Online MSc graduate switches career track to become an entrepreneur in AI

As well as working day-to-day for a sports technology firm, recent Online MSc graduate, Sophia Withers, has also founded a company that builds AI and data infrastructure to help organisations optimise their positive social impact. 

Add to that some freelance strategic consulting and podcast-hosting duties and you have an extremely busy working week!

Her path to this point has been anything but easy; it’s taken careful decisions, a few unexpected opportunities and a lot of hard work.

After completing an undergraduate degree in law, she travelled the world working in non-business roles before joining KPMG Australia as a coordinator in its audit division. It was during her time here that she studied part-time for the Online MSc International Business.

We sat down for a chat to find out more about the part that Sophia’s business education has played in her journey.

Why did you choose to study the Online MSc International Business? 

“As a traveller and somebody who intends to live around the globe, I was attracted to the idea that by studying an online MSc, I could study anywhere in the world.”

“With advanced technologies coupled with the inter-connectedness of communication today, I knew that studying an online MSc would be efficient and give me the flexibility that I required.”

Recommended read: Competing in a global marketplace

How important was your choice of university?

“Really important. When conducting research into the MSc programmes available, the University of Birmingham was one of the few universities that offered my course online. I initially researched a variety of courses and selected the University of Birmingham due to it being a leading global university.”

“My friends who have been enrolled in previous years spoke highly of the teaching and thoroughly enjoyed their time, which positively reinforced the university’s reputation for me. I found this to be true in my own early interactions and experiences too: the staff were friendly and informative, which instilled my confidence in the communication and help levels offered, and that made a strong first impression.” 

“I can confirm that the teaching quality is exceptional as I expected, and I would encourage anybody to study here for that reason.”

Recommended read: Online MSc International Business marks first wholly online masters to be fully accredited by AMBA

How did you balance studying with your day job?

“What worked for me was setting aside specific days of the week to study. For example, I would visit the library three nights a week and always give myself Friday nights off.”

“Sometimes the lectures would be on a Saturday evening so I would plan my social life and sporting activities around this. When there were specific deadlines, it was a matter of clearing my diary and planning my assignments weeks in advance. 

“Meditation, regular exercise and rewarding yourself for hard work are critical for keeping momentum, motivation and drive!”

How did your dissertation topic come about, and why was the project so useful to you?

“Well, I’m naturally interested in both the future of international business and disruptive technologies. And what better way to learn about something that will become so critical to our everyday lives than to immerse myself in a dissertation whereby I had to research something extensively?”

“Being a freelance consultant and co-founder, the biggest challenges I come up against involve entering into unchartered territory such as new markets and being faced with unprecedented change. So an understanding of international business theory and being able to apply such knowledge in a practical sense is pivotal for thriving in such circumstances.”

“The study of my dissertation, which was titled ‘How will Blockchain 3.0 Facilitate Social and Economic Impact? A study on Social Enterprises in Melbourne, Australia’, equipped me with theoretical knowledge that I can apply to a contemporary phenomenon that will be affecting almost every industry at some level. On a micro scale, I was able to understand and inspect how such technology is having a profound effect on small to medium-sized businesses. 
On a big-picture level, the work taught me how to properly research, plan and orchestrate a large project autonomously.”

How would you say the Online MSc has helped you on your professional journey?

“It’s provided me with executive-level skills and knowledge in a broad array of business units, from economics to marketing. The regular group work we were assigned has helped to improve my collaborative, communicative and co-operative skills. And, as our studies were often applied to factual cases, I learned how to apply theory to real-world problems and thus create innovative solutions.”

Lastly, what advice would you give to someone considering following your path by enrolling onto the programme?

“Consider and review your long-term goals and determine whether this course aligns with them. Carry out plenty of your own research, and if you’re unsure on anything, ask the staff as many questions as possible as they are there to guide and help you.”

If, like Sophia, you believe that one of our online programmes could help strengthen the foundations of your career, please download a brochure today.

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