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Kellie Stockenström

Mother-of-two Kellie Stockenström says her MBA with The Open University has given her the self-confidence to achieve her life goals.

With more than 12 years’ experience working in supply chain in the African mining industry, she signed up for an OU MBA as an international student after her brother-in-law recommended OU study to her. Having graduated in 2020, Kellie feels equipped to pursue her dream role – but her journey getting to this point wasn’t an easy one.

In 2018, Kellie’s mum fell ill. “I had to leave my own family in Zambia for two months while I went to South Africa to care for her in hospital,” she said.

Around that time, Kellie was due to submit an evidence-based initiative (EBI) for her first module. “I had to decide whether to defer the module or soldier on – it was a tough decision to make. I decided to continue with my project whilst caring for my mother, which meant that 80% of my work was done in the family waiting room at the hospital.”

Sadly, Kellie’s mum passed away a few weeks before her submission date. Kellie dug deep to find the strength to submit the assignment, and was grateful to her tutor for offering extra support. “My result was much better than expected. I had to defer my exam for the first compulsory module, but the OU was extremely understanding and accommodating.”

The impact of deferring her module was an increased workload later down the line. “I had to do my deferred exam and my strategy exam one after the other – I don’t recommend doing this if you can avoid it!

“But it forced me to dig deep and plan ahead to smash both exams out of the park. I finished with merits for both modules, something I know my mum would have been extremely proud of.”

“My tutors were incredibly supportive when I had mini meltdowns!”

As most OU students will tell you, OU study isn’t easy. Thankfully for Kellie, she had all the best people around her to help her achieve her goals.

My tutors were incredibly supportive and were always available when I had questions or mini meltdowns! The student community was invaluable as well. I’d encourage all students to use the technology available to us in this day and age to connect with your peers. They’re usually the best form of help you can get.

She added: “My husband and kids were very supportive during my studies too, and I had a lot of help at home. Without this, I’m sure it would have been a very different picture. My family and friends are immensely proud of my achievements.

“I was also lucky to have a small community library in my area, which became my sanctuary away from home when I needed to work in peace. The online library was also fantastic and gave me access to a good proportion of the academic journals required.”

“I’ve made lifelong friends”

Kellie – who already had a Bachelor of Science before she began her Open University MBA – says one of the best things to come out of her degree was the relationships she made.

The people were definitely the highlight of my degree, I’ve made lifelong friends on this journey. Something I noticed about many of the women who were on the course with me – myself included – was that despite our knowledge, experience and intelligence, there was so much self-doubt amongst us. Having completed one of the toughest business degrees out there, I have to say my self-confidence has grown immensely.

Now she makes a point of identifying the strengths she sees in the women around her, and points them out to them.

Kellie added: “I also discovered that I enjoy all aspects of business, which was a great realisation to me.”

“Think about how far you’ve come and picture where you want to be next”

Kellie’s advice for other OU students when the going gets tough is this: “Go for a run or walk to clear your head. Think about how far you’ve come and picture where you want to be next.

“Past papers are a huge help too – practice your questions over and over again. Check the time assigned for the whole paper and assign the relevant amount of time to each question based on the mark allocation – then stick to the plan. I found this to be the best strategy.”

“I would love to move to Europe to further my career”

“I am currently job hunting. I’m hoping my MBA will help me realise my dream to emigrate out of Zambia,” says Kellie. “My MBA is my biggest achievement to date … that and learning to do a headstand in yoga!”

She says that while her current focus is on job hunting and acting as a teacher, chauffeur, referee, chef, therapist and cuddle supplier to her family, moving to Europe is her goal.

“I would love to move to Europe to further my career and stretch myself in ways I haven’t yet been stretched,” she said. “My MBA has given me the self-confidence to achieve outside of Africa. It’s made me believe in myself.”