The power of knowing a little bit about an awful lot of things
Caitlin Craven, Principal Consultant at Newman Stewart, is currently studying for a Masters in International Business, Leadership and Management at the University of York. Here, she discusses how the course is helping her to generate more insightful conversations with clients, and why supporting your team’s learning and development is one of the most important things an organisation can do.
NS: Have you always wanted to do a Masters?
Caitlin: It came about quite off the cuff really. It was only when I finished university and started my role at Newman Stewart that I realised just how much I missed that academic style of thinking. I’ve always been interested in how people can apply complex theories to otherwise simple day-to-day tasks, so I wanted to explore that further.
My role as a Principal Consultant is all about looking at different businesses in a global context and speaking to senior individuals in those businesses. So I thought, “why not do a masters that looks at how business works in a global context, with some management thrown in there too?” I spoke to John and he couldn’t agree more.
Thankfully, there was a course on that exact topic available at the University of York. I live in York and it’s where I did my undergrad, so it’s all quite familiar — plus I know where to find the library when it comes to essay crunch.
NS: So, how’s it going?
Caitlin: Working full-time and then studying in the evenings or at the weekends has definitely been a challenge, but it’s getting easier with every module. I’m about eight months into the two year course now, but that first month was a slight shock to the system. I’d only been out of university for a couple of years, but it felt like I’d completely forgotten how things went in academia! Still, you get into a rhythm before long, and I’m pretty happy with how things are going now.
I tend to find that I need pressure in order to get to the finish line, so I don’t mind the challenge of balancing my Masters with work. I’ll never have more time to do something like this than I do now. Plus, the further into the course I get, the more I’m starting to see how it can apply to my job and the daily conversations I’m having.
NS: How exactly is it helping you in your role at Newman Stewart then?
Caitlin: When businesses come to us, they’ve got a need. Since starting the course, I’ve found that I can understand that need at a much earlier stage. I can talk to our clients in their own language, and it’s this ability to articulate myself better which has really helped my credibility and confidence in certain situations.
At the end of the day, my job is to know a little bit about an awful lot of things. If I’m able to expand that ‘little bit’ in any way possible, and to truly understand a company’s strategic vision, then that benefits everyone involved — not just me.
It’s amazing how helpful it can be at times. The other week, I wrote an essay about operations management in a fairly large manufacturing and automation company, with a particular focus on AI. A week later, I was working on a role in the same market, speaking to the people managing and implementing exactly what I’d written about. A lot of people don’t believe in fate, but…
NS: What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
Caitlin: It sounds simple but probably the importance of balancing my time, because you can end up doing a whole lot of nothing if you don’t organise yourself properly. Doing a Masters isn’t just about knowing lots of facts or theories; it’s about being able to apply processes in a variety of ways, and being able to do them all really well. It’s a kind of skill which would be beneficial in any industry, let alone executive recruitment.
From a content perspective, a lot of the course revolves around tying theories to a particular case study. Now, when I’m working on a role, I’m able to think of it along these lines and apply different schools of thought to it. That way, I can come at briefs from a different angle, and hopefully think about them in a way that I might otherwise have missed.
NS: How important is it for companies to support their team’s learning and development?
Caitlin: It’s so important. I don’t know many people who are able to say they had a Masters sponsored by their company at the age of 23. It’s an incredible opportunity, and one I really didn’t expect. But it’s honestly such a nice feeling to know that your managers support you, that they think you’ll do well, and that they want to keep you.
The best part is that it’s not like anyone’s been looking over my shoulder the whole time. I’m trusted to go out and do it in a way that suits me. It’s empowering, and it’s a culture which feeds into everything else we do here at Newman Stewart.
NS: What about the dissertation? Have you had any thoughts on that?
Caitlin: No, absolutely not. Come back and ask me once I’ve handed it in next year.