I have grown in confidence as a leader, through improved self-awareness and greater focus on my personal development goals. I’ve also been able to deliver more for the business – the SLA + EMBA has given me a higher-level perspective of the macro and micro environment.
More about Alice
Alice is currently studying towards the Executive MBA (EMBA) following completion of the Senior Leader Apprenticeship (SLA).
What is your current role and what does it entail?
I was Senior Customer and Commercial Planning Manager for Boots UK when I enrolled on the EMBA. This role has accountability for the strategic planning of all commercial and marketing activity across Boots stores and website, in order to delight customers and in return deliver retail sales, profit and market share for the business.
The role means you might be planning activity one year, six months, three months and 1 week out at any one time. It’s a fast-paced role and is positioned in the centre of cross-functional leadership and operational teams. The role ensures everything and everyone is connected and progressing the delivery of aligned plans requiring lots of stakeholder engagement and communication.
Why did you choose to study at Nottingham Business School and NTU?
I received an email one day from Boots HR team showing all of the Apprenticeship opportunities available. I didn’t naturally think of Apprenticeships being available for Senior Leaders, so the Senior Leaders Masters Degree Apprenticeship caught my eye! I had been thinking about and researching a learning course for a few weeks, so when the opportunity presented itself to me it seemed right.
I have worked with NTU through a previous role in Boots ESG team and know how highly respected they are, and the Business School, so I felt really confident I’d have a great experience. It also helped talking to other Senior Leaders at Boots who were already enrolled on the EMBA and were really positive.
Why did you want to study an apprenticeship and an MBA course?
I had worked for Boots since graduating, so was excited by the opportunity to expand my network beyond retail and curious about the working experiences of others across other sectors. The majority of my career has been in commercial, marketing and ESG/ Communications roles so I also felt the MBA would help broaden my knowledge and skills in areas such as HR, Operations and Finance. The Apprenticeship really appealed as it meant I could continue working and apply knowledge to real life working situations, in addition to focus on my professional development. It also the benefit of both Employer and Academic support via mentoring.
Tell us about your experience on both the SLA and EMBA.
The experience has been positive in so many ways. Firstly, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and working alongside my Cohort peers. We’ve all supported each other throughout and it’s been brilliant to find out more about their working practices.
I have grown in confidence as a leader, through improved self-awareness and greater focus on my personal development goals. I’ve also been able to deliver more for the business – the SLA/ EMBA has given me a higher- level perspective of the macro and micro environment, a more strategic outlook and a greater appreciation for the organisation, especially in light of the turbulent external environment.
Studying whilst working is a huge commitment and it hasn’t always been easy to juggle work, home and academic life but I have really enjoyed learning again, including academic reading and writing.
How did you balance studying alongside your professional role?
I blocked three hours of time, three nights per week in my diary – so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I’d spend from 7-10pm studying. The Employer commits 20% off the job learning time, so outside of study days at NTU, this equated to half a day per week during working time, but I found it easier to block one whole day out of my work diary every fortnight for studying. I certainly didn’t stick to this every week as life happens, but it gave me a structure and helped me to maintain some discipline in studying in increments each week.
My Line Manager at Boots was really supportive, and I felt trusted to be getting my job done, alongside studying as required.
What skills have you developed to enhance your professional development?
I have particularly benefited from enhancing my coaching style when leading and developing people. Additionally I’ve learned how to be more mindful of and flex different styles of emotional intelligence as a leader. I’ve become more personally confident as a communicator and with engaging all levels of the business, including external stakeholders. I really enjoyed the two Consultancy Group Projects on the EMBA as these gave me a great opportunity to experience acting as a Management Consultant.
How has your journey on this course contributed to your career and your prospects?
The course helped me to deliver brilliant results in my role at Boots, whilst also supporting the transformation of the customer and commercial function of the business.
It also gave me the confidence to set up my own business, Raven Sky Consulting Ltd, which I have big future plans for.
How have the range of teaching and assessment methods supported your learning?
The course and the way it is delivered is really varied. The teaching was excellent with lots of opportunities to participate in class and apply knowledge as we learnt. I really enjoyed the Group Consultancy Projects, and working with others in my Cohort to support clients via reports and presentations. There is a mix of assessment methods, from exams to written academic assignments and presentations, which helped with variation, with a mix of assignments being focused on your organisation and outside organisations. I enjoyed focusing the Business Research Project on Carbon Net Zero since I’m passionate about ESG and wanted to explore this area further whilst also supporting Boots with my recommendations.
What advice would you give to someone applying, or looking at studying both the SLA and the EMBA?
One of the most common questions I was asked whilst on the EMBA programme is how I found the time to study- perhaps more so because I have a busy home life with two children. But I’d say to anyone that you can make time for study, it just requires making some trade-offs and being clear on boundaries. My husband was supportive and encouraged me to study, whilst he took care of the children which helped me not to feel ‘guilty.’ I
knew that if I could maintain my study during working day evenings, I would be able to enjoy downtime over the weekend. During off the job learning time, I ring fenced time in my work diary and would switch on an ‘out of office’ message, and close down my emails and Teams Chat, to stop me from being side tracked! My work didn’t suffer and others respected these boundaries. The main advice I can give is little and often – the EMBA is a marathon not a sprint, and doing short bursts of reading or writing soon comes together.
How would you rate the teaching and support staff on this course?
Excellent! The EMBA Course Leaders, Academic Mentors and Administration team are super supportive and approachable. I felt really well set up for every module, assignment and recording my ongoing personal development but also able to ask questions and seek support and guidance if I was unsure about anything.
Academic and Employer Mentoring is also part of the EMBA course structure, so it was really helpful to have this 121 support built in. I met with my Employer Mentor for 30 mins every fortnight, which established a regular drumbeat of sharing progress, sensemaking of knowledge and guiding my personal development.
We had some excellent Professors and experts teaching our modules, some of whom were from industry backgrounds so could share their experiences. Overall I felt the teaching was of a very high standard.