MBA: `I got what anyone wants, a job that I'm happy in'

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Barbara Burford (right), 54, runs a national programme for strategic human resources at the NHS Executive. Two years ago she completed a part- time MBA at Durham University Business School.

"I had been working as an NHS professional for a long time, starting as a student pathology technician and graduating into management. I realised that senior management was a different discipline, and that I needed more skills in it.

"I wanted to do a general MBA rather than one with a health focus, because I'd been working in health all my life. Durham seemed ideal with its generalist MBA with some specialist health-related parts. Fortunately I managed to win an award which paid all my tuition fees and living costs.

"Durham ran a very tight programme from Thursday to Saturday night every other weekend. You had to be extremely disciplined, you couldn't afford to get behind. It was difficult because at the time I was assistant director of information management and technology running Bradford's city-wide network.

"What I enjoyed most was really giving my brains a workout. It was like going to the gym, that feeling of performing at such a high level.

"I also enjoyed watching my work take a quantum leap. The MBA enabled me to deliver much better results right away. It changed me quite profoundly, and the way I tackled things really shifted.

"It enabled me to tackle things in a strategic and generic way, and meant I could produce a really professional pitch to convince the NHS executive of the benefits of my programme.

Bruce Dawson (right), 33, trained as a chartered civil engineer before taking an 18-month full-time MBA at Manchester Business School. He now works as a general manager for home-shopping pet product company, Premium Petcare.

"By 28, I decided civil engineering was not a fulfilling or enjoyable work environment for me, and thought an MBA would be the best way to create a career move and develop new opportunities.

"I wanted a school with a good name and an MBA that would definitely be valued. My shortlist included London Business School, Cranfield, Lancaster and Warwick, but on examining the courses and content, Manchester stuck out. I liked the longer course, which I felt would help consolidate things, and I liked its "learning by doing" method of teaching.

"I did three or four commercial projects, which helped my learning, developed my contact base, and proved to myself that I could function in a different environment.

"The MBA gave me a chance to compare myself with other people with similar aspirations, and identify where my skills and talents lay. I also gained a much better understanding of the kind of business environment I'd enjoy.

"By the end I knew I didn't want to work in a large corporation, I wanted a job in a growing entrepreneurial business.

"I started doing some consultancy work as a way of networking and was taken on by my second client. The company has a very open structure, where I can get involved in many areas.

"At the end of the day I got what anyone wants out of an MBA - a job that they're happy in."