What Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree, While Working Full-Time?

Do you dream of getting your master’s degree? Well, so did Hallira Husin, our Senior Public Relations Executive.  Two years ago, Hallira signed up to take on an MSC in Management: Risk Management, to add to her already extensive strategic decision-making skills.  

We sat down with Hallira to find out what the experience meant to her, how she managed her time between two big responsibilities and how she overcame the biggest challenge of all – her own mind.  

Hi Hallira, thanks so much for talking with us today. First of all, congratulations on your accomplishment! How did it feel to get a master’s degree whilst working a full-time job?  

I feel really proud of myself. This was a huge achievement for me; getting my masters was a goal I’ve had for a long time, so I feel proud that I was able to achieve my dream. And I graduated cum laude! So that was amazing. Studying and working at the same time was not easy so I’m ecstatic that I pushed myself to achieve this.  

Was there something that motivated you to do this? Why take on an MA? 

I’m the type of person who loves learning and has an endless curiosity about the world and the way we move through it.  Before I went on to study for my masters I took a short course in data science, because I thought it was interesting, and would be an excellent additional skillset for me.  But I always wanted to get a master’s degree.  I never felt that a BA was enough for me personally, so I undertook a master’s degree to self-actualize my dream.  

What was it like studying and working at the same time?  

It’s like chasing two rabbits at the same time. It’s tiring but also exciting because you need to be good at switching focus quickly.  And each thing is important so nothing can be risked. You need to be good at both. It can be really tiring when you must focus on two things at once, but it’s also exciting to push yourself.  Time management is so important as is prioritizing tasks.  

When signing up for my degree I set myself a goal to graduate with a top score. So, I focused on my studies. I would say that my focus was a 60/40 split between study and work.  I came to this decision because my degree had a definite end goal, and everything I learned could be put towards my communications work, so it made sense to take on the challenge in this way.  

Can you give us some idea of what your week looked like whilst you were studying?  

My classes were all online and took place between 3-5 days each week. But I would study or work on assignments 5 days a week.  

I also took international classes here and there through the course. One at Koc University in Turkey, and one at UBS Sauder in Canada, which was very tiring because of the time difference.  

On average each day, I would work at Vero from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and then from 7 p.m. -10 p.m. I would be in classes or study / do assignment work.  

But I wouldn’t have been able to do this alone! My team at Vero have been so supportive throughout this time. I was very lucky! 

Were there things you found particularly challenging about the experience? 

Whilst time management was difficult, it’s actually something I have really great skills in!  When I got my diploma I worked as a TV presenter, so I know how to prioritize tasks.  

But something that was really challenging was how I fought myself in my mind. When things felt really difficult, I definitely wanted to quit. I would think ‘this is too much for me,’ or ‘maybe I’m too ambitious.’ That’s the thing that’s really challenging. How do you pull yourself together and get everything done? This was especially difficult when I was working on my thesis. Just the questioning of how to move forward.  

I found the best way to get through this was actually to take a break. Step back and breathe and recalibrate. To readjust my thoughts to ‘I’m just tired right now. But everything is manageable and doable.’  

What was the most interesting thing you learned on your course? 

The most interesting thing was how we produce data, and how we can use it as a base for making strategic decisions. So, from this I learned how to calculate risk, and now I know how to make better decisions in terms of work, investment and operations.  

My master’s in risk management helps me to make better decisions when it comes to communications. There is a big link between my work at Vero and my master’s degree.  But in PR it’s a reputational risk. Clients expect us to give them advice on what they should do so by learning about risk management I can advise my clients more clearly, in terms of their reputation. 

And now you have your MA, what opportunities do you see on your horizon? 

I see an opportunity for me to do better at investing and to do better work as a PR professional. I’m ambitious and always looking to climb up the ladder in my career, as well as sharing my knowledge and experience from the course with my peers.  

As a side-hustle, my dream is to have a small baking business. It’s what I love to do in my free time, and now I know I can juggle two big priorities at the same time, I can take more steps to achieve that too.  

What advice would you give to someone else embarking on the same journey? 

Before I began the course I was told “you cannot do two things well at the same time.” But I disagree. If you think it’s worth it, you will find a way to manage your time and adjust to the situation. So, my biggest piece of advice is, if you really want it, just go for it. Lots of people feel that they must choose between their passions, but I believe you can have both.   

I also want to add that in this course, I was the only student who didn’t have any background in economics or engineering or banking, or accounting. And because of this, I worked extra hard. I really pushed myself because I thought I had a lot to learn, and I worked twice as hard. And that helped me to achieve the best score in the class.  

Thank you so much for speaking with us Hallira. Your journey is certainly inspiring. We hope that your experience inspires more people to reach for their dreams.  

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