How the Oxford MSc in Major Programme Management helps PMs navigate career challenges and progress their careers to the next-level
In today’s fast-paced climate, major programmes are under more pressure to deliver on time and on budget than ever before. We speak to Ann McCall, alumna of the Oxford MSc in Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School to explore how major programme managers can help equip themselves to overcome these complex challenges and progress their careers.
Ann has a wealth of knowledge in the field of radioactive waste management, with a career in the industry spanning over 30 years. She was a student on the Oxford MSc in Major Programme Management between 2015-17.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role?
I did my first degree at Liverpool University back in the 1980s and am a professional engineer working in the nuclear industry. My current role is Siting and Engagement Director and Board member at Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, a subsidiary company of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Our role is to deliver an underground facility to dispose of radioactive waste, a geological disposal facility (GDF). My role as a Director on the Board of the company is to find a suitable site, this involves engaging with communities and carrying out extensive work to establish whether a site is suitable for such a development.
This is a major infrastructure programme listed on the Government’s Major Programme Portfolio.
What drew you to apply for the MSc in Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford?
The course was very relevant to my role leading a team to deliver a major programme for the disposal of the UK’s radioactive waste. Our programme falls into the category of what Oxford refers to as a megaproject. The faculty has a number of key international experts recognised in this area and also runs the Major Programme Leadership Academy on behalf of the Government. I felt that the extensive, in-depth MSc course would give me new tools and techniques and fresh insight into how to make this programme a success. Saïd Business school has a well respected international reputation and a number of our people have benefited from attending courses.
What did you gain from your experience of the MSc?
I met an incredibly diverse group of people that gave me a wider perspective and network and enriched my experience during the course. This continues to be valuable even though the course has now finished.
What was your experience of returning to study? How did you find balancing it alongside a busy senior role and personal commitments?
It was a breath of fresh air, most of the time! I really enjoyed the wide range of materials on the reading lists and especially enjoyed the class discussions exploring the various views and experiences of the other students. There were times when it was difficult to balance the time commitment, but I found that every module gave me some theory and practical insights relevant to my role.
The MSc draws together a diverse mix of project and programme managers from a variety of countries, employment sectors and age groups. How did this diversity impact your learning experience?
Our cohort had students from over 20 countries with a wide age range, some in their 30s and others in their 40 and 50s. It was an excellent demonstration and example of the value of diversity in business. This is something that we as an organisation take very seriously and this course really highlighted in real time the benefits. The programme gives you the space to take a step back from your day-to-day and talk about your programme, the different aspects and challenges of a range of programmes from airports to healthcare and get different perspectives from other people so that you can take new insights back to your workplace.
You were awarded one of two Women’s Scholarship that are available on the MSc, these are given to outstanding female candidates and are designed to increase the flow of talented women into senior roles in the industry. How important do you think these initiatives are?
These initiatives are very important in terms of encouraging women to aspire to achieve and build confidence, especially in traditionally male-dominated environments. I firmly believe that equality for all is the only way to ensure diversity of the skills we need for successful business. I was absolutely thrilled to be awarded a scholarship and am still very proud of that achievement and the opportunity it gave me to study at Oxford.
Do you have a favourite memory of your time in Oxford?
The most enjoyable memories were the times when I had an opportunity to learn more about the careers and experiences of fellow students at the course dinners at different colleges during each module.
How has studying at Oxford impacted your career since?
The wealth and breadth of the materials covered on the course has provided me with an extensive resource that I consistently draw upon in my career, everything from challenges relating to culture change and leadership to the approach to systems engineering and risk management. It has given me the confidence to take on challenges and deal with uncertainty seeing them as opportunities. Since taking the course I have moved roles and taken on more challenge, including being appointed as an Executive Board member.
What does it mean to you to be an alumna of the University of Oxford?
I feel very proud of having achieved a master’s degree from such a well-respected university and to continue to have the opportunity to further expand my alumni network. This network extends beyond my cohort to the other alumni of the MSc.
What would you say to someone who is considering doing the MSc?
It is an amazing and very rewarding experience and an opportunity to be grasped if you have the chance.
This transcript is taken from an article first published in PM Today (Jan/Feb 2019).Back to top of article