunity to be open and talk about my educational journey to get to where I am today.
Degree BA International Business in Spanish: Sheffield Hallam, 2006–2010, Distinction
My very attendance at university was encouraged by my parents (I was the first child in my family to go to university). So while I had no immediate examples of people in my family attending university, my parents had friends who had, which helped it seem more accessible than if I’d never known anyone who had gone before. I did well at school: I got two Bs and a C in my A levels.
My parents offered to provide me with the financial support of paying my university accommodation fees which was a huge help and made it less of a scary financial decision. I still had to take out the tuition loan and student loans. I still have a student debt of £25,000+ but I know I would have been in even more debt if it hadn’t been for my parents’ financial support. I worked part-time at Wetherspoons throughout my degree when I was living in Sheffield to help reduce the debt and cost of living at university, as this was the route I had to take to make it financially work.
Lesson 1 — look beyond your immediate family for role models in your chosen field. If you don’t see them, seek them. There is more discussion now around first generation students and widening the awareness of the career opportunities available to young people.
Degree MA in Globalisation and Development: Sheffield University, 2010–11
People think going on to do a Masters is the same as getting an Undergraduate student loan. It was not like this. You could get a loan, but you had to start paying it back immediately, and the terms weren’t as favourable as the student loans company offered you.
At the time I signed up to do the Masters I was interested in a career in teaching business at university, so studying for a Masters made sense. My grandad has always been sensible with money and rather than take on the risk and stress of taking on another loan, I asked him if he would lend me the money. We agreed on a figure and he covered the cost of the fees and my rent which amounted to around £6,000.
I continued to work part-time to cover my living expenses and got by. To this day I have nearly paid him back in full, something which has taken 10 years to do, while also spreading the cost over the long term to still enable me to save. I am very lucky to have had grandparents in a position to offer me this route. When I graduated, I’d decided not to go into academia and then had to try and find a job during the recession of 2011 following the financial banking crash. I could do a future post on the challenges of finding a job out of university to cover my learnings here.
Lesson 2 — Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets
This is a Leondardo da Vinci quote. I haven’t gone onto a career in politics, I’ve not gone on to be an academic (maybe I will, who knows?) but I loved this degree. It challenged me and helped me build a better understanding of the global world we live in and the systemic issues we need to tackle as a global collective. For this I have no regrets.
Degree Masters in Business Administration (MBA): Manchester Metropolitan University, May 2019-May 2021, Distinction
As a result of starting my job as a Delivery Manager at Co-op in 2019, the increase in salary I received meant that I was now in a much stronger financial position. I’ll be forever grateful to Kim Morely for saying what I was worth and giving me the permission and approval to be paid what my skills are worth. I was deciding which steps to take as part of my career development, and given my love for education and learning, I decided an MBA was the pathI wanted to take. However, this time the difference has been that I have funded my education by myself. Thankfully one benefit of doing an MBA was that you paid in installments for each module, meaning the full cost is spread out over the duration of your studies which, as a result, made it less of an initial upfront cost. At least this was the case for MMU anyway. Initially I sold my car to pay for the first few modules which then allowed me to set up a savings plan.
It’s only now on my third university degree that I have paid for my full education from my own money. That’s right — this has been entirely self-funded. I’ve still had a huge amount of support around me that allowed me to be able to work full-time and study, and the Co-op has been flexible in supporting my changes to my working pattern to accommodate the time commitment.
Lesson 3 — think about how you can leverage your income to fund your career development. Also speak to people who have done a course you’re interested in if you’re not sure. I spoke to a number of people In my wider network to get their perspective as well which helped to make this choice.
Education and privilege
I’ve talked about privilege before in an earlier post to do with my education journey, and recognising that it can relate to decisions that are made for you or on your behalf that give you a head start in life. I’m acutely aware of the privilege I have in that my parents and grandad have been in a position to financially support me. I’m also aware that there’s a cohort of people who have private education choices made for them, and by virtue of a private education, the standard they are educated to and the proxy effect of going to these institutions creates a higher proportion of students going onto the likes of OxBridge and other red brick universities. Just this last week the story surfaced about David Cameron sending his children to private secondary school with fees of £21,000. The piece highlighted the contrast in state school funding per pupil in the capital which is around £7,000. This is education and privilege right here. Choices made that can propel some people in society and not others. We only have to note how many prime ministers have been educated at Eton!
I’ve worked and studied all the way through my education.
I’ve never had the luxury of being able to dedicate 100% of my time to studying due to working part-time.
I’ve not had anyone to pay for me to fast-track my career via a private education (while of course recognising the financial support I have had).
Yet the hard-work that comprehensive students have done to get to where we are isn’t viewed in the same way as a child who’s had the privilege of a private education. Privately educated students have had the luxury of not needing to work and often go on to achieve the best possible grades. I’m sure with access to higher quality teaching and all the time to study I might have gone on to get AAB at least, although we’ll never know.
One thing I’m becoming increasingly mindful of is legacy — specifically, the power of living legacy.
When I graduated from Sheffield Hallam in 2010, I received a £500 prize for achieving the highest grade on my Spanish degree programme, which was known as the Herbert Hughes memorial prize.
I remember thinking what a person he must have been to leave a gift to support and recognise the achievements of students. I’ll be honest, over the years I’ve read bits about him being a notable person in the Sheffield community back at the turn of the 19th century. After a bit of a look to write this blog I found out more, and discovered the Herbert Hughes Memorial Trust. Set up as a result of a crowd-funder due his sudden death, this was in recognition of his ambition to create an education highlighting modern languages in Sheffield.
How a city's most famous solicitor inspired a century of language-learning
The first Spanish degree courses taught in Sheffield launched 100 years ago City's most renowned lawyer Herbert Hughes…
I’ve just written that I plan to sort out a will in 2022. While of course I intend to leave something in my will in relation to education, I don’t want to wait until I’m long gone to see an impact in the world.
This is where the role of living legacy comes in. If there’s one legacy gift I intend to put out into the world during my lifetime, it will be to fund a woman to be able to benefit from a qualification or academic experience to the same value as my MBA education.
I’ve written before about my intention to be child free by choice. Therefore, my living gift to society is this: to invest what money I might have spent on a daughter’s education to a woman who’s deserving of a chance in life that I’ve been afforded through my family.
Thank you for reading, and if you know of a woman looking to advance her education, let me know: I’d love for my living legacy to make a difference.