Business Ethics – 4 steps to ethical decision making

Cutting corners, that is what we as human beings do. Now, that by itself is not wrong, finding a more comfortable, simpler way to get a job done is smart. But the line that separates ethical behaviour from unethical behaviour is narrow, and if you are not careful in your search for the smartest way to work, you could just end up crossing that line!

Before proceeding with the blog, I would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year 2021!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

What is ethics? 

It is merely the belief of what is right or wrong based on the individuals’ morals/values, which in turn might be dependent on the society or culture to which the individual belongs to. So, what does this mean? Simply put, ethics is very individualistic; what I believe to be right or wrong might be antithetical to what you believe to be right or wrong.

Having said that, as a society of human beings living in the 21st century, we generally have a consensus on what humanity considers ethical and unethical behaviour, as a result of which, laws are created to uphold and protect what we believe is ethical behaviour. Now, some of these laws might differ from region to region; however on the whole, most laws are put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold what society considers ethical.

Laws

Formal laws typically represent a consensus on ethical standards.

For companies and organisations, the laws and standards that are used to judge the ethics of an individual can be extended on a much grander and more detailed scale thus incorporating the ethics of society on a corporate level. So, if a company is known to follow the law, by implication, it is an ethical company. But that need not always be the case.  

Yes, laws can be looked on as a standard for companies to follow; however, they are just a basis for an ethical discussion. Because at the end of the day, the legal ethics will depend on whose eyes they are viewed from. For example, while stealing is considered illegal everywhere and therefore unethical, it is unfortunate and criminal that in some countries child labour is still legal and therefore ethical (at least from their point of view), even though a majority of the nations will consider it unethical (and in my personal opinion, it is).   

Ethical decisions

There are several factors, such as values, morals, culture, etc., that can have an impact on ethical decision making. For example, if you ask a group of individuals a precise and narrow ethical question, you might get as many answers as there are individuals answering the question because each person is influenced by their upbringing and life experiences.

There are also some circumstances when an otherwise unethical behaviour may be looked upon in a favourable light. For example, a town devastated and cut off from aid by a natural disaster might force some desperate people to contemplate unethical actions like breaking in and entering an abandoned home or store to scavenge items and materials required for survival. Is this behaviour ethical or acceptable? Maybe not. But until we are put in a situation like that, who are we to judge?!

The point is when we make a decision, all we can do is to make the best decision we can at that moment.

Ethical decisions in organisations

Most organisations today have a diverse and multicultural workforce. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, there are also a number of challenges to be overcome, especially when aligning decisions with ethics.  Not everyone is going to agree with the ethicality of a decision! Also, you don’t want an organisation where everyone thinks the same – “groupthink”.

So, how do organisations work towards overcoming these challenges? 

  1. Code of conduct/ethics – Organisations need to start a ‘written code of ethics or conduct’. It has to be a written, physical document that is easily accessible, prominently displayed (on notice boards, company intranet, etc.) in the organisation, widely circulated among employees, made a part of induction for new employees, and made a condition for employment. What a code of ethics does is outline what the organisation considers acceptable behaviour, giving a baseline of what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’. 
  2. Ethics programme – Set up training programmes for employees that will educate them on what the organisation considers ethically acceptable decisions. The best way to learn is by example, so ensure that most of the training is situation-based.  Show examples of decisions made in the past, the challenges the decisions makers faced while deliberating, their logical reasoning, and finally why they arrived at the decision they did. Make it into a case study to get an understanding of what the new employees think and the decisions they would have arrived at in the current work environment.
  3. Ethics hotline – Most organisations do not want unethical behaviour to go undetected for a long period of time. The longer unethical behaviour takes to come to light the greater the damage to the organisation. Most people do not want to be labelled a ‘snitch’; it is a good way to lose the trust of co-workers and get isolated within your organisation. It could also have an effect on your reputation, which will, in turn, have an impact on your promotions and future employment. But for the benefit of the organisation, unethical behaviour needs to be brought to light, and the sooner, the better. Setting up a hotline that guarantees anonymity, and gives protection to the whistleblower against retaliation will encourage reporting against unethical behaviour. However, the organisation also has a responsibility to investigate comprehensively and arrive at an independent conclusion to not only protect against false reporting but to protect all the parties involved.
  4. Leadership by example – We throw the term ‘work culture’ around quite often.   Work culture is corporate behaviour which is set or determined at the top and trickles down to the rest of the organisation, and ethics forms an integral part of this behaviour. Most people in any position of authority usually set an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, which clearly send the wrong message to their underlings, and this is what usually ends up being the norm that is followed. There are very few leaders that are able to set the right, positive and ethical example because of the temptation to bend ethics in favour of greater profits. Actions speak louder than words and leaders have to set the example at the top for the organisation to follow.

These are just a few guidelines an organisation can follow to develop and encourage ethical decision making. What are the steps followed by your organisation to encourage ethical decisions? Any instances that you know of where companies have cut corners in their search for easy profit, and what were the consequences? Comment below.

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and business ethics forms an important part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

Express gratitude this holiday season

2020 has been nothing but challenging for everyone in one way or another. Some people experienced greater difficulties than others. Nevertheless, everyone’s life, career, family, ambitions, dreams, and expectations from this year were affected. And as if matters were not bad enough, the world witnessed and was torn apart by numerous natural and man-made calamities: floods, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, civil unrest, humanitarian and refugee crises. 

