Our part-time MBAs offer flexibility so working parents can study while working full-time and raising a family. However, achieving this balance is no easy feat, something Isha Dhot, Weekend MBA 2016-17 and Neil Dhot, Global Online MBA 2017-18 know all too well.
Isha and Neil are married and have two young boys, currently aged six and eight. They both have very senior leadership roles, Isha is the Head of Finance and Administration at JCB Bank and Neil is the Executive Director of Aquafed, which they continued to work at full-time while studying.
To really test their balancing ability, there was a crossover year where they were both concurrently studying for their MBA at Imperial College Business School and working full-time. We commend them for the incredible way they balanced everything while raising their children at the same time.
In celebration of the International Day of Families, we speak to Isha and Neil about the key to work, family and life balance on the MBA.
1. Why did you study a Weekend MBA (Isha) and a Global Online MBA (Neil), and why Imperial College Business School?
Isha: The course structure, topics and materials were just right for me and my career plan. Imperial is near work and home so it was also very convenient for me to get to lectures and study sessions and especially to make the best out of the networking opportunities.
Neil: I needed to learn more about key aspects of business to take my career to the next level and the Imperial programme was perfect for me. My job is very hectic and involves a lot of travel, and I make sure the weekends are for my wife and kids. So the online method is perfect for my busy life. I chose Imperial College Business School because they challenged us to save the world’s problems through sustainable business. This message came loud and clear in the induction week and it was truly inspiring.
2. With two young children, what is the key to achieving work, life, study and family balance?
Isha: You need to be highly organised and have everything planned and coordinated with your partner. It takes a lot of time and effort just to plan everything, but it makes a massive difference. This is where my methodical approach of being an accountant really helps.
Neil: Time management. That’s the key. Unfortunately most of us, me included, are terrible at it. It sounds very simple but I think it is one of the most difficult skills. Manage your time, and focus intensely on each task you are doing at that time, and you will be just fine.
3. What were/are the major challenges to achieving this balance?
Isha: Keeping the energy levels up to manage everything was sometimes very challenging, especially my work commitments in my Head of Finance and Administration role. And then just to add to the challenges, my husband started his MBA a year after, so we had one year when we were both studying and working and managing our family.
Neil: Any parent knows that kids are very good at distracting you and breaking your concentration, even when they are trying not to. My two kids are at a crucial point in their lives and their brains can receive almost unlimited input and stimulus, so it is frustrating that I don’t have more time to read with them and learn with them. But it all goes back to time management and also being organised.
You need to be highly organised and have everything planned and coordinated with your partner. It takes a lot of time and effort just to plan everything, but it makes a massive difference.
4. What was the most rewarding moment of the MBA (Isha) and what has been the most rewarding moment so far (Neil)?
Isha: Completing it and having the certificate in my hand. The graduation ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall was spectacular and was an amazing way to sign off on two years of really hard work.
Neil: The teamwork with my cohort group in the first year. We all got on so well from the first moment and we worked brilliantly together, despite being all over the world. We did some great work together. Also, the whole group of 80 is awesome. Every single person is a real character; great fun and super capable. The best thing is that I have learned absolutely loads and I have made very many excellent friends for life.
5. How did your MBA network and Imperial College provide support?
Isha: My network was crucial, especially around assignment and exam time. You cannot get through it without the support of your peers on the course.
Neil: The group is brilliant and we help each other really well. You know that any time you have a problem or question, one or more of the group will help you straight away. On the College side, I have found that the teaching assistants have been the unsung heroes. There have been a couple of courses, corporate finance and economics in particular, where the teaching assistants were heroes quite frankly. They made the difference for many of us and got us through some very difficult and stressful course material.
6. Can you share one piece of advice for a prospective student who wants to study their MBA and has a family?
Isha: Believe in yourself – if completing the MBA is your dream stay committed to it. If you keep focused, the time passes quickly and you will really enjoy it.
Neil: I have loads of advice. But one thing I would say is don’t kick yourself if you cannot match the academic standards and grades/scores of others in the group who don’t have family responsibilities. They have much more spare time than you and they won’t be anywhere near as exhausted as you are. You have to challenge yourself in a different way. You should focus on relishing the experience and the rich material that you are learning, and focus on building the friendships that will help you throughout your life.