Sarah Fowles – BSc (Hons) Management Practice

Current employer: University of Plymouth

Current job title: PA to the Director of Student Services

Current location: Plymouth

“I would encourage people to explore development opportunities and not wait for them to come to them. Look beyond the job description and think about what difference you could make and where it could lead.”

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Not having had the opportunity to go to university at a young age due to the financial cost, I have always had to pursue work-based opportunities and justify how my skills would be beneficial to the organisation, as well as my own professional development – this can sometimes feel like you are in Dragons Den! Juggling a family, full-time work, and study is tiring and maintaining motivation can be hard (particularly around Christmas). Also, having been a union representative in a previous organisation can be tricky as working relationships differ and people become more wary of you.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I believe there is still more excitement to come, but the best thing that I have done so far in my career was to secure funding for a charitable community organisation to enable provision of support to vulnerable families and particularly young children. The process was lengthy and required a lot of work to ensure a successful bid and the outcome was crucial not only to the families, but to the organisation and its business.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would not change anything. Although my path has taken a lot longer, all of the experiences along the way have contributed to my development and given me great insight into working with people in a variety of organisations. This has been extremely beneficial when reflecting on my management practice and comparing techniques and experiences with theory.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

I would encourage people to explore development opportunities and not wait for them to come to them. Look beyond the job description and think about what difference you could make and where it could lead. Although my job title is Personal Assistant, I undertake a significant amount of project work and have a very varied and interesting working day.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The online top-up degree was a fantastic opportunity for me. I had managed to study to level 5 in leadership and management practice via the Chartered Management Institute and part-time day release study. Being able to transfer this qualification and having my experience taken into account provided me with an opportunity to fulfil a long-term goal: obtaining a degree. This has enabled me to continue to work and fit my studies around other commitments. If the part-time online option had not been available, I wouldn’t have been able to develop further.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Everyone is supportive and wants you to achieve things by working to the best of your ability. Although the course is online, you do not feel on your own and social media and forum discussions help you to feel part of a group. It will be lovely to meet in person at graduation.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?  

Absolutely, the support and advice available really helps you to manage your studies and to gain a sense of achievement. It helps to build confidence and raise aspirations.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

It can be a slog at times and you have to be prepared to work hard and be self-disciplined but it is really worth it and who knows where it will take you!