Heather Baker

  • Degree Programme: Executive MBA London
  • Global Nationality: South African
  • Profile Job Pre-programme: Chair, SME Group PRCA
  • Profile Job Post-programme: President - UK Chapter Entrepreneurs' Organization

Professional background

Heather holds a Masters of Social Science in Psychology and a CAM diploma in Marketing Communications. With previous experience gained in a small PR agency, she now heads her own communications business in London. Heather was awarded the Executive MBA Women’s Scholarship when she began the programme in January 2011.

I launched my company, TopLine Communications, in October 2008. It was a tough time to start a business, particularly as I had only three years work experience and no formal business training. Thankfully the business survived its first two years, but when it came to making major decisions like negotiating to buy my investors out, I soon felt out of my depth. Running a growing business was a steep learning curve, and I felt it would be useful if I didn’t have to learn everything the hard way.

Learning and expectations

Before starting the EMBA I had definitely underestimated the impact of working with such a diverse group of people. Programme participants are enormously skilled, coming from a number of different cultures and from a broad cross-section of industries. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to form new relationships and have learned a lot from my peers. In my everyday working environment I often deal with the MD or CEO of B2B technology companies and thanks to the EMBA experience I now feel that I can walk into any meeting as a professional equal.

From an academic perspective, it’s been useful to learn the basic principles of business management, such as reading a balance sheet or valuing a business. One of the big challenges is balancing study with working life, but the projects and assignments have also given me the opportunity to apply some of the learning directly to my company. Lecturers and my peers – leading professionals in their respective fields – have scrutinised my business and provided detailed feedback, advice and guidance. This has been incredibly valuable.

Delivering results

Several areas of my business have been revolutionised by what I learned on the programme, including both our HR and financial management systems. Developed in line with our leadership skills coach, improvements in the recruitment process have meant we’ve made six successful appointments in the last year. I’ve also brought our financial system in-house, setting up an accounting software system that has saved me both time and money.

The EMBA has been an exceptional experience, both personally and professionally. I am far more confident and analytical in the way I approach business development now, so much so that the company has doubled in size over the last 18 months. I’m not originally from London, so for me, making new contacts with the local business community has been just as vital as linking to the huge global network the School offers. In addition, I have developed a close group of friends that I know will offer support and advice into the future, as my business continues to grow.