Now I do not want to sound all negative. There is another side to the coin too, a side that we very often fail to recognise and acknowledge. It’s the positives, no matter how small, that happened in our lives amidst this mayhem. We should acknowledge every little moment of happiness, joy, and success we received in the past one year and be grateful for it. Someone might have a new job (even in the pandemic), got a raise, bought a new house, started a family, explored local places (as it is advisable not to travel), got healthier and fitter, had time to be with family during quarantine, enrolled for that online master’s programme that was put on the back-burner, something that positively impacted one’s life. 

Let’s reflect and be thankful for everything! 

For me personally, the holiday season brings a sense of joy and happiness. I forget my worries and enjoy the holiday cheer and bright lights that are all around. It humbles me in many ways. 

Expressing gratitude may sound easier than it actually is, because humans are prone to complaining, blaming, finding fault, and making comparisons with others. However, I would urge you to take a moment and instead understand your own shortcomings and if you do compare, compare yourself with the less fortunate. You might come to realise how blessed you actually are! 

There are many ways to feel thankful and express gratitude: 

1.  Introspect: self-introspection can be very powerful to analyse one’s true self. 

2.  Have faith: it pays off to be patient and trust that everything happening is part of the bigger picture and it will help in developing you in better ways. 

Give back to society

3.  Give back to society: you can make your contribution and give back to society in various ways by volunteering, providing food, shelter, clothing to the needy, providing financial  or emotional support. It will make you feel better and useful. 

4.  Maintain a gratitude journal: as it is said, a man is but the product of his thoughts. The more you write about positive happenings and events in your life, more your thoughts become positive. 

Your thoughts become positive when you capture positive happenings in your life

5.  Express yourself: It’s important not only to feel grateful but also to express your gratitude and spread the cheer to your near and dear ones. 

Gratitude plays a very powerful role in transforming lives. Express your gratitude towards your family, peers, friends, colleagues, bosses, teachers and professors. I am grateful to all our readers who have enjoyed reading and have benefited from our blogs. 

Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays! 

5 key skills and attributes for effective Legal Leadership

Leadership is a subjective term. We see and hear about effective leaders leading a department, a company or a country. But it is difficult to really quantify or describe what leadership is. You can recognize good leadership examples when you see them but it’s difficult to define. Some leaders are ‘born leaders’, they are a natural, and excel at what they do, while others learn to become good leaders by cultivating attributes and skills, behaviours,  or sets of competencies, that are practiced and mastered to become an effective leader. 

I have talked in the past about Sustainable Leadership in our blog – what it is, and what its principles are. There could be several styles and types of leadership, and areas where leadership is required. One such areas is law and that is called legal leadership. Legal leadership particularly identifies how leaders behave, and how they govern others directly and indirectly, by controlling organizational structures and processes in a legal department or a law firm. 

Douglas B. Richardson says, “All great leaders do five things well, Imagine, Invent, Inspire, Inform, and Influence”. Though all leadership is fundamentally the same, legal leadership can take many forms, involve distinct roles and have different objectives. In a legal department, leadership has many faces: the chief legal officer (CLO), the managing attorneys, the servicing lawyers who work each day with the clients, and all of them should be leaders. Therefore, a legal leader is faced by a unique challenge of leading leaders as more often than not they end up leading other lawyers who are independent identities, individual contributors, pretty much people who do not follow anyone, do not like to be led, trust their own gut, and do not collaborate easily.  

Phew! Legal leaders have to be one hell of a leader!! 

Legal leadership can take many forms

Being a leader in a legal environment is challenging and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, what is required to be an effective legal leader? Law firms and corporate legal departments have identified some basic qualities and attributes that a leader should possess. Here are the five skills and attributes that are important for effective legal leadership: 

1. Collaborative skills 

Legal leaders usually find themselves managing large teams and complex cases. They usually have different and difficult sets of people at both ends of their stick. On one end are their own team members. And at the other end are the clients from diverse backgrounds, personalities, education levels, experience levels and requirements. The legal leader plays a key role in coordinating all the aspects, and people in bringing out the desired legal outcome. 

Exercise collaboration with effective communication.

A good legal leader should hit the ground running through effective and early communication amongst the team members, and letting everyone know their tasks after a brainstorming session. Follow up and make sure to listen to their colleagues’ ideas or the issues they are facing, and help them overcome their obstacles and provide the resources if required.  

A legal professional must weigh in everything, facts of the case, potential risks and their consequences

2. Good Judgement 

Success in any profession is highly dependent on good judgement, and this is especially true for the legal profession! It is one the most critical attributes that a legal leader must possess – to apply good judgement and make sound decisions. Legal professionals are faced by situations every day where they must make complex decisions by weighing in the facts of the case, evaluating potential risks and their consequences on the case and on the firm/organization.

Good judgement also requires excellent problem-solving skills. A good legal leader must be able to pre-empt the issues, and must have ideas and many solutions to a problem.  

However, the leaders must not isolate themselves or feel solely responsible for a decision. Though they are leaders, they are still a part of the team, and must seek input of their peers and other experienced legal professionals on critical matters.  

Self-awareness is an important quality of an effective legal leader

3. Self-awareness 

While most of the legal professionals, lawyers, and para-legals would call themselves lone-wolves and individual contributors, they are still part of a legal team. As they become leaders, most lawyers face a hurdle what’s called ‘expert identity trap’.  This means they identify themselves as subject matter experts but do not necessarily see themselves as a leader. Though several attributes are required to be a good legal leader, self-awareness is one of the key qualities of an effective one.  

All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct

4. High ethical standards 

The legal profession is heavily based on trust, and each member’s ability to demonstrate highly ethical behaviour. Failure to do so will have many adverse outcomes such as not being able to gain the trust of their client and/or colleagues, and even more critical, being disbarred or legally charged and disciplined for misconduct. All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct and they must understand their responsibility as the stakes involved are high! 

