Combining work, family and study

Want to boost your promotion prospects or simply to get more out of your job? One way to do so is by getting some extra qualifications. But how do you do that and balance work and family life? Deborah Persaud has done an MBA while juggling a busy job and being a single parent. She tells how she did it.


Deborah Persaud has been there and done it. She is a single parent who works full-time as Assistant Director of Consumer Environment at The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Last year she graduated with an MBA [Masters in Business Administration].

Deborah says: “I wanted to improve my professional skills as a manager and boost my career prospects and having talked to friends and colleagues concluded that an MBA would be the best route to take for me and ultimately lead to greater job satisfaction. However, I couldn’t leave my job to study full-time.”

She chose the Open University because of its reputation but also because of the flexibility it offers. She says: “I couldn’t commit to the contact time expected by other institutions, but with the OU I was still able to meet other learners and attend tutorials and residential schools.

“I was able to continue to carry out my duties and role both as an employee and, more importantly, as a parent.”

It was not easy, though, but Deborah was clear about the commitment needed and had a lot of support from family, friends and colleagues.  She says: “I had never studied at degree-level so taking on an MBA was a challenge, but once I’d got into a routine, worked out what was expected of me and spoken to fellow students and other single parents on the course facing the same challenges I soon settled in.

“I very quickly learned to plan my time and became quite good at saying ‘no’ to other commitments and getting my priorities right. I also found it essential to plan sacred time with my son – I was determined that he didn’t suffer and knew that ultimately my MBA would benefit both of us.”


Her advice to other mums thinking of taking on such a challenge is that they need to be committed to the end goal. She says: “I did miss spending time with my friends and always having to pick up my books whenever I had a spare minute and I did let the housework fall by the wayside on occasions. You need to work out what the important things are on your “to do” list and that included working out what my study needs were too.”

She found it vital to talk her learning and ideas through with others so she was usually at the forefront of setting up study groups. Some of the people in those groups have become good friends.

The results of all that work are worth it, she says. “Eighteen months on I have more credibility at work and even while on the course, I think my employers noticed the benefits as I was putting my new skills and learning into practice every day,” she says. “I am proud of what I have achieved, I feel more fulfilled and because of that I believe I am a better mum.”

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