Our twelfth instalment in our Graduates of Global Distinction series showcases an MBA alumna, Julia Glenn. Prior to completing her MBA in 2011, Julia had enjoyed had a glittering career in financial services working in various parts of the world such as New York and Hong Kong before making a life style change to relocate to Norwich. Having graduated, Julia wanted a new challenge which involved using her business acumen to achieve societal change. Her chosen role involved the offer of an equity stake and the opportunity of leading the fledgling company, Extremis Technology as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Our Director of Employability and Innovation Graham Manville believes that role models such as Julia inspire our students at all levels whether they are undergraduate, post graduate or PhD students. Graham adds that such case studies “provide compelling narratives of what UEA/NBS students can become so that they can reach their full potential after graduation.” We caught up with Julia as she reflected on her experience of the UEA MBA and her career since graduating.
Hi Julia, you clearly had a really successful career before deciding to return to University. How did your MBA affect your career after graduating?
I had a great career before embarking on my MBA. I was lucky enough to complete a graduate trainee scheme at an investment bank at Canary Wharf and I worked in lots of different divisions: Equities Technologies, New Business and worked in the London, Hong Kong and New York offices – rising to the ranks of Vice President! Once my children were a bit older, I wanted to do something different, so moved back to Norwich and won the EU scholarship for the MBA Programme. When I had finished the MBA I was keen to do something different, something more challenging and something where I could learn new skills. I was offered an equity stake in Extremis Technology Ltd (an engineering company that invents folding, fast-deployment shelters) in return for taking on the CEO role. The journey taken in growing a business is a tough journey but I have learnt so much about my own resilience and about what I am good at and what I am less good at.
It seems that you’re really passionate about using your knowledge and skills to help others. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your current role or your greatest career achievement so far?
The most rewarding aspect of my career at Extremis has been to witness families moving into our shelters in the Dominican Republic and seeing them still safe after multiple spates of hurricanes three years later. Equally rewarding has been watching the business expand and license out to new global territories. I have recently joined a new company in Enfield (Independence & Well Being Enfield) which specialises in adult services, as an Executive Director (Innovation). I’m really excited about helping the team grow the business and am particularly interested in innovation around dementia services.
How have the skills you acquired from studying for your MBA made a difference in your career development?
The key lesson that the UEA MBA taught me was that success in learning and in business is all about being curious. It’s not about being clever. It’s being interested, it’s wanting to find the answer to things, wanting to understand how people work and wanting to make things happen. My favourite module was Economics. I’ve always loved economics and looking for patterns and translating these into ideas.
Having an MBA is great and does provide a toolkit which can help you unpack and unpick different business situations. It’s a great qualification to put down on your CV, but real achievement is making things work in the real world and applying those skills sensitively in the workplace.
Studying for an MBA is an intensive course, but did you have the chance to develop further skills in other ways during your time at UEA?
I did my MBA whilst looking after two young children and doing accountancy exams, so unfortunately didn’t have time for much else on campus. What the UEA MBA does provide you with you with though is a great sense of family with your fellow students. Six, seven years on I am still friends with many members of my cohort who are all overseas. You definitely develop close bonds as an MBA is hard work.
As a successful business women, what tips can you give to current students or recent graduates in their future careers?
Never think that you are not good enough – never be scared to try something different. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you fail you can try again. Unless you fail you don’t know what it is to succeed!