5. Diplomacy 

Diplomacy is one of the skills that a legal leader must have to climb the ladder of their legal career. A good leader must exercise diplomacy in handling clients, project the professional image of the firm, and must be respectful of their colleagues. The legal profession is an intensive and demanding career. It is critical for leaders therefore to keep calm and show virtues such as understanding, compassion, and integrity. Diplomacy is not something that one can learn overnight, it is a gradual, self-grooming process that can be effectively used to resolve any conflicts, and manage differences and disagreements. 

To be the best legal leader, it takes lot more than just being book-smart too; one needs to be street smart. Our MBA Legal Leadership prepares you just for that by providing a deep understanding of the key concepts and theories of leadership and their application in a law-oriented organization. Talk to our advisors today to learn more about the programme. 

Top 5 differences between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Which one is better for you?

Pursuing the master’s degree is a big decision in many people’s lives. Choosing which programme will be most beneficial for one’s career development can be nerve wrecking too. Because there are choices – too many choices! For example, one might decide to go for an MBA programme, however, there is a choice to pursue an Executive MBA (EMBA) too! As an aspiring student, which one should you choose? Let us explore the differences, pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision. 

1. Admission criteria 

One of the foremost differences between an MBA and the EMBA programme is the admission criteria. For most of the MBA programmes minimum experience required varies between 1-3 years. Sometimes, even fresh under-graduates can also apply for MBA programmes given a good academic record.  

On the other hand, an EMBA typically requires candidates to have on average 3 to 6 years’ work experience with at least 2 to 5 years of managerial work experience. Our current MBA students and alumni for example, possess on average 5 to 10 years of work experience, holding leadership and management titles in companies such as risk and quality managers, heads of sales, senior corporate trainers, marketing directors, lawyers, consultants, politicians and diplomats, company presidents and CMOs. 

2. Pace of study 

The MBA programmes are typically pursued on full-time or on-campus basis, and have very demanding schedules. They have more traditional and rigid course structures. An EMBA on the other hand, offers a more flexible study schedule, and are typically delivered in blocks (weekends, once a month, etc.) or online. The majority of the EMBA students are working professionals with busy work schedules. Thus, to optimize their time, EMBAs offer lecture sessions at rarer, but more intense intervals than their MBA counterparts. When done online, these really put flexibility at the forefront. 
 

3. Intensity of the programme 

While both programmes focus on the same core modules, the degree of intensiveness in both varies. For the EMBAs, I will use an analogy of a multi-vitamin supplement – a power packed mix of various vitamins all together in one. Similary, EMBAs are intensive, and one should be ready to absorb a lot of knowledge in a short period of time.  

A regular MBA programme however, spreads the modules over a period of time. The course material is widely distributed and thus is comparatively less intensive than EMBAs. 

Group of students at the Residency in Zurich (At the moment we are conducting Online Residency in light of Covid-19 restrictions).

4. Curriculum and focus 

In an MBA programme, since it accepts candidates with fewer years of experience, the focus is on teaching and developing management knowledge from the basics. It has a broader choice available in terms of the electives that a student can choose from. An EMBA programme, however, has a higher bar set in terms of experience from its candidates. While some of the core modules are same as an MBA programme, an EMBA programme has a more focused approach.  
 

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Cumbria

5. Financial implications 

An EMBA wins over an MBA programme any day when we talk about financial implications of both. Firstly, an EMBA candidate can continue their day jobs and get paid to support their education. MBA programmes with full-time study schedules make it more difficult for students to continue with their jobs. Secondly, since a large portion (or in our case, all of the programme) is studied online, one saves a huge amount of money in travel and living expenses. Thus, the return on investment on an EMBA is typically much higher than a regular MBA programme.  

Money matters..

There is of course the issue of programme cost – these vary wildly though, and you can find really expensive programmes in both EMBA and MBA settings. 

I hope the above provides a few points to help you make the distinction between an MBA and an EMBA programme. 

Robert Kennedy College offers online MBA programmes – which are much closer to EMBAs than they are to MBAs because of their flexibility and incredible value for money. We do that in exclusive partnerships with the University of Cumbria and York St John University. Check out the list of various MBA progammes that we offer and choose the one that best suits your interests and career.  

The Internet of Things – Wooohhaat?

The first time I heard the phrase “The Internet of Things (IoT)” (and that was not too long ago), my reaction was – “Wooohhaat the hell is that?! Speak English man!”

Now, my understanding of IoT is still very limited, and when I decided to write a blog on one of the new programmes we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) launched through our exclusive partnership with the University of Cumbria (UoC), UK – 100% Online MSc Computer Science and International Business, I was happy to find that one of the modules in the programme was IoT.

Now, what can one actually write about a management programme in Computer Science and International Business? I certainly couldn’t think of anything, apart from information about the programme, which can anyway be found on our website. So, I decided to get a better understanding of IoT and pass it on to all those in the same boat as I, or who may be looking to do this programme with us.  

What is the Internet of Things?

We live in a digital world and have reached a point where most anything in the digital space can basically talk to other “things” digital and share data – we can share data through networking between our communication devices, between multiple and different apps and software. But until quite recently, this sharing was not possible in the physical world.

But now, technology has advanced to the point where we are able to build a network of multiple physical objects, connect it to the internet, to send, receive, and interpret data. And this is the Internet of Things.

I know it sounds complicated, but nowadays, we actually see it in a number of places and don’t actually realise it, taking it for granted. I saw it work at the end of last year and was impressed but did not know what I was looking at. 

