Celia is our inspirational Alumni of the Year 2022 winner. She currently works as a Learning and Development Manager for Mott MacDonald Rail Division, serving more than 500 people, and recently won the ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year Award’ at the Women in Rail Awards. However, earlier disadvantages meant she has had to work hard and overcome many adversities to be where she is today.
From a low-income, working-class background, partly deaf, lacking in self-confidence and without role models, Celia was overwhelmed by failing her first degree. By 30, she was homeless, a single parent, unemployed, and suffering from depression.
Celia applied for a bursary to study from her employers at the time, Binnie and Partners, and was bracing herself for disappointment. Thankfully, her request was granted, and Binnie and Partners continued to support her module by module as she persevered her way to an Open University MBA.
Getting the OU qualification gave me an enormous boost of self-confidence in and belief in my own abilities.
“The MBA has changed my life,” said Celia. “I was 41 when I began my studies with the OU. Having failed my first degree, I had low self-esteem and didn’t expect to succeed. However, with the support from my second husband and the determination to provide security and stability for my son, I persevered and surprised myself in passing each module until eventually achieving my MBA ten years later.
“I continued to progress in my career and eventually became a Global Development Manager, working in Europe, the USA and Asia. My studies have opened so many doors for me and have been truly life changing.”
“I chose to study at the OU as it was recommended by my employer, and it looked like the most interesting route to qualification.
I found the course compulsively interesting right from the word go! As well as the quality study materials, which I still refer to today, I felt very supported by the OU and was lucky enough to have some great tutors.
At 73, Celia continues to work motivated by a passion to help others to fulfil their potential. Celia said “As a coach and a manager, it is my job to inspire and develop others. My study material is a resource that I refer to regularly so I am passing my learning onto others daily and will continue to do so.”
Partially deaf, Celia is also role model for disability awareness and has helped to raise awareness of the communication challenges faced by the hard of hearing. However, she passionately encourages the deaf community to not let disability be an impediment to their work. “I want people who are hard of hearing to not feel like it is an obstacle and to push through any boundaries. I realised I didn’t need to be affected by my hearing disability to accomplish my achievements.”
When asked what advice she would give to anyone considering studying with The Open University, Celia said “Just go for it!"
I would never have got where I am without the great opportunities that became available to me as a result of my Open University Business School studies and the encouragement of some great tutors.
“It is a brilliant investment into your life and career; it will open many doors for you; and above all, it is a really rewarding experience.”