Sarah Stuart's 2014 Blog

Sarah Stuart, an MBA student and former editor of the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, reveals the challenges of the programme in a weekly blog.

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It's been life changing

01 December 2014

So that's it. The final lectures have been had. The last Saturday sandwich was eaten in the uni café. I've eked every last lesson out of the $42,000 the government has loaned me for this two-year study programme (first payment due April 2015 - $3000ish). Here's why it has been worth it.

I went to business school to learn, not to earn.

Accurately calculating return on investment is a basic of assessing an MBA programme; self-funding MBA students may rightly expect their ROI to play out in salary terms over the next decade. There are mixed views on this - a top American MBA will net increased income but the $120,000 annual fees will take a good few years to recoup through salary. Graduates of Stanford returned just 18 per cent of their investment in the first year out, according to a 2010 study.

I am expecting my earning potential to increase in the coming years but it won't be my degree that will do it. Learning, I have discovered, is the biggest buzz and I'll be doing my utmost to continue that. Mighty River Power chairwoman Joan Withers says she still pops in to classes at the University of Auckland when she can - for a brush up or just to see what's new in the curriculum.

I'll be taking short courses, continuing my links in with the faculty, hunting out opportunities to continue to grow. I have no doubt that my personal ROI will be far greater than Stanford's - I'll feel it's been a financial success if I make enough extra money to pay off my student loan in two years. But I'll be counting a lot more than that - new skills and new people, opportunities and a lifetime of wanting to learn.

I've begun the transition into a new industry
Two years ago I couldn't see a way to move enjoyably from an industry I'd spent the past 24 years in. I'd watched friends do a sideways shift into roles that hadn't brought them much joy and seen others stay in jobs that weren't going anywhere. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but knew it had to be different. Two years on, that process is well under way.

Last month I was appointed to my first (non-paying) board position, a role I would not have applied for, nor probably won without this degree. While studying, I've completed project work for companies I connected with through my studies and many others I approached myself. My specialist area - the basis of my final 17,000 word research project - is proving to be key to this new working life.

I've been approached to join a new consultancy, offered another job which I had to think long and hard about before turning down and I have a plan for how I want the next two years of my working and personal life to flow. I say none of this to skite - simply to illustrate the doors that can open when you open yourself up to change. The same has happened for many of my colleagues, some of whom have remained in full-time employment while studying, a number of others who have left the stability of permanent work to explore new avenues.

I've connected with people whose paths I would not have crossed otherwise I hate the word network but that's what it is.

Lecturers, classmates, Business School staff, librarians - some to socialise with, others to work with, all to pick up the phone and call when I need help or advice. They're more than contacts, they're friends too. In a small country like New Zealand, they offer links into just about every industry you can think of.

So farewell University of Auckland Business School. And thanks. It's been life-changing.