My family and I were on holiday in Abu Dhabi and were lucky enough to be staying at W Hotel, Yas Island, and got an upgrade to a suite. The entire room was connected. As an example, every item in the minibar was detected and listed as removed on a screen. Housekeeping restocked as soon as we were out of the room and it was billed automatically.

People who use Google Home, Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, or Philips Hue are already familiar with the technology. 

How does IoT actually work?

The working of IoT can basically be broken down into four sections:

  • Hardware – is what helps us connect digital items to physical objects. The hardware is what senses things and converts that to data. 
  • Data – is the information that the hardware collects. It is what will help us make sense of how everything is working, becoming the true universal language, the universal language of “things”.
  • Software – is what interprets all the information and enables the use of information. Software is what takes data from the hardware and extracts value for the end user. 
  • Connectivity – without connectivity there is no IoT. 2g, 4g, 5g, wi-fi, Bluetooth, without connectivity there is no exchange of data and IoT would have only remained a concept that some genius penned down. 

Is IoT practical?

The simple answer is – YES! This is not science fiction; it is already is daily use. It is cheap and easy to build – the hardware can be bought out of the box, the software is readily available (that is, for those of us too lazy or who don’t have the knowledge to make or create it on our own, but are good at marketing and selling). And finally, they are simple and easy to use, especially if you make it compatible with Google, Apple and Amazon. And because of cloud computing and networking, IoT can be done from anywhere, at a low cost, with minimal maintenance. 

In fact, most of us already use IoT today, from turning on our Philips Hue lights to a colour and brightness matching our mood, to automatically switching on or off our air conditioner and heating systems, to security systems that monitor our homes and alert us when there is an unauthorised entry. All this is done live, from the tips of our fingers, with your preferences backed up on the cloud and available across all systems.

The impact of IoT on industry

According to a McKinsey & Company report in 2017, the impact of IoT across industry will be approximately US$11 Trillion annually by the year 2025.

The impact on industry is already telling, especially in terms of cost savings. As an example, vertical farms, where the only human interaction needed is at the time of planting. Watering, trimming, and harvesting are all taken care of by IoT systems.

Another good example of IoT integration to reduce costs and increase profitability is the city of Barcelona, which was one of the first European cities to adapt smart city technologies. Simple implementation of parking sensors informing motorists of where parking spaces are available has increased the revenue generated from parking to over US$50 million per year. By having IoT systems in public lighting has enabled Barcelona city to reduce their energy costs by over US$37 million per year. And finally, their smart gardens have saved them US$58 million a year by just efficient water usage.

And as technology is always changing, the city of Barcelona has also incorporated these changes to have a direct and positive impact on the lives of its residents. The use of smart phones has enabled residents to receive instant alerts and updates from the city about employment, housing, administration, mobility, health services, security and utilities. 

A recent study (2018) of McKinsey: Smart Cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future distinguished 55 applications within the fields shown below. According to this study, these applications are capable to improve quality of live by 10 – 30%.

Now for the cons of IoT

The “force” cannot exist without the “dark side” (Star Wars reference), and now that we have ranted and raved about how wonderful IoT is, here are a couple of its more obvious drawbacks. 

The biggest and most obvious disadvantage of IoT is data security and privacy. As mentioned earlier, creating an IoT device is not too difficult or expensive to make, and in their rush to become the first mover and trendsetter, most manufacturers tend to overlook the security aspect of IoT. Keep in mind, in most cases, you will have to enter your personal information, and in some cases, even your credit card information to effectively use your IoT enable devices. Now, these devices usually work in a network and are on the cloud, so if there isn’t firewalls and security, your privacy and data can be at risk. 

Another unexpected drawback, if you can even consider it that, as it is caused due to the increase in efficiency due to implementation of IoT, is to increase in the short-term unemployment. With the increase in efficiency, the workforce required to do a particular job will be streamlined. While this has the positive impact of reducing costs and the turnaround time to job completion, it also has the unintended consequences of leaving a large percentage of the workforce either unemployed or having to be retrained in a new job skill.

A good example of the massive impact IoT is having on the retail industry is Amazon Go. The evolution of how everything from merchandising and stocking, supply chain management, human resources, and billing, in the retail industry is just amazing to see.


Finally, the importance and potential future impact of IoT cannot be understated, especially in the era of social distancing. The judicious and responsible implementation of IoT will free up humanity to do what we do best – create, innovate, learn, socialise and moving on to the next “big thing”. Which is why IoT, as a study module, is integral to a number of programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

COVID-19 – Changing the way we live, work, and learn!

History has shown that a crisis pushes us on to new paths. 

Everything we have ever known has been flipped on its head! Things we have taken for granted no longer exist – our 9 to 5 jobs, meeting friends at the pub, a romantic dinner date with that special someone, going for a movie with the kid. It all just feels like a dream now!

Even simple things such as shaking hands or walking around without a mask might be a thing of the past. Social distancing and hand sanitization might be the norms of the future.

And that is just when it comes to how COVID-19 has affected us personally! COVID-19 has also made an impact on the way we do business. Words like “globalisation” at present hold very little meaning, especially after billions of people have been under lockdown and self-isolation worldwide. People can no longer travel or enjoy the positive impact of an abundant and global supply chain. 

And this will continue to hold true, at least until an effective, globally accessible and economical vaccine is developed. Not all countries will recover from COVID-19 at a similar rate and not all countries will be able to avoid a relapse.  

The below graphs give an indication on how varied the impact of COVID-19 has been on different countries.

Retail is one among the hardest hit segments – people just don’t want to risk going out and getting stuck in the middle of a big crowd (and who can blame them, it is simply not worth the risk).

