“I’d often come away from the classroom thinking, ‘That’s the best professor I’ve ever had’.”
A self-imposed ban on social media seems unthinkable in this digital age. But Elaine Murphy did just that when studying for the Executive MBA Dubai (EMBA Dubai) at London Business School (LBS) – while juggling a full-time role at IBM.
She took the decision after researching time management and ways to maximise productivity. “It’s shocking how much time we spend on our phones looking at social media,” she says. “Hours fly by without you realising it.”
The social media exile gave Murphy time to study in the evenings and at weekends without any distractions. “We were told to hit the books for 20 hours a week – I was doing more than that,” she says. At the time, Murphy was also overseeing IBM’s shift from traditional forms of marketing to digital channels as part of a project launched in 2016.
“Studying for the EMBA [from 2016-18] isn’t easy when you have a full-time job; it takes dedication, focus and discipline,” she says. Murphy needed all three to handle a gruelling work and school schedule while also representing her fellow students. She was academic representative for her class and the Dubai Student Association’s academic and ethics officer, supporting students and working with professors and the School’s administration.
Anyone juggling several responsibilities needs a stress reliever, according to Murphy. “Some people spend time with their families while others play golf or cook. For me, as a professional SCUBA diver, it was diving. It always left me feeling re-energised and ready to go again.”
Murphy had long wanted to take a master’s before enrolling at LBS but the timing was never right. In her 25-year career, she has lived in North America, the Middle East, Australia and Africa. Today, she is based in Dubai, leading IBM’s marketing activities for 70 countries covering the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. “It was difficult to commit to a masters because I moved around so much and I don’t stay in one place for too long,” she says.
Other institutes were considered, but Murphy chose LBS based on its reputation and consistently strong performance in business school rankings. Positive feedback from IBM colleagues who had taken Executive Education programmes at the School was another factor.
Every class Murphy took at LBS was an opportunity to learn from faculty who shared their life’s work. “It was an honour to be taught by them,” she says. “I’d often come away from the classroom thinking, ‘That’s the best professor I’ve ever had’.”
The programme gave Murphy renewed confidence to talk about finance and accounting with IBM colleagues who have specialist knowledge in those areas. She also deepened her understanding of organisational behaviour and strategy. “I gained the vocabulary to clearly explain business concepts, I learnt how to implement strategies more effectively and I applied newly minted leadership skills.”
Moreover, Murphy had the opportunity to study economic development in emerging economies – a subject close to her heart following her time living in Africa. “The course explored issues I care deeply about: poverty reduction, gender equality and social justice.” She experienced the challenges facing South Africa’s public health system when doing her Global Business Assignment in Cape Town.
Another move could be on cards for the seasoned traveller. Wherever she lands, Murphy will draw on her experiences of living in other countries and the lessons learnt at LBS to adapt to any situation.