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‘My OU MBA has given me a voice’ says charity CEO

Maria, 54, is the CEO of sustainable clothing charity TRAID and credits her Open University MBA qualification with helping her boost her career even further.

She’s now focused on using her skills to encourage the next generation of CEOs to champion environmental issues. Maria shares her story so far:

“I went to a comprehensive school in the 1980s. I was written off academically and sent to a secretarial school, where I lasted just half a day.

Eventually, my work and career led me to my higher education studies. I climbed many ladders to become a CEO of TRAID at the age of 34. Luckily my position formed the basis of my being accepted onto the OU MBA course.”

Breaking down barriers to education

The OU’s open entry policy was incredibly important to me, due to my lack of prior education. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to study. I believe there should be fewer barriers to higher education.

I chose to study for an OU MBA due to its relevance to my job and to improve my communication skills. I wanted to be better at the job I was doing.

During my studies I had a lot of personal challenges and obstacles thrown my way. At the start of my studies my father died, and at the end I lost my mother. I also had three young children and a full-time job to factor in.

Having the option to defer my studies if important issues came up meant that I could restart during less stressful periods, when needed. The fact that you can take up to seven years to finish the Masters was vital for me.”

‘My MBA gave me a voice’

“My MBA took me on a journey of changing and expanding my leadership thought process such as collaboration not competition, challenging the notion of business as usual and the idea of continued growth.

From this, the TRAID senior management team went on a journey of growth to making the most out of what we’ve got. This in itself turned out to have great environmental, social, and financial benefits – giving the management team time to think, breathe and take stock. As an organisation or individual, when you are stuck in a loop of constant competition and growth, social and environmental issues become secondary or totally off the radar.

My MBA also gave me the impetus of using my voice to advocate and champion all things charity retail. At TRAID, our mission is to tackle the problems caused by making, consuming and wasting clothes. I believe that collectively, there is no other area that achieves the breadth of environmental and social good for society as this understated sector.”

‘Enjoy it, you can do it!’

My encounter with the OU has been life changing. Although I had a successful career before, I never really believed in myself. Now I have a new voice, new perspectives, and a new invigorated passion to make positive changes, both academically and within the business world.

“To anyone just starting their OU journey, I’d say that finding your own support network is useful, from a friend who can help with IT or who has knowledge in the field you’re studying, to a family member who gives you the good words you need to hear to keep you going. I’d also say to enjoy it [and remember that]  you can do it!

My OU journey and where it leads me is yet to be concluded. I have accepted a fellowship at the OU Faculty of Business and Law.

It was the initiative of a tutor from the residential school that led me to becoming a Fellow. This really highlights the importance of good people believing in your abilities.

I am incredibly happy in my role as CEO of the charity, TRAID. However, I don’t want to lose the momentum and stimulation that the MBA gave me. Therefore, I am really looking forward to integrating new business and academic challenges into my life and seeing where they take me.”

This article was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.

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