But it is not just retail – it is education, IT, automotive, hospitality, entertainment, travel and tourism, etc., etc. (I can’t go on listing all the different industries, so please assume that I have listed them). And it is not just these industries that are affected, the ripple effect can be felt across all supporting industries and businesses. A number of friends of mine who either work for or own small businesses, have all shut shop (some of them say they haven’t gotten any new orders for the last three months).

And, as things stand today, there is no end in sight! 

The airline industry itself is set to lose about 350 billion US dollars this year, which translates to cheap flight tickets being a thing of the past, at least for the immediate future. This will have an impact on the way we plan our travel, whether it is for work or play! And this will in turn have a trickle-down impact on a number of support industries. 

Self-isolation and lockdown have already changed how we work and study. Many schools have now started offering their programmes online and companies are basically running on Zoom and Skype, and this could be the modus operandi going forward. Every day this continues, we will get more data on home-schooling and home-working, and will be able to refine, optimise, and develop solutions to maximise productivity. Maybe the “new way” will even be able to outperform the “traditional way” of doing things.

At the very least, we may see an increase in work-from-home and study-from-home going forward. Families will have to learn and adapt to this new reality too.

Even if we develop a vaccine and COVID-19 becomes a thing of the past (fingers crossed), things have changed and will continue to evolve – locally and globally, personally and professionally, and economically. The way we look at things, the way we interact with other people, it is all changing. Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Online Communication will be brought front and centre, and this will have a direct impact on efficiency and resource management, reducing the human contact requirements to the minimum “necessary”.

Sustainability, solidarity, and healthcare will take centre stage in the future.


Did you plan to join a school to further you studies and learn new skills. Have your plans hit a roadblock? Then, it is time to get off the bandwagon and think “online”!

Have a look at our list of 100% online programmes and see if we have anything that meets your requirements.

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisers for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

Women in RKC – Ilse Baxter, MA Leading Innovation and Change, York St John University, UK

Continuing with our blog series featuring our female students, we asked our students to share their experiences with us – the challenges of getting back to school, of managing work and study along with family, and the unique challenges they faced being female students.

Ms. Ilse Baxter is a graduate of our MA programme in Leading Innovation and Change (MALIC) through our exclusive partnership with York St John University, UK. This programme has been discontinued and has reincarnated as a 100% online MBA programme in Leading Innovation and Change

Ms. Ilse Baxter

Now, let us see what she has to say!

Who is … 

A short profile

Sahil Devasia (SD): Who are you, really?

Ilse Baxter (IB): I am a forty-something, beach and nature loving South African who divides her time between Sandton, Johannesburg, Cape Town and my happy place – Hermanus. I have always loved music and the arts – and danced professionally for a short period in my early twenties. 

My under-graduate studies were in the sciences – I studied computer science and maths – but balanced this with English literature studies just to keep sane. 🙂 

I have over my career had the privilege of working in SA, the UK and the USA. These days I am a director of a niche management consulting company – heading up the Business Transformation practice. We have for more than 10 years helped clients in the Financial Services and Retail sector grapple with some of the toughest challenges they have had to face. I am absolutely passionate about the topic of Business Transformation! For fun I love travel, reading, yoga, painting, music and I’m a bit of a foody – so love love love all the wonderful restaurants and wineries SA has to offer or just cooking at home with friends and family!

Getting back into education

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree

SD: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you?

IB: I don’t consider myself an academic at all – I never have. I am very practically/experientially minded by nature – but I have always been insatiably curious about things around me. In this – I guess I was inspired by my mother. At 88 this year she remains as sharp as ever, curious (and incredibly informed) about the world around her and eternally questioning and seeking to understand more. 

In my forties I started feeling the need to back what I had learnt practically/experientially with a relevant and meaningful post graduate qualification. I didn’t just want to “tick the box” by adding a few letters behind my name – I wanted it to be something that really contributed to my practice and reflected my areas of interest. It took me a couple of years to find something that I felt reflected my interest areas and allowed me to study in a way that made sense it my personal and professional obligations…… enter MALIC.

SD: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them?

IB: Firstly – TIME!!! How do I balance an incredibly busy life of running a consulting practice, helping clients through some of the toughest challenges they ever have to face (not a part time job), being there for my team, being present and there for my husband and family – and still find some time for myself (especially with all the pressure out there to stay fit, well and to achieve the illusive “balance” we’re all chasing)?! 

Secondly – a PERSONAL CRISES. I had already been accepted into the programme. Literally the week I was due to start – my husband (and business partner – he is the Managing Director of our company) had a major stroke. This was a crisis not just personally – but for our business too. Initially he was paralysed on the right-hand side of his body. Also – the man I married spoke 6 languages. The stroke rendered him mute for about 6 weeks (language centre in the brain was at the locus of the stroke). And then we had to start from scratch – learning how to say vowels etc etc. It has taken years to recover his current facility in terms of both speech and writing. He recovered 100% physically quite quickly. But the language journey is one they told us could take 10 years. Nearly 4 years later now his speech and writing has largely recovered in English and he is starting to grapple with French and Spanish again. 

My instincts at the time was to just cancel commencing with my studies. But – as always – it was my mum and husband that insisted that I continue. So, I asked for a reprieve to start with the next cohort (3 months later) and set out on a 3 year journey of learning. 

To be honest – studying kept me sane. It gave me something outside of my circumstances to focus on. Our business has had to transform to adapt to our new circumstances – and in doing so it has thrived. We have had to adapt to our new circumstances – and although without a shadow of a doubt it has been the toughest thing I have ever faced – we have survived and thrived through it. Studying under these circumstances was – despite seemingly impossible circumstances (many clients and friends thought I was mad to continue) – the best decision I have ever made. 

