Believing in the power of education

Stephen Mitchell

Leader, Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, NED

By - Stephen Mitchell


4 and a bit years.

That’s how long it’s taken me to complete my MBA. Almost twice as long as I had originally hoped. Now then seems like a good time to look back and reflect on what I’ve learnt about myself over that time.

I wanted to do my MBA to challenge myself, to prove that I could still use my brain and that I wasn’t caught in an endless cycle of daily grind at work. For clarity, I love my work, every day is different and a challenge, but I didn’t feel as though I was really learning anything new. Also, and if I’m really honest, I was doing it to differentiate myself for future career opportunities.

I remember starting the first module in Jan 2013 full of anticipation about ‘going back to school’. I hadn’t bought a new pencil case, but I did turn up on my first day in business casual dress. I soon learnt that jeans and t-shirts were de rigeur for these modules.

Reflecting back now on the course, and I’ve said this consistently throughout, the absolute best thing about the MBA has been the opportunity to think. To step away from work, and to take time to think about how theory could be applied to my job. The theories in and of themselves were not anything revolutionary (did I really learn any new techniques or pearls of wisdom?), but the opportunity to critically use them was mind blowing. I came away from each visit to campus motivated, inspired, and keen to get back to work.

Another great part was the people. Meeting new people, from entirely different disciplines, was inspiring, and I struck up some really good friendships as a result. The emotional intelligence of everyone on the course was refreshing. It was such a pleasure to be part of a group of people, and I remember the incident clearly, who were having a proper, full on exchange of views about a particular topic, with lots of disagreement, but when we broke for coffee, it was all smiles and easy chat. The emotional intelligence to be able to disagree with what a person was saying and not with the person themselves should be something that we all strive for in our workplaces How much mature would our work environments be, and how much more productive?

I loved and hated the dissertation in equal measure. It was, without doubt, a truly illuminating piece of work for me. On the flip side though it cast clearly all of my negative work traits. I procrastinated over writing it for years, literally, and was left right to the last hours (again literally) to get the thing submitted. I segued between topics for the dissertation and had to rely upon the goodwill of my supervisor to provide support and challenge to me to get it done.

The 14 July is my graduation day.   I’m 37, 15 years since my last graduation, but I’m looking forward to this one with an energy I didn’t have for my first degree. I feel really proud of this one. It has hurt, it has inspired, it has seemed impossible, it has made everything feel so simple. What a journey.

It has been quite simply, the best training I’ve ever done. Mostly because of what I’ve learned about myself. The legacy will be acting upon that learning.

Let’s do this.