“How am I going to do an MBA with a child?” I asked myself, just after having my first son.

You can’t do it all. I’ve felt like this a lot, been made to feel this way too.

 I had always wanted to undertake an MBA, to have a more global professional mindset and build international connections. I wanted it for my career, and personal development too.

But there was always something else I was supposed to focus on, like marriage or my beautiful children. I felt I had to prioritise. But I needn’t have worried, and there are three key facts I wish I had known…

If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

The MBA is still one of the most highly sought-after qualifications, and its participants are the future leaders of business and innovation. However, going into the business world, where women were just not represented enough, there were times I asked myself if I was reaching too high. I have always found myself in careers and roles where I was the only women. From early on in my career in a Big 4 Audit firm, where I spent 6+ years and I was the only woman in my cohort, to working in a multinational FMCG organisation.

One of the things that attracted me to Alliance Manchester Business School was the structure of its cohorts. I could see a deliberate effort by the school year on year in making sure their cohort is not only diverse but gender-balanced; not just as a form of affirmative action, but an important effort to make sure the selected students (all of whom worthy) are representative of a diverse world.

At this point, I knew what school I wanted and why I wanted it but pushing out the application was the hardest part: a voice in my head kept on saying “Nkem, how are you going to achieve this with 3 children?”

It took a lot of self-motivation to push through my self-imposed limitations and just believe. I had a dream of doing an MBA, one that would take me abroad, and it’s only when I got into the mindset of “Ok, I’m actually going to do this, I can do this, I am worthy” did I make it a reality.

This is not to say it was at all easy…

Don’t be hard on yourself.

Today, whilst still completing my MBA, finding the balance between my MBA and my personal responsibilities has not been an easy feat – in fact, it has been incredibly difficult. My studies are demanding, being both academically intensive and project-led. I have had to undertake several different roles and positions with local and international organisations in the private and NGO sector. These have been great – challenging, educative, and pushed me to greater development. Most recently I worked as an intern at Amazon, and got the exposure to the operational, commercial, and strategic roles that I had always dreamed of.

There have been times, however, where things at school or at home have not gone perfectly or I find myself racing to meet a deadline because I had to plan my child’s birthday the week before or running late for a class because my babies just would not let me out the door, or a missed a school recital because I had a presentation with a project client.

It really has been a game of juggling, prioritising and learning that I will win some and loose some. I have learned to not be too hard on myself. It is ok for somethings to have to give way for others eventually everything will come together.  Otherwise, I would have been holding myself back from thriving. I think everything in life is like riding a bike, you fall a couple to times and that’s ok, what matters is that you get back on that bike and keep peddling.

Everything else will fall into place.

When I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to have this perfect balance 24/7, things got far easier. These successes and recognition also gave me great encouragement, It made the sacrifices worth it. During my MBA internship I was awarded the Manager’s award for my work at Amazon, all whilst being a full-time mum. It was not easy.

I have not achieved these alone with great support from my husband and mum. I am also lucky to be in class with 30 different nationalities. That is 30 different perspectives, cultures, and skillsets – plenty of which I have learned and leaned on It is ok to seek help in understanding an assignment or get renewed energy after a girl’s movie night with classmates that you organised just to escape the kids. Support will always come in different ways.

If you can think it, you can do it. You can do it whilst being your feminine self, you can do it whilst being a mother. You can do it after making mistakes, you can do it while succeeding. Everyone has a superpower no matter how they come. That power can always be harnessed.

Change is not easy, nor is development, but none the less you’ve got to grab the opportunity.

“How am I going to do an MBA with a child?” Now, I’m doing it with three.

Nkem-IgweAbout the author

From Nigeria where she previously worked at KPMG, Nkem Igwe is an MBA student at Alliance Manchester Business School on a Forte Foundation fellow – a scholarship given to most outstanding female applicants to any MBA programme.
She is the president of the retail and healthcare association, and speaks out on sustainability (or lack thereof) in developing countries. And as a woman of colour studying an MBA, she is part of a vastly underrepresented group in business education.
Currently also an Amazon Pathways intern, she is set to take on a leadership role at the tech giant. And now, she has been shortlisted for global student of the year by the Association of MBAs

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