Thirdly – PEOPLE’s PERSPECTIVES (clients, family, friends) – asking me WHY I FELT I NEEDED TO STUDY FURTHER – you’ve already mastered this topic – what difference will this make to your life? Ultimately the decision to study was a very personal one. My job requires me to pour everything I know into helping my clients – this drains you physically, emotionally and mentally. In truth – I knew I needed something to build up my own internal stores – to inspire, challenge and grow again – so that I could be a better leader, a better advisor and a better practitioner. It has done all that for me and more!

SD: What surprised you the most when you started your studies?

IB: Firstly – That despite a seemingly impossible load – client assignments, running a business, study, family – there IS time if you really want to do something. Something shifts and what seems impossible becomes imminently possible. 

Secondly – How I could draw on my work experience to enrich my studies and how I could draw on my studies to enrich my practice …. not at the end of the process – but from the very first module.

SD: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education?

IB: Time I think is the biggest one. The practice I lead is (not by design) predominantly female in profile. I have over the years observed the challenges (both practically and emotionally) that professional women face in terms of balancing professional demands and aspirations with family responsibilities (and aspirations) and the need to look after themselves (mentally, physically and emotionally). How do you take care of all these aspects of your life without compromising any of them? Is it ok to prioritise something that is seemingly just for your own benefit (aka potentially “selfish”)?

Getting the degree

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently

SD: Which programme did you do? Why?

IB: MALIC. Three reasons really:

  • It most closely matched my areas of interest.
  • It supported my area of practice. 
  • It is set up in a way that allowed me to schedule my study obligations in a way that worked for my personal and professional circumstances.

SD: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme?

IB: Not one – sorry! I loved studying again! In fact, I am considering going further after a “Gap Year” :). I absolutely loved doing research! (I never knew I would) This is opening up new potential opportunities as I move into a next stage of my career. 

Most importantly – I discovered “I CAN”. I can do something for me without negatively impacting everything else that is important to me in my life. “I CAN” continue to grow and learn and evolve – even in my late forties 🙂

SD: How did you balance work and studies?

IB: Very very carefully! 🙂 

Probably the most important advice I was given was in our first module by Dr Radu Negoescu. He encouraged us to do a plan and to contract with friends, family and colleagues. I took this advice to heart and “contracted” a way of work with my husband, friends, family and our team. 

I am a morning person – so my plan involved getting up at 4.30 every morning and studying for 3 hours. Then having breakfast with my husband. before going to clients or attending to our business and team. I spent every evening with my husband or with friends and family. I also agreed terms for weekends. 

By thinking through what it would take and how I could manage the impact on my life consciously – I had a routine that worked for us, my husband, our friends and family knew what they could expect from me (and what not) – so I could avoid feeling guilty for not getting to people/obligations and I had wonderful alone time every morning where I could focus on my studies.

One of the practices that evolved early on in this process was taking a photograph of the sunrise and just allowing myself to appreciate beauty, the privilege of doing what I was doing and the opportunity to enjoy that very special time of the day on my own. Although I am not studying anymore – I still love that time of day!

SD: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones?

IB: I don’t see any difference personally. The trick is finding something that you are interested in (not just something that is going to become a chore), a pattern that works for you and then sticking to it and a programme that is well organised and well enabled technologically!

Life post degree

What changed, if anything?

SD: What’s new in your life since graduating / starting your studies? Any visible impact already?

IB: A LOT has changed! 🙂 

It has helped me focus on our value proposition from a practice perspective – and this focus really resonates with our clients! Our business has grown by more than 30% in the past 2 years as a result. 

It has really changed my confidence in engaging with clients on certain topics. I am in the process of starting to write (journals) – something I have always wanted to do. I have started a complementary business – which tackles some of the findings from my dissertation. Exciting times ahead!

SD: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned?

IB: I think the experience has really strengthened the approaches we take in our business practice. I’ve been able to draw on course content and also dissertation findings to really sharpen our focus. I also think that it has shifted many perspectives for me at a personal level. Not least of all what I can achieve when I set my mind to something! 🙂

SD: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the work place?

IB: This is a tough question for me. Over the span of a 20+ year career I have never felt that I was on the receiving end of any overt discrimination at the workplace. This doesn’t by any means mean that I haven’t been on the receiving end of challenging or seemingly unfair situations. 

I strongly believe – especially in the world we live in today – that we all have increased pressure to stay on top of our game. To continue to evolve, to respond to the world as it changes around us, to continue on a journey of being the best we can be – whatever that is. For me personally focusing on this mission is more important. In this mission – getting a Master’s degree is definitely a key enabler.

Advice for other women

Or other students, really.

SD: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

IB: You CAN do this! (That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be super tough along the way & it doesn’t mean that you are not going to have days where you feel like quitting – it just means that if you persevere you will see the rewards!) 

You SHOULD do this! (You deserve to give back to yourself – this investment is one of the best you’ll ever make!)

SD: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

IB: Wow! These questions are something else! A beautiful tea pot and special cup! 🙂 This degree was earned over innumerous cups of tea!

Closing thoughts

SD: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree?

IB: What may be useful is “support groups” – places where women considering studying, or current students can mix with current and past students – sharing experience, approaches, methods, etc., etc. (maybe these should be separate groups)? The diverse spread of students makes time zone/occupation etc. pairing a real opportunity – regardless of the hours people choose to study.

Now’s a good time to start

If you have been thinking about getting your master’s degree, proving to yourself and others that you CAN do it, now would be a good time to take the plunge. Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that could help.

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes offered, application process, and for more information on any discounts we might be running in this rather strange period of our lives.

