Melanie juggled full-time work, family commitments and study for three years but her dedication changed her life. She shares her story.
“I was working full-time in the Royal Navy when I decided to do a Master’s degree. My husband was deployed on operations and we had teenage children to look after, so the only way I could achieve my dream was by studying flexibly with The Open University.
“I wanted to consolidate the knowledge, skills and experience I'd gained in the military and translate these into a professional qualification that I could take forwards to a new career in Strategic Human Resource Management.
“I've been promoted since completing my Master’s Degree. I am now the Commander of the Maritime Reserves, the part-time specialists of the Royal Navy. My organisation delivers training across 19 UK sites to a military force of more than 4,000 men and women. In the Maritime Reserves, ‘the people are the kit’ so I’m very much in the business of managing a disparate people capability. It’s the perfect role for someone with a passion for people.
“The most valuable skill I mastered through my studies was critical analysis. The shift towards blended learning was also instrumental to my success. Having seen the benefits of blended learning, I’ve since introduced the approach across my organisation; our remote learning solutions kept our training pipeline alive through Covid-19. I’m really encouraged that my studies are inspiring the next generation of learners and leaders in the Royal Navy.
“I've used my MSc in Human Resource Management to drive a huge shake-up of Britain's part-time force of sailors and Royal Marines. My degree is etched into the strategies that are redesigning the organisation, the way it’s run and the people structures that support it. My colleagues recognise the value of my studies; some are inspired by its value too.
“My study experience with the OU was a really good one. I was very lucky as I was able to predict the peaks and troughs in my study and deconflict them with work commitments. This made the assignments over the three years manageable. However, the assignments and word counts did feel unachievable and insurmountable at times. I’d celebrate the submission victories with my family and best friend as there was a lull after each one, which we totally indulged in. I found these breaks in routine between assignments refreshing.
“I loved my final year, as my dissertation was focused on mentoring. It informed the design of a mentoring scheme that will help people in my organisation to progress their careers. It’s just one example of where I’ve been able to put theory into practice. Studying with the OU helps you understand the extent of your capacity to contribute to others. It's given me the confidence to step beyond my organisation as a Leadership Mentor on a voluntary basis while I'm still employed full-time.
“My dissertation positioned me as a credible female mentor and I work across government and in the charitable sector in that capacity. I hope that the mentoring programme that I've just introduced for under-represented groups in the Maritime Reserves, focusing on gender, LGBTQ+ and under-represented communities, talks to my commitment to improving inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. There's so much more I can contribute beyond the military. I can see that now.
“When I discovered that I’d received Dissertation of the Year in the 2019-20 Student and Alumni Awards, I felt very accomplished as I’d put my heart and soul into the research and am an advocate of mentoring in the workplace.
“I've achieved so much in my professional life. However, my OU studies surpassed everything that went before. I think it's because my OU studies reflected so much of the essence of me; my commitment, my resilience, my self-discipline. However, when I got to graduation day, I put on the gown and connected with a part of myself that I hadn't previously, which was my sense of achievement and pride. You work so hard, in your own time, that you come to own your destiny. I’ve never looked back. If you're committed to changing your life by doing something you love, then study with the OU Business School.
“I hope that my attitude to learning will inspire my children to study as I have done.
“There’s an inevitability to me undertaking a PhD which I’ll discuss with my family as we’ll all have to commit to that. OU study is very much a team effort; I like that. When I look back, it wasn't about me, it was about the knowledge I wanted to contribute going forward and I'm doing that. I live and breathe what I learned every single day.
“I also really valued the conversations with my tutor. There was a genuine sense of support there. I never felt alone. It was a team effort.
“I can remember my graduation day as if it were yesterday. Every single student was applauded. It's not just a qualification, it's a way of life. The skills you learn will be with you forever. An OU graduate is a very special graduate. I’ll live with that sense of pride and achievement forever.”