The journey from Hospital Pharmacy to a full time MBA (guest blog)

“To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realised within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up” –Dalai Lama

So here goes, my first attempt at writing a blog, I thought it would be nice to share my experience so far.

Having worked my way up to a senior management position within hospital pharmacy, I have gained a variety of skills and attributes. I began my journey as a Junior Pharmacist within a hospital and decided to undertake a Post Graduate Clinical Diploma and an Independent Prescribing qualification. These were intense distance learning courses which gave challenges of their own. Striking a work life balance was difficult, but the skills of time management and building resilience were valuable indeed.

I became involved in the business and management side within my latest role. The opportunity to lead and manage was a great experience. This was the point when I realised I not only enjoyed the clinical side, but the managerial side of leading a team, improving services and defining a strategic and operational direction for the divisions.

This led to self-reflection. Where did I see myself going in the future? Do I aspire to be a leader and help motivate others? What could I do to enhance my skills further and reach my goals? What could I do to challenge myself and grow as a person? I think this is when it hit me, that I should consider a management/business qualification and what better way than to undertake an MBA. My mind was set, I wanted to do an MBA. When was the right time? Now? Or, some stage in the future? I was fortunate enough to be offered a fully funded scholarship at Aston University for the MBA – a sign that I should take it? It was then, that I decided to pursue it starting September 2016.

The first few weeks were interesting, meeting fellow MBA candidates, from all over the world and each with a unique and amazing career/skill profile of their own. I was amazed by the calibre of candidates on the course and how much everyone had achieved in their careers. I was excited to be able to work alongside them for the next year.

So, what were my perceptions? I researched the MBA and saw career development opportunities to help me reach my end goal.. Did I understand and know what I was letting myself in for? Well, yes (well I think I did). It is often said that an MBA is an intense self-development course, however I thought I could cope considering I completed my undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and balanced post graduate education with full time work. If I could balance that, I suppose taking a year out to do a full time MBA which would require similar hours per week, and without the pressure of a full time job, I assumed this would be manageable. How wrong I was….

So, 7 weeks into the course and already, I have learnt a lot about myself from both course material and peers. Coming from a scientific background my mind was trained to be analytical, ask questions, and to understand the background of things before accepting the theory or application. By undertaking a formal qualification in Business, I realise I actually needed to engage more to understand the business theory, than I would with scientific content (Perhaps due to a lack of theoretical business experience, or my scientific background). However, the course has also reassured me that my business and managerial acumen was developing in the right direction in my previous roles. The MBA theory covered, has matched many techniques and principles I had used in my managerial role, which reassured me. It has been such an amazing and exponential learning curve, training my mind to think in different ways, outside the norm and listening and learning from others experiences.

The experience of the MBA to date has not only been a mental challenge but an emotional one. Leaving full time employment to pursue it was the risk I took. I have had a mixture of thoughts and emotions. Am I doing this too early on in my career? Was I ready for this and fully understood what I was letting myself in for? Have I made the right decision? I have found some of the course material challenging; should I have worked a bit longer before undertaking this or took a part time MBA whilst working? This has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone and at times made me worry, but this is needed for my career right? I am doing the right thing? (all internal questions I have asked myself)

Even though it has only been 7 weeks I have definitely developed more resilience and emotional intelligence within this time. What would I have said to my younger self before undertaking the MBA? The year is intense and a character building one. Not only will you learn theory but you will learn about yourself and widen your comfort zone. The vast amount of reading and self-learning is overwhelming; however, this is an MBA and it is a sacrifice that is needed. Will this lead to the dream job I have always wanted straight away? – probably not this early on in your career. It will however provide the right skill set and be a stepping stone to where you want to go. The most important part is being able to use the MBA knowledge/skills and apply it into practice when working.

In hindsight being from a scientific background and not formally having a business qualification, I do not think I fully understood what an MBA entailed, or how different it would be from my previous studies/experience. I did research it thoroughly however I still do not think it prepared me with what to expect. Do I regret my decision? Definitely not, sometimes it is best to challenge yourself in unfamiliar territory, to develop personally and professionally. Even though it has been a rollercoaster of emotions these past 7 weeks, with me doubting myself and my capabilities to succeed, I have pushed myself through and persevered. In essence my opinion is the MBA is not just a course for a qualification but an experience and journey that will develop you personally and help shape you into a better future leader, through theoretical learning and character building. I look forward to the experiences yet to come this year 🙂

Arron Sahota MBA Candidate Aston University

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