How to discover your ‘secret strengths’ by studying an MBA |

How to discover your ‘secret strengths’ by studying an MBA

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated December 12, 2023 Updated December 12, 2023

Sponsored by Durham University Business School

While the professional benefits of studying an MBA are widely known, the personal impact I can have shouldn’t be overstated.

Alastaire Allday decided to study an MBA at Durham University Business School, after suffering from burn-out in his marketing career. The opportunity to enhance his skillset was hugely appealing, but the programme had unexpected benefits too, revealing talents he hadn’tappreciated before.

TopMBA spoke to Alastaire to learn more about the transformative impact of the Durham MBA.

What led to the decision to study an MBA?

So, I had what some people might say was a pretty cool career in advertising, but by the age of 38, I was completely burnt out and no longer enjoying my job. 

You could say I was part of the ‘great resignation’ but, statistically, fewer than 10 percent of people in advertising are over 45, so I saw the writing on the wall and realised it was time to future-proof myself. 

I wanted to go back to school and learn new skills, as well as build on existing ones, in a way that would allow me to grow beyond the advertising industry.

Why did you decide to study at Durham?

I think most people in my cohort would tell you the same thing: aside from its impeccable reputation as one of the UK’s top universities, Durham is well-regarded for offering great return on investment (ROI). You get a top class, triple-accredited MBA at a fraction of the cost of some other courses. 

Because it’s a small cohort, I think you get a lot more valuable one-on-one time. I also have extended family in the region, and it was great to connect with them, and explore Durham as a city for the first time. It’s a beautiful, welcoming, friendly place.

What were the standout aspects of your MBA experience?

Going back to school at nearly 40, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was expecting a lot of textbooks, a lot of lectures, and a lot of hard work. 

However, what I felt about the Durham MBA is it was about more than just hitting the books,it was about exploring things about myself I didn’t know. Hidden talents. Secret strengths. After my year at Durham, I don’t just feel as if I know more about business, I feel as if I know more about myself too. 

There were a few standout moments for me, like studying international business, where you get to learn a new language and go on a trip to your chosen country. I thoroughly enjoyed lectures at emlyon Business School and bothering local restaurants with my beginner-levelFrench. 

There’s also the boardroom exercise, a roleplay where I had to live and breathe the role of CEO of BP for over a month. Exercises like that are incredibly confidence-building. I was at a conference recently and ended up in a conversation about renewable energy, and the person I was chatting to asked if I worked in energy, and I replied: “No, I just roleplayed as the CEO of BP for a month!” 

I feel like the MBA gives you the confidence to speak clearly and articulately about so many different subjects, it’s like a superpower. 

What impact has the Durham MBA had for you?

The global nature of the MBA is one of its strengths. Working with people from all over the globe was like a mini world tour, all without leaving the classroom. You get to see different perspectives, different ways of working, hear diverse points of view. 

As someone who has only really worked in the UK and US, expanding my horizons through working with people with very different experiences to mine wasn’t just useful from a business perspective, it was also very rewarding from a personal one, too. 

Being good at your job doesn’t always make you a great manager or leader, and it’s those skills you really develop on the Durham MBA. It’s a transformative experience. It’s given me the tools I need to be a better leader, and that’s a commitment I’m taking forward with me, for the rest of my life.

This article was originally published in December 2023 .

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