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Emma Stapleton

Executive MBA 2015

Emma Stapleton
  • Marketing Director, Elmwood

'The academics and support staff at Bradford were all brilliant'

Focused, determined, dedicated, ambitious, and formidable. These are some of the words used by Emma Stapleton’s former course leader when I told him I was going to interview her.

Emma graduated from the University of Bradford School of Management Executive MBA course in December 2015.

While studying for her MBA Emma continued to work full-time in her role as Group Marketing and Development Director for award-winning, global design firm, Elmwood.

What makes her achievement even more remarkable is that she gave birth to her daughter halfway through the course, but she did not let the small matter of having a baby stop or delay her graduation. She finished the course in the shortest time possible with a Distinction.

“Sometimes I would be working 12 days straight,” said Emma, who did her first degree at the University of Sheffield. “I would work Monday to Friday at Elmwood, I would then spend the weekend at Bradford School of Management attending lectures and seminars, before returning to my office for another week on Monday morning.

“If you are studying the Executive MBA you have to enjoy it – Bradford makes the experience as smooth as it can be.

“If you are sat in a lecture theatre on a summer’s day when the sun is shining outside and a lecturer is just reading off slides it’s not going to be fun, but lecturers at Bradford made it engaging. And they were on hand for questions over Skype at other times.”

Bradford School of Management offered support to help Emma get through the course as a new mum to Ariel (from The Tempest, her husband is a big Shakespeare fan).

“The academics and support staff at Bradford were all brilliant. People really went the extra mile to help,” she said.

Emma joined Elmwood in 2007 and is now one of the Group Directors. She started considering studying for an MBA after spending time networking in the boardrooms of global firms, particularly in the Middle East and Far East, as Elmwood’s operations expanded.

“I’ve been part of the company at a time when it grew rapidly from just having an office in Leeds to a global design firm with offices in London, Melbourne, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore,” said Emma.

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“I wanted to do an MBA to build my confidence when working in an international business environment. I would sit around boardroom tables with senior executives from huge companies like Unilever and wanted something that would give me an edge, or at least let me feel on a par with other people in the room.

“I knew I was doing my job well and I was really enjoying it but I wanted to stretch myself and get the academic backing to give me some more grounding and broader business knowledge.”

She added: “In a nutshell I chose to do an MBA to be a better version of me. I wasn’t looking to change career, I just wanted to up my game.”

It was Bradford School of Management’s links with Dubai and Singapore that appealed to Emma.

“Bradford is a truly international management school and that was a very positive thing for me,” said Emma.

“Elmwood has supported a lot of things at Bradford School of Management and I felt an affinity with the place. When I was investigating courses Bradford made me feel wanted and valued, not just a number.”

It was in early 2013 she heard about Bradford School of Management offering a scholarship to celebrate 25 years of Bradford running the MBA course.

The scholarship would pay the fees of the course for the winning entry of a competition to write an essay on the circular economy.

“I decided to go for the scholarship while on holiday in Tenerife,” said Emma. “I spent the week writing the essay on the balcony. Like anything I do, I put 100% into it. It was a challenge because I didn’t know a lot about circular economy but I ended up really enjoying doing the research and writing the essay.”

Although Emma did not win, the School of Management agreed to pay 50% of her course fees and her employer, Elmwood, paid the other half.

Emma’s skills have helped Elmwood become one of the UK’s top design agencies. It takes number one spot in the Design Effectiveness Leaderboard, which is compiled by the UK design trade association, the DBA.

“Something I didn’t really expect when I did the MBA was how useful it would be on a day-to-day basis, such as what I learned on the finance module” said Emma.

“I could see the value of the MBA in the workplace from day one – and so could the chief executive!

“On modules which were my core disciplines like marketing I could offer practical support to my peers.”

She added: “The Bradford MBA is a challenge but, as the old adage goes, you get out what you put in.”

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