The following is my profile, written for the Henley Management College website. The answers might be interesting to anyone thinking of doing an MBA or further study.
Alumni MBA Member Profile – Andy Millward
‘Henley’s programme seemed more rounded and focused on the development of strategic thinking’ – Andy Millward – Chief Executive, Chestnut Consultants Limited
What motivated you to think about taking an MBA?
I’d been working as a freelance management consultant for over seven years when I started my MBA in 2000, and felt in need of refreshing my learning and a career boost, both in terms of the learning gained and the networking capability the MBA afforded. In essence, the qualification should extend the length and breadth of my career.
Why did you choose Henley?
Four primary reasons: Henley’s programme seemed more rounded and focused on the development of strategic thinking; because the Flexible Evening programme fitted well with my working life; the international study trip; and because I was sold on the Henley premises and its staff from my very first visit!
How far are you into the programme?
Graduated in 2003.
What were your highlights?
Working with my syndicate group – we worked hard, played hard and formed a lifelong bond. Gaining interest in areas of learning not previously anticipated, notably knowledge management through my dissertation studies.
Completing the dissertation. Bit of an anticlimax thereafter, but the satisfaction.
Visiting Cape Town for the international study week. A life-changing experience.
What were the greatest challenges?
Managing the workload was, ironically, less challenging than I expected, though there is unquestionably plenty to do alongside full-time work and family commitments. Involving my clients in case studies also worked well, though I know of colleagues for whom many limitations were imposed in using their employers in this respect. Put simply, an MBA demands practical outlets to use your growing skills and for examples of management practice. Exams are always challenging and unavoidable, but at least the case study method of doing exams is fair and gives candidates every opportunity to shine based on the quality of their analysis.
Tips for managing your studies alongside work/personal life?
If you’re single it may be less of any issue, but otherwise having a supportive partner and family is absolutely essential for dealing with the workload and managing the rest of your life. There’s no doubt you need to compromise your social life, though you will gain a new social life in the process of working on the course! Having a good laptop and first-class broadband is essential, not only for taking advantage of whatever empty time slots you have but also for expanding your research capability. The Henley online library is good, but do make use of the real library whenever you can. Take time to visit it and become acquainted with all its resources. Be self-critical but remember to get the opinions of friends, family members and your syndicate group in order to gain a balanced view. Don’t become too insular in your studies.
‘Since graduating from Henley, I’ve done a lot of consultancy and interim work at senior levels within the NHS, where the blend of skills and experiences from the MBA has proved hugely valuable.’
Tips on being a successful distance learner?
The FEMBA programme enabled me to take advantage of the best compromise between night classes and distance learning, though work on the dissertation was a pretty solitary business. The secret of success is to be resourceful and creative in ways you never previously anticipated, so the knack is to stay open minded and try everything – particularly the facilitation and presentation – and stay ahead of the deadlines.
How has your performance at work changed since your MBA?
As a freelance consultant, my career for the past 17 years has been driven largely by serendipity – I take my services where the need arises. Since graduating from Henley, I’ve done a lot of consultancy and interim work at senior levels within the NHS, where the blend of skills and experiences from the MBA has proved hugely valuable. I am in constant demand, command a healthy day rate and enjoy a symbiotic relationship with clients. The qualification and skills have greatly helped that process.
What have been your greatest achievements during & after the MBA?
During the MBA I was constantly surprised about how well I could harness existing knowledge and experience to the theory gained through reading and classes. The quality of the work I produced was and still is a source of great pride, though I am particularly proud of my business change project and dissertation. The dissertation sits proudly on my bookshelf, and I still read it or use it to demonstrate my credentials on occasion. It’s a showcase of my research capability. Apart from the many client projects I’ve worked on since the MBA, perhaps the greatest benefit has been the ease of conveying authority and credibility at board level in many organisations. MBA skills confer confidence in yourself and every professional task you undertake.
Advice to those thinking about studying an MBA at Henley?
Don’t ever do the course because you fancy the letters MBA after your name. Do it because of the personal and professional fulfilment you gain. This is a prime opportunity for personal and professional development, the key is to assimilate those skills, tools and techniques into your career development and working practices.
What will you do after your MBA?
My life is incredibly hectic already but I do hope to find time to go back to do a doctorate, either a DBA or PhD, sometime in the future.