Julie Burns, MSc in Human Resource Management

My day job is at GCU as the Senior Executive PA to the Principal and I’ve just graduated with an MSc in Human Resource Management.

I was apprehensive, but after the first couple of weeks, once I got to know my classmates, I realised we were all in the same boat and there were a few of us in the more mature bracket, combining work and study.

Completing the degree has given me a tremendous feeling of achievement and confidence. I’m the first in the family to graduate. I left school at 16, because I wanted to be a secretary. Before GCU, I worked in the NHS for 12 years and coming here just made it feel right. It was the Principal’s idea, she has been a terrific support and I thought, why not, why shouldn’t I, why can’t I?

I was learning on the job, learning from the teaching and learning from the experiences of my fellow students. When it came to reflecting on our own personal examples, I didn’t give too many as all the lecturers knew exactly where I worked!

It was hard with all the deadlines alongside the day job. I had an hour a day on the train to work and back where I would do all my reading on my laptop. I had to study at the weekend too so I’ve probably not been the best wife or friend. It’s nice to have my life back, but with a fabulous achievement at the end of it. The two years went by very quickly and I am very grateful to the University for supporting that.

It has helped me to think differently about how I go about my daily tasks and to try to be the best people manager for my team, making sure they are heard and feel valued. I like being a GCU champion and it’s just a great place to work. In my role, I need to be calm, level-headed, and always have a Plan B for every occasion.

I’m equally organised in my family life. I’m sure I drive them all mad with my lists and sometimes they must think, ‘why does everything have to be a military operation, with a schedule and a list?’ It’s just the way I am, lists and organisation – that’s the motto.