“Mum, PR Consultant, MBA Student – I Do it All!”

By Mel Sim

If you thought juggling work and personal life was difficult, wait till you read about how Joey Gan is juggling work, first-time mummy duties, and being an MBA student all at the same time.

The storyline is similar for many out there: When the pandemic hit, many lost their jobs or had their income drastically reduced if they were running their own business. This is the same for Joey Gan, who run hers own public relations consultancy company. “My income dropped by at least half and projects were stalled,” she shared.

On the upside of things, it made Joey think about what she really wanted out of her career, and whether she was heading that way. “The pandemic did refresh my perspective about career goals, and the nature of jobs and naturally the importance of upskilling.”

With the seed planted, Joey decided to look into furthering her education, namely signing up for an MBA. “I wanted to upskill and prepare myself for new opportunities as my career goals have changed,” says Joey of her decision. So she signed up in August 2021, and boy has it been an interesting journey of ups, downs and challenges! Aside from still running her business, Joey is also a new mother to a little baby girl who was barely one when Joey embarked on her MBA journey. To say it was hectic was just skimming the surface! “I wanted a programme with up-to-date course materials. I also wanted the flexibility in deciding my study load. I can’t go full time so I go with a course by credit,” says Joey.

Currently doing a Global MBA (online) with Macquarie University, Sydney, Joey remembered being really anxious as the study mode was a new experience to her. There were other things to get used to as well, like the IT and tech system, and connecting to the community of learners, which was intimidating at first but once she got into it, it proved to be exciting to learn again.

How does she juggle it all – mum, business owner, MBA student? “I just have to make it happen, I guess! But studying an MBA is very different from studying undergrad. It’s active learning. I also make it part of my work too, like applying new theories from the course in my work so that way, it doesn’t feel like it’s something additional or separate from what I’m doing,” shares Joey.

Her programme also requires a lot of reading, which can be time consuming on top of everything else Joey has on her plate. “You need to be super discipline or you will need to play catch up. I have to carve out two hours for reading every night and forgo all my Netflix hours. I hope it’s worth it!”

Thankfully, she has the support she needs to make it through. “I reserve two days to complete my assignment before it’s due. So my husband will take the days off to tend to the baby while I lock myself in the study. He will take care of the house, meals and baby from morning till evening. I just have to promise to eat dinner together,” says Joey.

Despite what may seem to be extremely challenging to many, Joey shares that the experience has been mostly positive. “Any form of study, especially ones that takes time and effort, is good for character building – grit, patience, open mindedness, curiosity. It has broaden my perspective. As workplaces become more global and borderless, working and collaborating with people who are markedly different from you is very refreshing. It’s also very helpful because it prepares me for my future plans, which is to either work for a global outfit or outside of the country.”

Her tip on how to survive an MBA on top of everything else in life? “Don’t look at it as a separate undertaking. I integrate it with work and that works for me. Also, be mentally prepped that it’s going to take hard work but the reward can be great. Finally, the study is not really weeks after weeks – there are breaks in between so do something nice during the break which is usually two to three weeks before you start again. So during my break, I indulge in Netflix!

“And if you can go for a programme that lets you plan your study load based on your ability. I am doing the bare minimum of one unit per term so it’s going to take me three years, which is OK because I am not in a hurry. My priority is learning so if I rush through the MBA just for the sake of completing it early, then it’s pointless. After all, I’m here for a degree that opens door!”

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