The key to getting ahead
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Olga Zhukova was working for HSBC in the Caribbean in a risk management role when she began an MBA by distance learning two years ago. Now she’s been promoted to a Manager at the head office in London. Coincidence? Not likely.
Russian-born Olga had been working in banking for almost 10 years when she decided it was time to improve her skillset with an MBA. “Working in a global environment, I felt that there was a gap I needed to fill through better understanding of internationally accepted business practices.”
Living in Bermuda, she initially considered American universities, but after being told of the University of London International Programmes, she realised the AMBA-accredited MBA in International Management, developed by Royal Holloway, University of London, was just what she had been looking for.
“The University offered a wide range of postgraduate opportunities, emphasised significance of both academics and student networking, had an element of on-campus study and offered competitive rates. The choice was easy.”
Olga found she could apply her learning directly right from the start. “Studying for my MBA supported and shaped knowledge I acquired at the workplace, helped me to enter discussions in a more confident and substantiated manner, and be viewed as an internationally versatile specialist.” After only a year of study, she gained a transfer from a local HSBC bank to HSBC Head Office in London, making the shift to colder, but more lucrative, climes in 2011.
She says it can sometimes be challenging to balance studying with her busy lifestyle in London and monthly visits to her parents in Moscow, but it is made easier by the flexible study method. She can study at her own pace, and with no regular lectures to attend, she can fit her study into her working week.
“My week starts with the alarm clock going off at 6.30am and me wishing for an extra hour of sleep - likely a very typical start of a working week. Morning porridge, coffee and a walk to work. I study in the office, before work – I find it too difficult to concentrate in the evenings.”
Olga also benefits from a supportive employer – HSBC gives her paid study leave around exams – and a partner who knows exactly what she is going through. Her boyfriend Paul, a business consultant, recently graduated from the University of London International Programmes with an MBA in International Management.
“We didn't know each other before the programme. He attended the same on-campus study session as I did in 2010 and, when I moved to London last year, we met and he 'introduced' me to the city. Work-and-study lifestyle is a serious commitment. Having a partner who is fully on-board is essential.”
Not surprisingly, Olga names the on-campus plenary sessions (you need to have two weeks of face-to-face lectures to meet the requirements for AMBA accreditation) as her favourite part of studying. ‘“Meeting similar-minded individuals, working through issues together, expanding our horizons, building aspirations and dreams – that is priceless.”
Finally, her advice to a student considering the MBA: “The MBA is a very wide-ranging, high-level programme. It will not give a deep specialised knowledge of any one area as professional qualifications do (like ACCA, CFA, etc.) – the MBA brings different knowledge units together, builds synergies and allows you to see business as a whole. It is most suitable for people who already have a good understanding of their specific areas of expertise and would like to piece together other functional parts of organisations.”
Application deadlines for the MBA in International Management are 31 July and 31 January annually. For more information on studying for a University of London MBA by distance learning, visit: www.londoninternational.ac.uk/mba
Watch a clip of Royal Holloway academic, Justin O'Brien, provide an overview of the MBA: