Durham online MBA – three months in

David Richter

I’ve recently started studying the Online MBA programme at Durham University Business School. I wanted to give an update on how I’m finding the course three months into it, along with a few tips to anyone starting a similar path.

Juggling work, study and family

I am currently the director of marketing at CIPHR, a UK provider of people management solutions. CIPHR is a relatively small business, at the time of writing we have approximately 200 employees, but we’re growing quickly. When I joined CIPHR in 2017 there were about 80 other employees. The day after I joined, I was no longer the newest member of staff. As the business continues to grow, the skills and knowledge I need to perform well in my role will evolve, so I decided to study for the MBA to equip myself with the capabilities I need to develop.

The Online MBA enables me to continue working full time and balance my studies around work and family life. Even with this flexibility, studying for an MBA is a significant undertaking. For anyone thinking about starting one, give the time commitment some serious consideration, and if you have a partner, discussing the impact on your home life over the next two years is a must.

Reading. Lots of reading…I do as much of the studying as I can in short bursts during downtime. I’ve got into a good routine of reading books and research papers while waiting to collect my children from various afterschool clubs. Watching the video lessons on 1.5x speed on my mobile before bed works well.

When I’ve had to put pen to paper for the first assessment, I’ve found I need solid chunks of time. My wife has been hugely supportive, letting me have solid 8 hours undistracted most weekends. Without that, I’d never get the assignments done.

The first module for my intake has been marketing. Thankfully it’s a topic I know a lot about and have over 20 years of experience in. However, one of the greatest benefits of the MBA I’ve experienced so far has been being forced to get my head out of the day-to-day operations of the marketing department and find time to think strategically. The first assignment has explored the repositioning of a business’s existing offering. While it’s not always possible, I would recommend that wherever you’re given the flexibility to pick and choose the company to focus on in your case studies, that you pick one that you are highly familiar with. For the marketing assignment, I chose to focus on repositioning CIPHR’s HR software. Aside from making the assignment easier, it’s also been a valuable activity in my employment.

A few other tips

Before the course begins it’s worth dedicating a chunk of time to familiarising yourself with the resources available.

If you can, complete the plagiarism course and induction materials early. It definitely took some of the pressure off for the formative assignment.

Finally, while it’s an online course, make sure to get involved with your peers. I’m fortunate that my intake has some extremely proactive students who have set up a WhatsApp group and host weekly catch-up calls via Zoom. Whenever someone has a question or concern it’s generally resolved within minutes.

Discover more

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David Richter

I'm currently studying the Online MBA at Durham University and managing to fit this around work and family life. I work as the director of marketing at CIPHR (www.ciphr.com), a UK provider of online HR software, payroll, learning, recruitment and onboarding solutions.

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