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The University of Southampton
Southampton Business School

Kieran Lees MBA 2016

Kieran Lees's Photo

Southampton’s MBA has a very pragmatic and leadership oriented curriculum.

Why did you want to do an MBA at the University of Southampton?
I have spent many years in senior leadership roles in the IT industry, and had reached a glass ceiling of promotions, preventing me from taking executive or main Board roles in many companies.  In order to take that next step, I felt that it was imperative that I invested time in my own personal development, and decided to take a year out to do an MBA. 

I chose Southampton for three reasons; first was the structure of the course.  Southampton’s MBA has a very pragmatic and leadership oriented curriculum.  Many MBAs are highly focused on more scientific analysis, as opposed to practitioner-oriented study.  As an active business leader, this approach suited me much better.  Secondly was the enthusiasm and total commitment from the Director of the MBA, which I found to be compelling and inspirational.  Finally – but very importantly – was Southampton’s AMBA accreditation; critical in my selection choice.

What was it like to return to study after many years in the workplace?
It was hard work!  A career background in the IT industry has hardened me to long and focused hours, so committing to studying for 12 hours every day was not a problem.  I’m quite self-disciplined and determined, so I was happy to knuckle down and get the job done.

I was amazed at the amount of new learning about business I had to absorb. Perhaps arrogantly, I thought I already knew a great deal about some of the subjects, but found that – on the whole – my experiences had only ever scratched the surface of the depth of knowledge available and necessary.   Actually, there were many times where I wondered how I’d ever done my job successfully without this knowledge!

Were there any surprises?
There was a lot of group work right from the beginning. I found it frustrating to start with because I felt that the collective assessments allowed less committed students to rely on those who were aiming for high marks.  However, in retrospect it was one of the best things about the MBA. Being forced to collaborate within a team of individuals with very different cultural backgrounds and personal motivations, and learning to listen, compromise and still achieve a great result was a huge lesson for me.

I was lucky enough to do my dissertation on the subject of Teamship, and worked directly with Sir Clive Woodward and a number of very senior military leaders to create my thesis.  This would simply never have happened if I hadn’t made the decision to do my MBA.

What’s your verdict on your MBA studies?
I learned a lot about myself over the year and re-assessed my strengths and weaknesses after being challenged by my lecturers and other students. It gave me a great deal of knowledge and developed the skills which I am using in my present role in consultancy.  I would say that I now have ‘peaceful confidence’ in my abilities.

What next?
Following completion of the MBA, I have started up a software company, which has built a suite of products that allow consumers to check the ingredients and nutritional content of food, matched against their personal needs or preferences (FoodAdvisr).  We have successfully raised funds and outsource development to a team in Hyderabad, and have won our first global B2B client.   I also continue to run my management consultancy business, providing guidance on growth and change to a variety of organisations.  In 2016 I enrolled for an MSc/DBA to continue my research into Teamship; I have now completed the MSc and commence the doctoral research in 2018, with a view to presenting my thesis in 2021.  I am hoping to make a material contribution to knowledge in the understanding of group cohesiveness in high performing teams.  All this change has resulted directly from my decision to invest the dedication and effort to enrol in, and complete, my MBA at Southampton.



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