Meg Plooy, RKC&YSJ graduate

Women in RKC – Meg Plooy, MA Leading Innovation & Change, York St John University, UK

In our effort to spread some positivity amidst the global pandemic, we turn to another success story of a proud RKC graduate – Meg Plooy. Meg graduated from the Online MA Leading Innovation & Change (the programme is now offered at York Business School as a 100% Online MBA Leading Innovation and Change). Let’s hear Meg’s inspirational story.

Who is..

A short profile

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Who are you, really?

Meg Plooy (MP): Relentlessly helpful mother, wife, and friend. Innovative business solutions aficionado, Starbucks addict, camping nerd, and (foster) mother of Pitbulls.

Getting back into education

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree

VK: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you?

MP: I was inspired to enroll for an online degree for a few different reasons. Firstly, to be an inspiration for my young children and show them that truly anything is possible if you work hard. Secondly, to advance my professional opportunities. Taking inspiration from my two sons, who work tremendously hard in everything they do and my sister, who enrolled in her graduate studies just a few weeks earlier.

VK: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them?

MP: There were two significant barriers impacting my decision to apply and enroll. The primary barrier was time: finding adequate time while raising children and working full time. The other significant barrier was cost: as a mature student, enrolling in an international institution there were very few grants or bursaries I qualified for, meaning all the funding was out of pocket.

VK: What surprised you the most when you started your studies?

MP: I was most surprised by how determined I was to succeed.

VK: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education?

MP: Absolutely. I feel there are still substantial gaps in gender parity. Although I have a supportive marital partner, I still feel that a larger portion of the parenting and household responsibilities fall on the female if both parents are working. I also feel that there is a larger need for females to have higher education for a lesser role in order to be seen competitively in the workforce and to reduce wage gaps.

Getting the degree

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently

VK: Which programme did you do? Why?

MP: Master of Arts, Leading Innovation and Change. I had been researching online Master’s degree programs for quite a while and immediately was drawn to this program because it outlined everything I identified in myself both personally and professionally.

VK: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme?

MP: That I am capable of accomplishing anything I am determined to complete.

VK: How did you balance work and studies?

MP: A good routine and sticking to a schedule. The best time for me to complete my studies was after the kids were in bed, which gave me anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours each night. I used Monday through Thursday as “school nights” which ensured I was still getting downtime over the weekends. This helped me to stay focused and manage time effectively.

VK: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones?

MP: I feel all mature students, especially ones with family responsibilities, would face the same challenges.

Life post-degree

What changed, if anything?

VK: What’s new in your life since graduating/starting your studies? Any visible impact already?

MP: I feel that since graduating, I have more credibility within the organization I work for.

VK: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned?

MP: Completing my Master’s degree has helped me develop strong skills in critical analysis, which helps me assess a situation more critically, also identifying themes and patterns in certain situations. It has certainly helped me strengthen my professional writing and report-delivery skills.

VK: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the workplace?

MP: I do not believe getting a Master’s degree will reduce gender discrimination in the workplace. I currently work in a male-dominated industry and was recently appointed to our central business unit’s Women’s Council as our organization is looking to achieve gender equity in the workplace. In the council, we discuss many elements that contribute to gender discrimination in the workplace. I believe the best way to mitigate gender discrimination in the workplace is through leadership and inclusive corporate culture.

Advice for other women

Or other students, really.

VK: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MP: It will all be worth it in the end, you CAN do this!

VK: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be?

MP: A financial grant or bursary that could have helped with tuition payments.

Closing thoughts

VK: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree?

MP: I believe addressing the financial barrier would assist in women accessing higher education. I also feel that developing a platform for online support would be beneficial that may include blog posts, online resources, and motivational content.

If you are truly inspired by Meg’s story today and are ready to take the plunge, do not think twice. It’s the right time to do something positive for your career (no matter the global crisis) and get a Master’s degree you had always dreamt of achieving! Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that interests you.

And, since as Meg says, every little bit could help, RKC are proud to be able to offer, in particular during this really strange period of our lives, financial support to those who are held back by finances. Please do talk to our team of Education Advisors on WhatsApp for the details on the bursary (there’s a bit of variance depending on the programme).

A 100% online MBA or MSc? Yes, you (now) can!

It’s official. We are excited to announce the launch of five new 100% online master’s degree programmes to add to our growing list of programmes. We know our online masters (MBA, MSc and LL.M) programmes, with a one-week mandatory residency, have been immensely popular among working professionals who looked for a perfect (or even just manageable) work-study balance.  

However, we could not underestimate the growing demand for 100% online programmes. We developed our 100% online programmes through an exclusive partnership with University of Cumbria, offering the same British tradition and Swiss quality education – fully online.  

The specializations these new 100% online programmes offer are among the most sought after and highly rated online programmes. These include artificial intelligence, digital marketing, data analytics, computer science and international business and information technology. The world is going digital and we need future leaders well equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills. 

Ready to dig in? Here they are!

 All of the five new programmes share the following characteristics: 

Duration : Minimum 12 months, maximum 5 years. 

Delivery Method : 100% online via OnlineCampus (an interactive online learning environment) with intensive class discussion and collaboration. 

Entry points: Four times a year (winter, spring, summer and autumn). 

