Business School Topics
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Event Manager Katie Spalding started her MBA journey through the Graduate Certificate in Business at The University of Western Australia Business School last year.
A 31-year-old career orientated events and marketing professional with Australian and UK experience, Katie describes herself as having “high professional standards, big career aspirations and the drive to make things happen.”
This year, Katie achieved a career highlight. In her third year delivering the State's largest regional event, 2016 was labelled Mandurah's 'best Crab Fest ever'.’
Contributing to her success, says Katie, was the strategic thinking and high-level leadership skills learnt during the first trimester of her Graduate Certificate.
“Since starting at UWA, university quickly became a place to escape my small world and expand my thinking, and the people closest (professionally and personally) to me have noticed the difference,” Katie said.
“I participated in the UWA peer assessment, which involves a 360 peer review completed by your work colleagues. This identified my areas of perceived weakness, some of which really surprised me and were quite confronting, but I chose to work on these areas and have already noticed a change in my professional relationship with other departments within the City.
“In the last 12 months I feel I have really developed professionally and after a lengthy negotiation process successfully obtained a significant cash investment by Tourism WA for Crab Fest, the largest sponsorship ever achieved for the event.
“This, along with the successful redesign of the event, overseeing a marketing campaign which had a worldwide reach of 50 million (2015), doubling the value of the event in a two-year period without increasing the City’s liability, but most of all leading a strong team of young women whom I have developed over the last few years to help me deliver the ‘Best Crab Fest ever,’ makes all the hard work worth it.”
An international career
Katie began her career working in the event sector, and by the age of 21 had organised her first major public festival for 10,000 people – Rollercoaster Music Festival. She then worked in various roles in Melbourne, Mandurah and London, including running events for Serco UK and the CFA Society of the UK in some of London’s most exclusive buildings.
“When I decided it was time to come home and ‘grow up’ I returned to WA, and at the age of 29 started working for the City of Mandurah,” Katie tells us.
“I am now leading the team which delivers the City’s major event program and realising a childhood dream to organise the Mandurah Crab Fest along with purchasing my first home (and renovating) and adopting the cutest puppy in the world: ‘O’Malley’. Then in early 2015, after a lot of procrastination, I submitted my application to UWA and the next phase of my career started.”
Juggling full-time work and part-time study
Katie chose to study the Graduate Certificate in Business (GCB) as a standalone qualification, but with the option of continuing into a Master of Business Administration.
“I chose to do the GCB initially because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with working full-time, the round trip of 150km and getting back into study. As the GCB was the first four core units of the MBA, if I decided to go on, I was already one third of the way complete, and if I decided it was too much, after 12 months I would have another valuable qualification from WA’s most prestigious university,” Katie explains.
“The trimester offering of the UWA Business School was also another big plus. My job is seasonal, so the ability to easily change my study load each trimester to match my life takes the stress and guilt away.”
In addition to making the most of evening classes and the ability to change her study load each trimester, Katie is Vice President of Public Relations for UWA’s new Masters@UWA Toastmasters (public speaking) club, participates in MBA Case Club, attended a Breakfast by the Bay with the WA Treasurer Mike Nahan and “had a blast the MBA student social club’s inaugural ball last December.”
The other benefit, says Katie, is the networking opportunities.
“There is such a diverse range of people who do the MBA from engineers, accountants, lawyers, project managers, to marketers, traders, and government workers. Having the opportunity to converse with such a range of individuals, listening to what others do, their issues, their achievements and being able to teach and learn from each other has been invaluable,” Katie says.
“Everyone is motivated and career focused and yet the learning environment is very supportive and non-judgmental. I have really enjoyed being surrounded by other ambitious individuals; they have reinvigorated my desire to exceed.
“Apart from the professional development benefits of participating in extracurricular activities, the other major benefit has been the opportunity to network with fellow students and alumni and other business leaders in a range of settings. Now I know I can enter almost any room and a friendly face will be waiting to say hi.”
Aiming for senior business roles
Katie’s longer term goal is to become a senior marketing or operations manager or director by the time she is 40.
“The events industry although enjoyable can be limiting from a career perspective, and although I am willing to relocate for my career, over the last few years I come to realise that the elements of my job I really thrive on is the project and people management aspects,” Katie explains.
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