Tuition Fees: 12,000 CHF (Swiss Francs). This fee includes library access, OnlineCampus access, graduation fees, and University matriculation fees. Fees are payable in interest-free instalments, however, the programmes are not eligible for UK Postgraduate Loans for Master’s Study. Sorry! We do try to compensate to some extent for this by offering occasional time-bound bursaries, so keep an eye on our newsletter. Not yet signed up? Request a catalogue here

Programme details 

100% Online MBA Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

There is no industry in the business world today that does not uses AI. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have become mainstream tools in driving business. AI applications help companies reduce their costs, enhance customer experience, increase profits – in short, spending less to do more. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have already started revolutionising the business world, as many businesses are already using such technologies to achieve a competitive advantage. The MBA Artificial Intelligence is devised to equip you with the skills and knowledge required to manage the intricacies that stem from an artificial intelligence driven world.  

100% Online MBA Digital Marketing  

Digital media has taken the advertising to a whole new level and has made it a profession highly sought after. This has contributed to changing the landscape of jobs and how marketing is done today, encouraging businesses and business schools alike to evolve the way that marketing is viewed as an independent function. This online programme equips you with the skills needed to engage with customers via digital media and effectively market businesses across digital networks. 

100% Online MBA Information Technology 

I personally consider this programme a marriage between the business and technology worlds. IT managers are now required to have a thorough understanding of business, and not just technology, so gone are the days when one could afford to specialize either one or the other. The MBA Information Technology answers the growing demand of intertwining technology with business by blending the established business knowledge of an MBA with specialised courses on Information Management and the Internet of Things. 

100% Online MSc Data Analytics 

Computers and the advent of the Internet have brought upon the world the age of information and big data, and organizations want to retain as much information as possible about their business as they appreciate the role of data in gaining insights and out-thinking competitors. Whether your pursuit is technical or business-focused, the MSc Data Analytics nurtures your analytical skills.  

100% Online MSc Computer Science and International Business 

Modern businesses are dominated by technology with new computing systems and the internet dominantly driving the change. Global markets are now open to even smallest of the businesses. The MSc Computer Science and International Business seek to provide students with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how business merges with technology, offering a blend of computer science subjects and core business topics. 

Fully Online vs 1-week residency  

We are staunch believers in the value of the one-week residencies typically mandatory in all of our programmes. As already mentioned earlier, however, we do recognize the challenges raised by such events on you, the students. For those of you who always wanted an MBA or MSc, but were being held back by the prospect of having to attend a full week in Zurich or the UK, this should be a no brainer. But how can we justify a fully online programme? 

There’s no hiding behind the finger – the value of the residencies is not necessarily the tuition (this can be delivered relatively easily online), but meeting other like-minded people, from all around the world, doing the same programme, facing the same challenges, and heading in the same direction (graduation). You cannot really imagine the camaraderie and friendships built during such weeks. 

Our fully online programmes do not require you to attend a residency – but they do offer the option of doing so if you wanted to – perhaps you will find yourself freer, richer, more motivated to travel – know that is an option. 

For what it’s worth, we should mention that at graduation you receive a degree of the University of Cumbria – whether you studied on campus, online with a mandatory residency or fully online. No difference whatsoever. The choice is fully yours! 

We are proud to launch these new programmes, with the first intake starting already in May 2020. Be among the first applicants and enjoy the array of exciting introductory admission offers! 

MBA or MSc: Is there a difference? Should you care?

It’s been a while since I finished my MBA, but I very clearly remember my thought process and the confusion I felt before deciding to start it.

I kept asking myself all sort of questions.

These are just some of the many questions that flashed through my mind at that time. But once the dust settled and I picked the path I wished to travel, a new question popped up.

Should I do an MBA or an M.Sc. (in management/business)?

Back then I already had friends who were doing or had completed MBA and M.Sc. programmes in management from universities around the world. As I myself was looking only at full time on-campus programmes, I asked them about their courses to get a better understanding on which programme to enrol for. These differences carry to the online versions too.

There are some basic differences between an MBA and an M.Sc programme.

  • Student demography: MBA programmes are usually targeted at individuals who have a minimum of 5 years work experience and as a consequence are usually somewhat older, people who are perhaps already in middle management positions. Whereas the M.Sc degree programmes are targeted at younger graduates, individuals with little to no work experience, usually coming in straight from their bachelor studies.
A graphic of median age distributions over MBA and MSc programmes since 2010
Figure 1. Median age for female (orange) and male (blue) students across the MBA and MSc programmes in RKC since 2010 – a clear and significant difference (statistically significant that is, rather than “important”).
  • Teaching methods: From the student demography we can deduce how the education will be structured in class. M.Sc. programmes are usually more theoretical and classroom centric, whereas MBA programmes are based on experiential learning, calling on the work experience of the students to analyse case studies, projects and submit dissertations, working in groups with other students, learning from their experience coupled with the theoretical aspects of learning.
  • Focused study: MBA programmes are usually focused on general management and not in a specialised field of study, in fact most of the modules taught in an MBA programme would be on general management. M.Sc. programmes on the other hand are usually more focused in a particular field of study (for example, Information Systems Management, Global Management, Accounting and Finance, etc.). 
  • Duration: MBA programmes are usually 18 to 24 months long, with a project and dissertation. M.Sc. programmes can usually be completed in 12 months, although they too will typically require a dissertation.
  • Cost: In most universities MBA programmes are priced much higher than M.Sc. programmes (although you will find exceptions too).

So, which one is good for me?

In recent times more and more universities have started creating courses where the differences have been reduced, creating courses that are unique and catering to the student’s requirements. This is especially true for online master’s degree programmes where technology has had a big impact on communication and giving students from all over the world and from different professional backgrounds access to information like never before.

So, which one is right for you? Not a question I am able to answer via a blog post, I’m afraid, but if you want to find out, you can get in touch with our team of admission advisers who can have a look at your profile and give you some advice.

Explore the number of specialised master’s degree programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College through exclusive partnerships with top British universities. Or, if you have already made up your mind, click here to apply